Trending November 2023 # The Coalition Declares War On Gears Of War 4 Quitters With More Punitive Measures # Suggested December 2023 # Top 19 Popular

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The Coalition declares war on Gears of War 4 quitters with more punitive measures




The Coalition recently rolled out Gears of War 4’s Title Update 3, deploying massive game changes aimed at improving the overall gaming experience. This update brings two new maps and many spectator mode improvements as well as a series of punitive measures to prevent early quitting in the Core and Competitive modes of GoW4.

The new quitting penalties mean that The Coalition finally heard fan uproar and decided to do something about it. GoW 4 players have long requested harsher penalties for rage quitters and the news that The Coalition will finally take the necessary measures to do so have made many fans happy.

I am very excited to see how this new TU will change the game. Extremely pumped for all the quitters to slowly but surely start leaving this game for good 🙂 […] Thank you to TC for listening to the fans requests and taking Gears 4 in a better direction. Can’t wait for future updates with further quit penalties, weapon tuning, hopefully some more swarm/locust characters, and pre-game lobbies. Gonna be an awesome year for Gears fans! Let’s Go!!!

New Gears of War 4 quitting penalties

TC has deployed the first wave of quitting penalties with Title Update 3. More specifically, here’s how the company is planning to punish GoW4 rage quitters:

Players leaving a Core/Competitive game early will be suspended from matchmaking

To avoid unfair penalties due to power shortages, players can rejoin a Core/Competitive match within 5 minutes of quitting

Rejoining and completing a match will remove the matchmaking suspension time

Matchmaking suspension time is displayed and visible including to your Squad Leader. If there is a suspended user in your Squad, you won’t be able to matchmake until their suspension has completed.

TC will implement more punitive measures against early quitters in the coming months as well. Hopefully, this will heavily discourage dishonest gaming behavior and reduce player frustration.

We’re continuing to work on lobbies for Core and Competitive in addition to more punitive measures for quitting and investigating tuning improvements. We can’t wait to deliver all this and more throughout 2023.

GoW 4 quit penalties: Is this really the solution?

So far, we haven’t answered an important question: What is the root-cause for GoW4 early quitting? Many gamers suggest that it’s the matchmaking system’s fault. For example, if a Bronze level player enters a match against a diamond level player, naturally they would want to leave the game.

Many fear that quit penalties will only increase player frustration and they’ll soon just quit the game in reponse. In other words, players suggest that TC should address the game’s imbalances rather than focusing on punishing gamers.

The fact that there are penalties isn’t the most frustrating part. The most frustrating thing is that TC is using the penalties as a means to avoid them having to actually figure out the issues that cause people to leave.

Other players believe that TC will only implement mild punitive measures in order to avoid dividing an already small community.

All in all, early quitting in GoW 4 is a multi-layered issue that TC cannot address with a single solution. The changes the company has implemented and will continue to implement in the future allow it to assess the overall quality of matches. TC can then analyze the data they’ve collected and use it to add further changes.

And this exactly what the company will be focusing on in 2023:

We have further quit penalty and balanced match features in the works – including Core/Competitive pre-game lobbies – coming in future Title Updates to further improve the online experience.

What’s your stance on early quitting in GoW4? Do you think the game’s new punitive measures will help?


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The War On Drugs Didn’t Work. Oregon’s Plan Might.

This post has been updated.

A tall white man wearing a denim shirt stands in front of a stove. The camera follows his hand as it reaches into a carton of eggs, and then pans out to reveal a cast-iron skillet. Making eye contact with the camera, he points to the egg: “This is your brain.” He points to the skillet. “This is drugs.” With one muscular hand, he cracks the egg into the hot pan. It oozes and sizzles as he slams the skillet down. “This is your brain on drugs.” The camera pans back up to his stare. “Any questions?”

Nowhere, perhaps, in the history of time and space has a man injected more fear into the minds of young people by judging a breakfast food. This 1987 commercial, the most well-known example from a long series funded by the nonprofit group Partnership for a Drug-Free America, is a vivid illustration of how the US has approached drug policy for decades: with scare tactics, punishment, and criminalization measures that disproportionately impact minority communities.

All that may be changing. The 2023 election saw the passage of drug reform-related ballot initiatives in six states as well as the District of Columbia. Most dealt with cannabis, which has now been de-penalized, decriminalized, or legalized by all but 15 states. But the standout in all this is Oregon, a state known for liberal laws but also an epidemic of police violence.

There, the passage of Measure 110 legalized the possession of personal-use amounts of any and all drugs—under a gram of heroin, less than 40 units of LSD, and as many as 40 pills of oxycodone, to name just a few examples—and laid the groundwork for a system of free substance-abuse treatment for anyone who wants it. The new law was adopted early by some jurisdictions, but officially went into effect across the state on February 1.

“If this was going to happen anywhere, a state like Oregon makes sense,” says Katharine Neill Harris, a drug policy researcher at Rice University. The state ranks high in federal metrics of drug use and abuse, and has been trying to address the issue for a number of years. Back in 1973, it was the first state to decriminalize cannabis.

