Photo of the Day – The Dying Lioness

British Museum, London, England
April 2005

Bored one night in 2001, I opened my art book and began searching for something to sketch. I stumbled across an Assyrian stone relief of a lioness who had been shot with arrows. I was amazed by the relief; the lioness fighting to stay up on her front paws, her body riddled with arrows, her hind legs dragging behind her. I spent about an hour copying the image then closed my sketch book and all but forgot about it. Four years later, deep in the heart of the British Museum I was shocked to discover the actual stone relief. I took this photo and placed it along with the drawing in my sketchbook.

Most Detailed Global Study Of Genetic Variation Completed

From sciencedaily.com:

University of Michigan scientists and their colleagues at the National Institute on Aging have produced the largest and most detailed worldwide study of human genetic variation, a treasure trove offering new insights into early migrations out of Africa and across the globe.
The new study, led by Rosenberg and National Institute on Aging colleague Andrew Singleton, produced genetic data nearly 100 times more detailed than previous worldwide assessments of human populations. It shows that:

• A recently discovered type of human genetic variation, known as a copy-number variant or CNV, is a reliable addition to the toolkit of population geneticists and should speed the discovery of disease-related genes. Rosenberg and his colleagues discovered 507 previously unknown CNVs, which are large chunks of DNA—up to 1,000,000 consecutive “letters” of the genetic alphabet—that are either repeated or deleted entirely from a person’s genome. Various diseases can be triggered by an abnormal gain or loss in the number of gene copies.

• It’s sometimes possible to trace a person’s ancestry to an individual population within a geographic region. While previous studies have found that broad-scale geographic ancestry could be successfully traced, the new results indicate “it’s becoming increasingly possible to use genomics to refine the geographic position of an individual’s ancestors with more and more precision,” Rosenberg said.

• Human genetic diversity decreases as distance from Africa—the cradle of humanity—increases. People of African descent are more genetically diverse than Middle Easterners, who are more diverse than Asians and Europeans. Native Americans possess the least-diverse genomes. As a result, searching for disease-causing genes should require the fewest number of genetic markers among Native Americans and the greatest number of markers among Africans.

View the entire article here.

An end to the violence in Kenya?

From bbc.co.uk:

At a ceremony in Nairobi, the two men put their signatures to a power-sharing deal brokered by ex-UN head Kofi Annan.

A coalition government comprising members of the current ruling party and opposition will now be formed.

Some 1,500 people died in political violence after Mr Odinga said he was robbed of victory in December’s polls.

International observers agreed the count was flawed.

Violence has mostly receded, but tensions are still running extremely high.

Negotiations between the government and Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) lasted more than a month, stalling several times.

Discussions centred on the creation of the post of prime minister, which will be taken by Mr Odinga.

Speaking after the deal was signed, Mr Annan said the division of posts in the new government – including the new position of prime minister and two deputy prime ministers – would reflect the political parties’ strengths in parliament.

Under the agreement, the new prime minister will have “authority to co-ordinate and supervise the execution of government functions”.

Mr Annan urged all Kenyans to support the agreement, saying: “Compromise was necessary for the survival of this country.”

Mr Kibaki said: “My government will fully support implementation of the agreement reached… until we achieve the result that we all want.”

Mr Odinga said: “With the signing of this agreement, we have opened a new chapter in our country’s history… we on our side are completely committed [to] this agreement.”

Both men thanked those who had stood by Kenya in what Mr Odinga called its “hour of need”, including Mr Annan, the African Union, the European Union, the United States and the UN.

They also urged Kenyans to move forward together without ethnic divisions.

The post-election violence saw thousands of people targeted because they belonged to ethnic groups seen as either pro-government or pro-opposition.

About 600,000 people have fled their homes and some have been forced back to their ancestral homelands.

Arctic seed vault opens doors for 100 million seeds

From PhysOrg.com

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened today on a remote island in the Arctic Circle, receiving inaugural shipments of 100 million seeds that originated in over 100 countries. With the deposits ranging from unique varieties of major African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea, and sorghum to European and South American varieties of eggplant, lettuce, barley, and potato, the first deposits into the seed vault represent the most comprehensive and diverse collection of food crop seeds being held anywhere in the world.

