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EbolaWatch: Dire warnings, strikes, fears, more

We’re breaking out Ebola stories for a separate post, since there are so many today, and the news is increasingly grim. We continue our focus on using reports from African news media.

First up, from BBC News:

Ebola death toll reaches 2,288, says World Health Organization

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed 2,288 people, with half of them dying in the last three weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

It said that 47% of the deaths and 49% of the total 4,269 cases had come in the 21 days leading up to 6 September.

The health agency warned that thousands more cases could occur in Liberia, which has had the most fatalities.

And from World Health Organization, focusing on Liberia:

Ebola situation in Liberia: non-conventional interventions needed

During the past weeks, a WHO team of emergency experts worked together with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and members of her government to assess the Ebola situation in Liberia.

Transmission of the Ebola virus in Liberia is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially.

The investigative team worked alongside staff from the Ministry of Health, local health officials, and other key partners working in the country.

All agreed that the demands of the Ebola outbreak have completely outstripped the government’s and partners’ capacity to respond. Fourteen of Liberia’s 15 counties have now reported confirmed cases.

Some 152 health care workers have been infected and 79 have died. When the outbreak began, Liberia had only 1 doctor to treat nearly 100,000 people in a total population of 4.4 million people. Every infection or death of a doctor or nurse depletes response capacity significantly.

A video report from Radio Africa gives a sense of day to day life in the nation’s capital:

Three Ebola Deaths in the Heart of Monrovia

Program notes:

Father, mother-in-law and sister all dead from the deadly Ebola virus on Ashmund Street, Monrovia.

From FrontPageAfrica, more grim news:

Ebola Hits Liberian Police, 1 Infected, 18 Quarantined at Depot

The deadly Ebola virus is spreading in Monrovia and beyond, touching the security sector as 18 Police officers have been quarantined in Bloc C at the Police Barracks in Monrovia.

According to sources, one Police officer serving the Police Support Unit (PSU) contracted the virus and is currently undergoing treatment at the ELWA Ebola center.

One senior Police source confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that the officer is in critical condition at the Ebola treatment center. The Police officer is said to have contracted the virus from his wife who is a nurse, who transferred the virus to her husband after also getting infested from work.

FrontPageAfrica again:

Gov’t Extends Curfew, Quarantined Dolo Town Residents Freed

Following nearly a month of curfew beginning 9:pm to 6:am the Government of Liberia has extended by two hours the restriction with people now allowed to move freely from 11pm to 6:am.

A statement from the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism issued Monday stated: “The Government of Liberia has with immediate effect extended the Curfew throughout the Country from 9 P.M to 11 P.M beginning Monday, September 8, 2014″.

The Government also announced that the quarantine on the community of Dolo Town has been lifted. Dolo’s Town was quarantined on the same day as the West Point Community. Many Liberians have been complaining that the curfew has been affecting normal business activities and also contributing to increase in armed robbery in Monrovia and immediate environs.

More troubling news from FrontPageAfrica:

Disappearing Act: Ebola Supplies Shortages Amid Liberia Donations

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the place. But if someone pointed to the ELWA2 Ebola Isolation Unit and told you that it was one of the rare feel good stories in Liberia’s much-criticized handling of the virus outbreak, you may want to take a closer look.

Fenced in by zinc, the facility is discharging Ebola patients in impressive numbers. Fifty in the past two months has made the unit a symbol of hope for many who doubted anyone could survive the deadly Ebola virus here. It’s a Friday and Dr. Jerry Brown, the director here has enough bed spreads to take him to the end of September but he could use much more. What he really needs urgently are medicines and essential medical supplies – a lot of them.

“Take your pick”, he says, showing a laundry list of urgent medical needs: Selenium, IV Fluids; Normal Saline(1 Liter/2-3 liters bags) 500cc, Dr. Brown says are burdensome needs at the unit many have come to dub the hub of the “Miracle Health Workers, comprising one doctor(Dr. Brown); two nurses and two Physician Assistants.

Rounding our our headlines from FrontPageAfrica, a video report:

FPA WEB TV: Limited Spaces for Ebola Patients

Program notes:

Residents in the ELWA Community are concerned that the rejection of patients at the two facilities treating Ebola patients due to lack of space could spur a spread of the virus in the area.

Next, from the Liberian Observer, more worrisome news:

Gov’t ETU Refuses Suspected Ebola Patients

One of the Government’s Ebola Treatments Units (ETUs)  in the country, the 24th Street facility in Sinkor, last Friday refused to accept some suspected Ebola patients for treatment.

