Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Half of Arabs and Africans are under 25 years of age!

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Our Passion is to reach our Individual and Collective Potential-Always!

Middle East and Africa: Impact of Populaton Explosion!

Two regions whose population under 25 years makes up more than 50% of its overall populaton:

Closing the knowledge gap
Nov 19th 2008
From The World in 2009 print edition

Queen Rania of Jordan urges the Arab world to embrace innovation in education

The first day of school. Waleed trudges through the gates, head down and shoulders slumped. But as he enters the school yard, he notices something has changed. The building’s cracked walls have been fixed and painted.

The concrete yard has become a playground. In a few moments, he will enter a renovated classroom. Over the next few weeks, he will take part in computer labs, be mentored by volunteers from some of Jordan’s biggest companies and join in extracurricular music and sports with students from a private school that is “twinning” with his. In 2009, for the first time, Waleed will look forward to going to school.

The transformation has been wrought by Madrasati (“My School” in Arabic), a national programme I launched in 2008 which links businesses, local leaders and communities in support of Jordan’s neediest public schools.

Collaborative planning helps to turn dilapidated neighbourhoods into vibrant community hubs. Madrasati is based on the simple idea that every citizen has a stake in our children’s education.

Regrettably, this spirit of shared responsibility is still nascent in my part of the world. Despite our significant investments in education and our successes in boosting enrolment and gender parity, Arab educational systems lag behind those of many other regions.

The result is a knowledge gap that holds the Arab world back. I believe that closing this gap must be among the Arab region’s top priorities—not only for 2009, but for years to come.

Across the Arab states, almost 57m adults are illiterate, two-thirds of them women. More than 6m children are not enrolled in primary school, the majority of them girls. Too many Arab school systems are based on rote learning, instead of encouraging our children to question, explore and create.

We’ve also failed to build strong bridges between schools and the private sector—with the paradox that even as we produce more graduates than ever, unemployment among the young is especially high, and many of our brightest students end up pursuing careers abroad.

Clearly, we cannot afford to keep squandering so much of our talent. With more than half our region’s population under the age of 25, the next 15 years give the Arab world a promising demographic edge: we will have the highest ratio of potential workers to dependants of any region in the world. But in order to make the most of this, we must create real opportunity for our youth.

That is why I believe the Arab world must embrace what I’ll call “the three Rs 2.0”—not simply ensuring the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic, but revamping our curricula, rewarding our best teachers and reinforcing the link between our classrooms of today and the workplaces of tomorrow.

With more than half our region’s population under the age of 25, the next 15 years give the Arab world a promising demographic edgeIt’s a daunting agenda, but Jordan has shown that real change can take root in desert soil—and that innovative educational practices can be exported region-wide.

The lamp of learning

In 2003, for example, we launched the Jordan Education Initiative (JEI), combining public-sector commitment with private-sector creativity to bring internet-enabled learning to our schools.

Today, JEI technology is in more than 100 schools nationwide—allowing science teachers to bring virtual experiments to the classroom, and humanities teachers to draw on innovative e-curricula. More than just wiring schools, JEI is sparking new ways of teaching, and the model is now being replicated in Egypt, Palestine and India.

INJAZ, another example of dynamic partnership for learning, connects students with private-sector volunteers who offer seminars on topics from economics to ethics to entrepreneurship—as well as on practical skills like public speaking or writing résumés.

Founded in Jordan in 1999, INJAZ has spread to 12 other Arab countries and aims to reach 1m Arab youths a year by 2018.

At the same time, we’re investing in the people who bring the Arab world’s classrooms to life. In collaboration with Columbia University’s Teachers College, a new Jordanian teaching academy will soon train teachers from across the region.

Other Arab nations are taking important and innovative steps of their own, from Yemen waiving tuition fees for young girls and Egypt creating more girl-friendly schools to Morocco targeting literacy programmes at disadvantaged populations.

In Dubai, the Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum Foundation aims to invest $10 billion towards building Arab knowledge capital through teacher training, scholarships, research grants, youth leadership development, and more. In Qatar, a 2,500-acre Education City is home to branch campuses of some of the world’s top academic and research institutions.

In 2009 such initiatives must gather momentum, reigniting the lamp of learning and discovery that lights the Arab world’s way ahead. We in Jordan will do our part.

Digital Map of Africa showing Malaria Epidemiology

Global7 the new Millennial Renaissance Vision for the Globe
Our Passion is to reach our Individual and Collective Potential

e World in 2009
Middle East and Africa

Putting Africa on the map
Nov 19th 2008
From The World in 2009 print edition
By Jonathan Ledgard, NAIROBI

An information revolution in the making

It will be the year of the map in Africa. Not just street directions uploaded to mobile phones for the befuddled, although that will be a blessing on a continent where often the only address is a post-office box, but internet maps galore, most of them available to the public.

This will do more than any political initiative in 2009 to determine exactly where money should best be spent in Africa.

Patchy knowledge: red marks the spots of epidemiological data on malaria
Source: is hard to overestimate how important a shift this is for Africa, says Oxford University’s Bob Snow, who heads the Wellcome Trust’s anti-malaria initiative in Kenya.

Back in 1989, when the programme was set up in Kilifi on the Kenyan coast, it took Mr Snow 12 letters and several months to get a map of Kilifi district.

A request had to be filed with the ministry of health to go to the ministry of planning, which would then request the mapping division to allow release of a map—if the army approved.

Digital mapping is nothing new, says Tim Robinson of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. But its possibilities have grown with satellite data, and new technology for storage. “No more tapes and dodgy optical disks—you simply buy a new stack of hard drives.”

The kind of maps which in the past had been held to ransom by secretive African governments will pop up in an African internet café in less than a minute in 2009.

Many will be annotated “wiki” style, with layers of information added and verified by an online community: street names for all, distribution of infant deaths for development workers, livestock density for agricultural officials, Catholic primary schools for a local bishop, and YouTube videos on the best snorkelling spots for tourists.

The head of the East Africa office of Google, Joseph Mucheru, says these maps will lead a push for more local information in Africa and “will allow you to see parts of your own country you haven’t seen before”.

It won’t stop there. Africa harbours many of the planet’s most infectious diseases. Urban migration within Africa and air travel from Africa to the rest of the world have increased the risk of them spreading, but detection has been limited.

Mark Smolinski, a “disease threat detective” at, the philanthropic arm of the internet company, points out that the first clinical case of HIV-AIDS can now be traced back to Africa in 1959, but was not identified until 1981.

By using digital maps of Africa and overlaying them with information of interest to researchers, such as local consumption of bush meat, Mr Smolinski believes teams of epidemiologists working together with medical workers texting in information from their mobile phones will do a better job of tracking exotic pathogens before they become mass killers.

Similarly, aid workers in 2009 will use digital maps for realtime information on famines and conflict, starting with an acute famine in Ethiopia.

The maps on Google and other sites are too general to produce new data for scientific research, but they will serve to disseminate the findings of scientists to African policymakers and the public, changing the way money is spent.

Mr Snow cites a map of malaria incidence in Somalia, a country too dangerous for epidemiologists to visit.

A glance at the map shows that much of the money to treat the disease goes to the north of Somalia, where the incidence of malaria is lower. Expect more embarrassing maps to be pushed by activists, published in newspapers and waved around in government meetings across Africa.

J.M. Ledgard: eastern Africa correspondent, The Economist, and novelist

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Innate Immune Cells Have Some Memory- NIH researcher discloses

Global7 the new Millennial Renaissance Vision for the Globe

Our Passion is to reach our individual and collective potential!

February 9, 2009

Innate Immune Cells Have Some Memory

A new study of an oft-neglected arm of the immune system may cause researchers to rethink how it helps defend the body from infection.

Natural killer cell (green) attacks a cancer cell (blue). Image by Peter A. Keyel, Yokoyama laboratory.The body’s immune system has 2 parts: one responsible for “innate” immunity and the other for “adaptive” immunity.

Rapid and blunt, the innate immune system is the first line of defense. It recognizes a limited number of molecular patterns in disease-causing microbes, or pathogens. Convention says that the innate immune system retains no memory of previous infections.

The adaptive immune system, in contrast, produces antibodies and cells that recognize highly specific parts of pathogens. It can match a limitless repertoire of molecules, enabling it to adapt to virtually any pathogen that enters the body.

It also retains a memory, so that if you ever encounter a pathogen again, the system quickly mounts a response and fights it off much faster than it did the first time.

Much research has focused on adaptive immunity because of its role in vaccinations. Vaccines work by causing the adaptive immune system to "remember" molecules from infectious agents before the real pathogens ever enter your body.

A research team led by Dr. Megan Cooper in Dr. Wayne M. Yokoyama’s laboratory at Washington University School of Medicine saw hints in the literature that the innate immune system may not be as limited as it seems.

They decided to investigate, with support from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), along with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The researchers focused on natural killer (NK) cells, innate immune cells with a limited repertoire of receptors to recognize their targets. NK cells also produce interferon gamma to signal other immune cells. NK cells are technically challenging to study because they don’t live long outside the body.

The researchers isolated NK cells from mouse spleens and cultured them overnight in solution. Some were given hormone-like molecules called cytokines to activate them, while control cells were left unactivated. The cells were then labeled with a cell-tracking dye. Mice were given either the activated or control cells intravenously.

In the January 30, 2009, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists reported that labeled NK cells were easily detected 1 to 3 weeks later in mouse spleens.

The previously activated NK cells didn’t spontaneously produce more interferon gamma than control NK cells. However, when isolated cells were activated in the lab, the previously activated NK cells produced significantly more interferon gamma than the control cells.

There was no difference in cell killing activity between the control and previously activated cells. The difference seems to be that the cells retained a memory of their prior activation—a function until now attributed only to adaptive immune cells.

"Natural killer cells have limited abilities to recognize a particular pathogen, but we found that once they've been activated by cytokines, they can respond more easily and effectively to the next call for activation," Yokoyama says. "It should be possible to therapeutically exploit these memory-like properties to make more effective immune cells."

—by Harison Wein, Ph.D.

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