Public health, addiction, and criminology researchers, as well as progressive policymakers, hope the recent win signals a decisive turn in public attitude toward people who use drugs. “The DARE stuff, all that kind of vibe, that never worked. We know that never worked,” says Jacob Borodovsky, a drug policy researcher at the Washington University School of Medicine. “You don’t have to be an expert to see all the problems caused by the way we manage drugs in this country.”

The war on drugs is based on bias, not science

“America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse,” President Richard Nixon said in the 1971 speech in which he coined the phrase “the war on drugs.” At first his administration put the bulk of its funding toward demand reduction—that is, treatment for people dealing with addiction and outreach to educate people about the potential consequences of drug use. Over time, however, Nixon’s rhetoric changed, and efforts became decidedly more warlike, with increased focus on using jail time to curb use.

In an October 1982 address during which he pledged millions of dollars in funding for the carceral state, President Ronald Reagan further argued that cracking down on drugs would address the “American epidemic” of crime. Criminal activity “takes the lives of over 20,000 Americans a year, touches nearly a third of America’s homes, and results in about $8.8 billion a year in financial losses,” he said. Throughout his tenure and for the next 38 years, crime and drugs were inextricably linked in American policy and in the American psyche—although the actual connection between them is arguably the product of drug criminalization, not the drugs themselves.

But the war on drugs never delivered on its promise of a safer and healthier society. Today, half a million people across the US are incarcerated for drug-related offenses—including the 49 percent of inmates in federal prisons—yet more than 60,000 people still die of overdoses each year, and predatory rehab centers increasingly pop up to prey on vulnerable people and their families.

These negative effects were a feature, not a bug, says Hakique Virani, a doctor and addictions specialist at the University of Alberta in Canada. Drug laws “were never set out to help people stop using substances,” he says. “What they were set out to do was exclude people with certain characteristics.” Those who are marginalized because of their race, class, sexuality or other factors bear the overwhelming burden of criminal drug policy, he says, “in spite of the fact that substance use rates are equivalent across demographics, including racial demographics.”

Drug laws haven’t curbed substance abuse. They’ve just filled up prisons. PopSci

One example is the historical difference in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, which, chemically, are largely the same drug in different forms. The kind that’s snorted, cocaine hydrochloride, is a powdered form of extracts from coca leaves, cut with a substance that makes it less pure. Crack cocaine is made by cooking cocaine hydrochloride with baking soda and some water until it forms “rocks” that can be smoked. The process changes the cocaine’s chemical composition, but it doesn’t change its psychoactive properties.

Because of its method of ingestion, crack cocaine produces a quicker and more acute high. It seems to be more associated with dependence or addiction, possibly because the fast acting time encourages frequent use. But because of the level of difficulty associated with studying illegal substances—and the lack of easy data-gathering in a police-enforced prohibition—there’s little scientific evidence to back that up.

The lack of data didn’t stop policymakers from leaning into an anti-crack bias. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 set much harsher punishments for crack possession than for powder. Someone with 5 grams or more of crack would be up for the same sentence as someone carrying 500 grams or more of powder.

“There was really no rhyme or reason to why somebody who was caught with crack cocaine was subject to imprisonment many, many times more severe than people who were found with soft cocaine,” says Virani. The difference, he says, was in who used and sold crack cocaine when the laws were established: low-income Black communities in major cities were the main site of the crack epidemic.

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 narrowed the disparity in sentence length from 100:1 to 18:1, but the gap still exists. As a result of this and other baked-in biases, Nixon- and Reagan-era policies and their ilk have had a disproportionate effect on Black Americans. According to numbers from the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at decriminalizing all illicit drug use, Black or Latinx inmates with drug-related offenses account for about 80 percent of those in federal prison and nearly 60 percent in state prisons. Because they’re disproportionately targeted, about one in 13 Black adults can’t vote due to laws that keep felons disenfranchised.

Broadly speaking, the status quo isn’t working. By 2023, the federal government was spending $34.6 billion annually on attempts to control drug use. More than $1 trillion has been directly spent on war on drugs initiatives in the past four decades, yet use continues a steady rise. A 2023 study published in the journal Science found that overdose death rates have increased exponentially and “along a remarkably smooth trajectory” in the past 40 years.

What changed, the paper further found, were the drugs of choice. Specifically, the targeted approach to policy left the country unprepared to handle the opioid addiction crisis, which first impacted white communities with the legal painkiller Oxycontin. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has theorized this happened because doctors are more likely to believe and address white people’s physical pain. With little in place to stop an addiction epidemic that began with legitimate access to pharmaceuticals, the crisis grew quickly. Opioids killed 47,600 people in the US in 2023, representing the majority of the 67,300 recorded overdose deaths.

Many experts believe that the opioid epidemic, which brought white addiction to the fore, has helped to shift public opinion on drug users and increase the viability of new policies like Oregon’s ballot initiative.

“We wanted our drug laws to hurt,” Virani says. But then they started hurting people who looked like the lawmakers.

