International Intonation – Feb. 13, 2013

Mark Hendricks, Contributor Ω

Biotic eyes helping the blind to see

It sounds like something from science fiction, but the first ever prosthetic eye, being developed by California firm Second Sight Medical Products, has been approved for use by European regulators. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow suit.

The eyes have two separate parts. The first is a series of electrodes and a chip that is surgically placed inside the eye and attached to the retina. Recovery time from this procedure is about a week.

After recovery, patients need to wear a pair of special glasses with a camera in them that wirelessly transmits information to the chip planted inside the eye, which stimulates the electrodes attached to the eye. The brain then interprets that as an image.

The results have not been perfect, but all patients have seen some improvement.

“We had some patients who got just a little bit of benefit and others who could do amazing things like reading newspaper headlines,” Brian Mech, vice president of business development for Second Sight Medical Products, told Discovery News.

Where you can find out more:

The Russian pavilion at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, normally known as Science World, or "the golf ball."

The Russian pavilion at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, normally known as Science World, or “the golf ball.”

Will Sochi be ready in time?

The 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia. The Olympics always cause large-scale construction to accommodate the influx of athletes and tourists, but doubts are being raised about whether it will be ready in time.

Russia is facing a lack of manpower in its construction efforts. According to documents from the International Olympic Committee, Russia needs an additional 22,600 workers to complete construction on time.

In addition to manpower problems, Russia is facing financial problems with the construction. Six of the 43 planned hotels have been cancelled so far due to problems with investors.

The Sochi Olympics are already over budget and set to be the most expensive in history. Costs are now estimated to be 1.5 trillion rubles, or $50 billion.

Where you can find out more:

Opposition leader assassinated in Tunisia

An unknown gunman killed Chokri Belaïd, a member of Tunisia’s political opposition party, as he left for work on Feb 6.

Belaïd was a secular political figure who had been openly critical of the current Islamic ruling party, Ennahda. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the killing.

Despite Ennahda claiming no involvement, supporters of Belaïd set fire to its headquarters.

“Criminals assassinated Chokri’s body, but will not assassinate Chokri’s struggle,” Belaïd’s widow told Reuters.

Belaïd spoke openly against the ruling government that has been in power since the Arab spring of 2010, claiming a lack of social progress.

Prime minister Hamdi Jebali has put forward a motion to dissolve the government, name a non-partisan cabinet of technocrats and hold early elections as a result of this tragedy. The motion has yet to be approved by parliament.

Where you can find out more: