THE INDEX – July 7, 2010

Scientists in Florida believe a cure for malaria may develop out of research on ocean organisms.

Causing around 1 million deaths a year, malaria is the world’s 13th deadliest disease.  In Africa alone, a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.  In countries hardest hit by the disease—largely the world’s poorest—an average of 1.3% of GDP is lost annually as a result of infection.

Historically, treating malaria has proven to be a serious challenge because incomplete and improper usage of anti-malarial drugs has led to drug resistance. But new research is promising—if surprising. Scientists from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute of Fort Pierce, Florida are looking to sea-dwelling organisms to help eradicate airborne malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

To date, UCF’s Debopam Chakrabarti has found that some 300 marine organisms—12% of the organisms he has studied—can kill the deadly mosquitoes. However, it is not yet clear that his findings will lead to the development of viable drugs. "If we can find two or three good molecules that can be easily synthesized in a lab and that can prevent malaria, I'd be very happy,” Chakrabarti said.

Chakrabarti believes the ocean holds a lot of potential for medicine. “There is a very good possibility that the answers to cancers, malaria and other diseases may be found in the ocean. Why am I so optimistic?  Just consider that the oceans cover 70 percent of the planet. Among 36 of the phyla in life, 34 are found in marine environments whereas the land represents only 17 phyla, and we haven’t even begun to explore the oceans’ depths,” he said. Ocean-derived drugs are a growing area of scientific research.

—Caroline Soussloff

More on global health: WPJ’s summer issue (Prevent and Cure) is now online and will be on news stands next week.


Unable to serve as an objective mediating power in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Turkey is relinquishing its role as arbitrator. In its place, Argentina, Brazil, and Spain have emerged to serve as intermediaries between the Israeli and Palestinian people.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, on a tour of Latin America, says that countries like Brazil, have the opportunity “to re-launch the dialogue” in a region, which has made little progress since the first peace accords nearly nineteen years ago. Brazilian president Lula da Silva could not agree more. “The conflict transcends regional dimensions…[and solving it] is a responsibility of all of us.”

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner also considers her country’s commitment in the region to be particularly valuable. She views Argentina as an example of the potential in the Middle East. Home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America and a sizable Muslim community, Argentina has maintained peaceful co-existence between the two religious communities for the last several decades.

Some, however, are wary of the new mediators. The commitment of Latin America and Spain to finding a solution in the Middle East appears to have been prompted by the Syrian president, who has long been eyed with suspicion by the Israeli government. Al-Assad’s involvement, the Israelis fear, may influence the objectivity of Latin American leaders, biasing them before peace negotiations have even begun.

                                                                                                               Yaffa Fredrick


Iran and ASEAN have opened a trade center in Malaysia in efforts to boost demand for Western-boycotted goods from the country and increase investment between it and the trading bloc. Last year alone, the value of Iranian exports to ASEAN rose 31%, to some $1 billion, according to the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI). Meanwhile, Iran has sought to strengthen its deeper ties with the nearby Islamic countries of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).  TPOI reported that trade with the organization grew 25% last year. Iran’s non-petroleum exports include citrus fruits, carpets, pistachios, medicinal herbs.                                                                                                                       —David Black


One church minister fears the Danish flag will soon be banned in some European classrooms. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in November 2009 that displaying crucifixes in Italian classrooms violates parents’ rights to secular education for their children. Now, Denmark’s church minister, Birthe Rønn Hornbech, believes that national symbols such as the Danish flag which bears a cross could also be banned.                
                                                                                                                   —Seth Walder

A Czech plan to move the homeless in Prague out of the city is under fire from groups that help the homeless.The proposed movement would open up a so-called “oasis” outside of the city where homeless would be able to eat twice a day and receive medical care. Advocates of the plan say that it helps the homeless and prevents them from being scattered across Prague streets—unpleasant for passersby. But one opponent has said that the “oasis” will end up a lot more like a “concentration camp.” The number of homeless has increased substantially in recent years—by one estimate it has nearly doubled in the last seven years.                                                                         
                                                                                                                       —Seth Walder


The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has labeled Turkey an internet censor, citing the Turkish government’s action that’s blocked over 5,000 websites in the past three years.

Ever since it banned YouTube in 2008 because of a video considered offensive to the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey has steadily chipped away at its citizens’ internet access. The Ministry of Transportation—in charge of internet policy—has blocked many of Google’s sites, slowing and even stopping many internet services around Turkey.

The Minister of Transport, Binali Yildirim, claims Google owes $20 million in unpaid taxes from YouTube revenue, though the site has been blocked for two years.“This site [YouTube] has entered a fight with the Turkish republic and Turkey will never accept it,” Yildirm says.

Many commentators both in Turkey and the EU say these internet restrictions reflect badly on Turkey, and are more befitting of China or Iran than an EU aspirant. Professor of Media studies Haluk Sahin at Istanbul's Bilgi University says Turkey is simply unable to change with the times.

“It is an extension of a mentality that has very deep roots here. We don't have a liberal tradition in which freedom of speech and expression is considered to be of a fundamental part of civilized life,” he says. “As a result lawmakers today react to developments in ways that are very similar to their fathers and grandfathers used to do, which is to ban.”

                                                                                                                —Nestor Bailly


The British Supreme Court has ruled that two gay men are entitled to asylum in the United Kingdom.The men, who hail from Cameroon and Iran, had applied for asylum after facing persecution for homosexuality in their home countries. One man, referred to only as T, had been attacked after he was spotted kissing his partner, and the other applicant, known as J, had been expelled from school in Iran after others learned of his homosexuality.

The men’s applications had originally been denied when a Court of Appeals ruling determined that the situations in their home countries were “reasonably tolerable” since they could simply be discreet about their homosexuality. The applicants challenged this ruling on the basis of the Convention on the Status of Refugees, to which Britain is a party. The convention states that nations shall accept refugees who face any form of persecution at home.

The Supreme Court determined that it was not reasonable to ask applicants to conceal their sexuality, especially in light of the serious penalties imposed on homosexual conduct in certain nations. In Cameroon, homosexuality can be punished by a jail sentence ranging from five months to six years, and Iran often sentences homosexuals to public flogging or execution.

Deputy President of the Supreme Court Lord Hope proclaimed the unanimous ruling, holding, “To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behavior by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is.” The Conservative-Liberal Democrat ruling coalition expressed its agreement with the ruling, and Home Secretary Theresa May said, “I do not believe it is acceptable to send people home and expect them to hide their sexuality to avoid persecution.”
                                                                                                                        —Peter Bozzo

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