Archive for September 11, 2011

TONGA UPGRADING ICT CABLES, KUDOS!

September 11, 2011

TONGA UPGRADING ICT CABLES, KUDOS!
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A gladdening news has been released recently from Manila, headquarters of ADB, concerning the Kingdom of Tonga’s upgrading of its ICT services.
The expanded ICT services will be enabled through an 827-kilometer cable that will link Tonga and Fiji Republic. The said ICT services will surely be a big boost to Tonga’s economy and accelerate its resonance with the dynamic emerging markets of Asia.
Below is the update report on the subject from the Asian Development Bank.
[Philippines, 11 September 2011]
Source: http://beta.adb.org/news/adb-help-boost-affordable-accessible-ict-services-tonga
ADB to Help Boost Affordable, Accessible ICT Services in Tonga
23 Aug 2011
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is assisting the people of the Kingdom of Tonga to gain high-speed internet access by financing the development of a submarine cable system.
The ADB Board of Directors today approved grant funds of $9.7 million to help finance the establishment and operation of an 827-kilometer submarine cable system from Tonga to the Republic of Fiji which will provide widely accessible information and communication technology (ICT) services.
The new ICT services the cable will bring will improve Tonga’s economic performance and delivery of public services. The Tonga to Fiji Submarine Cable Project aims to improve existing business efficiency and create new business opportunities, especially in the ICT sector. The cable technology will boost telecommunications, computer, information, maintenance and repair services. It will also allow ICT-based education, health, and government services to overcome the small island country’s challenges – distance and scarce human resources.
The project is estimated to cost $32.8 million and is being co-financed by the World Bank Group and Tonga Cable Limited.
The fiber optic cable will connect Tonga to the Southern Cross Cable, the main trans-Pacific link between Australia and the United States. It will generate economic opportunities and social benefits starting mid 2013 when the cable is in place.
“The project aims to deliver good quality, affordable broadband internet to Tonga’s population of 100,000,” said Robert Wihtol, Director General of ADB’s Pacific Department. “In addition to the positive socioeconomic impact of the initiative, the project will contribute to regional integration.”
The cable will increase the frequency and quality of communications among countries in the region, encouraging trade in services, and will allow the region to form a sizeable market for digital products and services.
Tonga’s Ministry of Finance and National Planning will be the executing agency for the project, which should be completed by 2016.
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ENERGY EFFICIENCY, SOLAR APPLICATION IN CHINA

