Miscellany10: The Tsunami; More on HIV/AIDS; More on Immigration; Congo Exterminating the Pygmy Chimpanzees; The Chinese-Trader Rhino Man; Poverty in Zambia; Killing Dixie; Retinal Detachment; the Power of Prayer
© 2005 Joseph George Caldwell. All rights reserved. Posted at Internet web sites http://www.foundation.bw and http://www.foundationwebsite.org . May be copied or reposted for non-commercial use, with attribution. (9 January 2005; updated 8 September 2005, 20 May 2007)
Commentary on the past month’s news, reading and events of personal interest.
A reader sent me an e-mail last weekend, asking my views on
the tsunami in
What do I think about the tsunami? Well, let me start by saying that I feel great sadness for the people who have lost their loved ones. No one wants anyone to go through this suffering and loss.
Apart from that, my views are the following. Although this is a human disaster, it is not at all a “natural” disaster, as people have been referring to it. A “natural” disaster would be one in which a natural incident caused a large number of species to become extinct, e.g., by the explosion of a large volcano – or by global industrialization, which is now causing the extinction of an estimated 30,000 species each year. The recent tsunami had virtually no impact on wildlife – it killed only people. And it killed so many because of the obscenely large size of the human population on the planet. It was not a natural disaster in any reasonable sense of the word – it was a manmade disaster, pure and simple.
Earthquakes happen all the time, and so do tsunamis. The massive number of deaths that we see from this incident were caused by the absurdly large number of people on the planet. For millions of years, the human population of the planet was on the order of perhaps five million people. That is one-thousandth of the current population. The current tsunami has killed an estimated 150,000 people or .000025 of the world’s human population. Normally, for almost all of human existence, when a tsunami of this size occurred, it would be expected to kill about .000025 x five million, or about 125 people. That is the about the number of people who would die each day in a global population of five million. In other words, the seismic incident that occurred a few Sundays ago would normally have hardly been noticed at all – it would have resulted in the deaths of about the same number of people who would have died in an average day, and this would have been about 125 people. No big deal. With today’s bloated human population, however, the death toll from this very ordinary and expected natural event is approximately two hundred thousand people.
So, we have 150,000 people dying from an expected, natural incident. What is the point to this? It happened solely because our planetary leaders have allowed the global human population to explode to absurd numbers. At the present time, the planetary management system is one of anarchy – over 200 “sovereign” nations operated mainly by democratic means. The result is suffering and death on a massive scale. Plato wrote long ago about the drawbacks of democracy – its inability to choose good leaders, and the incentive of those leaders to pander to the masses. While democracy may be a fine system for running a social club comprised of members with similar views, it cannot possibly work for anything that matters, such as running a ship, or an airplane, or a country – or a planet. We are seeing today the fruits of this terrible system. The current system of planetary management is causing human agony – and the destruction of the environment, and the extinction of species – on a grand scale. The deaths and human agony, and the destruction of nature, will not stop until this terrible system, this cancer on the planet, is gone.
The current planetary management system is incredibly rotten, causing billions of people to live in direst poverty, disease, squalor, and war. Why does this continue, when it is so unnecessary? The answer is simple: money. Modern civilization has caused the human population to soar to levels that can no longer be supported by natural means (hunting and gathering, or even primitive agriculture). The masses of human population now have no access to land, and are totally dependent on technology for their food and shelter – and the means of production are owned by the wealthy elite, not by the masses. Civilization and technology have brought slavery and untold suffering to the vast majority of people, not to mention other species (either driven to extinction in the wild or subjected to unspeakable cruelty in mass slaughterhouses for human food). Civilization and technology have always pressed for the maximum human population, no matter what the cost to the human population or to the environment. Civilization’s slavery can exist only when it has bloated the human population to levels such that there is nowhere else to go, no way out. If there is a famine somewhere, the response is invariably to send food aid to the area to keep the people alive, to prevent the needed die-off, to continue the environmental disaster. The rational response is to recognize that the people in that region have exceeded the carrying capacity of the land, to let them die, and to let the environment recover. Eventually, after the world’s oil runs out, people will have to live on solar energy. Any attempt to avoid this inevitable state will result in more death, suffering and destruction.
While modern civilization’s response to this and other
disasters is invariably to try to “fight” nature by sustaining unsustainable
human populations in places they shouldn’t be, there is a method in this
madness. The powers that be are making
millions off this and similar events.
The industrialized world has to date pledged several billion dollars in
aid. The wealthy owners of the western
world make a profit on every penny of that amount. Who pays the price? The workers.
Instead of the work represented by that two billion going into things
that they can use, like refrigerators, a better home, and clothes for their
children, it is now going to produce goods and services to be sent overseas to
“pay for” a totally foreseen and preventable disaster. The economic elite – the oligarchs, the
plutocrats, the economic powers that be – will realize a profit on every dollar
of assistance sent overseas. The workers
– the man in the street – will not profit by a sou, and will end up with less
than they would otherwise have. The
wealthy elite will profit, and the workers will pay the full cost of the
tsunami aid. The billions of dollars of
work being spent on this preventable disaster will be totally extorted from the
workers – the owners of the factories and organizations that produce the
donated goods and services will expend no additional work at all, and will
realize no decrease in their wealth or income.
