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    Friday, October 24, 2008

    Third session at Pop!Tech, 10.24.08

    Session three starts off with a short computer animated film by Nicholas Deveaux about an elephant jumping on a trampoline. Pretty much the cutest thing ever.

    This session is about peace and reconciliation. N. Taylor Thompson and Nathan Sigworth are up; they have founded PharmaSecure, an organization that seeks to ensure that drugs that combat diseases like malaria are safe, authetic and effective. They say; we'd like to see a world where 200,000 less people have malaria, while the pharmaceutical agencies make billions of dollars more money. Thompson got malaria while working in Africa. He took medicine and got better; millions do the same and die. The medicine that those who do die take has little to no active ingredients. 53% of anti malarial meds in Southeast Asia are fake. WHO says 10-30% of drugs are counterfeit. It's a problem of information access; you can't tell what's real and what's fake. There are plenty of ways to figure that out, but they are expensive. There needs to be a regulatory process.

    Heather Fleming is next, she's the co-founder of Catapult Design which provides engineering resources to third world nations. She grew up without power or water. She tried to get a job in her field; eventually came to Engineers Without Borders, who, like Doctors Without Borders, use engineering and design to provide infrastructure and resources to those who need it. She showed a hippo roller, which allows people in Africa to collect four days worth of water in a single trip; that's what EWB brings to people. Gahndi said, be the change you wish to see in the world; she adds, you must have the courage to be the change you wish to see in the world.

    Gary Slutkin is an epidemiologist, worked in the HIV crisis in Uganda, now at University of Chicago. BUT he now studies human violence in the United States; he approaches it like it's another disease with his organization Pathways to Peace. He sez, the central question is, can we end violence? Yes, if we look at in an entirely new way. We can end it like we did smallpox, leprosy, plague, etc. Kids in Chicago don't want to go to school; people don't want work, businesses don't want to open; because of the intensity of the violence. Violence is a plague. The parallels between the disease plagues of old and the current plague of violence are striking. To an epidemiolgist, diseases and violence appear one and the same. How do you reserve this? 1. You interrupt transmission. For diseases, it's treatment; for violence, it's disrupting the chain of events. 2. You change social norms. Norms can be changed; we don't smoke anymore. We wear seatbelts. We only have a few kids now, as opposed to many. The etiologic agent of violence is thought, just as bacteria spreads plague and viruses spread HIV. Interesting interjection featuring a guy, kind of like a gangbanger type, showing how someone interrupts transmission and changes the norm. That's how it works. Real people get killed, yes, but that's how you work it out. Interrupters come in and cool down the situation, like immunization or disease control workers. It works too; crime has plummeted in Chicago since these programs were put in place. What if we were able to blow it up to scale, to put violence into the past? Not just in cities or gangs, but out towards war and genocide?

    So after all the violence, how do you heal a community? Laura Waters Hinson, director of "As We Forgive," ask the question: could you forgive someone who killed your entire family? "As We Forgive" is a film about forgiving those who have wronged you - even those who's families and friends were slaughtered. Hinson went to Rwanda in 2005. President Paul Kagami released tens of thousands of genocide killers in 2003, to walk the streets with survivors of the genocide. He sets up a traditional court system, where killers and victims alike would gather in communities and try to reconcile with one another. How does something like that take place? How could you possibly forgive someone for doing that? And yet, it happened, and is still happening. As they say, to err is human; to forgive, divine.

    Now it's time for music and ice cream.

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