November 26, 2005

Another chemical explosion in China -

An explosion at a chemical plant in southwest China killed one worker and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes, Agence France-Presse reported.

The explosion happened yesterday at Yingte chemical plant at a town near Chongqing, AFP said. A female worker died and more than 10,000 residents were evacuated.

An initial explosion went off near barrels of benzene, sparking a second one which created a yellow cloud. Officials ordered people to stop using water from taps and started gathering water and air samples.

A previous explosion on November 13th at a chemical plant in the northeast of the country spilled nitrobenzene into the Songhua River, leading to reports of contamination of the drinking water of Harbin, a city of 3 million.

These kinds of accidents are to be expected in a vast country, growing rapidly, populated by millions on low incomes who are struggling to survive economically, and for whom short cuts may bring promise of higher productivity and wages.

Accidents can happen in any country and any industry and it is easy for smaller nations to point the finger, when the main reason they have fewer accidents is the relative size of their industries - together witht the fact that they have had the benefit of relative wealth for some decades.

It is hard for the government when accidents happen because the lines of authority may be long, information may not always be available and when announcements are made, they may not always be believed by citizens who suspect local officials are playing down the situation. The result can be rumour and panic.

One way to deal with this problem would be to allow greater freedom in the media to investigate and criticise. A free media might be more trusted at such times - for example over whether local drinking water is safe. However, freedom in the media may bring other challenges, making it easier for organised protest movements to develop, perhaps leading to destabilisation. These are the dilemmas facing government leaders as they seek to lead the country along the delicate path of rapid growth, job creation, digital revolution, internet access and mobile telephone on the one hand, and secure, stable party rule on the other.

November 24, 2005

Human cloning pioneer confesses to breaking ethical code

Woo Suk Hwang, of Seoul National University, has confirmed that two junior researchers in his laboratory had donated their eggs for his groundbreaking experiments in human cloning.
"I am very sorry that I have to tell the public words that are too shameful and horrible," Professor Hwang said at a press conference in Seoul. He also said he would step down as head of the World Stem Cell Hub, an international research network based in Seoul that also has laboratories in San Francisco and London.

Professor Hwang's team cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them.
They went on to clone patient-specific embryos and stem cells this year. Professor Hwang also cloned the first dog, Snuppy, announced this year.

Cloning raises a number of significant ethical issues, of which this is just one.

In the meantime the rational is disappearing for human cloning as a source of stem cells to fight disease, as scientists learn more about the potential of adult stem cells.

November 23, 2005

AIDS pandemic is still out of control in many countries

Text of UNAIDS press release on World AIDS Day 2005..... Note: ACET International Alliance has been involved in the fight against AIDS for 17 years (I started ACET in 1988) and we have also seen signficant falls in HIV in places like Uganda. However we have also seen rapid spread recently in places like India and Russia.

Press Release:



HIV infection rates decreasing in SEVERAL COUNTRIES

but global number of people living with HIV

CONTINUES TO RISE



Increased HIV prevention and treatment efforts needed to slow and reverse AIDS epidemic, according to new UNAIDS/WHO report





GENEVA, 21 November 2005 ? There is new evidence that adult HIV infection rates have decreased in certain countries and that changes in behaviour to prevent infection?such as increased use of condoms, delay of first sexual experience and fewer sexual partners?have played a key part in these declines. The new UN report also indicates, however, that overall trends in HIV transmission are still increasing, and that far greater HIV prevention efforts are needed to slow the epidemic.



Kenya, Zimbabwe and some countries in the Caribbean region all show declines in HIV prevalence over the past few years with overall adult infection rates decreasing in Kenya from a peak of 10% in the late 1990s to 7% in 2003 and evidence of drops in HIV rates among pregnant women in Zimbabwe from 26% in 2003 to 21% in 2004. In urban areas of Burkina Faso prevalence among young pregnant women declined from around 4% in 2001 to just under 2% in 2003.


These latest findings were published in AIDS Epidemic Update 2005, the annual report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The joint report, which this year focuses on HIV prevention, was released today in advance of World AIDS Day, marked worldwide on the first of December.