Drug laws are starting to follow the evidence

In the 1970s and 1980s, when US drug laws were born, “There was very limited research on drug policy,” says Richard Grucza, an epidemiologist and professor of psychiatry at Washington State University. But that’s no longer true. Policymakers today have a significant body of evidence to draw from.

In the national context, much of that focuses on cannabis, which has been decriminalized throughout the country with increasing speed since the 1990s. In Grucza’s research of decriminalization in five different states, he found a 75-percent reduction in arrests related to cannabis possession for youth and a 78-percent drop for adults. At the same time, rates of use among youth, the most-studied demographic, didn’t increase in any of the states he studied. Youth numbers are a particularly important public health metric, because drug use in that age bracket is a strong determinant of an individual’s behavior in adulthood.

Internationally, decriminalization and related efforts in countries like Portugal, Switzerland, and The Netherlands seem to further confirm that simply taking the penalties off possession and use doesn’t lead people to take more drugs. In Portugal, which adopted a policy similar to Oregon’s new Measure 110 in 2001, a 2010 study found usage rates did not increase notably, and neither did the country’s supply of substances.

The key change is not in which drugs are legal in Oregon, but rather in how the state treats illegal drugs. Instead of a Class A misdemeanor, those found with personal amounts of illicit substances will now be charged with a Class E violation, which comes with no jail time or mark on a criminal record. (That’s big; just a few years ago, possession in Oregon netted a felony charge.) They’ll instead get the option of either paying a $100 fine or attending a health assessment. That check-up will set them up to attend state-funded and monitored treatment, but they won’t be forced to follow through.

The funding for the treatment will come, partially, from taxes on the state’s legal cannabis sales. Oregon also plans to use savings in policing and other areas that should result from the legal changes in its efforts.

Despite the fact that Oregonians voted 58.5 percent in favor of Measure 110, the fried-egg view of drug users is still influencing public opinion today. Its legacy was clear to see in the arguments leveled against Measure 110, which boiled down to the notion that it would increase drug use, draw funding away from policing, and lead to an uptick in addiction and crime, especially among young people—in spite of the evidence to the contrary from countries like Portugal and cannabis measures in other states.

The science doesn’t support it. PopSci

If Oregon’s decriminalization lowers overdoses, HIV infection rates, and other measurable effects of drug use, Grucza expects to see other states moving to adopt similar legislation in the near future. “I generally think decriminalization policies are really good,” he says. “Particularly for more addicting drugs, they’re a good balance between strict prohibition and commercialization.”

Decriminalization isn’t a magic bullet, Tyndall cautions. But it will help, he says: “Criminalization is a dark cloud over all of our other efforts to help people with their drug use and addiction.”

Decriminalizing drugs is just the first step

When it comes to the impact that the war on drugs has had on Black Americans, simply changing the law won’t be enough to fix the damage.

“The reality is that systems of oppression always find ways of incarcerating Black and Brown folks,” Kayse Jama, the executive director of Unite Oregon, a Portland-based social justice organization, told The Marshall Project after Measure 110 passed. While the new law is a step forward, Jama said, evidence from Oregon suggests that law enforcement will continue to target racialized communities. Using 2023 federal government data (the most recent available), the American Civil Liberties Union found that Black people were 1.8 times more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis possession in Oregon, even though the drug was legalized there in 2014. Though Black people make up just two percent of the state’s population, they account for 10 percent of its inmates.

Measure 110 did at least put the role of drug legislation in supporting systemic racism on the books. “Criminalizing drugs disproportionately harms poor people and people of color,” the text of the Measure acknowledges. And by decriminalizing everything across the board, the law eliminates potentially biased distinctions between drugs, exemplified by the federal hair-splitting between forms of cocaine.

While experts frame Measure 110 as a start to a much bigger process, they also note that, if lawmakers want to heal the harm done by the war on drugs, they’ll also need to retroactively adjust the sentencing of people still imprisoned (or carrying a felony record) due to possession that would no longer be considered illegal. That’s something that Oklahoma and California have done already for cannabis. Oregon currently has thousands of annual felony convictions.

A briefing document shared with Popular Science by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), a national organization that led the push for Measure 110, outlines how the next two years will change Oregon drug policy. On February 1, 2023, drugs were officially decriminalized and the process of establishing the cannabis-funded treatment system began. The DPA estimates that these taxes alone will provide more than $100 million in funding by the end of the year. By October, the plan stipulates, each jurisdiction will have a treatment center. By 2023, additional funding from savings in the criminal justice budget will be funneled into the system.

As this plan plays out, drug policy reformers and researchers around the country will be watching. “I think the United States has led the way in prohibition and poor drug policy,” says Tyndall. Now, Oregon has the chance to lead the country in another direction.

Update: This article was originally published on December 17, 2023. It has been updated to reflect the news that Oregon’s decriminalization policies are now officially being rolled out.

Correction: Due to an error inserted during the editing process, a previous version of this article mistakenly stated that half a million people die of overdoses each year. This figure is closer to 70,000. The error has been corrected.