Quite the opposite – they will gain more wealth from the production of
these goods and services. The only loss
that they may suffer is the added time to count their increased wealth. The effects of the tsunami are the same as
the effects of the war in
I have cited on several occasions the economic incentive inherent in destruction – whether it be “natural” disasters or war. The more economic activity that takes place, for whatever reason, the wealthier the owners of the economy become. If you go over to your neighbor’s house and smash his windshield, the Gross National Product (GNP – the total value of all goods and services produced by the country in a year, and the standard measure of the “health” of an economy) increases by the amount of one windshield (windscreen). Some people may laugh at this example, but it is in fact the basis for all political decisions – those things that increase GNP will be done, and those things that do not increase GNP will not be done. No politician or economist will ever see anything perverse in this example at all, since they know that their wealthy friends who own the windshield company are made richer in the amount of one more windshield. The only person who pays a real cost for the broken windshield is the poor stiff who has no insurance and has to deny his children some new school clothes to pay for the windshield. That is why, although a few people have been calling for an end to the use of GNP as a measure of the well-being of a country, politicians and economists have no intention of abandoning it.
It is worth noting
In closing, it is interesting to note that no wild animals
died in this “disaster.” Why? Because they are living in harmony with
nature. We are not, and we are paying
the price. The tsunami incident in
Some time ago, I wrote an article entitled, “The AIDS Conspiracy” (in the collection Miscellany4). Here is a little more on that topic.
My wife and I attended a dinner party / music evening a few
months ago. The “dinner” part of the party
– a “Glyndebourne” picnic – was held outside, on a delightful spring
evening. By chance, I was seated next to
our physician. During the course of the
evening I happened to mention to him that I had written a brief article on
HIV/AIDS, in which I questioned the wisdom of the current usual treatment
approach. I told him that I was
concerned that giving people antiretroviral drugs could in fact increase the
prevalence of the disease, by keeping infective people alive longer, and
keeping them well enough to spread the disease further. I told him that I had asked a staff member of
the US Centers for Disease Control whether people on antiretroviral therapy (
I asked my physician friend whether this was true, and he confirmed that it was. He pointed out that the likelihood of transmitting the HIV from one person to another was about one in three hundred for a person not on ART, and about one in one thousand for a person on ART. If people on ART lived substantially longer and remained sexually active in the general population, then the prevalence of HIV in the population would increase.
I expressed my surprise that a disease that was not highly
contagious could have infected African populations to such a degree – on the
order of 30-40 percent prevalence in many countries. His response reflected the fact that he had
Well, one thing that they are doing is engaging in “dry
sex.” Since a lot of people in the
Investigation, by Lerato Tshabalala and Suzy Brokensha. Would you put any of these into your
vagina? [The text is superimposed on a
full-page picture displaying a variety of douche “additives.”] Of course not. But hundreds of thousands of women in
I learned about douching and dry sex through friends and relatives; says 28-yearold Nomalanga Sibisi (name has been changed). 'My boyfriend was complaining about my wetness and I worried I would lose him because I couldn't control it. Then I tried douching and it worked for me. Dry sex is painful, but it's worth it.'
'I feel lucky to have a dry woman as it means she hasn't been with a lot of men,' says Sipho Dlamini (name changed), voicing a common belief. Despite this, Sipho himself found dry sex to be painful – until a friend recommended the use of Vaseline. Vaseline was acceptable as a lubricant for Sipho because it wasn't the natural juices of his partner. Vaseline was clean, his partner was not.
What the chemicals
used in dry sex actually do is strip the woman's vagina of all natural
lubricants, making the soft tissues swell and causing her vagina to become hot
and tight. Many women say dry sex makes
sexual intercourse abrasive and painful for them, causing extreme abdominal
pain for some, but the long-term effects are even worse. Practices like dry sex – and more
importantly, the attitude that informs these practices – are probably largely
responsible for the fact that
Dry sex is thought to help spread AIDS in three ways: the dryness of the vagina means it's more likely to be lacerated during sex; the natural antiseptic lactobacilli contained in the vaginal moisture are destroyed, so they can no longer combat sexually transmitted diseases; and the increased friction means condoms are more likely to break. The result? Not only the sacrifice of sexual pleasure for women – and, in some instances, men – but also the potential sacrifice of human life on an enormous scale.
Five years ago, Neetha Morar, a research manager for the South African Medical Research Council (MRC), conducted a survey of sex workers working truck stops in the KZN region (incidentally, KZN has by far the highest HIV infection in South Africa). This was the first study of its kind in this country, although dry sex has been documented extensively in other parts of Africa: in Zimbabwe, researchers battled to find a control group who didn't practise some form of dry sex – men prefer women to be dry and tight as they seem 'cleaner and healthier'; in Malawi, according to a report in 1995, 13 per cent of women used vaginal substances for tightening and 34 percent for self-treatment for discharge and itching; and in Zambia, dry sex is common practice and is widely documented.
But back to
But it's not only
sex workers who practise dry sex – in fact, it's mostly ordinary women who are
trying desperately to keep their men. These
women believe that not only does dry sex increase their partners' pleasure, but
it also proves to them that they have not been sleeping around. Men associate wetness promiscuity: in
unspoken issue here is not about how consenting couples choose to have sex, it
is that for many women in
Dry sex is one
consequence of this attitude, but it isn't the only one. The combination of entitlement with poverty
is potentially devastating. In a 19-country
The Seven Other Deadly Sins [A box of the article.]
1. Survival and/or Transactional Sex. High levels of poverty, low education and lack of power force women into offering sex for money, goods or services. Ordinary women are pushed into transactional sex, whether privately or through prostitution, by poverty.
