World Health Organization

Photo Credit: Ploy Buraparate | Daily Texan Staff

The AIDS epidemic continues to devastate the world, particularly in Southern Africa, where the World Health Organization estimates that some countries have infection rates as high as 26 percent. Without a cure, the best way to combat the disease is through prevention, which, in recent years, has led many to look to circumcision as a possible way to reduce the spread of HIV.

Three major studies in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda have shown that removing foreskin results in about a 50 percent reduction in the risk of HIV contraction. Though these findings are still somewhat controversial because the mechanism for this reduction isn’t understood, they are generally accepted.

Even if we take the results of the study at face value, a 50 percent reduction is not nearly as impressive as the 90-95 percent reduction offered by latex condoms, when used correctly. Those in favor of circumcision point out that the two prevention techniques could be used in tandem. Additionally, while condoms need to be used consistently, circumcision is a one-time procedure.

As opposed to condoms, this 50 percent reduction is one-way only. It protects heterosexual men from their infected female partners. Circumcised men who are HIV positive are at least as likely to pass the disease on as uncircumcised men. 

In regions plagued by HIV, circumcision may be a small part of the solution. But in this country, where less than 1 percent of the population is infected and heterosexual men are among the least at risk, foreskin removal is a solution in search of a problem. While circumcisions may have been performed as many as 15,000 years ago, the procedure’s origins in the U.S. date back to the late 19th century, when John Harvey Kellogg recommended it — along with his new corn flakes cereal — as a means to prevent children from masturbating. There’s no compelling evidence that either method is effective.

Today in the U.S., somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of all newborns leave the hospital circumcised, though this number varies significantly from year to year and from region to region. In 2009, for instance, 24.6 percent of children born on the West Coast underwent the procedure, compared to 75.2 percent in the Midwest. The reasons for circumcision are largely religious or cultural, and, though there are some medical benefits to performing the surgery, it’s difficult to justify it to the degree that it’s currently employed.

One of the more significant positive effects of circumcision is that circumcised individuals are less likely to suffer from urinary tract infections. Though the risk is fairly small in boys, with only about 1 or 2 percent experiencing the infections in the first 10 years of their lives, one way to look at it is that for every 111 circumcisions performed, one infection is prevented.

It’s worth noting that these infections are typically treated fairly easily with a round of antibiotics and aren’t especially debilitating. There are also other specific conditions such as phimosis, the inability for foreskin to retract, that circumcision can treat or prevent, though this is much less common than a urinary tract infection, and can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But while the positive effects are minor, it’s unclear if there are any negative consequences that come from removing the foreskin.

Studies have looked into personal satisfaction of those who have undergone circumcision as adults and the results are mostly just confusing. A paper from a 2002 issue of Journal of Urology states, “We found that adult circumcision appears to result in worsened erectile function, decreased penile sensitivity and improved satisfaction.” Because of the nature of these studies, and the impossibility of achieving a genuine double-blind control, it’s not surprising that the results varied from person to person, likely influenced by cultural and psychological cues.

Unfortunately, science can’t tell us what to do — it can only inform our decisions and, in the case of circumcision, it’s clear there are some benefits. But at the same time, these benefits may be overstated and, even with very few risks of complications — when performed by a qualified doctor — it’s not immediately obvious if performing unnecessary surgeries is a great idea, especially on newborns.

LONDON — The number of measles deaths worldwide has apparently dropped by about three-quarters over a decade, according to a new study by the World Health Organization and others.

Most of the deaths were in India and Africa, where not enough children are being immunized. Health officials estimate about 9.6 million children were saved from dying of measles from 2000 to 2010 after big vaccination campaigns were rolled out more than a decade ago. Researchers guessed the number of deaths fell during that time period from about 535,300 to 139,300, or about 74 percent.

But the figures come with a big grain of salt; scientists only had solid data for 65 countries. For the 128 others, they used modeling to come up with their estimates.

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: WHO reports cases of measles have dropped 75% in last decade

After struggling for most of the season, Kevin Lusson heated up during regional play, hitting two homeruns.

Photo Credit: Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

Against a Florida team that averages almost 6.5 runs a game, Texas is going to need just about everybody to contribute offensively Saturday night. Here’s a look at some of the Longhorns that are on a roll, and some that aren’t.


WHO’S HOT

Kevin Lusson: His batting average is still a pedestrian .211, but Lusson swung the bat the past two weeks with a conviction we haven’t seen all season. In regional play, the junior designated hitter drove in seven runs in five games — two three-run homers and a walk-off single. Lusson has registered a hit in the seven NCAA postseason games he’s played in, a positive sign for a guy who struggled to hit above .200 for the regular season.

Brandon Loy: The junior shortstop came up big in the third game against Arizona State, a 4-2 Texas win, with a 3-for-4 performance and a pair of RBI-doubles. The new three-hole hitter took some time to get adjusted to his new spot in the order — if this list was formulated a mere week ago, he wouldn’t have made it — but got hot at just the right time for the Longhorns.

Tant Shepherd: The Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Austin Regional, Shepherd had a big hand in helping Texas stave off elimination. The senior first baseman went 8-for-14 and drove in five runs out of the leadoff spot, his first time hitting first since last season.

Jacob Felts: Give Felts his due. The freshman may not be the most talented catcher in recent school history, but the past two weeks suggest he just might be the toughest. He had six hits in the eight regional games — impressive for a guy who hovered around the Mendoza Line during the regular season. Even given Felts’ good hitting, his biggest impact in these playoffs has been on defense. No play was bigger than when he held on tight as Arizona State’s Michael Benjamin crashed into him at home plate in game two, blocking the plate and applying a strong tag to prevent a tying run.