Several recent developments in the Caribbean region (in Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominican Republic and Haiti) give cause for guarded optimism?with some HIV prevalence declines evident among pregnant women, signs of increased condom use among sex workers and expansion of voluntary HIV testing and counselling.



Despite decreases in the rate of infection in certain countries, the overall number of people living with HIV has continued to increase in all regions of the world except the Caribbean. There were an additional five million new infections in 2005. The number of people living with HIV globally has reached its highest level with an estimated 40.3 million people, up from an estimated 37.5 million in 2003. More than three million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2005; of these, more than 500000 were children.



According to the report, the steepest increases in HIV infections have occurred in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (25% increase to 1.6 million) and East Asia. But sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the most affected globally? with 64% of new infections occurring here (over three million people).





?We are encouraged by the gains that have been made in some countries and by the fact that sustained HIV prevention programmes have played a key part in bringing down infections. But the reality is that the AIDS epidemic continues to outstrip global and national efforts to contain it,? said UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot. ?It is clear that a rapid increase in the scale and scope of HIV prevention programmes is urgently needed. We must move from small projects with short-term horizons to long-term, comprehensive strategies,? he added.



Impact of HIV Treatment



The report recognizes that access to HIV treatment has improved markedly over the past two years. More than one million people in low-and middle-income countries are now living longer and better lives because they are on antiretroviral treatment and an estimated 250 000 to 350 000 deaths were averted this year because of expanded access to HIV treatment.



Commenting on the potential enhanced impact of integrating prevention and treatment, the 2005 report emphasizes that a comprehensive response to HIV and AIDS requires the simultaneous acceleration of treatment and prevention efforts with the ultimate goal of universal access to prevention, treatment and care.



"We can now see the clear benefit of scaling up HIV treatment and prevention together and not as isolated interventions," said WHO Director-General Dr LEE Jong-wook. "Treatment availability provides a powerful incentive for governments to support, and individuals to seek out, HIV prevention information and voluntary counselling and testing. Effective prevention can also help reduce the number of individuals who will ultimately require care, making broad access to treatment more achievable and sustainable."



Future challenges for strengthening HIV prevention



New data show that in Latin America, Eastern Europe and particularly Asia, the combination of injecting drug use and sex work is fuelling epidemics, and prevention programmes are falling short of addressing this overlap. The report shows how sustained, intensive programmes in diverse settings have helped bring about decreases in HIV incidence?among young people in Uganda and Tanzania, among sex workers and their clients in Thailand and India, and among injecting drug users in Spain and Brazil.



The report notes that, without HIV prevention measures, about 35% of children born to HIV-positive women will contract the virus. While mother-to-child transmission has been virtually eliminated from industrialized countries and service coverage is improving in many other places, it still falls far short in most of sub-Saharan Africa. An accelerated scale-up of services is urgently needed to reduce this unacceptable toll.



Levels of knowledge of safe sex and HIV remain low in many countries ? even in countries with high and growing prevalence. In 24 sub-Saharan countries (including Cameroon, C�te d?Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda), two-thirds or more of young women (aged 15-24 years) lacked comprehensive knowledge of HIV transmission. According to a major survey carried out in the Philippines in 2003, more than 90% of respondents still believed that HIV could be transmitted by sharing a meal with an HIV-positive person.



Finally, weak HIV surveillance in several regions including in some countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North Africa is hampering prevention efforts and often means that people at highest risk ? men who have sex with men, sex workers, and injecting dug users ? are not adequately covered or reached through HIV prevention and treatment strategies.

AIDS pandemic is still out of control in many countries

Text of press release from UNAIDS:

Background: the AIDS foundation I have been part of for 17 years, and helped found, has also seen dramatic falls in HIV infection in Uganda and some other countries, while places like India and Russia have been losing ground.



UNAIDS Press Release World AIDS Day 2005

There is new evidence that adult HIV infection rates have decreased in certain countries and that changes in behaviour to prevent infection?such as increased use of condoms, delay of first sexual experience and fewer sexual partners?have played a key part in these declines. The new UN report also indicates, however, that overall trends in HIV transmission are still increasing, and that far greater HIV prevention efforts are needed to slow the epidemic.