Speaking to the Daily Observer reporter who visited the ETU, the driver of Representative Saah Joseph’s ambulance, Foday Gallah, disclosed that authorities at the treatment center informed him that no more beds were available for the suspected Ebola patients.

“I came here since two hours ago with the ambulance of four persons suspected of the virus, but authorities of the area are telling me that they don’t have beds for anymore  patients. And I can’t take them anywhere [else], not even to  their Soul Clinic Community because the community will not agree to accept these people.”

And an understandable protest via the Liberian Observer:

Redemption Hospital Workers Protest

“The Workers Association quizzed the management as to whether the Redemption Hospital was being used to treat Ebola patients. According to him, they had answered in the negative and added that anyone suspected of the virus would be transferred to the Ebola treatment center.” ~ Sam Faley, Jr., Redemption Workers Assn. VP

The Redemption Hospital in the borough of New Kru Town, Bushrod Island, was on Monday turned upside down after the Workers Association demanded their benefits, compensation, Ebola protective materials and other necessities in the often dangerous work environment.

Speaking to the Daily Observer reporter, who visited the hospital, the vice president of the association, Samuel Faley Jr., said the association had written a series of letters to the administration about the lack of benefits for the workers, risk benefits for staff and the special package that was promised by the President.

According to him, the association asked the management to urgently address the situation unfolding at the institution.

From the Monrovia Inquirer, a Liberian promise:

Gov’t Targets 1000-Bed Ebola Center…Extends Curfew To 11 PM, Lifts Quarantine On Dolo’s Town

Information Minister, Lewis G. Brown, has said that to fully combat the deadly Ebola virus the Government of Liberia and its partners have targeted at least 1,000 bed Ebola transit and treatment centers in the country.

Minister Brown said government is committed to speeding up the erection of these centers to properly respond to the treatment of Ebola noting that the current centers are filled leading many to be resting on the floors awaiting treatment.

The Information Minister, addressing journalists at his daily Ebola Briefing yesterday next week a 1,000 bed center will be open in Bong County while another with the capacity of 120 beds is expected to be operational at the Island Clinic under the auspice of the Government of Liberia (GOL) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

On to Nigeria, first with Science:

Nigeria’s Ebola outbreak spreads

The hopes that Nigeria’s Ebola outbreak could be quickly stamped out have evaporated. The World Health Organization (WHO) this afternoon issued its first detailed report of the spread of the virus in Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil hub. Last week, authorities announced that a doctor there had died of the disease, after secretly treating a diplomat who had been infected in Lagos by a traveler from Liberia.

The doctor had close contact with family, friends, and health care workers during his illness, but he did not disclose his previous exposure to the virus. His infection wasn’t confirmed until 5 days after his death. Experts are now following hundreds of the doctor’s contacts, 60 of which had “high-risk or very high-risk exposure,” WHO says.

The diplomat had been instructed to stay in Lagos in quarantine. Instead he flew to Port Harcourt, where he was treated—in a hotel room—by the doctor from 1 to 3 August. The diplomat survived and returned to Lagos, presenting himself again to health authorities, who confirmed he was no longer was infected. He did not tell them that he had sought treatment in Port Harcourt.

Punch Nigeria gives a sense of things on the ground:

Panic in OAU as P’Harcourt doctor’s aide falls sick

A female aide of Dr. Iyke Enemuo, the Port Harcourt doctor, who died of the Ebola virus in the Rivers State capital created apprehension at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State on Tuesday when she took ill at the university.

Our correspondent gathered that the female student had contact with the late doctor and was put under surveillance in Port Harcourt for 21 days before she was certified okay, having tested negative to the virus.

On her return to OAU to resume her studies, however, she took ill and was walked to the university’s health centre where she was admitted. Some students told our correspondent that the lady was bleeding and showing other signs of the Ebola virus.

This was said to have caused a serious panic among the students of the university.

Punch Nigeria again, with a $713,000 allocation:

Kaduna releases N116m for Ebola detecting equipment in schools

Kaduna State Government on Tuesday said it had released N116m for the purchase of  Ebola Virus Disease detecting equipment in  public schools.

The Commissioner for Education in the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Ali, said this at the flag-off of training for 13,000 teachers on prevention of EVD ahead of the Sept. 22, resumption date for primary and post primary schools.

Ali, who stressed the need for preventive measures against the spread of the disease, urged participants to ensure strict compliance amongst staff and students on good hygiene.