Writer Margie Orford, in the process of interviewing South African people for her book, Rural Voice (David Phillip, R100 [the rand is currently trading at about R6 = USD1]), says survival/transactional sex is a way of life for many South African women. In Berlin, 40 kilometers from East London, she interviewed girls with no source of income who were sleeping with taxi drivers in order to get regular lifts to a tertiary college they attended near East London. The deal the taxi drivers struck was sex with no condoms. The girls were trading sex for education and the chance of a way out of their grinding poverty – a little like playing Russian roulette, but with more than one bullet in the barrel.
In Vioolsdrift, on
the border between
In more urban environments where parents were still able to provide food and shelter, other studies have observed a growing trend for girls to use transactional sex to ‘get what they want’ in terms of luxuries – the three C’s: cash, clothes and cellphone.
2. Rape. There
are one-million reported rapes of women and children every year in
We all know most
rapes happen between people who know each other: date rape, husbands raping
wives or friends, and relatives forcing themselves on women and girls they
know. It’s easy to see this is an
extension of the attitude expressed by the 3,000
In September this
year, after allegedly gang raping an 18-year-old schoolgirl at a bus depot for
wearing a miniskirt, bus drivers in Manzini ‘banned’ miniskirts on buses. The drivers carried signs saying, “We’ll get
them with our brushes – referring to a brush handle apparently used in the
attack. According to the
3. The Myth of Virgin Cleansing. It is almost impossible to understand the motivation behind the rape of children and babies. According to Professor Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala, who published a paper on it last year (On the Mythogeny of Virgin Cleansing: Women, AIDS and Bodily Dirt), the myth of ‘virgin cleansing’ is based on the idea that a man can cleanse his blood of HIV/AIDS by having sex with a virgin, but that he will not infect the girl herself. This is because her vagina is dry, and ‘dirt’ – i.e., disease – can’t attach itself to it. On a very simple level, the idea that a ‘dirty/wet woman’ gave the man AIDS in the first place, and so her opposite – i.e., a ‘clean/dry girl’ – can take it away. Apparently, this also applies in the rape of elderly women; post-menopausal women have no ‘dirty’ lubrication. In a nationwide survey (Anderson 2002), it was found that of the 9,000 people interviewed, 13 per cent believed virgin cleansing could prevent AIDS.
4. The Sugar-Daddy Syndrome. Older men have sex with teenage girls in
exchange for money or status, mostly when the men are away from home – i.e.,
working in the city. About 15 per cent
of teenage girls in
5. Infidelity. The ‘Face of AIDS,’ as described at the UN conference in July this year, is a young, black, married woman. Being in a stable relationship where the man is not monogamous and the woman cannot insist on condoms is a risk factor for AIDS. The idea of having multiple partners seems natural to men – yet it’s important to have a woman who’s perceived to be virtuous. But where fidelity has been addressed, the HIV/AIDS infection rate has dropped enormously.
6. Abuse of Power.
Ambassadors, judges, policemen, managers – all men in positions of power
who have been publicly accused of sexual harassment in the past year. But perhaps the most worrying group of all,
because of their contact with children, is the teachers. As a group, teachers in
In a fundamental way, the biggest challenge is gender. It’s to get the entire continent to
understand that women are truly the most vulnerable in this pandemic…and there
is a degree of cultural oppression that has to be overcome. You cannot have millions of women effectively
sexually subjugated, forced into sex, which is risky without condoms, without
the capacity to say no, without the right to negotiate sexual relationships. It’s an impossible situation for women and
there has rarely been a disease so rooted in inequality between the sexes.’ –
Stephen Lewis, UN secretary-general’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in
From this article and other reports,
The problem is not just in
I had dinner a few weeks ago with a South African university
professor who told me that one of the professors of surgery at a prestigious
South African university – a black appointment under
While waiting in the
Mode of transmission Infections per 1000 exposures
Female-to-male, unprotected vaginal sex 0.33-1
Male-to-female, unprotected vaginal sex 1-2
Male-to-male, unprotected anal sex 5-30
Needle stick 3
Mother-to-child transmission 130-480
Exposure to contaminated blood products 900-1000
The source is World Bank, 1997, Confronting AIDS: Public Priorities in a Global Epidemic, A World
Bank Policy Research Report (
It is worth considering why the world has the current HIV/AIDS epidemic. Once again, the answer is bad leadership. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is ravaging the planet because the world’s leaders like it that way. They could easily have prevented it, and chose not to. There is much more money to be made in allowing it to spread and increase, and by selling drugs that keep people alive to spread it more, than in containing it. Here follow a few selections from the Barnett / Whiteside book:
Preventing sexual transmission
As sex is the main
mode of transmission, prevention strategies are most important here. One of the first responses to the epidemic
was to call for the isolation of HIV infected people. This was seen by many as impracticable,
oppressive and discriminatory. The one
To prevent sexual
transmission there is a limited but potentially effective range of
interventions. The first set of
interventions is 'biomedical'; these aim to reduce sexual transmission. Good sexual health is paramount. This means that STDs should be treated
immediately, and the availability of
'I knew a Zulu whose son was bitten by a snake and died. He said that his son had been killed by witchcraft. This did not mean that he didn't see that his son had been bitten by a snake, or that he didn't know that some snakes are poisonous while others are not, and that the bite of a poisonous snake may be fatal. When he said that his son was killed by witchcraft, he meant that a witch caused the snake to bite his son so that the son died ... every piece of good fortune involves two questions: the first is "how" did it occur, and the second is "why" it occurred at all ... Beliefs about witchcraft explain why particular persons at particular times and places suffer particular misfortunes ... witchcraft as a theory of causation is concerned with the singularity of misfortune ... A Pondo teacher in South Africa ... [asked] "It may be quite true that typhus is carried by lice, but who sent the infected louse? Why did it bite one man and not another?”’ (Gluckman, 1955, p. 85)
'THERE IS NO ROMANCE WITHOUT FINANCE'
(Nigerian adage from
'Women students may be more susceptible to infection than some other groups in certain circumstances. A study in Nigeria suggested that a woman may end up having sex with three people at once to make her way through university – her teacher (to ensure good marks), a "sugar daddy" (to pay her fees and living expenses) and her boyfriend.' (Edet, 1997, p. 42).