Doing The Math Behind The World’s Biggest War On Aids

Doing the Math Behind the World’s Biggest War on AIDS BU researchers help shape South Africa’s response to HIV

It was the third blow that spun Busisiwe Sithole’s aching grief into dread. First, her six-month-old son died while Sithole was carrying him on her back. Then doctors told her that her infant had been infected with HIV. Then Sithole learned of her own test results.

“When I found out I was positive,” she says, “it was not an easy thing. I was scared. When I would go to sleep at night, I would see myself dead in my coffin. I would see my older child crying. I was preparing my obituary. Then I talked to a counselor about treatment, and she said, ‘You are not going to die.’”

Seven years later, a healthy-looking Sithole works as a data clerk in Johannesburg’s Helen Joseph Hospital, collecting information for the Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HE2RO), a collaboration of Boston University public health experts and researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand. Just downstairs from her office is the Themba Lethu Clinic, where people come for testing, care, and treatment for HIV and the diseases that go with it. There is, it seems, no end to the patients. In South Africa, one in 10 people is infected with HIV, and HIV/AIDS plays a role in 31 percent of deaths. HIV is the country’s most pressing health problem, and Themba Lethu is its largest HIV/AIDS clinic. With as many as 20,000 patients expected to pass through the doors in 2012, it may be the biggest clinic of its kind in the world.

Sithole says many people she talks to are surprised to learn that she has been HIV-positive for so long, yet shows no signs of ill health. “Just last week a colleague came to me, because she had a family member who didn’t want to take the antiretrovirals because there are stories about them. I told them it’s better to get tested. It’s better to know. Because you can live with it. You can control it. Because I know, I also know that AIDS will not kill me. I know that I am going to see my grandchildren.”

Ian Sanne, a South African infectious disease specialist and a codirector of HE2RO, witnesses the life-restoring powers of antiretrovirals every day. “It’s like a miracle,” he says. “It’s really remarkable what can be done with the drugs.”

It’s also remarkable, Sanne knows, what can be accomplished with data. For the past eight years, he and his colleagues at HE2RO, including Sydney Rosen, a School of Public Health research associate professor of international health, and Matthew Fox (SPH’02,’07), an SPH assistant professor of epidemiology, both at BU’s Center for Global Health & Development (CGHD) and HE2RO codirectors, have been collecting data, running it through algorithms that produce more data, then delivering it to the National Department of Health. HE2RO’s information, empirical evidence of the effectiveness and cost of new and better ways to combat HIV/AIDS, is in some ways as instrumental among South African health policy makers as the new pharmaceuticals are for AIDS patients like Sithole. Decision makers in both the National Department of Health and the Department of Treasury have used the data to frame an HIV program that treats almost two million people.

“There was a significant debate between the Treasury and the Department of Health about how much money should be made available,” says Sanne. “HE2RO, using real data, was able to solve the debate and create a budget with significantly escalating funding over the next five to six years. We managed to persuade the politicians to increase the amount of funding over time to cover three and a half million people.”

Working in a warren of offices in Helen Joseph Hospital, HE2RO’s researchers have embarked on more than 20 studies, most of which focus on better treatment of HIV and tuberculosis. The group’s work, which has mainly been funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has been influential, not only on the design of national health care policy, but also on the international funders of AIDS treatment programs.

“Health economics really drives everything we do, from health effectiveness to costing studies to the new national health policy that the South African government is rolling out,” says John Kuehnle, a health officer at USAID South Africa and contract manager for HE2RO. “BU and HE2RO have been at the front of this movement to use health economics to drive policy. It’s something that USAID and PEPFAR are very thankful for.” PEPFAR (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief ) is a government initiative to help save the lives of those with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

“There are a lot of groups that work on research on the HIV epidemic, and typically they approach the problem from the perspective of epidemiology,” says Fox. “Some come from the perspective of economics, or from social science. We combine all of those. By bringing all of that together, we can look at not just what is the best approach for a patient or for a clinic, but we can model the implications for the country. We can find the best strategies and approaches to use on a national scale.”

Despite the vastness of HIV infection in South Africa, the country’s first meaningful treatment programs got off to a painfully late start. Thabo Mbeki, president from 1999 to 2008, publicly questioned the link between HIV and AIDS, and his denial of medical realities delayed the introduction of antiretroviral drugs. Harvard researchers have blamed Mbeki’s failure to act for the deaths of 35,000 babies, as well as for shortening the lives of 330,000 people.

The years of denial were years of frustration for HIV researchers, including Rosen, who began traveling to South Africa in 1999 to examine the implications of HIV/AIDS among workers in the private sector and who lived in Johannesburg from 2003 to 2007. That project introduced her to Sanne, who in 2001 founded a not-for-profit called Right to Care. Since 2004, Right to Care has been funded primarily by PEPFAR, which has spent more than $3.2 billion on programs to prevent and treat AIDS and tuberculosis in South Africa. Right to Care, which has long worked closely with HE2RO, currently provides technical support to 170 treatment sites in five of the nine South African provinces and cofunds treatment for HIV, TB, and cervical cancer for about 150,000 people.

