A British surgeon, volunteering for Medecins Sans Frontieres in the Democratic Republic of Congo, used text message instructions to perform a life-saving amputation on a 16-year-old boy, whose arm was bitten off by a hippopotamus while fishing.

The surgeon text messaged a London colleague who texted him back step-by-step instructions on how to do it:

“I knew the procedure that was right for him was to have a forequarter operation, which is an enormous operation. In the UK you’d need an intensive care unit to do it. It was a huge undertaking.”

Remarkable that he was able to perform a surgery in these conditions. Even though the guy has medical training, he had never done that kind of surgery before.

PS: SMS has indeed changed the way we communicate: about 1 in 7 say they’ve been dumped via text message.

Is it a continent after all?

Is it a continent after all?

When an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent, the juicy news spread out like fire. In an age of round-the-clock news and little – if nothing – fact checking, the rumor became as true as the Earth is round.

Media heads tried to find out the name of the unnamed source, and finally MSNBC came up with the answer. David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor (the one suspended for saying the Clintons “pimped out Chelsea”): “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks”.

Trouble is, the source is a hoax. As the NYT says,

Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.

“Martin Eisenstadt” is the product of filmmakers Eitan Gorlin and Dan Mirvish. It’s not the first time Mr. Eisenstadt causes real uproar with his fake leaks. In June the pair produced a fake interview of Eisenstadt on Iraqi television promoting construction of a casino in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Outraged Iraqi bloggers protested the casino idea.

And in July, after the McCain campaign compared Senator Barack Obama to Paris Hilton, the Eisenstadt blog said “the phone was burning off the hook” at McCain headquarters, with angry calls from Ms. Hilton’s grandfather and others. Many blogs, including the Los Angeles Times political blog, retold the story citing Eisenstadt by name and linking to his blog.

We all know the quote: “What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”

Except that in this case it wasn’t from It’s a BeautifulWonderful Life, but at a competitive debate at Emory University in Atlanta. Professor Bill Shanahan, debate coach at Fort Hays State University, KS, apparently misunderstood the “it” in “pull it down”, and dropped his pants:

“The video shows Shanahan explode into a feral, expletive-laced tirade. The debate coach was caught on tape jumping around and gesticulating wildly before bending over and pulling down his khaki shorts, exposing his underwear. The tape was posted on YouTube Aug. 2 and had over 88,000 views by Thursday.”

Update: original video removed, new video is here.

Closer View has been covering the Georgia-Russia conflict and has made some interesting points. I do, however, disagree with this:

“It is only in U.S. and E.U. interests to have Georgia fight the Russians in an open conflict. Contrary to what the naive Yuschenko may be saying, having Ukraine part of NATO is still best for the West only. “

From the western point of view, Georgia breaking up this fight was a silly mistake, a case of jumping the gun. Even though it seems clear that pretty much any opposition to Russia in the Caucasus, slowing down the enormous Russian influence, is beneficial to western interests, an open conflict would only be interesting if stalemate was guaranteed. Having Georgia invaded, or its pro-West government overthrown, are not welcome options.

Instead, Georgia gave to Russia all the reasons for the same old excuse of “protecting its citizens“. Russian response was overwhelming as expected, taking advantage of a unique composition of factors: Georgia has no powerful allies in the region, has not yet joined NATO or EU, President Bush is a lame duck, and western countries are in waiting mode until US elections. Oh, and yes, everybody is watching the Olympics.

If Georgia was part of NATO, things could have been different. Since its inception, no member has ever been attacked by another nation (with one silly exception). The treaty would ensure military protection and would probably force Russia to continue its policy of undercover support to South Ossetian rebels.

Which brings us to Ukraine. I think Ukraine, after the Georgia debacle, will place its diplomatic forces in overdrive, trying to hurry up its NATO membership.

Why isn’t the accusation coming the Pulitzer-winner Ron Suskind in his new book getting the attention it deserves from the investigative media?

The summary goes as follows: the White House had concocted a fake letter from Saddam Hussein’s intelligence director, Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti,  backdated to July 1, 2001, that said Mohammad Atta, the believed leader of the 9/11 attacks, had trained in Iraq. The CIA was supposedly told to make it happen.

These heavyweight allegations have been meekly denied by the White House and George Tenet, then CIA director, but besides that is simply fell out of media’s attention. Beijing effect, perhaps.

The Economist chose this sentence as a subtitle: “A war between Russia and Georgia appears to be under way“.

As in any war, the first victim was the truth. Contradictory accounts come from both sides, and reality is probably somewhere in between, lost in the fog of war. But military activities are in full course:

Georgian soldiers, tanks and fighter-planes struck Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, on Friday. Parts of the city were reported to be burning as Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, declared that his forces had “freed” much of the area from separatist control.
[…] 150 Russian tanks were reported to be entering South Ossetia on Friday. Georgia’s government says that Russian planes have dropped bombs outside of South Ossetia including on the edge of Tblisi, the Georgian capital.

So why did they choose to say “appears to be”? Maybe because official war declarations are old-fashioned and disused. Recent conflicts seem to start by sheer use of force, there was no time to have an official war declared against Afghanistan, or Iraq. War isn’t declared anymore, it just happens.

Very quietly, Georgia and Russia escalated their war in South Ossetia. After the air raids of yesterday, today Russian tanks are closing in the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali.

Former president, now prime-minister, and acting tzar Putin admitted: war has started.

Georgia is a key western ally and a much-needed pathway for pipelines linking the Caspian Sea region to the western, bypassing Russia.