September 11, 2011

ENERGY EFFICIENCY, SOLAR APPLICATION IN CHINA
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious day from the Pearl of the Orient!
Energy efficiency has received a new shot in the arm in China recently, with applications in solar energy innovations. This initiative will hopefully reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in the world’s 2nd largest economy.
The experimental area for massive implementation in the short run of the clean energy initiative is Shandong province. Accordingly, Shandong has the 2nd largest industrial potential in the entire China, so prepositioning clean energy this early will surely be a boost to cleaner air when the manufacturing concerns will be in full throttle in the province.
Below is an update report from the Asian Development Bank about the said initiative.
[Philippines, 11 September 2011]
Source: http://beta.adb.org/news/adb-energy-efficiency-project-has-prcs-first-large-industrial-solar-application
ADB Energy Efficiency Project Has PRC’s First Large Industrial Solar Application
19 Aug 2011
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending a $100 million loan for an energy efficiency project in Shandong province in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that will reduce harmful emissions including carbon dioxide and incorporate the first large-scale industrial use of solar thermal technology to generate electricity.
The ADB Board of Directors has approved the assistance for the Shandong Energy Efficiency and Emission Reduction Project. Along with financing state-of-the art energy technologies at two private companies, it will raise the capacity of government and financial institutions to plan, invest in, and manage further energy efficiency improvements. Slashing the use of coal for power generation and industrial production will help mitigate respiratory diseases and scale back the use of fossil fuels.
“Shandong has the second largest level of industrial output of all provinces in the PRC and is heavily dependent on fossil fuels,” said Shigeru Yamamura, an Energy Specialist in ADB’s East Asia Department. “This project, which incorporates an innovative financing mechanism, will reduce energy intensity and emissions, as well as helping to spur future investments in energy efficiency.”
At present there are major financing barriers for large-scale energy efficiency investments that have held back badly-needed upgrades in the PRC’s industrial sector. The financial intermediation model chosen for the project will catalyze additional domestic private equity and debt finance, with the revolving nature of its financing. It follows a similar financing mechanism used by ADB to support energy efficiency retrofits in Guangdong Province.
Assistance will be initially channeled to the privately owned Golden Yimeng Group and Dongying Lufang Metallic Materials. Golden Yimeng will use the funds to expand a biogas capturing system to generate power and supply heat, as well as to produce organic fertilizers. It will also use steam preheated by solar parabolic concentrators to supply a six-megawatt electricity generating steam turbine―the first such large-scale industrial solar application in the PRC.
Dongying Lufang Metallic Materials, which is among the top six copper producers in the PRC, will use funds to supplement the development of a zero coal copper ore smelting furnace. This will both reduce emissions and set a benchmark standard for future copper smelting technology.
The total investment cost is estimated at $553.2 million with $141.8 million earmarked for the first batch of subprojects. ADB’s loan from ordinary capital resources has a 15-year term, with a 10-year grace period, and interest determined in accordance with ADB’s LIBOR-based lending facility.
Counterpart equity finance for the first subprojects will be provided by Golden Yimeng and Dongying Lufang Metallic Materials. The Shandong Provincial Government is the executing agency for the project which will run from 2011 to 2016.
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EGYPT’S CHALLENGE: SHIFT SCIENCE FROM PRESTIGE PROJECTS TO PEOPLE

