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Tom Chappell of Tom's of Maine speaks at the Institute for Philosophy and Religion series, Responsibility, Wednesday, March 3, 5 p.m., GSU Terrace Lounge

Week of 27 February 2004 · Vol. VII, No. 22

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PanAfrica: African countries identified for being democracies

In a report published by BU's African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC), 14 of Africa's 53 countries are considered sufficiently democratic, says the February 17 edition of PanAfrica. Last year the report featured 13 countries, but the election of Mwai Kibaki as president of Kenya adds the country to this year's report. Charles Stith, director of APARC and former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, says the decision to include a country in the African Leaders of Africa Report is based on a “general consensus” derived from assessments of governments, United Nations agencies, and nongovernmental organizations that a country is strongly committed to furthering democracy and free-market reform. The report, he says, is intended to counter much of the negative comment on Africa's potential. He adds that Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni last year proposed that the ban on multiparty politics be lifted, may be included next year if removal of the ban is passed by a referendum. Namibia may be added as well, depending on the conduct of elections later this year.

Boston Globe: Severe blood loss victims could receive blood substitute

When a person is profusely bleeding from a gunshot wound or car accident injury, paramedics normally administer saline solution because unrefrigerated blood breaks down quickly. Under a new experiment, which does not yet have approval from the ethics panel at Boston Medical Center, Boston paramedics could begin giving PolyHeme, a blood-based product that doesn't break down as easily as natural blood, to randomly selected trauma patients without a patient's consent, reports the February 21 Boston Globe. The Illinois company that makes PolyHeme received a waiver from the federal rule that requires people to give consent to such an experiment. This has caused concern among medical ethicists. “It raises major, major concerns,” says George Annas, an SPH professor of health law, bioethics, and human rights. “Just because you are in a car accident doesn't mean you can't give consent. . . . You have to first prove to me that it's impossible to get consent, and I don't think they've done that.” Defenders of the experiment point out that annually 100,000 Americans bleed to death before reaching a hospital. The severely injured often can't give consent or family members cannot be located in time to give consent on behalf of the patient. Erwin Hirsch, a MED professor of surgery and chief of trauma surgery at BMC, says the hospital is taking part in the research largely because of paramedics, who are frustrated at not being able to do more for the severely injured at an accident scene. “They are the ones interested in doing the study,” he says. “The impetus didn't come from the top down.” Under the research proposed at BMC, paramedics would decide at the scene if a patient's injuries warrant being part of the experiment. They would then open a sealed envelope directing the use of PolyHeme or saline. The 30-day survival rates of the two groups would then be compared by researchers. Hirsch says the public will be extensively informed about the experiment and that the hospital staff will attempt to obtain consent for continuing use of PolyHeme from either the patient or a family member.

Today (NBC): Events of Jesus' crucifixion — fact or fiction?

Mel Gibson's new film about the crucifixion of Jesus, The Passion of the Christ, raises questions about the accuracy of Gospel accounts of the events preceding the death of Jesus — in particular, Roman prefect Pontius Pilate offering a crowd the choice between setting Jesus free or releasing Barabas, another prisoner. The crowd is persuaded to yell for Barabas' freedom, and Pilate then washes his hands as a way of saying, “I'm done with this.” In a segment of NBC's Today show on February 20, scholars discuss whether Pilate, an unyielding tyrant, would by swayed by the whims of a crowd. “The whole scene, if you look at it even within the woof and weave of the Gospel stories, is incoherent,” says Paula Fredriksen, BU's William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture. “Jesus is popular enough to have been celebrated by pilgrims and danced into the city. He was so popular that he had to be arrested by ambush. That was the only way they could risk getting him without causing popular uproar. And yet by morning there's a hostile crowd screaming for his death. Where does this hostile crowd come from? Did it really exist? It doesn't square. If this were a script for a Law & Order episode, you'd say, ‘Wait a minute. This is inconsistent.'”

New York Times: Bionic centenarians

What makes centenarians survive is a question gerontologists are studying, given that they expect the current figure of 70,000 centenarians in the United States to be 10 times that number in 2050, says the February 22 New York Times. Although the research of Thomas Perls, a MED associate professor of geriatrics and the director of the New England Centenarian Study at BMC, confirms that exercise and not smoking are likely to improve health at any age, his work also indicates that there is a genetic component to longevity. Male siblings of centenarians, he says, are 18 times as likely to live to 100 as other men born around the same time, female siblings 8.5 times as likely as other females born around the same time. He's intrigued by centenarians who are practically disease-free. “We've studied people who throw atomic bombs at their bodies, like one guy who smoked three packs a day for 50 years and had no lung disease, no heart disease, no brain disease,” he says. “You ask some of these people how they got to be 102, they say it's because they drank three martinis a day. What do they have that protected them?”


27 February 2004
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