Thursday, March 25, 2010

MS and non-pathogenic bacterium causes

A non-pathogenic bacterium is capable of triggering an autoimmune disease similar to multiple sclerosis in the mouse, the model animal which helps to explain how human diseases work. This is what a group of researchers from the Catholic University of Rome, led by Francesco Ria (Institute of General Pathology) and Giovanni Delogu (Institute of Microbiology), have explained for the first time in a recently published article on the Journal of Immunology.

Multiple sclerosis is caused by an inflammatory reaction provoked by the immune system, leading to disruption of the coating of the nerve fibres in the Central Nervous System.

"We do not know what causes multiple sclerosis", explains Francesco Ria, immunologist of the Catholic University. "We know that there exists a genetic factor and an environmental factor, but we do not yet possess a satisfactory theory which can explain how exactly this environmental factor works".

Currently, there are two competing theories in the field: according to a first hypothesis, a virus hides within the brain and what causes the disease is the immunologic antiviral reaction. On the other hand, the second hypothesis states that a viral or bacterial pathogen similar to specific molecules of the Central Nervous System causes an inflammation which provokes a reaction of the immune system. This reaction ends up destroying the brain cells. The latter is called the autoimmune hypothesis. you can read the full report at

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cross burning must stop: end racial hatred today (By SENATOR DONALD OLIVER)

OTTAWABuilding a cross that will burn is not an act undertaken in the heat of the moment. Rather, it takes deliberate forethought, time and effort. You must soak the wood in kerosene or coal oil for hours, if not days. You have to nail the boards together and then carve a point at one end to drive the cross into the ground. To build a cross that will burn, you must think about it, plan it, and work at it.

That is why setting that cross alight in the middle of the night to frighten a family is such a powerful act of racial hatred. The symbolism is equally odious. It harkens back to the dark days of the Ku Klux Klan in the deep American south, whose members lit crosses on the lawns of the homes and gathering places of Jews,Catholics and blacks decades ago.

It is hard to imagine how such a deliberate act of racial hatred could happen todayespecially in Canada. However, it did occur mere days ago in Hants County, Nova Scotia, as a family of seven awoke to find a large flaming cross in their yard. A noose dangled from it and they could hear shouts of “Die, nigger die.” As The Globe and Mail reports, this act “shocked whites but reconfirmed for many blacks their nickname of the province as the ‘Mississippi of the North.’ ”
As a native Nova Scotian and a black man, this reprehensible act sickens me deeply, especially since it took place during one of the most memorable Black History Months in recent years. This past February, Canada finally recognized the contributions of two heroic black Nova Scotians to our country and witnessed a long-awaited and important apology to blacks in Halifax.

On Feb. 24, the same day that police arrested the two young men allegedly responsible for the cross burning in Hants County, the City of Halifax apologized for the destruction of the community of Africville. In the 1960s, the city evicted nearly 100 families of this vibrant 150-yearold black community from their homes and then levelled their church and properties to make way for a bridge to Dartmouth.

As Mayor Peter Kelly acknowledged, “The repercussions of what happened in Africville linger to this day. They haunt us in the form of lost opportunities for young people who were never nurtured in the rich traditions, culture and heritage of Africville.” As part of the negotiated settlement, the city will transfer two acres of municipal land to build a replica of the Africville church and an interpretive centre. Halifax will also devote more than $3-million to the construction and endowment of the Church and centre. This is in addition to several hundred thousand dollars from the provincial and federal governments.

Earlier in February, the Canadian military also posthumously awarded Private Jeremiah “Jerry” Jones with the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service. After nearly a century after the fact, this Medallion recognizes the heroism of Private Jones at Vimy Ridge, when he “crossed the bloody battlefield and took an enemy machine gun nest.” Even though his commanding officer at the time recommended him for a Distinguished Conduct Medal, Jerry Jones never received one because he was black. Yet he continued to serve his country with distinction, and finally returned home after he was wounded at Passchendaele.

In addition, the Canadian Navy and the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia joined Canada Post at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook this past Black History Month, to celebrate the launch of a stamp recognizing William Hall.

William Hall, who was born in Nova Scotia in 1827, served with the Royal Navy, where he was seconded to the Naval Brigade during the Indian Mutiny. William Hall became the first Canadian, and the first person of African ancestry, to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration in the British Empire.

This recognition of an outstanding Black Canadian was long overdue. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone in this country is equal before the law. It prohibits discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour or religion.

The Canadian Human Rights Act stipulates that every individual should have an equal opportunity to make the life he or she is able and wishes to have, again without fear of discrimination. The Canadian Citizenship Act says all Canadians are entitled to the same rights, powers and privileges.

Despite all this, and despite the many important contributions of blacks and other visible minorities to this country, we still face discrimination and race hatred. Most of the time, this racism is subtle, systemic and insidious. Yet occasionally, like the cross burning in Hants County, it is overt, deliberate and all that more disturbing.

For example, in recent years we have learned of Asian-Canadian anglers assaulted while fishing on Lake Simcoe, 80 kilometres north of Toronto. They were pushed into the lake, their gear destroyed and windshields smashed. In Quebec, we heard about a young girl prevented from playing soccer because she wears a hijab. And even today, anti-Semitic events continue to occur in Canada, from rocks thrown through synagogue windows to toppled gravestones.

The reality is that racism has been a part of Canada’s past and it is a part of our present. And it remains a problem
one that is largely invisible, hugely underestimated and wholly pervasive. Many Canadians deny that fact. They are wrong.

Martin Jacques, a white journalist, believes that most whites “are peculiarly and uniquely insensitive to race and racism.

... Even when well-meaning, they remain strangely ignorant.” As he also believes, “Wishing (racism) wasn’t true, denying it is true, will never change the reality. We can only understand
and tackle racismif we are honest about it. And when it comes to racemore than any other issuehonesty is in desperately short supply.”

So, let’s be honest and challenge the lie that racism is not an issue anymore in Canada. Let’s face the fact that deliberate acts of racial hatred are more than simply symbolic. They are symptomatic of a disease that continues to infect Canada. Let’s take all necessary steps to end racism nowfrom promoting wider education and greater public awareness, to enacting stronger laws with tougher punishment for racist acts. After all, isn’t it high time that we did?
The Hill Times