September 11, 2011

EGYPT’S CHALLENGE: SHIFT SCIENCE FROM PRESTIGE PROJECTS TO PEOPLE

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Egypt’s response to the need to produce more scientists within its territorial bounds is the ‘science city’. The strategy is aimed at producing more scientists in a concentrated area, with prospective researches coming from both Eqypt and other countries notably the MENA (Middle East & North Africa).
How far this strategy has been succeeding remains to be seen. Reports seem to point out the initial successes, though such achievements are now being weighed down by the seeming dis-interests of foreign participants in Eqypt-based science education.
What could be the ‘barriers to entry’ of science pursuits in the land of the late patriot Gamal Adbel Nasser? Has Egyptian science been fixated to building giant projects such as the Aswan Dam and missed out on capacity-building for its own scientists and MENA’s as well?
Below is an update report about the situation of science research in modern Eqypt.
[Philippines, 10 September 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/opinions/egypt-needs-science-powered-by-people-not-big-projects-1.html
Egypt needs science powered by people, not big projects
Austin Dacey
21 July 2011
Egypt’s ‘science city’ will not build a science culture without its people empowered by academic experience abroad, argues Austin Dacey.
There was a big day for ‘big science’ in Egypt last month. On 1 June the Egyptian cabinet approved a budget that increased spending on science by almost one third, from US$66.5 million to US$90.5 million, and pledged to create up to 50,000 new research jobs.
The same day saw the cabinet approve the long-discussed Zewail City of Science and Technology, named after Ahmed Zewail, the Egyptian-born Nobel laureate, a professor at the California Institute of Technology and one of the first US ‘science envoys’ appointed by president Barack Obama’s administration.
Meanwhile, in a recent editorial in Science, editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts has called for the building of a culture of science in Egypt.
But much of the emphasis in Egypt is on links with industry, not basic science, and big-budget construction projects alone will not necessarily build a science culture. For that, there is a more modest yet time-tested means: empowering individuals. And one of the best ways to empower them is through academic exchanges and scholarships for study abroad.
Promoting science culture
In 1942, the American sociologist Robert Merton investigated the “cultural structure of science”, which he defined as a set of values and mores — universalism, communalism, disinterestedness and organised scepticism. These are “transmitted by precept and example” and “internalised by the scientist, thus fashioning his scientific conscience”.
A culture of science flourishes in an environment that includes plenty of basic research, as it encourages the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, rewards imaginative trial and error, and links professional advancement to intellectual prestige among peers.
Academic exchanges with universities in Europe or the United States offer unrivalled opportunities to engage in basic science. But government partnerships with private industry — such as those being discussed by Egypt — can be expected to favour technologies with immediate commercial applications.
More importantly, education is more than the transfer of information from one mind to another. It involves acquiring new thinking habits, daily routines and dispositions of character. This kind of personal transformation takes place among people as they come to know each other and pursue collaborative ventures.
Such relationships are of paramount importance, according to Cairo-based Mohammed Yahia, editor of Nature Middle East, because “the everyday interaction between the different cultures rubs off on each other and brings them both closer”.
No new cultural exchange
But Yahia has seen no increase in scholarships and visiting fellowships in Egypt in recent years.
In the ‘new beginning’ speech in Cairo in 2009, Barack Obama pledged that the United States would invest in the scientific future of the region. But many resources have gone to large-scale, high-profile projects such a partnership with Saudi Arabia on satellite production, a partnership with Jordan on nanotechnology, and also the science envoys.
Marking the one year anniversary of the Cairo speech, the US State Department announced that it was giving US$5 million to a programme that promotes “stronger entrepreneurial culture and entrepreneurship — with material economic impacts — across MENA [Middle East and North Africa] and Asia”.
About half of that was allocated to a series of conferences in cooperation with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now renamed the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) and the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Yahia says that individual exchanges can do much more than conferences and talks. “Talking is one thing, but sharing time and effort, and working on something that is universal and bypasses cultural and language barriers, is something totally different.”
Meanwhile, the US State Department has said it has yet to begin work on a ‘Young Scientist Global Exchange program’.
A successful model
One model of empowerment can be found in the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which has supported international academic cooperation for more than 50 years.
In 2010, DAAD sponsored 1,184 academic exchanges between Germany and Egypt. A total of 847 Egyptian students, graduates and researchers were supported for study visits and research in Germany.
According to Michael Harms, director of DAAD’s Cairo office, the vast majority of scholarship recipients return to seek work in Egypt, where they are highly successful on the job market.
This is precisely the kind of programme that should be central to Egypt’s strategy for scientific development. The short-term building of technological capacity, while important, must not be pursued at the expense of long-term building of cultural capacity.
The commitments are in place. The US–Egypt Joint Science and Technology Fund, which provides research grants — and includes opportunities for junior scientist development visits — was tripled in 2010.
People first, bricks second
Zewail has said that the City of Science and Technology will “arm young Egyptian students with the modern sciences they need to compete internationally”. This may be an appealing vision, but it is far from clear how the preliminary US$2 billion will be raised, when work will begin, and what precisely will take place on the 110 hectare site.
The admirable career of Zewail himself was not launched from a science city, eponymous or otherwise. Instead, he personally secured a scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a PhD, despite bureaucratic hurdles at home.
In this, he was encouraged by his advisors, including one who had also studied abroad at the same university. Zewail understands better than most that a culture of science is not built brick by brick but person by person.
Austin Dacey is a representative to the UN for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He writes the Circumnavigations column for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

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ASEAN SCIENTISTS PUBLISH MORE

September 11, 2011

ASEAN SCIENTISTS PUBLISH MORE

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious day from the suburban boondocks west of Manila!

A very gladdening news has come out of the Southeast Asian nations recently. The item appraises the scaled up scientific works in the entire region. Needless to say, more publications are the overall result of more research & development undertakings in the entire region.

The overarching trend includes my own beloved nation Philippines. Just over a century ago, my people were stigmatized by Spaniards (White Man) as lazy species that is halfway between monkeys and man. Then the Americans arrived in 1900, and described Filipinos as “brown monkeys with no tails,” even popularized a song titled Brown Monkeys Have No Tails In Zamboanga sang by White soldiers that chased Filipino combatants in Mindanao.