At the opening ceremony, the Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, unlocked the vault and, together with the African Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai, he placed the first seeds in the vault. The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and a host of dignitaries and agriculture experts from around the globe deposited seeds during the ceremony. A variety of Norwegian musicians and choirs also performed in the opening ceremony held 130 metres deep inside the frozen mountain.

Built near the village of Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen, the vault at its inception contains 268,000 distinct samples of seeds—each one originating from a different farm or field in the world. Each sample may contain hundreds of seeds or more. In all, the shipments of seeds secured in the vault today weighed approximately 10 tonnes, filling 676 boxes.

The opening of the seed vault is part of an unprecedented effort to protect the planet’s rapidly diminishing biodiversity. The diversity of our crops is essential for food production, yet it is being lost. This “fail-safe” facility, dug deep into the frozen rock of an Arctic mountain, will secure for centuries, or longer, hundreds of millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today. As well as protecting against the daily loss of diversity, the vault could also prove indispensable for restarting agricultural production at the regional or global level in the wake of a natural or man-made disaster. Contingencies for climate change have been worked into the plan. Even in the worst-case scenarios of global warming, the vault rooms will remain naturally frozen for up to 200 years.

“With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilization,” said Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

“Crop diversity will soon prove to be our most potent and indispensable resource for addressing climate change, water and energy supply constraints, and for meeting the food needs of a growing population,” said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is funded and established by Norway as a service to the world. The Global Crop Diversity Trust is providing support for the ongoing operations of the seed vault, as well as organizing and funding the preparation and shipment of seeds from developing countries to the facility. NordGen will manage the facility and maintain a public on-line database of samples stored in the seed vault, which has the capacity to house 4.5 million samples—some 2 billion seeds.

Prime Minister Stoltenberg and Wangari Maathai, founder of the African Green Belt Movement and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, delivered together the first box of seeds to the vault. It contained rice seeds specially prepared with varieties originating from 104 countries. The box was opened during the ceremony, and then resealed before being placed in the vault.

“The significant public interest in the seed vault project indicates that collectively we are changing the way we think about environmental conservation. We now understand that along with international movements to save endangered species and the rainforests of the world, it is just as important for us to conserve the diversity of the world’s crops for future generations,” Maathai said.

“The opening of the seed vault marks a historic turning point in safeguarding the world’s crop diversity,’’ said Fowler. “But about 50 percent of the unique diversity stored in seed banks still is endangered. We are in the midst of trying to rescue these varieties. Our success means we will guarantee the conservation and availability of these wildly diverse crops. Forever.”

Unique Building

The building of the vault itself has attracted much outside interest due to its location and its unusual engineering, security, and aesthetic features. Its engineering allows it to stay cool with only a single 10-kilowatt compressor, which is powered by locally generated electricity.

The vault consists of three highly secure rooms sitting at the end of a 125-metre tunnel blasted out of a mountain on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. The seeds will be stored at minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and sealed in specially-designed four-ply foil packages. The packages are sealed inside boxes and stored on shelves inside the vault.

Each vault is surrounded by frozen arctic permafrost, ensuring the continued viability of the seeds should the electricity supply fail. The low temperature and moisture level inside the vaults will ensure low metabolic activity, keeping the seeds viable. If properly stored and maintained at minus 20 degrees Celsius (about minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit), some seeds in the vault will be viable for a millennium or more. For example, barley can last 2000 years, wheat 1700 years, and sorghum almost 20,000 years.

Anyone seeking access to the seeds themselves will have to pass through four locked doors: the heavy steel entrance doors, a second door approximately 115 metres down the tunnel and finally the two keyed air-locked doors. Keys are coded to allow access to different levels of the facility. Not all keys will unlock all doors. Motion detectors are set up around the site. Boxes of seeds inside the rooms are scanned before entering the seed vault.

A work of art also will make the vault visible for miles around. Artist Dyveke Sanne and KORO, the Norwegian agency overseeing art in public spaces, have worked together to fill the roof and vault entrance with highly reflective steel, mirrors, and prisms. The installation acts as a beacon, reflecting polar light in the summer months, while in the winter, a network of 200 fibre-optic cables will give the piece a muted greenish-turquoise and white light.

Update on the crisis in Kenya

Here is an update on one of the internally displaced people at Kaptembwo in Nakuru at Afraha stadium. We will be helping with food supplements this week and I have asked the Government to assist with sanitation and we are going to use Sodis to help others displaced. We will appeal for more help this week.

Population

Static – 7494 Adult
Arrivals – 7494 Adult
Departure – 4460 Adult
Not returning – 2450
Patient identified – 102
Remainder – 3004 Adult as per now.
Distribution of tents – 6 (one per family)
Total tents erected – 196

Distribution per Age

Infant – 7 – 21.5% (1460)
8 – 14 – 24.7% (2580)
15 – 18 – 19.5 % (842)
Adult male – 14. 4% (1082)
Adult female – 19.9% (1530)

196 TENTS WERE ERECTED AT AFRAHA STADUIM

SUMMARY

We have managed to secure tents for all our patients who are camping at Afraha Stadium.

Some of our patients traveling up country have no referral cards.

Congestion at the camps could trigger new TB infection. Most patients who were on TB and ARV drugs are at a risk of defaulting TB and ARVs drugs are lacking in the camps.

Infants lack proper diet and HIV/AIDS mother are opting to breastfeed their babies. Some clients have lost their CCC cards making it hard to trace which medication they were taking.

School going children need to go back to schools which are far away from the camps and many have had their books and uniforms burned. Several child headed families are residing in the camps heightening the risk of child abuse in camps.

IDPs lack money to purchase prescribed drugs. There is lack of sanitary towels. Planning to have a mobile CCC in the camps if all goes well.

Out of 102 patients from Kaptembwa who are IDPs in the camps only 60 are left the rest have traveled up country promising to come back once things are calm.

We have 12 patients who have had their houses burned down. We always host our support group once a week at the camps.

The numbers of IDPs in the camps as of now is 3,004 adult both male and female, children are 3,500 we also have so many IDPs who are coming from other smaller camping sites.

We are still tracing our patient who have left the community we urgently need food, clothes, and O.I. drugs.

From: www.icross.ie

Photo of the Day – Hall of Science

London, England
March 2005

“Both the interiors and exteriors of the Waterhouse building make extensive use of terracotta tiles to resist the sooty climate of Victorian London. The tiles and bricks feature many relief sculptures of flora and fauna, with living and extinct species featured within the west and east wings respectively. This explicit separation was at the request of Owen, and has been seen as a statement of his contemporary rebuttal of Darwin’s attempt to link present species with past through the theory of natural selection.”

Coming soon to a theater near you…

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Universal to make films based on Hasbro toys
By Gail Schiller
Feb 21, 2008

Universal Pictures and Hasbro announced Wednesday that they have formed a six-year strategic partnership to produce at least four feature films based on some of Hasbro’s best-known toy brands including Monopoly, Candy Land, Clue, Ouija, Battleship, Magic, the Gathering and Stretch Armstrong.

Under the terms of the deal, Hasbro will partner exclusively with Universal Pictures for feature films, with the exception of “Transformers” and “GI Joe,” which are at Paramount.

The first film emerging from the deal will be released 2010 or 2011, and Universal will release at least one film a year after that. There are no stars, directors or producers yet attached to any of the film projects.

“Hasbro’s portfolio of products has tremendous emotional resonance with children and adults,” said Universal Pictures co-chairmen Marc Shmuger and David Linde. “They offer an exciting opportunity for us to develop tentpole movies with built-in global brand awareness, which is a key component of our slate strategy.”

“Universal’s creativity and worldwide marketing and distribution strength make them the perfect partner,” said Hasbro COO Brian Goldner. “Today’s Hasbro is so much more than a traditional toy and game company, and this partnership is a powerful example of how we are offering our consumers new ways to enjoy unique and immersive experiences with our brands.

The deal was brokered by William Morris on behalf of Hasbro. William Morris is also shopping a Trivial Pursuit TV game show to the networks or possibly syndication.

Financial terms of the Universal-Hasbro deal were not disclosed.

Masterpiece by Kurt Hunt

That’s right folks, in the very near future you could be witness to Michael Bay’s newest CGI bad boy, Jenga: The Movie! One man. one Brick. One chance… to screw Rick over in the next round!

The summer of 2009 is the summer of Chutes and Ladders, starring Jason Statham as a guy being chased down… chutes and ladders.

And let’s not forget Pictionary – Matt Damon stars as a man who communicates with pictures in this romantic comedy starring Rachel McAdams!