Kenya, Zimbabwe and some countries in the Caribbean region all show declines in HIV prevalence over the past few years with overall adult infection rates decreasing in Kenya from a peak of 10% in the late 1990s to 7% in 2003 and evidence of drops in HIV rates among pregnant women in Zimbabwe from 26% in 2003 to 21% in 2004. In urban areas of Burkina Faso prevalence among young pregnant women declined from around 4% in 2001 to just under 2% in 2003.


These latest findings were published in AIDS Epidemic Update 2005, the annual report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The joint report, which this year focuses on HIV prevention, was released today in advance of World AIDS Day, marked worldwide on the first of December.



Several recent developments in the Caribbean region (in Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominican Republic and Haiti) give cause for guarded optimism?with some HIV prevalence declines evident among pregnant women, signs of increased condom use among sex workers and expansion of voluntary HIV testing and counselling.



Despite decreases in the rate of infection in certain countries, the overall number of people living with HIV has continued to increase in all regions of the world except the Caribbean. There were an additional five million new infections in 2005. The number of people living with HIV globally has reached its highest level with an estimated 40.3 million people, up from an estimated 37.5 million in 2003. More than three million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2005; of these, more than 500000 were children.



According to the report, the steepest increases in HIV infections have occurred in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (25% increase to 1.6 million) and East Asia. But sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the most affected globally? with 64% of new infections occurring here (over three million people).





?We are encouraged by the gains that have been made in some countries and by the fact that sustained HIV prevention programmes have played a key part in bringing down infections. But the reality is that the AIDS epidemic continues to outstrip global and national efforts to contain it,? said UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot. ?It is clear that a rapid increase in the scale and scope of HIV prevention programmes is urgently needed. We must move from small projects with short-term horizons to long-term, comprehensive strategies,? he added.



Impact of HIV Treatment



The report recognizes that access to HIV treatment has improved markedly over the past two years. More than one million people in low-and middle-income countries are now living longer and better lives because they are on antiretroviral treatment and an estimated 250 000 to 350 000 deaths were averted this year because of expanded access to HIV treatment.



Commenting on the potential enhanced impact of integrating prevention and treatment, the 2005 report emphasizes that a comprehensive response to HIV and AIDS requires the simultaneous acceleration of treatment and prevention efforts with the ultimate goal of universal access to prevention, treatment and care.



"We can now see the clear benefit of scaling up HIV treatment and prevention together and not as isolated interventions," said WHO Director-General Dr LEE Jong-wook. "Treatment availability provides a powerful incentive for governments to support, and individuals to seek out, HIV prevention information and voluntary counselling and testing. Effective prevention can also help reduce the number of individuals who will ultimately require care, making broad access to treatment more achievable and sustainable."



Future challenges for strengthening HIV prevention



New data show that in Latin America, Eastern Europe and particularly Asia, the combination of injecting drug use and sex work is fuelling epidemics, and prevention programmes are falling short of addressing this overlap. The report shows how sustained, intensive programmes in diverse settings have helped bring about decreases in HIV incidence?among young people in Uganda and Tanzania, among sex workers and their clients in Thailand and India, and among injecting drug users in Spain and Brazil.



The report notes that, without HIV prevention measures, about 35% of children born to HIV-positive women will contract the virus. While mother-to-child transmission has been virtually eliminated from industrialized countries and service coverage is improving in many other places, it still falls far short in most of sub-Saharan Africa. An accelerated scale-up of services is urgently needed to reduce this unacceptable toll.



Levels of knowledge of safe sex and HIV remain low in many countries ? even in countries with high and growing prevalence. In 24 sub-Saharan countries (including Cameroon, C�te d?Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda), two-thirds or more of young women (aged 15-24 years) lacked comprehensive knowledge of HIV transmission. According to a major survey carried out in the Philippines in 2003, more than 90% of respondents still believed that HIV could be transmitted by sharing a meal with an HIV-positive person.



Finally, weak HIV surveillance in several regions including in some countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North Africa is hampering prevention efforts and often means that people at highest risk ? men who have sex with men, sex workers, and injecting dug users ? are not adequately covered or reached through HIV prevention and treatment strategies.

November 18, 2005

China oil consumption - and global warming

Interesting fact: If China develops to the same level as South Korea (GDP per head), it could consume as much oil per day as 60% of the whole world at 2005 levels.