WHO’S NOT

Paul Montalbano: After surging in the final half of the regular season, the senior outfielder notched just three hits in eight NCAA postseason games, and his batting average has dipped to .279. Once the five-hole hitter, Montalbano has given way to Jonathan Walsh and is now hitting near the bottom of the order.

Jordan Etier: His three-run long ball in game two against ASU was possibly the biggest at-bat of Texas’ season, widening the Longhorns’ lead from one to four in the ninth inning. It also covered up a disturbing fact. Excluding his 3-for-4, three-RBI game against the Sun Devils, Etier was stuck in Slump City during NCAA postseason play, registering five hits in 25 at-bats and striking out seven times in eight games.

There are a few things you should know about Stereo Total. One is that “Total” is pronounced “Toe-TAL”; another is that Stereo Total is out-of-this-world outrageous.

Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring make up Stereo Total, a multilingual, Berlin-based, French-German duo that makes absurdist synth-pop with a punk twist.

If that sounds like too much to soak in, consider this: Stereo Total has been making New Wave-inspired electronic music since 1993 and their songs, typically sung in German, French and English, are sometimes also sung in Japanese, Spanish and even Turkish.

It makes sense that a band with such longevity and a fondness for languages would have a cult following worldwide as well. With 11 albums under their belt, Stereo Total has consistently put out art-house-worthy, dance-inducing music for nearly two decades. In anticipation of their Saturday show at The Mohawk, The Daily Texan spoke with lead singer and drummer Françoise Cactus about partying with weirdos in Lithuania, boring ‘90s fashion and what Europeans really think about Texas.

The Daily Texan: Hi! How are you doing?

Françoise Cactus: I’m fine, thank you! We just arrived in Chicago and we are playing tonight at The Empty Bottle.

DT: Awesome. So I guess my first question, since you tour pretty regularly in Europe: What differences do you find between European and American audiences?

FC: I think they are kind of similar. It’s friendly and good here; we have lots of girls in the audience and I won’t say that Americans are like Europeans. I guess they are kind of the same ... but American music is rock ‘n’ roll more than Europe’s.

DT: You and Brezel have covered a lot of famous songs over the years — I just heard your cover of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” — what’s the impetus for creating so many covers of the “classics?”

FC: We just cover songs that we love! We have ideas to make them sound different than the original. We don’t want to sound like [the original] ... We are influenced by them because we like to cover them. We have covers from Brigitte Bardot [to] ... KC and the Sunshine Band. But yes, the songs we like to cover are kind of an homage to the artists we like.

DT: I know Stereo Total takes a lot of cues, stylistically, from earlier decades. So if Stereo Total could take a time machine to one specific year and play a sold-out show in that year, when would that be?

FC: [laughs] For me, I would like to be in the 19th century, you know, like Madame Bovary — she had two boyfriends! I don’t know; I like the clothes from that time. I would not like to have been in the Middle Ages — I’m sure it was stinky and everything.

DT: Speaking of clothes, I noticed you have a pretty unique sense of fashion. Who are your fashion icons?

FC: I really like the ‘60s style — like in the movie “Who Are You, Polly Magoo?” — lots of good stuff, really great. It’s comparable to what I like, I suppose. I don’t like ‘90s clothing style; it’s really boring. And I think it’s too sporty the way people wear clothes now. It’s not original enough — with jeans and T-shirts and sports shoes — it looks so boring. I hope I’m not offending you. [laughs]

DT: I might be if I weren’t wearing khakis and an Oxford shirt right now, because jeans and T-shirts are what I typically wear. Alright, another strange question. How would you describe your perfect sandwich?

FC: I cannot eat bread; I’m allergic to wheat! But I’d put good stuff in it like tomatoes, a little bacon. Actually, I love everything except watermelons. You know what I don’t like? When they put too many things in the sandwich. ‘I’m OK, I’m OK, OK?’ I’ll say. I don’t like when they put everything in the sandwich. It’s too runny.

DT: So you and Brezel have been touring for about 16 years now — and considering you’ve been all over the world — what’s your favorite country to play in?

FC: I really like to be on tour in the U.S. and I don’t say that because you’re American, but I just love to play New York and L.A. and San Francisco. It’s always a good place to be. We like to play in South America, you know, and Mexico City. [We once played] in the middle of Siberia; that was really fun. We had brought a lot of big coats with us we didn’t even use. [laughs] But we love to play every country. Oh, and I love to play in Spain and Italy.

DT: Has anything really crazy happened on tour in any of those countries?

FC: Before we were here, we were playing in a little country far away from everything — in Lithuania — and everybody was wearing mohawks and crazy hairdos and frightening makeup! Not even one normal-looking person. [laughs]

DT: That sounds interesting. I have one last question ... what do you and other Europeans think about Texas?

FC: What do I think about Texas? That they eat a lot of meat there, nah?

DT: You’re right.

FC: [laughs] I think it can be completely different, depending on where you are in Texas. I think the countryside would be too boring to me, even if it looks good, but I think Austin is really fun and I like to be there.

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WHO: Stereo Total with Masonic and Candi and the Strangers
WHERE: Mohawk
WHEN: Saturday, 9 p.m.
TICKETS: $12 advance, $14 at the door