As a base for their joint research on the economics and epidemiology of HIV treatment, Rosen and Sanne founded HE2RO at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2004.

Coming out of HIV denialism

Change in South Africa’s approach to HIV came under Mbeki’s successor, Jacob Zuma, when the National Department of Health considered, in late 2009, adopting treatment guidelines then newly recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Those included the sweeping measure of treating HIV-positive people when their CD4 count—a measure of the immune system’s strength—is 350 or below, instead of the 200 count that had been the treatment threshold previously.

“When we came out of HIV denialism, we had a very controlled HIV treatment program,” says Sanne. “We needed to scale it. We also needed a switch in treatment regimens, because we learned that the treatment we had been using was quite toxic and needed a lot of monitoring. We learned that there were better treatment regimens for drug resistance.”

In the new government’s National Department of Health, the deputy director general for strategic programs, Yogan Pillay, had learned the same things. And he was eager to learn more.

“Government officials like myself don’t always know the right questions to ask,” says Pillay, who oversees the department’s programs for HIV, AIDS, and TB. “Often, researchers will lead the process by suggesting which questions need to be answered. Is there, for example, resistance building up in patients? If there is, what drugs do they need to switch to? If clinicians are switching regimens, what is the practice implication, and what are the cost implications? Those things have implications from the individual patient to a systemic level with respect to the ordering of drugs.”

For answers, Pillay was introduced in 2009 to Johannesburg-based HE2RO team member Gesine Meyer-Rath, an SPH research assistant professor at the CGHD. Pillay knew that with Right to Care’s health database of 17,000 patients treated at Helen Joseph Hospital, HE2RO had access to one of the biggest treatment cohorts in the country, which meant that it also had the ability to generate authoritative statistics and stable models.

“HE2RO can tell us what’s happening to patients who started treatment in 2004,” says Pillay. “They can predict what is likely to happen to patients in the long term, and what we need to do to prevent patients from moving from first-line treatment to second-line drugs. We need to keep them on first-line drugs as long as possible, because the difference in cost between first-line and second-line drugs is five- or sixfold.”

Cost data are especially important to the government, because unlike countries that depend more heavily on international donor support, South Africa pays for 85 percent of its national HIV program itself, using domestic tax revenues. Meyer-Rath, a health economist and infectious disease modeler who creates the complex mathematical algorithms at the heart of HE2RO’s policy analyses, recalls one of several studies requested by Pillay’s department.

“We were asked to look at the cost of introducing new guidelines for HIV treatment,” she says. “They wanted to pull in more HIV-infected people, raising eligibility for both adults and children, and there wasn’t data out there on what that would mean in terms of the number of eligible patients and the resulting cost. One of the questions we were asked is, what would be the cost implications of starting all children much earlier than was previously the case. There were studies that showed if you wait until children qualify for HIV treatment under the old WHO guidelines, their immune systems are so run down that you lose half of them. But the cost of pediatric HIV treatment hadn’t been analyzed before. So we had to do our own data collection, going into clinics and going through a sample of patient files.”

The problem, says Rosen, is that that kind of data collection is much harder than it sounds.

“In many places in Africa—and probably some in the United States—medical records and data systems are not well-developed,” she says. “Files get lost, and a patient will show up at a clinic and another file is opened with a new number, and there is no way of knowing that those files are for the same person. There is an endless series of those kinds of challenges. It’s very labor-intensive to develop a data set that just says how much something costs.”

“We look at every resource that has been used by a patient,” says Meyer-Rath. “We count every pill, every visit, and we look at the outcomes. In the end we can say that after X years of treatment, the cost of treating kids is this much, and the outcomes are this. We take all the data and we put it all in a gigantic mathematical model and run it for a couple of years and see what changes. Then we go back, collect more data to fill in the gaps, and start the process anew.”

Over the years, the data collected has helped to save many lives, and the job has yielded at least one major revelation: “You can collect all the epidemiological evidence you want,” says Meyer-Rath. “You can study the feasibility and all the other things, but if you don’t talk about cost and cost-effectiveness, you will not get an intervention off the ground. It’s not the first question. The first thing is to prove that it works, but it is almost always the second question.”

With the newborn study, the answer to that second question showed that treating infants sooner rather than later would save 80 percent of the costs of inpatient care—an average of 11 days during the first year of life. It turned out to be a good answer, says Meyer-Rath, because it resulted in a price tag that the government was “happy to pay.”

Life-sparing push

In another study, HE2RO looked at the feasibility of using nurses to manage treatment for AIDS patients, a task that had traditionally been performed by doctors.

“One of the big challenges in this country is that we don’t have enough doctors, but we do have nurses,” says Pillay. “But there is a lot of resistance to the idea of using nurses to initiate patients on antiretrovirals, both from doctors and nurses. We needed to know first, is it a good idea from a clinical point of view, can it be done, and third, what are the cost implications? HE2RO helped us in all three areas.”

In the last three years the South African government has doubled the budget for HIV treatment. It has tested 12 million people in a single year, is treating 1.7 million, and is budgeting to treat a total of 3.5 million people in the coming years. The life-sparing push started, says Meyer-Rath, with the willingness of the South African government to change its HIV policy and to act based on evidence, including that from HE2RO’s calculations.

