Break a match part II
Date: Oct 12th, 2008 4:16:26 pm - Subscribe
Mood: confuzzled

At least 11 people have been killed and many injured by a bomb attack on a bus in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

The bomb went off in the busy commercial district as the streets were full of people travelling to work.

At least 30 people were injured in the blast, which Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has called "a terrorist act".

Many of the dead were reported to be Lebanese soldiers who had been travelling on the bus.

The attack came a day after a vote of confidence confirmed the new government of national unity in office.

President Suleiman said the Lebanese army would not be terrorised by attacks against it or society.

Correspondents say the bomb could have been intended to disrupt a planned visit by Mr Suleiman to Syria, where he had been expected to discuss ways of improving relations between the two countries.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the city has recently seen clashes between the majority Sunni community and the Alawite sect, which is linked to Hezbollah.

I visited Lebanon in December 1998 -- 10 years ago this year -- holy shit! And used Tripoli as my base in the north -- I explored the Kadisha Gorge where the maronite brotherhoods lay undisturbed for centuries - their churches hidden away from the eyes of strangers and the cedars of Lebanon grow. I visited the city of Jbeil that a couple of millennia ago had another name -- Byblos. Its a strong candidate for the longest continually inhabited place on the planet from the circles of lime by the sea that formed the floors of hunter gatherer huts to the crusader castle to modern tenement blocks. It was a centre of paper production and became synonymous with the book -- its where the greeks got the biblio - prefix from and from where we get the word bible.
Even in 98 years after the civil war had ended there was still damage -- not to the extent that there was in Beirut but the odd pitted pavement area that had been hit by mortar fire. It was a hotbed of sectarian strife and looks to be continuing in the same way -- plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose as the frogs would say.
Depressing to think that the places with the longest human history are those with the longest history of inhumanity...

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Break a match part I
Date: Oct 8th, 2008 6:41:41 am - Subscribe
Mood: down

At least 147 people have been killed in a stampede at the Chamunda Devi Hindu temple in Jodhpur in the north-western Indian state of Rajasthan.

A wall near the temple is said to have collapsed early in the morning, causing panic among thousands of devotees. They were gathering to celebrate the start of a nine-day Hindu festival known as Navaratra.

Some witnesses said that false rumours of a bomb caused people to flee. Tensions were high because India has recently been hit by a spate of bomb attacks.

More than 100 others were injured in the incident, reports said. Eyewitnesses said the path leading up to the temple shrine was narrow with many people trying to get in.

Devotees helped police carry the injured for treatment.

The temple is inside the historic Mehrangarh Fort, a major tourist attraction with its huge walls, ornate interiors and views overlooking Jodhpur's "blue city".

I remember stones hot enough to burn the soles of your feet even through your socks
I remember blue skies meeting the blue cubists dream of Jodhpurs old city
I remember relics of war pointing out into space
I remember trying to find the roof of my guesthouse in a jumble of buildings, rebar reaching for the sky like insect antennae
I remember the sound of the devotees bell
I remember the whiff of incense

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Oh joy
Date: Sep 24th, 2008 5:17:25 pm - Subscribe
Mood: screwed

Inhalers may up heart death risk

The inhalers are bronchodilators
Inhalers prescribed for serious lung disease may increase the risk of deadly heart problems, say researchers.

Trials on more than 15,000 patients found inhaled anticholinergic drugs increased the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death by 58%.

The drugs, Atrovent and Spriva, open up the airways to help patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to breathe.

The work is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

We need more research to establish accurate levels of risk. In the meantime, people should discuss any concerns they have with their GP

Dr Keith Prowse, chairman of the British Lung Foundation

More than two million prescriptions for anticholinergic inhalers were issued in England last year, according to the researchers from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the US and the University of East Anglia in the UK.

In the 17 trials that they analysed, long-term use (more than 30 days) of the two anticholinergics ipratropium (Atrovent) and tiotropium (Spiriva) increased the risk of a heart attack by 53% and the risk of cardiovascular death by 80%.

This would mean the drugs could cause one in 40 users to die from a heart condition and one in 174 to have a heart attack, say the researchers.

Risks versus benefits

But they said these risks had to be balanced against the benefits of using an inhaler - they improve patients' quality of life by preventing disease exacerbations and COPD-related hospitalisations.

Anyone with COPD who is benefiting from taking anticholinergic inhalers should not stop taking them based on this study alone."

Judy O'Sullivan, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation

Researcher Dr Yoon Loke said: "It is a relatively small risk - about 3% of users develop problems - but the risk is serious. They may cause heart attacks and death.

"There are alternatives. If you know that your inhaler contains anticholinergics, my advice would be to ask your doctor to prescribe a different inhaler, particularly if you have a history of heart trouble or are at high risk of heart disease."

He said the vast majority of people with COPD are or have been heavy smokers, so they are already at heightened risk of heart attacks.

The current study was unable to determine if these risk factors influenced the findings.

Conflicting opinion

Dr Loke's team started to look at the problem after the manufacturers issued a warning earlier this year through the US Food and Drug Administration that there could be a higher risk of stroke as a result of using these inhalers.

Boehringer Ingelheim said it strongly disagreed with Dr Loke's findings. Its latest analysis of 30 placebo-controlled double-blind, randomised trials with data from 19,545 COPD patients "demonstrated that there is no increased risk of death (all-cause) or death due to cardiovascular events" in patients treated with Spiriva.

Dr Keith Prowse, chairman of the British Lung Foundation, said: "Anticholinergic agents are a very useful and important medication for a large number of people with COPD.

"This study highlights a possible risk of heart attack associated with the medication but the authors acknowledge that there is insufficient data to allow full analysis of other risk factors, including hypertension and pre-existing heart disease, so we need more research to establish accurate levels of risk.

Blue or grey inhalers are 'relievers' and contain bronchodilators to open the airways
There are several different reliever drugs, including beta agonists like salbutamol and anticholinergics like ipratropium
Brown inhalers are 'preventers' and usually contain a steroid drug

"In the meantime, people should discuss any concerns they have with their GP."

Judy O'Sullivan, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Anyone with COPD who is benefitting from taking anticholinergic inhalers should not stop taking them based on this study alone."

COPD caused over 27,000 deaths in the UK in 2004, and is projected to be the world's fifth biggest killer by 2020.

Elaine Vickers, research manager at Asthma UK, said: "This research looks solely at people with COPD who, unlike most people with asthma, have irreversible damage to their airways.

"This study looks specifically at medicines not commonly used to treat asthma and if you have asthma it is vital that you take your medicines as prescribed.

"If you have any concerns please speak with your doctor or asthma nurse or call the Asthma UK Adviceline on 08457 01 02 03."
Shamelessly nicked from the BBC website

I've had asthma since the age of six months and I've been using these inhalers pretty mcuh ever since they've been around. Ive had various doctors expounding various regimens ove the years - pills, sprays, inhalers you name it. It's been pretty good since India and what with all the gym and swim I've never used inhalers less than I have but I still get through them. They cahnged a few years back to a CFC free inhaler which I dont really get on with (very environmentally unfriendly I know) I have to say that tehy have in the past made in possible for me to live my life, to get out, to cycle but still a 58% increase in heart problems, Strokes and cardio problems. Holy crap! Thanks big pharmo appreciate that one!

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Faboy's book of the week
Date: Sep 22nd, 2008 6:02:39 pm - Subscribe
Mood: alone

A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube

The best travel book ever written.

Patrick Leigh Fermor at the age of 18 inspired by the classical education that he'd gathered piecemeal from various establishments before slung out decided to walk the length of Europe. From Holland to Constantinople. Its split into three books -- two of which have been published -- he's now 93 and working on the final volume. As this was in 1933 months after Hitler had come into power the books are as much a journey into a turbulent time as much as a place. He has been criticized for his lack of awareness on the rise of Nazism but truth be told he as is all to evident in his books - a neophyte, a wandering scholar at home in barn and schloss, depending on the kindness of strangers whoever they may be -- and quite the disparate group they are. Grafin and gooseherd. He discribes a disappeared world elthough he might recognise some of the little villages that Kurt and I visited in Northern Romania and the inhabitants thereof. His occasional patch of purple prose while describing a monastery or a cathedral is a delight, conveying the youngsters enthusiasm and ability to lose himself in his surroundings both physical and emotional are wonderful.

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Date: Sep 15th, 2008 5:16:25 pm - Subscribe
Mood: zen

Well its been a weird old week all things told.
Thursday was as ever pub quiz night. It was not a success -- Anna and Ali made Rowan as welcome as possible but it was still painfully obvious that she wasnt comfortable. We as always came fourth and Rowan and I stayed on after for a little. We arranged that Id call the next day to arrange a visit to the Abbey - sorry the Trade Recruitmen Stadium. I got a mail on Friday morning which freaked me out - the last thing that wed said on Monday was that we had so much to say -- and on Friday Rowans mail said that she wasnt sure that we had as much in common as she thought we had. I was in pieces on Friday morning an scared the bejesus out of Sharon, my line manager as I had to leg it to the toilet for a sob. I texted her she texted me, we exchanged phonecalls and ended up meeting at her flat which was a surprise, I thought that wed end up at Greens splitting up over a cup of coffee -- we ended up at hers having dinner and having a glorious, deep discussion encompassing past and music, politics and uncomfy sofas -- It was a serious relief and we decided to meet up and go to the football on Saturday which we did -- and I think that she enjoyed it though she wasnt entirely comfortable in such a male-dominated environment. I retrieved my gym stuff and she retrieved a bottle of Pinot Grigio which we enjoyed in the sun while comparing misspent youths. I get the idea that she almost wants to show me her less attractive side -- her dark side in an effort to dissuade me fvroim getting involved. Texted Anna who had offered to cook me dinner and ended up over at hers nattering about life and love and whats the hell was going on with Rowan. Had a quiet Sunday -- mailed Rowan with an invitation for dinner on Friday and again got a reply that used the word ambivalent -- a word that I dont like at the start -- or the potential start of a relationship. Well we shall see what we shall see.
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