'Dr. Bayo's findings on Campus girls "campus
night crawling" is similar to findings made in
People have been writing about the destruction of culture
and countries by mass immigration for decades, but it has not been until
recently that articles on this subject are appearing frequently in the
Five Shot Dead in
a deputy at the county jail, identified the suspect as Chai Vang but would give
no additional details. Several news
organizations in Minneapolis-St. Paul
reported the suspect was 36-years-old and from
happened when two hunters were returning to their rural cabin on private land
It's not known who shot first, Zeigle said.
Both men were wounded and one of them radioed back to the cabin. Other hunters responded and were shot, he said. Some of the victims may have shot back at the suspect, Zeigle said.
The suspect was "sniping" at the victims with a SKS assault-style rifle, Zeigle said. He was "chasing after them and killing them," he said.
The dead included four males, including a teenage boy, and a woman, Zeigle said. The man who radioed for help was not fatally wounded. Some of the victims were shot more than once.
All five were dead when officers arrived, he said.
two bodies near each other and the other three were scattered around the area,
which is near Town of
The suspect, who did not have a compass, got lost in the woods and two other hunters, not knowing the man was being sought in the shootings, helped him find his way out, Zeigle said. When he emerged from the woods, a Department of Natural Resources officer recognized the deer license on his back, given to police by a victim, Zeigle said.
The man was out of bullets when they arrested him, Zeigle said.
One of the
injured hunters was in critical condition at
Bill Wagner, 72, of
After they got word of a shooting, he and others went to round up the rest of the party. He said they heard sirens, planes and helicopters and noticed the surrounding roads blocked off.
'When you're hunting you don't expect somebody to try to shoot you and murder you," he said. "You have no idea who is coming up to YOU."
The incident won't stop their hunt, he said.
'We're all old, dyed-in-wool hunters," he said. 'We wouldn't go home because of this but we will keep it in our minds. We're not forgetting it." [End of article.]
There is no acceptable reason for any native-born American
to be slaughtered by an immigrant.
Native-born Americans are being killed in large numbers by immigrants
because immigrants have been allowed into the country in massive numbers. The reason for
Ask the Dutch what they think of their policy of mass immigration,
now that their government has flooded their country with Moslems, who are now
slaughtering native Dutch who express their opinions, such as politician Pim
Fortuyn and filmmaker Theo van Gogh. The
December 15 issue of the South African Edition of London’s Weekly Telegraph contains an article, “Dutch middle class seek new
life abroad.” Mass immigration to the
Over the past few decades, the population of
The December 15 issue of the Weekly Telegraph contains many articles of how
An article entitled, “Police search for ‘honour killings”
reports that police are to review the deaths and disappearances of 122 young
Asian women to establish whether they were the victims of “honour killings,” in
which a young girl is killed by another family member who disapproves of her
behavior. The article notes that
“Honour killings occur in Asian, Turkish, Romany, Bosnian, Kosovan, West
African and Middle Eastern families.” It
displays the picture of a pretty young girl whose father slit her throat
because he disapproved of her western outlook and behavior.
It is interesting to note that most British people do not want the country overrun with immigrants. The December 15 issue contains the following article entitled, “Too many immigrants, claims poll: Nearly three-quarters of British people believe there are too many immigrants coming into the country, according to the results of an opinion poll published last week, writes Philip Johnston. A YouGov survey for The Economist suggests that record levels of immigration are now the principal concern of voters, ahead of public services, crime and terrorism.
“The findings also indicate that groups normally regarded as holding more liberal views, including Londoners and the young, are as ill-disposed to immigrants as others.
“The poll confirms what politicians have been noticing for months, that immigration has returned with a vengeance as a political issue after years of quiescence following the fierce controversies of the late 1960s and 1970s.”
The late British politician Enoch Powell railed against
immigration decades ago, but no one listened.
Pygmy Chimpanzees on Brink of Extinction – WWF, Fri
Dec 10,, by Ed
WWF said recent
"There may be as few as 10,000 bonobos left ... These initial results concern us greatly," said Dr. Peter J. Stephenson, WWF's African Great Apes Program Coordinator.
The survey was
conducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo – the only country where bonobos
are found – in the 36,000 square kilometer
"The first data in from about a third of the park show evidence of very few bonobos living there. No bonobos were encountered, and sightings of nests and dung were only made in a quarter of the area surveyed, at lower densities than previously measured," Swiss-based WWF said in a statement.
"In contrast, there was abundant evidence of human encroachment into the park and of poaching," it said, blaming the decline of the species on illegal hunting for food – or "bushmeat" – by militias and hungry local peasants.