“The thing about HE2RO,” says Pillay, “is they are a group of academics. They’re very rigorous and they are independent of us, so the integrity of the results is not questioned. They strike a good balance between being academic and rigorous and being part of the real world.”

“South Africa now has the largest antiretroviral program for treating AIDS in the world,” says Francois Venter, former president of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society and an HIV researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand. “For a long time, we didn’t know how to get to that point. HE2RO was instrumental in doing a lot of the costing work, a lot of operational work, and a lot of intellectual work. They were the ones who said, ‘These are the choices you have, and this is what it’s going to cost.’ So for the first time, rather than being a gut-feel program, we have become an evidence-based program. HE2RO can take a lot of credit for that.”

For Fox, Rosen, and other CGHD academics who have split their lives between Boston and Johannesburg, the influence of HE2RO is the fulfillment of an important part of their mission, as well as a validation of the value of multidisciplinary, policy-relevant research. But the biggest fulfillment will come when the tools, team, and skills they have built can deliver the evidence needed for policy decisions even after BU goes home.

“The initial collaboration between Boston University and HE2RO was formative,” says Lawrence Long, a South African health economist and a HE2RO deputy division head. “Over time the role has been to provide expert technical assistance to the local group and to build local capacity. They have done that.”

“It’s not realistic to assume that we can work here indefinitely,” says Rosen. “The funding environment is against that, and countries should have their own capacity to do this work. It’s very important to South Africanize our team. We don’t want to be an American organization in South Africa. We want to be a South African organization that is thriving in collaboration with Boston University.”

Read about HE2RO’s research into better ways to fight TB here.

A version of this article appeared in the summer 2012 issue of Bostonia.

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Spirit Of War And Spirit Of Peace: Understanding The Role Of Religion

In Religious Studies, more than one definition of religion has gained consensus. There should be more disagreement. The definition provided here is a working definition; It is adapted from one proposed by Gavin Flood and offered for clarity and to spark discussion between two fields. A set of beliefs and practices that bonds its adherents together and to non-human reality through ritual and ethical behaviour; this might be a religion.

Understanding the Role of Religion

The term “grand narrative” describes a story-like structure with a dominant position concerning other narratives & symbols in society. It deals with themes of enormous relevance for humans (such as human destiny or the nature of the cosmos). Furthermore, blends in Religious myths are one type of grand story. However, many more, such as those about emancipation through science or national glory, could also fit into this category. I use the term “quasi-narrative” to indicate that a magnificent story is not necessarily a complete and detailed tale, as with most classic myths. Like most people’s life stories, they could be brief, provocative, or incomplete.

In addition to the gods, spirits, immortal powers, and conditions of numerous traditional faiths, “trans-human realities” can also refer to things like History, the Unconscious, Society, and Nations. In the field of Religious Studies, two distinct but complementary modes of interpretation are recognised: emic interpretation, which makes use of the categories of the persons being studied, & etic interpretation, in which the observer employs an interpretive framework that is separate from the people being studied.

Most adherents of contemporary ideologies and nationalisms prefer not to label their practice as “religion,” and emic interpretations have respected this self-understanding. We are in an epic moment where we must start calling things by their proper names. When nationalisms and ideologies exhibit the same characteristics above, we have to call them religions, regardless of whether they have traditionally been termed religions or whether the people who practise them seem happy with the label.

Interrelationship of Religion and Peace

There are four main ways in which religion is related to peace

True Peace − True peace rests on the notions of human dignity and the shared humanity of everyone, originating from the belief that we are all made in God’s image. Critical post-conflict reconciling efforts are supported by religious conceptions of redemption and forgiveness, which provide resources to assist societies in healing from the ravages of war.

Peaceful Resistance − Peaceful resistance to social injustice is generally the subject of interfaith protests. Consider religious attempts to end ethnic cleansing in Darfur or the denouncing of apartheid & segregation as sins by various faiths.

Religion Stands − Religion stands for civil solid society communities and institutions generally perceived as representing uniting ideals that transcend contentious subjects; they are often one of the most stable, most trusted actors in crisis contexts, capable of contributing to settling disagreements. Consider the work of organisations like the Communities of Sant’Egidio, which, among other things, mediated the 1992 peace treaty that ended Mozambique’s 30-year civil conflict. Similarly, there have been ecumenical Christian attempts in Colombia and Muslim-Christian alliances in the wake of the Balkan crises. Peace requires conditions of hope, help for the needy, and stability, all fostered by local and worldwide religious groups but are often underappreciated for their importance.

Interfaith Efforts − Interfaith efforts have helped improve the lives of millions of people affected by civil strife in nearly every war zone worldwide. These efforts to bridge religious divides have yielded positive results but have not been sustainable. Unfortunately, they are often unable to be heard over the din of the conflict, fail to establish political clout, and have no bearing on the outcome of crises. Microscopically, these interfaith initiatives in Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia all help, but in the long run, they rarely alter the course of events for nations mired in civil conflict or regional struggle. Despite these obstacles, interfaith groups often catalyse positive change in peace, mutual collaboration, and reconciliation.