Expect the Chinese government to invest great efforts not only in securing their own oil supplies by buying significant stakes in oil companies around the world, but also to invest in alternative energy sources, especially coal.

November 17, 2005

BBC NEWS | Business | Pension age 'should rise to 67'

We are rapidly learning more about why people get old, and ways we can interfere with that process. When you add in all the progress we are seeing with adult stem cells in repairing tissues, and other medical advances, it is clear that we are going to see further extensions of life-expectancy.

That is why the proposal to increase retirement age from 65 to 67 has already been overtaken by the realities of biology. Workers who are in their 20s today have more than two additional years of life ahead of them compared to people now in their 60s when they were at the same age.

You will see government actuaries continue to upgrade their estimates of how long we will all live, every few years, and every time they do so, we can expect to see further worries about the solvency of corporate pension funds.

For more on these important issues see http://www.globalchange.com/ppt/index.htm
for presentations on ageing and the future of medicine, also http://www.globalchange.com/stemcells2.htm
for more on stem cell advances.

November 16, 2005

Future of Management - business success, marketing, leadership, change management and motivation - by Dr Patrick Dixon

I have just created a new collection of articles on management, marketing and motivation - plus more links to presentations and videos.

November 15, 2005

Man cured of HIV infection? New information

Reports in the media today of a press statement from the hospital casting some doubt on the story. They say that the first tests were for antibodies only and imply that no direct tests were made for presence of the virus, that have been found to be positive at any stage. This raises the possibility, they say, that the person never had HIV infection. Once again they say they would like to conduct more tests.

In other words, the first test(s) might have given a false postive result - which can happen.

It is interesting that the media story only broke after the person concerned had talked about taking legal action against the hospital, for the distress caused by telling him he was infected and having to live with that thought for many months before being told he was not infected.

So as I have said all along, this is a complex story, broken in an unusual way - not in a reputable medical journal - from which many of the most important facts have been missing, and may be complicated still further if it turns out that the person was paid a large sum by the newspaper that broke the story to the world.

November 14, 2005

Man cured from HIV infection?

Media continue to cover this story but the medical facts are still unclear. It will be some time perhaps before we know for certain one way or the other if he was infected in the first place or not, and whether if so he is now completely free of infection. And indeed we may not know, if he choses not to have further tests, or to keep the results confidential.

November 13, 2005

Man cured of HIV in London? Comment on recent press reports

Today has been a busy day with BBC Breakfast TV and other programmes / channels looking for comment on a story about a London man who tested positve for HIV who it is said has "cured" himself. Of course one can only comment in very general terms since so many of the facts have yet to emerge and the report was in a newspaper, not a peer-reviewed scientific research publication. I have been involved since 1987 in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and founded the international AIDS agency ACET in 1988, now a growing alliance of independent AIDS care and prevention programms in countries such as Uganda, India, Thailand, Russia and Ukraine. Over the years I have come across a number of anecdotal reports of people who appeared to be infected with HIV and then had no trace of infection, but it has not been possible to verify what has happened or recheck their results. We do know that some people have a genetic profile which gives them some protection against HIV infection.

Independent researchers will want to take a very close look at any case like this, firstly to be sure that there were no errors in the testing process, and if so, to make certain that there really is no HIV infection lurking in the background. If they are satisfied on both counts, they will try and work out what process the body has used to eliminate HIV. Antibody tests are the usual way to look for HIV infection, and measure the body's reaction to the virus. Direct tests for the virus particles themselves are more difficult and expensive, but it would be very significant if they also tested positive at first, and then negative. It is unclear from the first reports what kinds of HIV tests were positive or negative at each stage.

For more comment on this important story:

http://globalchange.com/hivcurereport.htm

November 12, 2005

China reports new bird flu outbreaks, and other countries report more cases

Bird flu continues to spread unchecked with new countries reporting cases every few days. While the risk of human to human spread remains very low unless there is a mutation, the chances of such an event are growing with every new outbreak of the disease amonst domestic birds.

China reported its seventh and eighth bird flu outbreaks in three weeks. Vietnam has ordered police and the military to help fight the disease. In Thailand, an 18-month-old boy became the 21st person to catch the H5N1 bird flu virus, but is recovering in a hospital. North Korea issued an alert restricting access to chicken farms, urging the public to help fight bird flu.