Homeland Security News Wire covers another curious case:

U.S. air marshal in quarantine after suspected Ebola syringe attack at Lagos airport

An American federal air marshal was placed in quarantine in Houston, Texas yesterday after being attacked Sunday night at the Lagos, Nigeria airport. The assailant wielded a syringe which contained an unknown substance, and was able to inject an unknown substance into the back of one of the air marshal’s arms. ABC News reports that the air marshal, who was in Nigeria with a team of other marshals, was attacked when the group was in an unsecured area of the airport terminal in Lagos.

The marshal was able to board the United Airlines flight to Houston, where he was met by FBI agents and health workers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Fearing the syringe contained liquid contaminated with the Ebola virus, the authorities in Houston immediately put him into quarantine. The FBI said he was screened “on-scene… out of an abundance of caution.”

And on a regional level, Punch Nigeria covers coprdination:

SADC plans coordinated actions in fight against Ebola

Health ministers in southern Africa have agreed to take coordinated actions, including quarantine on people travelling from Ebola-affected West African countries.

Southern African Development Community Health Ministers held an extraordinary meeting in Zimbabwe to discuss response to the Ebola outbreak.

A statement released after the meeting on Tuesday said that authorities in the region will screen travellers at all critical points of entry or exit and people with a history of close contact with those infected, the infected dead bodies and the infected animals will be quarantined for a period of up to 21 days.

The 15 member states of the SADC were also urged to discourage their citizens from travelling to affected countries, as well as to avoid hosting mass gatherings involving people from affected countries unless it was absolutely essential.

NHK WORLD offers help:

Tokyo to send protective gear to Ebola-hit areas

The Tokyo Metropolitan government will send 100,000 sets of protective gear to Ebola-hit countries in West Africa. The region is facing a serious shortage of medical workers and equipment.

Officials say they will ship the first batch of 20,000 sets next week to Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the disease is spreading. They say the shipment will include clothing, gloves and goggles for medical workers.

Officials say the Tokyo government had stockpiled the items to prepare for the possible outbreak of a new type of influenza.

And Science offers hope for the future:

Ebola vaccines racing forward at record pace

On 2 September, a 39-year-old woman in Bethesda, Maryland, received a novel Ebola vaccine never given to humans before. In as little as 2 months, this same vaccine may go into the arms of thousands of health care workers and other first-line responders to the Ebola epidemic now wreaking havoc in West Africa. No experimental vaccine has ever been on a faster track toward widespread use. “It’s absolutely unprecedented,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director-general at the World Health Organization (WHO).

On 5 September, more than 200 “technical experts” convened by WHO recommended bypassing the usual time-consuming regulatory pathways for potential Ebola vaccines and therapies. “We have to change the sense that there is no hope in this situation to a realistic hope,” Kieny said. No one expects a vaccine will slow the epidemic directly, yet it could help keep and attract workers leading containment efforts.

And for our final item, the Guardian cautions:

Ebola: WHO guidelines risk healthcare workers’ lives, expert claims

  • Epidemiologist criticises official precautions recommending use of only goggles and masks as ‘lethally inadequate’

An Australian infectious diseases expert has accused the World Health Organisation of playing Russian roulette with the lives of healthcare workers fighting the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

Raina MacIntyre, a professor of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology at the University of New South Wales, questioned health worker protection guidelines issued by the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control in a co-authored editorial in the International Journal of Nursing Studies on Tuesday.

The guidelines recommend medical staff treating Ebola patients wear goggles and masks, but because the virus is largely transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids and not airborne particles, they do not recommend using higher-level protective equipment like respirators.

But in controversial comments MacIntyre said this was a mistake, with 120 healthcare worker deaths reported during the ongoing outbreak so far, which is also the worst recorded.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, Dengue, Gulf spill, nukes

First up, a new body count from CNN:

Ebola virus has killed more than 1,900, health officials say

More than 3,500 people have been infected by the Ebola virus in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria since the first documented cases in December, according to new figures released Wednesday by the World Health Organization. More than 1,900 people have died.

There is also a smaller, unrelated outbreak in Congo and at least one confirmed case in Senegal, according to WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan.

She characterized the outbreak as a “global threat” and encouraged the international community to do more to combat it. Chan complimented the United States for its “very strong support” through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Associated Press mulls:

Could the blood of Ebola survivors help patients?

As West Africa struggles to contain the biggest ever outbreak of Ebola, some experts say an unusual but simple treatment might help: the blood of survivors.

The evidence is mixed for using infection-fighting antibodies from survivors’ blood for Ebola, but without any licensed drugs or vaccines for the deadly disease, some say it’s worth a shot.

