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Updated: 07/13/04

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Tuesday, 13 July, 2004

Sorry for the radio silence. Didn't realize how long it had been since I blogged. In summary:

Fourth of July was spent "down the shore." With a trip back up to Philly in the middle of the weekend for a wedding. Gary's partner's daughter, so we kind of had to go. Nice event, but could have done without the half-day schlep. There was a BBQ at the pool of the condo where we are renting on the 4th. We got there late, and after getting our food, the tables were all taken. We pulled up a couple of chairs near the pool and were going to make the best of it when a group at one of the tables saw us, got extra chairs and made room for us at the table. Very nice of them. Everyone down there is very friendly.

Off to Columbus last Tuesday. Our client has asked us to do a project with a very ambitious deadline which happens to fall during the first week of my vacation at the end of July. And has said that we might need to fly back to do a presentation - during the second week of my vacation. I'm very happy about this.

Vacation. I did mention vacation in the last paragraph, didn't I? Nothing exotic - just two weeks at the Jersey shore. Which will not be as relaxing as it was supposed to be prior to the assignment of said project.

[But I will do my best.]

I have absolutely no respect for Kofi Annan. What a two-faced, lying such-and-such.

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States must lead the fight against AIDS with the same commitment it shows in the battle against terrorism, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday.

"We hear a lot about weapons of mass destruction. We hear a lot about terrorism, and we are worried about weapons of mass destruction because of their potential to kill thousands of people," Annan said in an interview with the BBC.

"Here we have an epidemic that is killing millions. What is the response?" Annan said. "We really do need leadership. America has the natural leadership capacity because of its resources, because of its size."

Shall I translate? "United States, give us money." Of course, we're criticized for showing our natural leadership capacity in deposing Saddam Hussein, but hey, who's counting?

But a top U.S. government scientist defended President Bush's $15 billion plan to fight the AIDS epidemic that has killed 20 million people worldwide and infected 38 million.

"There is absolutely no diminished commitment in interacting internationally. Look at the president's programs. It's $15 billion," Dr. Tony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters.

Hmmmm. I'm confused here. The US has pledged $15 billion. Divided by the 38 million currently afflicted by AIDS, that's almost $400,000 per person. Sounds pretty generous to me. So what is the problem? How much have other countries given?

[*sound of crickets chirping*]

The conference -- the biggest gathering of scientists, activists, drug company bosses and AIDS sufferers -- has seen daily protests by activists shouting "Shame, Shame" against Bush and other rich country leaders accused of failing to support a U.N.-backed global AIDS fund.

In thinly veiled criticism Tuesday, France said a U.S. drive for bilateral trade deals was undermining an international pact to provide cheap copycat AIDS drugs to the developing world.

French Development Minister Xavier Darcos said Washington must honor the spirit of a multilateral trade commitment made in 2001 giving poor countries access to cheap generic drugs.

"Making certain countries drop these measures in the framework of bilateral trade negotiations would be tantamount to blackmail," said Darcos, who was also jeered by activists.

Ah, France. Blaming someone else. I tried to figure the real reason for the comment - surely there is a French pharmaceutical company with an interest in this somewhere.

Annan, who opened the conference Sunday with a plea to world leaders to get their heads out of the sand, said he had spoken to Bush about funding the fight against AIDS.

"He's engaged and he was quite moved to hear people talk about it," Annan said. "But of course now we need a step forward to put resources to it."

The world puts substantial sums of money into fighting terrorism and containing weapons of mass destruction to protect people, he said.

"And here we know (about AIDS), it's not that we don't know, we read about it, we see it around us -- where's the international solidarity?"

International solidarity?? That's NOT what you're after - you just want the United States to pony up some more money to the UN funds under your control. After all, there's probably quite a decrease in free cash floating around after the Iraqi Oil For Food program came to a screeching halt. Oh, yeah, and about that investigation into the Oil For Food scandal . . .


A while ago I expressed my concerns about the Olympic Games in Athens. Apparently, I'm not the only one:

ATHENS (Reuters) - Athens Olympic organizers called on Greeks Tuesday to snap up unsold tickets to avoid greeting the world with empty stadiums when the world's biggest sporting event comes home in a month's time

With foreigners staying away and millions of seats unsold, Athens chief Games organizers Gianna Angelopoulos appealed to locals to pick up the slack and put on a good show in front of the world's cameras.

Organizers have denied reports that two-thirds of seats allocated to national Olympic committees and sponsors have been returned but the flood of tickets still available signaled otherwise. By the end of June officials said only 1.95 million of a total of 5.3 million seats had been sold.

Tourism analysts said that security concerns and high prices for flights and accommodation had scared off foreign visitors, prompting a 15 percent slump in year-on-year visitor figures.

Months of campaigning to reassure nations sending athletes to the Greek capital that unprecedented spending would safeguard the August 13-29 Games were hit this weekend by reports of a row with a key hi-tech supplier. According to reports in daily To Vima the government has delayed payment for a multimillion dollar communications system to a U.S.-led consortium. The group failed to deliver the system which will act as the eyes and ears of security forces by the end of May, citing construction delays at venues.

Public order ministry officials refused to comment on payments and said the system would be up and running by the time of the Games. Greece is spending one billion euros on an Olympic security master plan put together under advice from a seven-nation panel including the United States and Israel.

A blackout Monday across the entire city added to worries, with critics noting that a repeat of the outage would leave the costly security installations literally powerless.


On a lighter note, we watched a program last night about service dogs that are trained by prison inmates. It was quite interesting - both the dogs and the people get a lot out of it. I saw this story today about a dog that apparently has his eye on the mail-carrier's job:

CARPIO, N.D. - Toby arrives at the post office here at 9:30 every morning, ready to deliver the mail, even though he's barred from coming inside.

The 12-year-old golden retriever has been delivering mail to his owner, Brad Sullivan, for the past two years. He makes the three-block trek to the post office with Gordon Lewis, Sullivan's neighbor. Toby waits patiently outside until Lewis puts the Sullivans' mail in a green pouch around his neck for the short trip home.

"He's just crazy to come and get the mail," Lewis said. "He usually waits outside, then takes off when I put the pouch back on him."

Sullivan said his mother, Connie, was hospitalized a couple of years ago and Sullivan was laid up from a vehicle accident, so he started sending Toby with Lewis to get the mail.

"We put that pouch on him and he's a different dog," Sullivan said. "It's like it's something important for him to do."

Connie Sullivan said she gives Toby a treat when he gets back. And Carpio Postmaster Kevin Nissen said Toby carries on the Postal Service tradition of getting the mail out on time.

"It's like clockwork at 9:30," Nissen said. "It saves Brad or his mom from coming uptown."

[Neither rain, nor sleet, nor chasing cars . . .]

Quote du jour:

"It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. "

-- Mary Shelly Wollstonecraft (1759 - 1797) English writer

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