One of the new Chinese outbreaks was in Liaoning province in the north east. Premier Wen Jiabao visited Liaoning this week and warned that the disease was not under control. The outbreak killed 300 chickens in Beining village near the city of Jinzhou, the agriculture ministry said in a report on the website of the Paris-based International Organisation for Animal Health. 2.5 million birds were destroyed to contain the outbreak.

The other outbreak, in Hubei province's Jingshan County, has killed 2,500 poultry. Authorities haved destroyed more than 31,000 birds, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The case, which reportedly occurred on November 2. China has reported no human cases.

November 10, 2005

Fujitsu Siemens - and use of robots to build computers

I visited Fujitsu Siemens computer factory near Munich yesterday and was interested to see the very high levels of automation in motherboard assembly with large numbers of robots.

This followed a presentation to 2,000 of their clients earlier in the day on the future of new technology and management.

The need is growing for instant response to requests from European cusomters for custom-built machines, and that means the computers cannot be built in a country like China.

At the conference exhibition I learned that every LCD computer screen in a building can be read up to 100 metres away, if you have the right equipment. It is possible to tune in to each computer and read capture anything on the screen, with major consequences for computer security, privacy, confidentiality and leakage of sensitive business data. Of course there are easier ways to do it. using bugs of various kinds or viruses, and most security breaches are caused by employees inside, not people using clever technology a few streets away. There is a solution to reading at a distance which is to screen the computer and display using the principles of a faraday cage and these kind of solutions were being demonstrated.

November 08, 2005

Rioting in France - an expression of tribalism

We should not be shocked at recent riots in France. These kind of events could occur in most countries, in any situation where there are minorities of people who feel frustrated or oppressed.

Tribalism is the most powerful social force in the world today - and at its extreme is seen as terrorism.

Expect significant shifts in the political landscape in France over the next 2-3 years as a result of these events, with greater sensitivity to minority issues.

November 06, 2005

Financial Times feature on future trends now available for viewing online

pdf file can be downloaded and viewed of last week's feature I wrote on future issues to watch.

November 04, 2005

The Science of Ageing - Why actuarial forecasts for life expectancy are incorrect - for AIG by Dr Patrick Dixon

It is increasingly clear that actuarial forecasts for life expectancy are flawed. Here is a presentation made to AIG fund managers explaining some of the rapid progress being made in our understanding of ageing.

November 02, 2005

Conference lectures and keynote speeches by Dr Patrick Dixon, Futurist speaches

Many new presentations have been uploaded and some videos - for example, slides for the following:

Conference lectures and keynote speeches by Dr Patrick Dixon, Futurist speaches: "The Future of Car Recycling and Vehicle Disposal 10th anniversary client event for ARN on this rapidly growing industry. Impact of new European regulations on disposal of 9 million vehicles a year. How the Netherlands will continue to lead the way with advanced shredder technology, with competition from Central Europe as well as China - already taking 50% of all UK recycled plastic bottles.
The Future of Air Travel, Air Freight and Tourism - for Executive Board of Virgin Atlantic looking at a wide range of issues that are likely to shape airlines, business and personal travel and related expenditure. What will be the shape of airlines in future? How will airlines adapt to market pressures in a deregulated world which is increasingly dominated by short distance budget operators?
Integrating the Supply Chain - Client event for IBS on the future of logistics, manufacturing, wholesale and retail supply chain management. Impact of RFID technology with major savings in every aspect of supply chain operations, including stock reduction and theft control.
The Future of Distribution: postal services, couriers,and other logistics issues - for Swedish Post (Posten)
Futurewise - Futurepeople: Future of Management and Motivation - Keynote for IBEC on aligning people with business strategy in a rapidly changing world where strategy itself is often overtaken by events. Trends for HR professionals to watch out for. Connecting with passion to get the best out of teams.
The Future of Insurance, Pensions, Fund Management, Health and Life - Internal event for senior team members of Allianz looking at opportunities and challenges from such trends as new technology, demographic shifts, emerging markets and lifestyle choices. What will happen to life expectancy and the latest on ageing.
The Fut"