With September 21st having been designated as International Day of Peaceful, it seems appropriate to remind the world’s political, business, cultural, and religious leaders of the best present religion, at its best, has offered to humanity: the vision of humanity’s boundless potential in times of peace.

Studies in Religion and Conflict Resolution

An additional academic field that benefited from the Oriental Enlightenment was indeed the study of religions. The flood of sacred writings into the West in the final decades of the nineteenth century prompted serious consideration of the universal themes shared by significant faith traditions. Moreover, the necessity of developing novel approaches to investigating them. The Orientalist Max Müller proposed the establishment of a science of religion in one of its 51 volumes of The Sacred Books of the East, released between 1879 and 1904.

Religious Studies as it is more commonly called now, has developed significantly from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century and has become an increasingly valuable contributor to civil discussions between different faiths and cultures. This shift has occurred gradually, with parallel changes in other fields of study.

Western researchers’ initial enthusiasm for the texts & traditions of Asia has sometimes been stifled by three forms of hubris in the early phases of the research of religion

The Haughtiness of the Scientific Community. Many Western scholars believed that all faiths, especially non-Western types, were the result of primitive superstition, infantilism, and plain error and that the West was the land of reason and knowledge. Much time and effort were devoted to guessing at the beginnings of religion (here, interpreted as the beginnings of a mistake), and these endeavours were as famous for their disregard for evidence as they were for their creativity.

The Pride of a Single Religion. Christians made up the vast majority of researchers of Asian religions, and many held the conviction that Christianity was the most logical and moral of all world religions. Studies comparing different faiths typically rank Christianity at the top, whereas tribal religions are at the bottom.

Imperialism and the Pride of Civilised People. For many Westerners interested in the emerging field of religious studies, the assumption that the West possesses the oldest, soundest, and most up-to-date systems in areas such as science, religion, philosophy, political and economic theory, as well as the study of history carries the genuine implication that non-Western communities should allow themselves to be tutored by and governed by the West.

Religious Sources of Peace Education

It has long been acknowledged that Indian traditions focus on the harmonious coexistence of all communities and people. The nation’s culture, with its timeless spirit of unity and variety, respect and regard for all forms of life, bears witness to the society’s peace traditions. According to various customs, languages, and civilisations, peace governs these many traditions. Almost all religions, in their way, are staunch supporters of peace and its propagation. It should be underlined that it is not a religion but the distortion of its interpretation by many inept individuals that wreaks havoc on the fabric of peace.


Religion’s influence on the “spirit of war” and the “spirit of peace” is nuanced and multidimensional. Religion can both incite hostility and promote peacefulness. Religions can be powerful tools for peace and understanding, but it is up to people and groups to use them in that way.

The Carolinas Are Waging War Against Nickel

A crop-duster sprays a field with pesticides. Various counties in North Carolina are deploying similar strategies to control mosquito swarms. Depositphotos

Tornadoes may not bring sharks, but as North Carolinians are now discovering, hurricanes can bring giant insects. In the wake of Hurricane Florence, more than two dozen counties have been inundated with massive mosquitoes, creating what for many amounts to a nightmare scenario.

The scene was like “a bad science fiction movie,” according to Robert Phillips, a resident of the centrally located Cumberland county. ” I told my wife, ‘Gosh, look at the size of this thing.’ I told her that I guess I’m going to have to use a shotgun on these things if they get any bigger,” Phillips told The Fayetteville Observer.

But now North Carolina is fighting back against the invaders. Governor Roy Cooper dedicated $4 million in relief funds to combat the outbreak on Friday, and as of Monday morning anti-mosquito trucks were already rolling the streets of Cumberland, spraying the air with insecticide, The Fayetteville Observer reported. Health experts have labeled these particular insects as more of a nuisance than a threat, but are still encouraging people to wear long sleeves and mosquito repellant, as a small fraction of the bugs could carry diseases such as the West Nile virus.

Even among scientists who study mosquitoes for a living, Psorophora ciliata has a fearsome reputation. In addition to being one of the largest species in North America, the gallinipper, as it’s commonly called, also has an especially painful bite. It seems to know it too, with scientific literature recognizing its “legendary aggressiveness.” North Carolinians, understandably disturbed, have taken to social media to practice some amateur entomology.

Although they look like a subtropical nightmare, gallinippers actually live all over the eastern half of the U.S., their habitat stretching from Texas to New Hampshire. Females lay their eggs wherever they can find damp dirt, and the eggs lie in wait for a flood or heavy rain. Hurricane Florence provided both when it dumped dozens of inches of precipitation on North Carolina last month, triggering a hatching frenzy. After getting rehydrated, gallinippers reach adulthood in less than a week—bringing North Carolina to its current state.

Governor Roy Cooper moved quickly to combat the swarms, announcing that $4 million in relief funds were available to help more than half of the state’s counties control their booming mosquito populations on Friday. The first wave of counter-measures has already begun. Insecticide-spraying trucks started patrolling the streets of Cumberland County before 8 a.m. on Monday and will resume after the work day ends, The Fayetteville Observer reports. An aerial assault will follow in the upcoming weeks, with planes blanketing the affected areas. Individuals can also join the fight with items called “dunks,” small disks that release a mosquito-larva killing bacteria when dropped into pools of water such as birdbaths or small ponds.

Texas counties took similar actions last fall after mosquitoes erupted from the ground in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey, using U.S. Air Force reserve cargo planes to spray a nearly Rhode-Island sized area around Houston. This unusually strong response came because hurricanes hit the two states with a one-two entomological punch. First, the rains soaked the buried eggs and raised dormant species like the gallinippers. These insects activate only during times of flooding and rarely carry disease. But then, since most mosquitoes need open water such as ditches to lay their eggs, standing pools left by receding floodwaters increased the likelihood that other species would be able to breed too.

“Because of the flood there’s going to be more water. There are going to be more mosquitoes, and so we have to do the best we can,” the director of mosquito and vector control for Texas’s Harris County Public Health, Mustapha Debboun, told The Scientist at the time.

While aerial sprays and bacterial bombs represent cutting-edge anti-mosquito weapons, the U.S. has been targetting the winged scourge for more than half a century with decidedly low-tech methods. After The Great Depression, New Deal-era programs put more than 200,000 people to work digging ditches to literally drain the swamps of the south. Public health historians estimate that by 1945, workers had dug enough ditches to reach around the globe and then some, drying well over half a million acres of land (one acre can hatch one million mosquito eggs).

The Office of Malaria Control in War Areas, initially founded in Atlanta to stop soldiers from getting mosquito-borne malaria on southern army bases, delivered the final blow in the 1940s when it coordinated a mass spraying of nearly five million southern homes over the course of two years. The organization, which we know today as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), declared the country malaria free in 1949.

North Carolina won’t require such a wide-scale intervention, however. Upcoming chilly temperatures should kill whatever gallinippers survive the sprayings, experts expect. And there’s another silver lining. Psorophora ciliata enjoys snacking on the mosquito larvae of other species, so much so that some entomologists have suggested intentionally cultivating them to keep other, more dangerous populations down. The notion of releasing big mosquitoes to eat the small mosquitoes hasn’t yet caught on, perhaps in fear of the sci-fi chain of unintended consequences it could unleash (now how are we going to get rid of the mutant swallows??), but North Carolinians are well-positioned to enjoy its benefits nonetheless.

Amd Barcelona Arrives, The Processor War Heats Up

AMD Barcelona arrives, the processor war heats up

This moment was a long time coming. We’ve heard about the Barcelona line of processors from AMD for some time now, but the release date kept getting pushed further and further back due to unnamed “complications.” In a world where dual core has become the norm, AMD is pushing the envelope by providing us with four cores of processing. The new quad-core Barcelona Opteron processors are supposed to be faster, more efficient, and more powerful than anything that AMD has offered in a consumer-level desktop.

As you may already know, Intel released their version of the quad core processor back in November 2006, placing AMD nearly a full generation behind its primary competitor. Talk to any AMD representative, however, and they’ll tell you that they’re actually ahead of the game, not behind it. This is because the Intel quad-core processor really just pulls two dual core processors and melds them into a single package. By contrast, the AMD solution is that of a “native” quad-core design. They say that this design will outdo Intel not only in terms of performance, but also power efficiency.

John Fruehe, worldwide business development manager for AMD’s server and workstation division, said that “the fact that it has four cores is probably the most boring part.” He goes on to describe such features like the “new 2MB level 3 cache that all four cores can share, [and] each core continues to have its own independent level 2 cache, so that you get better performance.” This is all a part of the three-stage cache architecture. The L1, L2, and L3 cache are 64KB, 512KB, and 2MB respectively with the first two caches being core-specific. AMD feels that this design “is better suited for the coming age of virtualization.”

In many ways, Barcelona is not a wholly new architecture as much as it is an improvement over current designs. AMD took what they already had and made it better, rather than creating something completely new altogether. It will be interesting to see actual systems in action, comparing AMD’s quad-core solution against those offered by Intel, the company that still outsells AMD by a fairly significant margin.

In fact, on the same day that AMD finally announced the availability of the Barcelona microprocessors (today), Intel decided to rain on their parade by issuing a statement telling the world that Intel processors are selling better than ever and are doing much better than expected. Normally, this wouldn’t be a cause for alarm for AMD, but given that Intel wasn’t scheduled to make an earnings announcement until October 16th, it is clear that today’s statement was pure strategy. In it, Intel exclaims that demand for its products was “brisker than originally thought” and the margins would be higher than expected.

And the processor war continues. I’ve seen a lot more AMD-powered computers than I have in the past, so just based on my personal experience, I’d say that AMD is slowly taking away some market share from the giant Intel. Where do you stand? Are you an AMD aficionado, an Intel loyalist, or do you just grab whatever’s best at the time?

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