Thursday, July 22, 2004

Cultural diversity important -- Don't squash mosquitoes

In a move sure to upset some, the UN issued a report last week that argues that respecting cultural diversity could prevent conflict and enhance development.

The Human Development Report 2004 launched by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said: Cultural liberty is about allowing people the freedom to choose their identities - and to lead the lives they value - without being excluded from other choices important to them (such as those for education, health or job opportunities)

The report added: The report also sought to debunk the myth that ethnically diverse countries had less ability to develop, and gave the examples of Malaysia and Mauritius, two multiethnic states that had achieved considerable economic growth in recent decades. It also said there was no evidence that some cultures were more amenable to economic development or democracy than others.

This is nothing more than common sense. Though the anti-PC crowd may hate the word 'diversity,' let alone the concept, it's a necessity that they'll have to live with. Diversity is essentially in the evolution of species. Genetic homogeneity is the death knell to any species; that's why incest is illegal. But just as genetic homogeneity is detrimental for the physical evolution of humans, cultural homogeneity is detrimental to its social evolution.

[The report can be accessed by clicking here]

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The UNDP report also quantified what is widely acknowledged. The Aids crisis has slashed the life expectancy in some parts of Africa to less than 33 years.

"Twenty countries have suffered severe reversals in human development in the last 10 years because of HIV/Aids," lead author Sakiko Fukada-Parr said.

Ms Fukada-Parr says the devastation that the pandemic has wreaked in African countries is so massive that every facet of life is affected - not only life expectancy and health care, but the economic and educational well-being of the country too.
As a result some 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are suffering drastic development reversals, where standards in education, health and wealth are getting progressively worse, undoing the hard-won development gains made in recent years.

"The Aids crisis cripples states at all levels because the disease attacks people in their most productive years," said Mark Malloch Brown, head of the UN Development Programme.


Sierra Leone had the world's lowest life expectency, followed by Sahel countries Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. Scandinavian countries Norway and Sweden topped the list, followed by Australia, Canada and the Netherlands.

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Robert Mugabe plans to continue his war on civlization in Zimbabwe; this time, with a clampdown on charities.

Not surprisingly, the dictator's theme was blaming outsiders for problems created largely by his regime's own mismanagement, corruption and brutality.

"Non-governmental organizations must work for the betterment of our country. We cannot allow them to be used as conduits and instruments of foreign interference," the strongman told parliament.

The proposed "Non-governmental Organizations and Churches Bill" calls for the registration of all groups and trusts involved in charity work and educational and research programs, reports the Associated Press. Failure to register and acquire a government license would make it illegal for a group to operate. Staff members of groups that violated the law would face arrest. The bill also requires disclosure of the origins and use of all funds and the identity of foreign donors.

Sound familiar?

Opponents of the bill have likened it to sweeping media laws passed in 2002 that gave the government the power to close independent media, stifle criticism of its policies and arrest 31 independent journalists.


The only independent daily newspaper, which had become a platform for dissent, was shut down last year after being refused registration.


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Do you squash mosquitoes when they're biting you? Don't! At least, that's the advice of doctors in the US.

The doctors, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine said that swatting could increase the risk of serious infection.

It follows the case of a 57-year-old woman who died after developing a fungal infection in her muscles.

Doctors believe she developed the infection after she swatted a mosquito, causing part of the insect to penetrate and infect her skin.


"I think if a mosquito was in mid-bite, it would be wiser to flick the mosquito off rather than squashing it," said Christina Coyle, one of the authors of the article.

Personally, I've never squashed, because I don't want bug guts on my arm. But this is good advice for any who do.

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