“This is something that’s fairly simple to do,” said Dr. Peter Piot, director of London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the co-discoverer of the Ebola virus.

A video report from euronews:

WHO agrees to fast-track development of experimental vaccines to counter Ebola

Program notes:

The World Health Organisation has fast-tracked the development of eight treatments and two vaccines to counter the Ebola virus.

Experts have gathered in Geneva to discuss the new drugs. The meeting follows a recent decision by the WHO to allow the use of experimental pharmaceutical products in the current Ebola epidemic, given its high death toll.

As such, some companies, such as NewLink Genetics Corp, have been given the go-ahead to begin initial testing of the vaccines on humans.

From the New York Times, austerian costs:

Cuts at W.H.O. Hurt Response to Ebola Crisis

With treatment centers overflowing, and alarmingly little being done to stop Ebola from sweeping through West African villages and towns, Dr. Joanne Liu, the president of Doctors Without Borders, knew that the epidemic had spun out of control.

The only person she could think of with the authority to intensify the global effort was Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, which has a long history of fighting outbreaks. If the W.H.O., the main United Nations health agency, could not quickly muster an army of experts and health workers to combat an outbreak overtaking some of the world’s poorest countries, then what entity in the world would do it?

“I wish I could do that,” Dr. Chan said when the two met at the W.H.O.’s headquarters in Geneva this summer, months after the outbreak burgeoned in a Guinean rain forest and spilled into packed capital cities. The W.H.O. simply did not have the staffing or ability to flood the Ebola zone with help, said Dr. Chan, who recounted the conversation. It was a fantasy, she argued, to think of the W.H.O. as a first responder ready to lead the fight against deadly outbreaks around the world.

Another tragedy, via Reuters:

Doctor with Ebola treated patients in Nigeria, left dozens at risk: WHO

A Nigerian doctor with Ebola carried on treating patients and met scores of friends, relatives and medics before his death, leaving about 60 of them at high risk of infection, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday.

Members of his church visited him in hospital in the oil hub Port Harcourt and performed a healing ceremony “said to involve the laying on of hands”, said the U.N. agency.

“Given these multiple high-risk exposure opportunities, the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Port Harcourt has the potential to grow larger and spread faster than the one in Lagos,” the WHO said.

And from Deutsche Welle:

Nigeria steps up the fight against Ebola

  • Nigeria is fighting to become an Ebola-free country again. The government has now set up a free hotline. It is a place where phones ring nonstop.

Bodunrim Kehinde Paul is sitting in front of his computer. He is wearing his headset and holding a pen in his hand. The caller is talking about a neighbor who might have contracted Ebola. “What symptoms does the person have?” Paul asks. “Fever,” is the answer. “And his body itches.”

Paul is a doctor by profession and he now works at the Ebola hotline center in Lagos where a toll free number has been set up by the government, to raise awareness about the epidemic. He normally works at the University Hospital of Lagos. But four weeks ago, he decided to leave his working place and become a volunteer at the Ebola hotline center.

On average, the doctors and medical students at the hotline center receive about 500 calls a day. Two Ebola cases have already been identified thanks to the helpline. That makes Paul proud.

From the Guardian, bearing the burden:

Thankless, dangerous – the task of the Ebola burial boys in Sierra Leone

  • Workers, paid $100 a month, toil to bury the bodies in order to stop the virus spreading – but they pay a heavy price

The night after Alfred Jusson buried his first Ebola victim he had a nightmare: the corpse sat on the edge of his bed, blood dripping from her nostrils. When he got up to run away, she chased him.

Three months ago, Jusson had never heard of Ebola, one of the world’s most lethal viruses. Now he volunteers to collect corpses, a job that puts him at the frontline of battle as the disease is spread by contact with bodily fluids.

“Sometimes when I think of it at home when I’m alone, I become scared. It’s not easy to just [handle] a dead body like that,” the 22-year-old said one evening after carrying out four burials in Kailahun, the remote, forested district at the heart of Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak. Malaria, cholera and tuberculosis – endemic diseases that fell tens of thousands annually in Sierra Leone – used to be the illnesses that filled Jusson’s days as he worked in his parents’ tiny, dusty pharmacy and dreamed of one day becoming a doctor. In his spare time, he worked on the family’s farm, saving and studying every day, until he was able to sit pre-university exams in December.

Punch Nigeria advocates:

Experts preach abstinence to male survivors

Experts are advocating abstinence from sexual activities for at least eight weeks for male survivors of the Ebola Virus Disease. According to the World Health Organisation, male survivors still have a considerable amount of the virus in their semen up to six weeks after being cured.