That means the White Man’s ethnic profiling redound to defaming the islanders as incapable of anything worth the esteem of civilization-builders. For monkeys don’t create culture or civilization.

The facts on the ground show today the gargantuan volumes of works in the arts, philosophy, sciences and technology. Below is the report concerning the scaled up science publications in the region.

[Philippines, 10 September 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/south-east-asia/news/south-east-asian-nations-publish-more-science.html
South-East Asian nations publish more science
Nguyen Dang Vu Long
21 July 2011
[HANOI] South-East Asian science papers have proliferated in the past decade, suggesting a move towards knowledge-based economies in the region, researchers say.
Australian and Vietnamese researchers studied research output in the ten member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The researchers counted publications in journals listed in the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) index and found that ASEAN countries published 165,000 papers between 1991 and 2010 — only 0.5 per cent of the world’s output, even though the region has almost nine per cent of the global population.
But rates increased steadily from 1991, with three times as many papers published between 2001 and 2010 compared with 1991 to 2000. The increases correlate with the World Bank’s Knowledge Economy Index for each country, suggesting that publication rate might be a useful indicator of a country’s ‘knowledgisation’, said the researchers.
The region’s scientific power, Singapore, had most publications (with 45 per cent of papers); Thailand and Malaysia were next (21 and 16 per cent, respectively); Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, formed a third group (6, 5 and 5 per cent, respectively); and Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar together produced less than 2 per cent of papers. The number of times that papers were cited by others — the citation index — showed a similar pattern.
Thailand and Malaysia showed the greatest increase in publication rate, with Indonesia and the Philippines the lowest.
Vietnam was strong in mathematics and physics publications, Singapore in material sciences and nanotechnology, Thailand in food science and technology, Malaysia in engineering, and the Philippines in agricultural science.
Tuan Nguyen, co-author of the study, based at the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Vietnam National University, said the findings reveal that there is a relationship between scientific output and knowledge economies within the region.
But ASEAN countries “can do better”, he said. “In a knowledge-driven economy, we need more scientific research to serve as a basis for economic development.”
The authors say their study, published in Scientometrics this month (1 July), may have missed publications in local-language, non-peer-reviewed journals. But Nguyen said this “is not a preferable way to share knowledge and information. If ASEAN countries want to be significant players in the scientific world, they should improve their visibility in the international scientific area through publication.”
Similar findings came from a study by the United Nations University’s International Institute for Software Technology published last month (24 June).
Link to abstract in Scientometrics
Link to United Nations University report [8MB]
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NO FIXED PATH TO HIV PREVENTION

September 11, 2011

NO FIXED PATH TO HIV PREVENTION

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Could there be a single, most acceptable path to HIV prevention? This is the guide question posed upon those biomedical specialists and experts who are into HIV research & development as well as to the practitioners.

Long before the biomedical disciplines found the pharmacologic panacea to HIV, alternative health practitioners in Asia already found the cure to ailment which they tried on many patients in the 70s and 80s. Whether the biomedical fields will come to accept these non-conventional solution remains to be seen.

One thing is clear though at this juncture: that biomedical experts are now of the consensus that there is not a single megalithic path to HIV prevention. This is a welcome departure from the extremely positivist premise of biomedical paradigm which sought to reduce disease treatment to a single active ingredient from drug-based medication.

Below is an update report on relevant developments from the International AIDS Society or IAS.

