Researchers from Imperial College in London and Harvard University in Boston have grown a crystal that shows the structure of the integrase enzyme. The HIV virus uses integrase to copy itself into an infected person’s DNA, paving the way for the virus to spread.
Now that there is a model of the integrase structure available to researchers, it is now possible to understand how existing integrase blocking medications work, how to improve such medications, and how to stop the virus from resisting the medication.
The crystal was made public in a study published January 30 in the journal Nature. This has been hailed as a major step in the fight against HIV. Scientists have attempted numerous times over the last 20 years to understand integrase and how related medications work.
Haiti's presidential palace after the January 12 earthquake. (Logan Abassi/UNDP Global)
Everyone agrees that the Haiti earthquake is a serious situation. Serious enough for the U.S. to send thousands of Marines, to take over the airport, to suspend Haiti's sovereignty and take over the operation. Serious enough to unify the bitter partisan divide and put George W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama together to raise funds. Serious enough for benefit concerts and the invention of new forms of philanthropy, where people can donate through their cell phones. But the Haiti earthquake is apparently not all that serious:
1. It's not serious enough to give undocumented Haitians a full amnesty. Yes, it was serious enough to give them Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which they'd been asking for for years, so that they can send back money legally and so they're not in danger of being deported back to their re-devastated country. But they still have to pay $470 for registering (every dollar of which could have gone to Haiti – which adds up to millions of dollars if more than a few thousand register and pay the fee), and after their 18-month grace period ends they will be in the system and easier to deport than they were before registering.
2. It's not serious enough for public money. 200,000 people dead and millions homeless is a tragedy, but one approximately 30,000 times less serious than the Iraq war ($100 million for earthquake relief, $3 trillion for the Iraq war) and 40,000 less serious than the $4 trillion bank bailout. For those crises, the treasury magically opens, the money magically appears in the accounts, the public debt grows, and the taxpayers can pay later. For an earthquake or a tsunami, we rely on people's generosity, and put together star teams to beg for money on behalf of the victims.
When reports first came in late January 12 of a major earthquake happening near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, it was hard for me to process. It felt like a cruel joke. How can one of the world’s poorest countries be victim to a major natural disaster?
But it’s all true. The Haitian government and relief workers are still sifting through the damage, but death toll estimates are running between 50,000-100,000 people. Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city, is in ruins.
Haiti's Presidential Palace (above) was heavily damaged after the January 12 earthquake. (Logan Abassi/UNDP Global)
As the week has gone on, the international response has been a surprise. Let’s just say I didn’t know Haiti had so many friends. When global saber rattlers like Venezuela and China are among the list of giving nations, then you know differences are being put aside.
To be honest, it’s about time all of these countries united for a common cause. It’s just a shame it took something so tragic to do it. Before the earthquake, Haiti was just a tiny Caribbean country in world stage obscurity for about 15 years. But numerous relief organizations and NGOs never turned their backs on the Haitians.
There is a sense that Haiti as we all knew it will no longer exist. Either Haiti emerges as a better nation or stays buried. And the countries of the “First World” will be responsible either way.
Somalia's Harakat al-Shabab Combines Philanthropy With Propaganda
Written by Christopher Anzalone
Members of Somalia's Harakat al-Shabab
The Somali insurgent-jihadi group Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen ["Movement of the Warrior-Youth"] is publicizing its public sector social service work, such as distributing materials and monetary aid to those in need and building bridges, literally. This is a smart decision from a strategic point of view, since it allows the group to foster an image and reputation of being actively engaged in public social services. Its potential public relations/propaganda effect is increased considering that the country's current interim transitional government, led by President Shaykh (Sheikh) Sharif Ahmed, has been largely unable to deliver similar services to the general populace, in large part due to its lack of control of large parts of the country, in particular southern regions where Harakat al-Shabab is strong. Thus, the group is able to provide some of the public sector social services that the federal government is not.
In a country that has been torn apart by civil war and inter-clan conflict since the collapse of the regime of its last president, the autocrat Siad Barre in January 1991, the potential public relations and propaganda benefits from this should not be underestimated. By completing and publicizing social service projects, Harakat al-Shabab is able to wield yet another weapon against President Sharif Ahmed's government. "See, we can provide services and the government cannot," they can say.
Harakat al-Shabab is an interesting hybrid movement. Although it has publicly endorsed the ideology espoused by al-Qa'ida Central (AQC), it continues to focus mainly on its nation-stateproject in Somalia. Unlike transient movements such as AQC, Harakat al-Shabab is, at least to some degree, concerned about building a governing structure and base of support, since its future relies primarily on the continued support, or at least tolerance, of the local population. By publicizing its social services work, the group is able to potentially build up its local support base, while also meeting the expectations of its existing base. The Afghan Taliban have recently also shown a greater concern for its place within its own country, sometimes to the detriment of AQC's interests.
Remembering Those Who Suffer And Have Died From AIDS
Written by Erick Colman
December 1 is World AIDS Day.
There's a good chance that AIDS has had a personal impact on someone you know. I myself had a relative who died of AIDS. I was not told until after said relative died that this person even suffered from AIDS.
The first observance of World AIDS Day was in 1988. The idea is attributed to James Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization. Interestingly enough, the choice of December 1 was done for the sake of media. The theory was that it would be a “slow news day” and thus, World AIDS Day would garner more coverage. I suppose they were right after all.
Today, countless cities and nations commemorate this day with memorial events. This year, a glimmer of hope was revealed when a study among patients in Thailand showed an experimental vaccine reduced the risk of contracting HIV, the disease that leads to AIDS.