LA Times: Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation

LA Times:

The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe.

Indeed, local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions that the foundation combats.

Oil workers, for example, and soldiers protecting them are a magnet for prostitution, contributing to a surge in HIV and teenage pregnancy, both targets in the Gates Foundation’s efforts to ease the ills of society, especially among the poor. Oil bore holes fill with stagnant water, which is ideal for mosquitoes that spread malaria, one of the diseases the foundation is fighting.

Investigators for Dr. Nonyenim Solomon Enyidah, health commissioner for Rivers State, where Ebocha is located, cite an oil spill clogging rivers as a cause of cholera, another scourge the foundation is battling. The rivers, Enyidah said, “became breeding grounds for all kinds of waterborne diseases.”

The bright, sooty gas flares — which contain toxic byproducts such as benzene, mercury and chromium — lower immunity, Enyidah said, and make children such as Justice Eta more susceptible to polio and measles — the diseases that the Gates Foundation has helped to inoculate him against.

Finding a cheap hotel in London en route to Stansted airport

So due to the magic of EasyJet, I have a $50 flight from London to Tallinn in exactly a month. One problem though, is that the flight is from Stansted Airport, which is basically not near anything — meaning, it’s about 30 miles northeast of London. That’s basically like living in Oakland and flying out of San Jose: doable, but not ideal.

Now, normally this wouldn’t be a problem as there’s a convenient train that leaves every 30 minutes from downtown London (Liverpool Street Station). Only one glitch, though: my flight leaves Stansted at 06h45, meaning I have to be there at 04h45. The first train is at 06h00, so there goes taking the train.

After briefly considering simply sleeping in Stansted Airport, I then had the idea of staying in the town of Harlow, the nearest cheap hostel, but that would have involved a 3 am mile-long walk from the hostel the Harlow City Centre to catch a bus to Stansted airport to make my flight in time.

At this point, I consulted with Marie Javins, who suggested looking for a hotel near Victoria St. Station so that I could just take the £8 ($15.50) bus that runs all night to Stansted.

Then I discovered the Holly and Ivy House Hotel — where I booked a room earlier today for £27.25 ($53) including a student discount. This puts me in Central London, and pretty near Waterloo Station, where I’ll be coming in on the Eurostar from Paris earlier that day. The Holly House Hotel is around the block from where the bus picks up from.

I’ll only be sleeping in this hotel for a pretty short time, but it’s a pretty good deal.

Still, Marie said it best: “Wanna open a capsule hotel at Stansted? I reckon there’s money in it.”

If you make discount airport parking reservations then you can save some money on airport parking that you wouldn’t be able to without a discount airport parking service–why pay full price when you can save on airport parking if you plan ahead?

Happy birthday to me

25 years ago today I was born at Santa Monica Hospital.

During my quarter-century on this Earth I’m fortunate to have had many opportunities to grow up in a loving family, to have been educated both here and abroad, to have learned to play musical instruments, and to have been trained as a journalist.

I’m not really sure what the next 25 years will bring, nor where my exact place in the world will be, but I’m hoping to land on my feet somehow.

BBC: French marchers say ‘non’ to 2007


Hundreds of protesters in France have rung in the New Year by holding a light-hearted march against it.

Parodying the French readiness to say “non”, the demonstrators in the western city of Nantes waved banners reading: “No to 2007” and “Now is better!”

The marchers called on governments and the UN to stop time’s “mad race” and declare a moratorium on the future.

The protest was held in the rain and organisers joked that even the weather was against the New Year.

The tension mounted as the minutes ticked away towards midnight – but the arrival of 2007 did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.

The protesters began to chant: “No to 2008!”

They vowed to stage a similar protest on 31 December 2007 on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris.