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Haiti Earthquake Relief: More Ways You Can Help


The U.S. State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti:               1-888-407-4747         1-888-407-4747

  • The American Red Cross is pledging an initial $200,000 to assist communities impacted by this earthquake. They expect to provide immediate needs for food, water, temporary shelter, medical services and emotional support. They are accepting donations through their International Response Fund.
  • UNICEF has issued a statement that “Children are always the most vulnerable population in any natural disaster, and UNICEF is there for them.” UNICEF requests donations for relief for children in Haiti via their Haiti Earthquake Fund. You can also call 1-800-4UNICEF 1-800-4UNICEF.
  • Donate through Wyclef Jean’s foundation, Yele Haiti. Text “Yele” to 501501 and $5 will be charged to your phone bill and given to relief projects through the organization.
  • Operation USA is appealing for donations of funds from the public and corporate donations in bulk of health care materials, water purification supplies and food supplements which it will ship to the region from its base in the Port of Los Angeles. Donate online at www.opusa.org, by phone at 1-800-678-7255 1-800-678-7255 or, by check made out to Operation USA, 3617 Hayden Ave, Suite A, Culver City, CA 90232.
  • Save The Children has launched an emergency relief effort for Haiti. Donate to their fund to provide medical attention and clean water to children and families.
  • International Medical Corps is assembling a team of first responders and resources to provide lifesaving medical care and other emergency services to survivors of the earthquake. The IMC previously helped recovery efforts after September 2009’s earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, and the massive 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Donate to the International Medical Corps through their 24-hour hotline at 800-481-4462 800-481-4462
  • Partners In Health reports its Port-au-Prince clinical director , Louise Ivers, has appealed for assistance: “Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS… Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us.” Donate to their Haiti earthquake fund.
  • As a UN Special Envoy to Haiti, Bill Clinton appeared on CNN on Wednesday to ask for further assistance in bringing relief to populations on the ground. You can donate through the Clinton Foundation or text HAITI to 20222 to donate $10.
  • Mercy Corps is sending a team of emergency responders to assess damage, and seek to fulfill immediate needs of quake survivors. The agency aided families after earthquakes in Peru in 2007, China and Pakistan in 2008, and Indonesia last year. Donate online, call 1-888-256-1900 1-888-256-1900 or send checks to Mercy Corps Haiti Earthquake Fund; Dept NR; PO Box 2669; Portland, OR 97208.
  • Doctors Without Borders is on the ground and has set up clinics to treat injured in Haiti. Donate any amount so they can keep their efforts going.
  • Direct Relief is committing up to $1 million in aid for the response and is coordinating with its other in-country partners and colleague organizations. Their partners in Haiti include Partners in Health, St. Damien Children’s Hospital, and the Visitation Hospital, which are particularly active in emergency response. Donate to Direct Relief online.
  • Oxfam is rushing in teams from around the region to respond to the situation to provide clean water, shelter, sanitation and help people recover. Donate to Oxfam America online.
  • The UN World Food Programme is gathering all available resources to deliver food to the recently homeless and impoverished in Haiti. Donate now to help bring food to those affected as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • The Baptist Haiti Mission is operating an 82-bed hospital that is “overflowing with injured.” Donate online to BHM and 100% of your donation will go to the relief effort.
  • International Medical Corps is assembling a team of first responders and resources to provide lifesaving medical care and other emergency services to survivors of the earthquake. Donate online.
  • Following the earthquake, Catholic Relief Services made an immediate commitment of $5 million for emergency supplies. They are distributing food and relief supplies, and importing plastic sheeting, mosquito nets and water purification tablets from the Domincan Republic. Donate to Catholic Relief Services to assist in these efforts.
  • Give to the American Jewish World Service’s Earthquake Relief Fund.
  • CARE is deploying emergency team members to Port-au-Prince today to assist in recovery efforts. They’re focusing their efforts on rescuing children who may still be trapped in schools that collapsed. Donate to CARE.
  • Orphans International America reports that they have been able to make contact with their program director in the town of Jacmel, a city about 20 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince that houses OI’s hospitals and schools. Orphans International America is attempting to gather food, clean water and emergency medical supplies to Jacmel. You can contribute to them through PayPal.
  • The International Rescue Committee is deploying an emergency response team to Haiti to deliver urgent assistance to earthquake survivors and to help overwhelmed local aid groups struggling to meet the immense emergency needs. They will focus on critical medical, water and sanitation assistance. Donate to the IRC Haiti Crisis Fund.
  • NetHope is coordinating its response with its NGO member agencies and with the UN’s Emergency Telecom Cluster to establish connectivity in Haiti. Seventeen of NetHope’s members are already providing aid and deploying resources on the ground. Donate online.
  • The Haitian Health Foundation is still assessing the situation of their full-time facilities and staff in Haiti. They regularly provide health care, development and relief to rural mountain villages in Haiti. Donate to the Haitian Health Foundation.
  • World Vision has more 370 staff in the country. Staff members from less-affected regions of Haiti are mobilizing, and World Vision’s global experts are expected to arrive in the disaster zone as soon as possible. Donate to World Vision.
  • The Jewish Federations of North America is partnering with the American Jewish Joint Distribution committee and have created a dedicated Haiti Relief page for online donations.
  • United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is the UN’s humanitarian fund responding to emergencies like the earthquake in Haiti. Donate online.
  • Friends of the Orphans will use donations to meet the needs of first responders such as first aid supplies, shipping of necessary materials to assist in efforts, and treating the injured. Those interested in helping the relief effort can visit www.friendsoftheorphans.org, or call 888-201-8880 888-201-8880 to make a donation.
  • World Concern‘s staff is almost entirely composed of Haitian nationals and will be tapping into private as well as U.S. government supplies to help in the relief effort it hopes will soon be supplemented by cargo ships. Donate to World Concern.
  • Merlin USA is sending an emergency response team out to the region and have subsequently launched an emergency appeal to bring urgent medical aid and assistance to those affected. Donate to Merlin USA.


Drugs that mimic the molecular effect are under development

MIT Technology Review, January 13, 2010, by Emily Singer  —  A genetic variation previously linked to longevity may also protect against the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, according to a new study. The variant affects cholesterol metabolism, boosting levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol, but it’s not yet clear how it could promote healthy aging in the brain. The new findings are likely to heighten interest in finding ways to chemically enhance good cholesterol–experimental drugs that mimic the molecular effects of the genetic variant are already in clinical tests for heart disease.

In a previous study of Ashkenazi Jews, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, found that a specific variation in a gene that codes for a protein called cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) is more common in very long-lived people. Those older people who carried it also tended to have better cognitive function. (Ashkenazi Jews are often studied in genetic research because they originate from a relatively small founder population and possess less genetic complexity than other groups, making it easier to identify meaningful genetic targets.)

The new research, conducted by the same group on a more diverse sampling of people, found that those with two copies of the protective variant had a 70 percent lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as well as a significantly lower rate of memory decline. “That’s a huge reduction,” says Richard Lipton, senior author of the study. “I’m not aware of other genetic factors that have that effect.” The research was published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“It’s a striking reduction in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that they observe,” says Benjamin Wolozin, a neurologist at Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, who was not directly involved in the research. “I think there is increasing evidence that factors that protect the cardiovascular system also protect against dementia.” Still, he cautions that other studies examining the same gene have had mixed results, so the findings are not yet conclusive.

The new findings are part of the Einstein Aging Study, an ongoing examination of a diverse group of people age 70 and older living in the Bronx. All were free of dementia when they enrolled in the study. Participants undergo regular cognitive testing, as well as annual medical and neurologic exams.

The frequency of the protective CETP variant in the general population is not well known. But Lipton says that his team’s previous studies have found that about 5 percent of 60-year-olds had it, and approximately 25 percent of centenarians–those age 100 or older. “It’s one of the more robust longevity genes we have identified,” says Lipton. The Einstein researchers are now trying to replicate the findings in another group. They also hope to find other genetic variants that protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

People with the protective variant produce a less active version of CETP protein, which in turn raises levels of HDL, or good cholesterol. HDL plays an important role in the membranes of nerve cells in the brain, but it’s not yet clear what role the genetic variation plays in the brain. “It may also cause particle sizes of certain lipoproteins in blood to be larger,” says Amy Sanders, a physician at Einstein and lead author of the paper. “But exactly how that helps isn’t known.”

“My speculation is that it helps get blood into the brain,” says Wolozin. “We do know that reduction in blood flow is one of the earliest changes in dementia, and anything that preserves blood flow to the brain is helpful.”

The findings support the link between cholesterol levels and dementia. Another genetic factor previously linked to Alzheimer’s risk, a gene called Apolipoprotein E (APOE), also affects cholesterol metabolism; a variant known as APOE4 substantially increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, while a much rarer version called APOE2 reduces the risk.

Pharmaceutical companies are already developing drugs, called CETP inhibitors, that mimic the effect of the protective variant in hopes of preventing heart disease. (Raising HDL has long been thought to protect the heart, though that link has yet to be conclusively proven.) The first CETP inhibitor to be tested in humans–a highly hyped drug from Pfizer called torcetrapibturned out to be a multibillion-dollar failure. Rather than helping heart health, it appeared to increase blood pressure, and testing was halted in 2006.

Scientists have since determined that the negative effects were likely due to the molecule itself rather than its method of action. A handful of other CETP inhibitors are now in clinical trials, including compounds from Roche (dalcetrapib) and Merck (anacetrapib). Both appear to raise good cholesterol without increasing blood pressure, though their long-term safety and effectiveness in preventing heart disease is not yet clear.

“Ultimately, I think people who are developing these drugs to raise HDL may end up adding cognitive measures to their studies to see if there is a protective effect on cognition,” says Lipton. Previous research on mice that were engineered to mimic Alzheimer’s found that CETP inhibitors provided modest protection against the disease.

Anders Olsson, a physician and researcher at the University of Linkoping, in Sweden, is testing Roche’s CETP inhibitor in people with heart disease. He says that these patients probably aren’t the best subjects to tests cognitive function. “But this type of finding suggests these end points should be included,” he says.

While there are a number of drugs available to treat Alzheimer’s disease, none are approved to prevent the onset of the disease. “But given that there are four million Americans with Alzheimer’s and the number is likely to skyrocket as the population ages, there is a huge societal and public health need to develop agents that will prevent the disease,” says Lipton.


Charging up: New batteries could help extend the range of cars produced by Tesla Motors, including the planned Model S, shown here.
Credit: Tesla Motors


A new partnership could help the automaker increase the range of its vehicles


MIT Technology Review, January 13, 2010, by Kevin Bullis  —   Tesla Motors, the maker of high-performance electric vehicles, is working with Panasonic, the battery and consumer electronics giant, to develop its next generation of batteries. The partnership is intended to help Tesla lower the cost of its batteries and improve the range of its vehicles.

Last month Panasonic announced two high-energy batteries for electric vehicles. These new batteries store as much as 30 percent more energy than its previous lithium-ion batteries, and this increased storage could, in theory, increase a vehicle’s range by a similar amount, thereby addressing one of the main problems with electric cars. Tesla’s Roadster currently has a range of 244 miles and takes three and a half hours to charge with a special charger.

The other major challenge with electric vehicles is the cost of the battery packs. Tesla isn’t announcing the potential cost savings with future batteries, but JB Straubel, Tesla Motor’s chief technology officer, says battery costs have been steadily declining at about 8 percent a year.

Tesla plans to incorporate Panasonic’s cells into its battery packs, and will work with Panasonic to develop cells fine-tuned for use in cars, Straubel says. To do this, Tesla will draw on data gathered from the 1,000 cars it has made so far, which have been driven for over a million miles. Tesla currently gets its batteries from a variety of manufacturers.

Those driving Tesla cars won’t immediately see the added range from the new high-energy battery cells, Straubel says, since there is a lengthy process for validating the performance of new cells. What’s more, the actual range increases can vary. (For example, electronic controls keep a battery from completely discharging to help improve safety and reliability–complete discharges can harm some battery materials. The way the battery is controlled depends upon its chemistry and other details of the cell design.)

One of the new cells in particular will require extensive testing, since it relies on silicon-based electrodes. In theory, silicon electrodes can hold much more energy than the carbon electrodes they replace, but silicon electrodes tend to swell and break apart. They’ll need to be tested to make sure these problems have been overcome.

The approach Tesla is taking with Panasonic is different from that of other automakers, such as Nissan and General Motors, that are developing electric cars and plug-in hybrids (which run extensively on electric power). Tesla uses small cylindrical cells of the type used inside the battery packs in laptops and other consumer electronics, while the other automakers are turning to larger, flat battery cells developed specifically for use in cars. Straubel says that the fact that the manufacturing process for cylindrical cells is well-understood from many years of experience helps drive down costs and improve performance and reliability.

But flat batteries developed specifically for cars may ultimately prove better for electric vehicles, since they are designed to last longer, says Menahem Anderman, an automotive battery industry analyst. Also, because the flat batteries are larger, fewer cells are needed, reducing the number of things that can go wrong inside battery packs. Tesla uses thousands of cells, whereas other automakers can use just a couple hundred.

There’s also the question of safety. The new flat batteries typically use chemistries that are less volatile than those used in laptops, making it easier to ensure they don’t catch fire or explode. Indeed, the lithium-nickel chemistry that Panasonic uses in its high-energy cells can be even less stable than the materials in conventional laptop batteries. Tesla has worked around this by implementing special safety features inside its battery packs.

Straubel says that, for now, the manufacturing experience with cylindrical cells outweighs the potential advantages of flat cells, but as Tesla and Panasonic collaborate, they may eventually turn to flat cells.

Panasonic’s partnership with Tesla is part of a larger strategy to dominate the market for advanced automotive batteries. Panasonic is already a leading manufacturer of batteries for hybrid vehicles, which typically use nickel-metal hydride batteries. Together with Sanyo, a subsidiary it acquired at the end of last year, it provides nickel-metal hydride batteries to several major automakers, including Toyota, Honda, and Ford, and has an agreement to develop batteries for Volkswagen. In November, a joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic started manufacturing lithium-ion batteries for the plug-in hybrid version of the Toyota Prius.