The findings add
to a grim body of evidence that the great apes are in serious trouble – with
While the bonobos in the country's west are reeling from rampant poaching, the lowland gorillas in the east have also taken a beating.
Conservationists fear the numbers of eastern lowland gorillas in the region are down to 3,000-5,000 from an estimated 17,000 in 1996.
Poverty and conflict are the chief reasons behind the falls in ape numbers.
long running civil war in (
"Increased poaching by armed militias and local people was inevitable with serious consequences for the bonobos of Salonga as well as the local people," it said.
WWF said it had launched a new project to monitor and protect bonobo populations in the north of Salonga.
Often equal in height to chimpanzees, bonobo's limbs are more slender and they have a black face with reddish lips.
The genetic code in the DNA of chimpanzees and bonobos is closer to that of humans than to that of gorillas. [End of article.]
Why does the entire world stand by and allow
A lot of “handwringing” by environmentalists will not save the chimps. You hear a lot of talk these days that if you give local people a suitable financial incentive, you will save the forests from being cut down and stop the mass species extinction. This is drivel. After several decades of this approach, the world’s forest cover is vastly reduced, and the forest destruction and mass species extinction continues. Economics is the problem, not the solution. As Einstein once remarked, today’s problems will not be solved by the same kind of thinking that created them. The cause of the problem is the world’s leaders, who are motivated only by greed for increased material wealth. The planetary crisis will not end until they are gone.
The article refers to the slaughter and eating of chimps as
“bushmeat.” In remote rural African
markets, you can see the corpses of skinned chimpanzees for sale. They look just like small people. Sometimes you can find a gorilla hand for
sale – but not much any more, since they are almost gone. Given the similarity of chimpanzee and human
DNA, and the physical resemblance of the species, the consumption of chimps –
and monkeys, apes and other primates – by Africans is little more than
cannibalism. This disgusting practice
demeans our species and is quickly driving our closest relatives on the planet
Here follows another recent news article on the
Conservationists Fear for
The Democratic Republic of Congo has some 250 million acres of rainforest, most of which has remained untouched. A moratorium on new logging rights in the world's second largest rainforest was imposed in 2002.
With Congo emerging from a five-year war in which 3 million people died, mainly from hunger and disease, conservationists fear new laws and zoning could result in around 60 million acres – an area the size of France – it being opened up to logging firms.
international non-governmental organizations recommend the strict application
of the moratorium on all new forestry concessions," eight international
conservation organizations said in a statement in
They said the ban must be maintained to "allow the necessary conditions for a sustainable management of the sector to be put in place" and ensure transparency and good governance.
The government has been praised for drawing up a new forestry code, putting in place the moratorium and reclaiming 62 million acres of illegal concessions. It reiterated its commitment to transparency and sustainability in the sector.
corruption rife and central authority often lacking elsewhere in the region,
there are worries a rapid expansion of logging will be unsustainable and
deliver little for either
In a statement issued earlier in the week, international environmental watchdog,Greenpeace, said despite the moratorium, logging concessions covering more than 15 million acres were allocated between May 2002 and May 2003.
"These developments undermine all attempts to reform the forestry sector. Illegally allocated concessions should be canceled," Greenpeace said.
In 1993 and 1994 I worked in
We lived in
Banda set up the Kamuzu Institute, which provided a
classical British education (Latin, Greek and the like) to merit-selected
students from all over the country. No
male (Malawian or foreign) was allowed to have hair covering his ears, and
women were forbidden to wear pants. The paved
roads had few or no potholes and there was no trash strewn around, as is
typical of most of
The principal reason why life was so interesting in
This past Easter, my wife and I drove over to
While we visited our friends, we asked about some of the
other friends that we had had during our stay there. One couple was from
Our hostess told us that our friends were gone – had “fled the country.” After many years in the country, some rather suspicious happening occurred and people started asking, “What does “Chang” do (name changed to protect the innocent)? No one knew. If he was in import-export, where was his warehouse, and why were there never any shipments? Rumors had begun to circulate – from missionaries in the “bush” – that Chang was engaged in the ivory trade, buying rhino horns to sell to Yemenis for dagger handles and to Chinese for use in traditional medicine. The heat started to rise, and when it reached intolerable levels, Chang and his wife left.
Chang’s alleged activity, and similar activity in all of
Isn’t free-enterprise capitalism a wonderful thing? Isn’t Chinese culture great?
My wife and I have lived off and on in black
I have been working and living in
My wife reads the paper every day, and shows me articles of
particular interest. A few weeks ago she
read me a short report dealing with pipe culverts under the highway between
Chipata and Lundazi (a distance of 186 kilometers, in eastern
Another thing that is happening more and more frequently is that locals are draining the oil out of electrical transformers and selling it as cooking oil. The problem here is that the oil is used for cooling the transformer, and as soon as the transformer heats up, it burns up or explodes, and the neighborhood is without electrical power. This does not affect the locals, since most do not have electricity. Another problem is theft of telephone cable – a frequent cause for loss of telephone service.
On December 11, Yahoo published a news item reporting that
the state slogan, “Heart of Dixie,” is disappearing from more
One-third of the groups that promote distinctive and collegiate license plates now choose to leave the slogan off their tags.
The standard state license plate still has "Heart of Dixie," as required by state law, but it's reduced to letters one-sixteenth of an inch high, printed on a bottom corner.
In its place, the
song title "Stars Fell on
For some, "Heart of Dixie" brings up positive images about the South, but "to others it raises thoughts of the Civil War, slavery and mistreatment of African Americans," Siegelman said.