[Philippines, 09 September 2011]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/opinions/biomed-analysis-no-single-path-to-hiv-prevention-1.html
Biomed Analysis: No single path to HIV prevention
Priya Shetty
22 July 2011
Excitement about new drug treatment for HIV prevention does not mean we should lose sight of other methods, cautions Priya Shetty.
Scientists trying to prevent people from becoming infected with HIV are on a roll. After a huge leap forward last year in AIDS vaccine research, when powerful sequencing uncovered potent anti-HIV antibodies, new research shows convincingly that treatment with antiretroviral drugs can also be used to prevent infection.
The latest results on the effectiveness of drugs for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), presented at the International AIDS Society conference (IAS 2011) in Rome this week, were released just a couple of weeks before. The finding that PrEP could reduce new HIV infections by up to 73 per cent was so compelling that the trial was halted early.
With such excitement over a preventive approach that we have available right here, right now, suddenly a vaccine might not seem like the holy grail of HIV prevention after all.
But the early days of HIV vaccine research are a cautionary tale. The assumption that a vaccine was just around the corner seemed to lead, initially, to complacency that might explain why it is only relatively recently that other approaches to prevention have been high on the agenda.
And at IAS 2011, there was a broad consensus that pursuing one approach does not render the others redundant — and indeed that it would be impossible to tackle a disease such as HIV/AIDS without several approaches.
Vaccine research gets a boost…
For years, HIV prevention has relied on non-biomedical, behavioural interventions such as condom use and safe-sex counselling. Since behaviour is difficult to change, such tactics are notoriously difficult to implement. Yet, for several years, they were the only weapons in the fight to prevent the spread of HIV.
Once scientists knew that HIV was the cause of AIDS, they were confident that a vaccine would soon be developed for the virus. But they had not bargained for its complexity — and AIDS vaccine research has been problematic from the beginning.
Most disease-causing viruses come in a few different strains; HIV has hundreds of them. Not only that, the virus is capable of changing its surface proteins to evade antibodies. Devising a vaccine against HIV is a huge challenge.
Speaking at IAS 2011, Gary Nabel, head of the US National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center, which was set up in 1999 to find an HIV vaccine, described most of the time spent hunting for it as “the dark ages”.
But last year, everything changed, said Nabel. The discovery of antibodies that worked against 90 per cent of HIV strains (compared with 40 per cent for previously found antibodies) has made the prospect of an HIV vaccine real again.
…but existing tools show promise
Even before the resurgence in vaccine research, male circumcision and microbiocide (disinfecting) gels had shown great promise in preventing infection. The WHO now says “there is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60 per cent”.
Early clinical trials had hinted at the promise of treatment for prevention. And in the past few months, studies have shown that combination antiretroviral treatment (tenofovir/emtricitabine) reduced the risk of HIV-negative people becoming infected by 44 per cent in men who have sex with men, and by up to 73 per cent in heterosexual couples.
A key randomised clinical trial that was also presented at IAS 2011, called HPTN 052, showed conclusively for the first time that putting infected people on antiretroviral therapy early can reduce their chance of passing on the infection by 96 per cent.
Many paths to prevention
As thrilled as HIV researchers have been with the results of preventive drug trials, the implementation of treatment programmes will be far from simple. Developing countries have too few healthcare workers, and rolling out antiretroviral treatment can be logistically difficult — so adding treatment for prevention will add to already heavy burdens.
Deciding which groups are eligible for drug treatment, which means putting otherwise healthy people on powerful drugs, also raises ethical questions that are not easily solved.
Given these complexities, it would be short sighted not to pursue aggressively a vaccine that would confer lifetime immunity in one shot. Nor should the public health community abandon non-biomedical strategies such as condom use and reducing risky behaviour.
Safe sex is not just about HIV, after all — prevalence rates of other sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in many developing countries, and rates of unwanted pregnancy remain high.
The take-home message from IAS 2011 is crystal clear. After years of struggle, we can now contemplate moving towards ending the epidemic. But we should not threaten the chances of success by playing off one approach against another.
Journalist Priya Shetty specialises in developing world issues including health, climate change and human rights. She writes a blog, Science Safari, on these issues. She has worked as an editor at New Scientist, The Lancet and SciDev.Net.
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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs & website anytime!

Social Blogs:
IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com
UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com

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BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com

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ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com
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Website:
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