Groups behind some of those plates say they were trying to come up with eye-catching designs and had no concerns about the image invoked by "Heart of Dixie."
Groups that develop a specialty plate are trying to promote their own slogans and don't want another slogan competing for attention, said Paul Till, spokesman for the Alabama Farmers Federation. The federation's plate bears the slogan "Farming Feeds Alabama."
The senior black member of the Legislature, Rep. Alvin Holmes, suspects the groups knew very well what they were doing in omitting the slogan from their plates, but wanted to do it quietly to avoid upsetting fans of "Heart of Dixie."
industrialists have come to realize what a burden it has been to this state and
what the racist image of this state has cost the state economically," said
Holmes, who has been trying to pass legislation taking "Heart of
The slogan was
first used by the Alabama Chamber of Commerce in the 1940s, and first appeared
To Confederate heritage advocates, the tiny type on the standard state plate is about as irksome as the court-ordered removal of the Confederate battle flag from atop the state Capitol dome in 1993.
"They say everything we ... stand for will go by the way, and it seems to be going that way. But as long as I'm alive, they will hear from me," said Olaf Childress of Silverhill.
other Confederate heritage advocates offer stickers to put across the top of
Thousands of the
stickers are now displayed by people who think
First it was the display of the Confederate Flag that was
attacked, and now it is slogans as innocuous as “Heart of Dixie,” and even the
In a recent article, I observed the report in Time magazine commenting on how quickly and how much the Africans culture had diminished after their giving political control of their country to the blacks. Once you have lost the will to keep your culture intact, it will quickly die. If American Southerners do not care about their cultural traditions, those traditions will soon be gone. The current generation has let disappear much of their cultural heritage. They have traded it for dollars, such as the abandonment of the Confederate-design South Carolina flag (fear of loss of “convention” money and “foreign investment” if the earlier flag design were retained), or the swamping of the South by Mexican immigrants, all in the interest of making more money (cheaper labor, increased demand for homes, schools, hospitals, roads, and everything else).
I know that people aren’t interested in hearing about other people’s health problems, but I feel that I really must tell you about my recent eye problem, so that some of you may avoid the needless operations that I recently underwent and the distorted vision that I now have.
Last year (2003), I found myself bothered more and more with “fuzziness” in my right eye. It was hard to see things on the computer screen, and the glare from automobile headlights at night was “filling” my eyes. I visited the Pretoria Eye Institute for a checkup, and was told that I had moderate cataracts in my right eye, and incipient cataracts in the left eye. To rectify the problem, I had a “lens replacement” – an operation where the natural lens is “aspirated” (sucked out) and a “Plexiglas” lens is inserted in its place. This is an amazing operation. It does not take much time, is painless (local anesthesia is all that is required), and the results are phenomenal! In addition to removing the cataracts (which are in the lens), it removes the entire lens, which, at my age (61 then) has become somewhat discolored. After the operation, the brightness is incredible! Things are as clear and as bright as when I was a child. I had forgotten that the sun is not yellow – it is bright white. One of the nice side benefits of the lens implant is that they can cut the replacement lens to whatever prescription you wish. In my case, I spend most of the day on a computer, and I asked for the focal distance to be twenty inches. So I can now see the computer screen perfectly. I use eyeglasses for distance (driving, television) and for lengthy reading, but not at any other time.
(The material that is used for the lens has an interesting history. I will call it “Plexiglas,” since I don’t remember the technical term. It is similar to the plastic used in aircraft windows, but modified to make it pliable (so it can be folded and slipped into a small slit in the eye, after the natural lens has been sucked out). After my first lens replacement, I was so amazed at the increased clarity of vision that I asked the physician whether the Plexiglas would remain clear, or eventually become discolored like my natural lens. He told me that it would absolutely remain clear. He explained that in the Second World War, Plexiglas was used in military aircraft windows, and that small shards of the plastic were often imbedded in pilot’s eyes and faces after the windshield had been hit by machine-gun fire. What was discovered after a number of years was that (1) the body did not have any reaction to the plastic; and (2) the plastic never discolored. When eye surgeons started inserting artificial lenses as treatment for cataracts, they therefore used this material, slightly modified to make it pliable.)
A couple of months later, I returned and had the lens in my
left eye replaced, also. At that time, I
now had very good vision in both eyes – clear, and focused at twenty
inches. Things went along fine until
this past April (2004), when, one morning, I saw two or three “strings” going
up the left side of my left eye. After a
short time (minutes, as I recall), the “strings” disappeared, but then I had
massive “floaters” in the eye. I have
had “floaters” all of my life, but never like this, which was similar to the
cataracts. I went to visit a local eye
clinic here in
I was concerned that something serious might be happening, and so I decided to contact Dr. Gideon P. du Plessis (of the Pretoria Eye Institute), who had performed the lens replacements for my cataracts. I wrote the following letter, e-mailed it to him, and called him on the telephone to discuss it.
Dr. Gideon du Plessis
Tel (0027)12-344-1867, 343-2402
Dear Dr. du Plessis:
I hope that this letter finds you well.
Over the past several months since you did the lens implants in my eyes, they have served me very well. Overall, the operations were very successful, and my vision is much improved.
Recently, however, a problem has developed in my left eye. I would like to describe the symptoms and signs to you, and then telephone you to discuss what to do next (if anything).
The left eye was the second one that you operated on. It had always been the stronger of my two eyes. It was in the right eye that I had a retinal occlusion about 18 years ago, had the poorest vision, and developed the cataracts most noticeably. After your operation on the right eye, I experienced no difficulties at all.
The left eye, however, did not go
so well. After I returned home to
All of these symptoms cleared up within a couple of weeks, and, as I reported to you some time later, I was very pleased with both eyes.
A few weeks ago, the same problems that I had experienced after the operation returned to my left eye. At first, it seemed slightly irritated, and to “tire” by the end of the workday. Then, about two weeks ago, the creeping loss of vision reoccurred. It is quite similar to the way it happened after the operation. In bright light, I do not notice it so much, but in soft light, I have a strong sensation of loss of vision on the left side. There was one thing, however, that was quite different from before. Before the loss of vision occurred, I saw a large, string-like “fragment” in my eye, in the same area where the loss of vision occurred. It was like two strands floating upward along the left side of my eye (i.e., it was actually two strands floating downward along the right side of my eye). The strands moved as I moved my eye, but not freely as a floater – the two strands seemed to be attached, like a piece of seaweed floating in the water. The next day, they were gone, but the large, jelly-like floaters appeared, and are with me today.
Yesterday, I decided to see a local
eye doctor here in
I will call you in a day or so to
get your opinion about what I should do next.
After I had the retinal occlusion (18 years ago), I visited a retinal
specialist who injected dye into my vein, and took a series of flash
photographs of my retina. Is that what
is required for a diagnosis? Do you do
that sort of thing? Should I return to
J. George Caldwell
Tel (260)1-273-669 (home) (260)97-791250 (cell)
I then telephoned Dr. du Plessis (on
Well, nothing happened for another week or so, when, one
day, a Thursday (
On the Internet, I learned a lot about retinal detachments. It turns out that there are five major factors that predispose a person to retina detachment: (1) A sharp blow to the head (as in boxing or an auto accident); (2) Trauma to the eye, as in an injury, or as in previous cataract surgery; (3) Myopia (nearsightedness); (4) Genetics; and (5) Age. Of these five factors, I had four working against me (it turns out that my paternal grandmother had a detached retina – I did not know this until my mother told me, on hearing of my detachment). The reason why myopia is a factor is that the eyeball of myopes (nearsighted people) is ellipsoid-shaped, whereas the retina is more nearly spherical. This puts a constant strain on the retina. As you grow older, or if you are jolted, the retina is vulnerable to tearing.
The retina is not actually attached to the back of the eyeball – it is held in place by “suction” caused by the differential density of the vitreous humor that fills the eyeball and the other body fluids. It is actually held in place very tightly, and is hard to “peel off.” It takes quite a jar to displace it, such as an automobile accident or a hard blow to the head. When the retina becomes damaged, however, the vitreous humor leaks behind the retina – behind the “suction cup” – and the retina simply peels off. In my case, a blood vessel had ruptured in the retina, and vitreous humor fluid was able to leak very slowly through the tear in the retina. After seven weeks of leaking, the suction holding the retina in place was gone, and the retina finally peeled away from the back of the eyeball. The eclipsing “darkness” that I saw apparently coming up from the bottom was in fact the retina folding over from the top (remember – reversed images), and preventing the light from reaching the still-attached portion.
If you realize what is happening, and you go to a retinal specialist, he can simply “cauterize” the retina (using a laser beam or cryotherapy (freezing)) where it is damaged. Fluid stops leaking behind the retina, and it stays in place. This procedure is not surgically invasive – the laser surgery is done through the lens.
If, as in my case, you do not realize what is happening, the leak continues and may damage further as it folds over, causing the repair to be more difficult, if not impossible. In order for the retina to be held to the back of the eye, the repairs must be such that the retina is intact and smooth, so that no fluid can leak around it.
The operation to reattach the retina is much more serious
than the lens replacement. It can still
be done with local anesthesia. The physician
removes all of the vitreous humor (gel) from the eye, puts the retina back in
place, and “cauterizes” the damaged part.
He then refills the eyeball, either with air or liquid. If the damage is not very severe, and the
operation is done soon after the detachment occurs, then the eyeball may be
filled with air. Over a few weeks, the
air is replaced by vitreous humor, and you are on your way. In more serious cases, the eyeball is filled
with a liquid, which is also replaced before too long. In my case, the damage was fairly severe, and
I needed to fly back to
That second operation (to remove the oil) was in early August. If all had gone well, my vision would now be about as good as it had been before the detachment. Unfortunately, this was not to be. From the time of the operation, by vision was substantially distorted. The distortion was at two levels. If I looked at people from a distance, their heads seemed to be the size of grapefruits, relative to the rest of their bodies. Also, printed text was uniformly distorted, as if I were looking through a glass covered with fine ripples.
In late December (last month), I returned to
I asked the physician whether I should visit a retinal specialist periodically, for an examination. He replied that this was not necessary. What was critically important was to go immediately to a retinal specialist if ever an “incident” (like the “strings” and the massive floaters caused by the ruptured blood vessel) ever occurred again. In that case, the damage can usually be repaired easily and simply, with laser treatment.
A few days ago, I returned to the Sunbird Eye Clinic here in
Evidently, when most people experience an “incident” that
may lead to a retina detachment, they see the massive floaters, but they also
see “flashes” of light. I don’t recall
seeing “flashes” until my eye was filled with oil. All I remember is the floaters. A few months ago, my wife had recounted all
of my eye problems to a friend. One
morning, her husband awoke with extensive floaters and experienced occasional
flashes. His wife remembered what my
wife had told her about my eye problem, and he went to see a retinal specialist
The incidence of retinal detachments is not very high –
about one in ten (or 15) thousand per year, which is about 30,000 cases per
year in the
I am generally pretty well informed on many subjects, but I had no idea what was happening to me when I first saw the large floaters in my eye. I have had floaters all of my life (since I was a kid), and had been told that they were simply “dead tissue” – detritus, nothing to worry about. Because of their greater magnitude in April, however, I did in fact have them checked on, but the doctor at the eye clinic had no idea what they indicated or portended. Had I known what was occurring, I could have avoided two eye operations, several trips from Lusaka to Pretoria, many weeks of convalescence (it is necessary to lie on your side for several weeks following the retina repair operation, and for a few days following the oil removal), and having defective vision in my left eye for the rest of my life.
One of the problems I encountered was a strong reticence on
the part of some of the doctors to share knowledge. As I mentioned, when my detachment occurred,
I searched the Internet and downloaded material on retinal detachments. I read this material in
If you ever experience anything unusual in your eye (“strings,” large floaters, flashes, many very small black dots), please go to a retinal specialist immediately.
A few weeks ago (August 17), a tear (rip) occurred in the retina of my right eye. This was my “good” eye – the one that had not had the retinal detachment last year. At the time when the retina of my left eye detached, the physician performed some “preventative” laser treatment of my right eye. He told me that, since I had had a retina detach in one eye, I was likely to have one in the other eye as well, but the laser treatment of places that looked “weak” might help prevent this from happening. Evidently Lady Luck was not in my court.
Fortunately, because of what I now knew, the course of this
incident was vastly different from the previous one. It was in the late afternoon when I noticed a
shadow creeping up from the lower right periphery of my right eye. This area would “flash” when I moved my head
quickly, or for no apparent reason at all.
I did not have any floaters.
Since I now knew the symptoms of a retinal tear – immediate and
significant increase floaters (usually, but not in this case), vision loss and
flashes, I immediately called a retina specialist (here in
The physician examined my eye and confirmed the tear. He recommended that he use cryotherapy to repair it. I agreed, and, at about , he performed the procedure (about 15 minutes long, during which time he inserts a probe behind the eyeball and “freezes” the tear with a liquid gas). The operation went very well. I had no after-effects, and my vision was not affected at all (since the tear was repaired before the retina had time to detach.
While waiting in the waiting room prior to the operation, I
read through some of the literature available to patients. The doctor had given me a booklet called, For My Patient: Retinal Detachment and
Vitreous Surgery (Retina Research Fund,
“Who gets retinal detachments? Each year in the
This is exactly the information that, had the physician of the Pretoria Eye Institute who performed my cataract operation provided to me, or the doctors at the Sunbird Eye Clinic known, would have, without any doubt (since my retinal-tear symptoms occurred about seven weeks before the retinal detachment occurred), enabled me to avoid the retinal detachment and the permanent vision loss I now have in my left eye.
My permanent vision loss was totally avoidable, had the surgeon who performed my cataract surgery informed me of the massive increase in the likelihood of retinal detachment following cataract surgery, and warned me to watch for the clear symptoms and signs that indicate that a tear has occurred. I can perhaps forgive the staff of the Sunbird Eye Clinic for their ignorance in not realizing what my massive, sudden floaters suggested, but the incompetence or carelessness of the staff of the Pretoria Eye Institute – supposedly a world-class facility in the treatment of eye diseases – in not informing me of the danger of a retinal tear following cataract surgery and the clear symptoms and signs that follow it is unconscionable.
As you may know, my wife and I are currently living in
We moved into our house about three years ago, and in all of that time we have had only two bunches of bananas. There are lots of other banana stands in our complex, many of them with bananas, and I was puzzled why ours was so unproductive. A couple of months ago, I asked our gardener what the problem was, and he had no ideas. I asked him to water the banana stand, and still nothing happened. A few more weeks passed, with no change.
Then, one day, I remembered that as a child I had been told that if you pray over plants, they will grow better. So, one morning, about mid-November, I walked over to the stand, and grasped one of the shoots with my two hands, and I concentrated very hard, demanding that the shoot produce bananas, within a week. I walked to all other five shoots and did the same.
That is all I did. Now, I don’t remember if our gardener had ever cut down the two shoots that had produced bananas last year and the year before, and so it may be that two of the six shoots had produced and would never produce again. I checked back in a week. No results. So much for prayer, I thought to myself.
Then, a few weeks later, my wife called me at work from home. She said, “Are you sitting down?” I could tell from the tone of her voice that nothing was wrong, and so a simply said that I was walking down the stairs (I use a cell phone) – and I asked what she wanted to tell me. She said, “You’re not going to believe this, but we have four large bunches of bananas!” Well, I was indeed surprised. When I arrived home that afternoon, she showed me the bunches, on four of the mature shoots.
Synchonicity? The power of prayer? A mere coincidence? As Stanislav Grof once observed, there is a perversity in the spirit world that insists that we physical beings will never be able to conclusively prove anything objectively about the spirit world. All I know is that, for the first time in my life I prayed over my plants, and I got bananas – twice as many bunches in two weeks as I had gotten in the past three years.
Update: I wrote the preceding paragraphs on December 31. Last weekend, another stalk produced a bunch of bananas. Today, January 8, I had a look at the banana stand, and saw that the sixth stalk is producing a bunch. That’s six out of six in two months, compared to two out of six in three years. I might just start praying more often!