Medical doctors who spoke with our correspondent however advised survivors to imbibe appropriate public health behaviour so as not to infect their partners. In extreme situations, they also advocated barrier methods such as use of condoms in order to minimise the risk of infection during sexual intercourse.

A consultant in Fetal Medicine and Genetics, Dr. Femi Oloyede, urged the men to abide by what counsellors told them before being discharged from the isolation centre.

From the Guardian, a call to serve:

UK government urged to allow NHS staff to help Africa’s fight against Ebola

  • Most cost-effective way ‘to control our health is control health of those around us’, say tropical disease experts in the Lancet

Leading tropical disease experts have called on the government to free up NHS staff to help fight Ebola, which is continuing to spread across west Africa.

Prof David Moor, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and two of his senior colleagues say it is incumbent on the UK to share the burden that is crippling the already weak health systems in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – the three countries worst affected by the deadly virus.

“We believe that in order to support the UK’s response, the NHS must allow staff temporary leave of absence from their post to contribute to the global response.

“Consultant physicians, specialty trainees, and specialist nurses in specialties including infectious diseases, microbiology, virology, public health, intensive care and infection control are well placed to offer assistance and should be supported,” Moore said in a letter to the Lancet. It is co-signed by Catherine Houlihan, a senior research fellow and Dr Ron Behrens, a clinician at the college.

The Associated Press chips in:

US to provide $75M to expand Ebola care centers

The U.S. aid agency is providing $75 million to fund 1,000 more beds in Ebola treatment centers in Liberia and tens of thousands of protective suits for health care workers.

An Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed 1,900 people already and officials say it is out of control.

The U.S. Agency for International Development on Thursday also urged American medical workers to respond to the outbreak, saying several hundred more international experts are needed.

The Hill does the politics:

House Dems request hearing on Ebola

A group of House Democrats is asking for a hearing on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as global health officials issue increasingly desperate cries for help.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and two other key members of the panel, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), urged GOP leaders to schedule the event soon.

“The House is scheduled to be in session only ten days this month. We should use this time wisely and hold hearings on this important global health issue as expeditiously as possible,” they wrote.

Off to Asia and another outbreak from News On Japan:

Tokyo closes part of Yoyogi Park after dengue-carrying mosquitoes found

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government closed part of Yoyogi Park on Thursday after confirming that mosquitoes caught in traps earlier this week were carrying the dengue virus, metropolitan officials said.

The discovery confirmed the park as the site of infections for dozens of people over the past several weeks. Four traps out of the 10 placed by metropolitan officials contained mosquitoes carrying the virus, the officials said.

Since the first domestic outbreak of dengue fever since 1945 was confirmed last week, the number of patients has risen to 49, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The Los Angeles Times covers another kind of plague:

Halliburton agrees to pay $1.1 billion in Deepwater Horizon spill

Halliburton has agreed to a $1.1-billion settlement stemming from its involvement in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that spewed more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 people, attorneys for the company and plaintiffs said Tuesday.

The settlement seeks to put to bed most of the claims filed against the oil field services giant by individuals and businesses affected by the spill, including commercial fishermen and charter boat operators and individual fishermen or hunters in certain areas who depended on their catch for subsistence, attorneys with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the Deepwater Horizon litigation said.

“Halliburton stepped up to the plate and agreed to provide a fair measure of compensation to people and businesses harmed in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy,” attorneys Stephen J. Herman and James P. Roy said in a statement from the committee.

From Reuters, the codependent/codefendant:

BP found ‘grossly negligent’ in 2010 U.S. spill, billions in fines loom

BP Plc was “grossly negligent” for its role in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, a U.S. district judge said on Thursday in a ruling that could add billions of dollars in fines to the more than $42 billion in charges taken so far for the worst offshore disaster in U.S. history.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans held a trial without a jury last year to determine who was responsible for the April 20, 2010 environmental disaster. Barbier ruled that BP was mostly at fault and that two other companies in the case, Transocean Ltd (RIG.N) and Halliburton (HAL.N), were not as much to blame.

“The Court concludes that the discharge of oil ‘was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct’ by BP, the ruling said.

From the Guardian, potential costs:

Deepwater Horizon: gross – more than £9bn hangs on that one short word

  • BP had made a provision of $3.5bn for simple negligence, but the gross variety could take the penalty to almost $18bn

One of these decades, the size of BP’s final bill for the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 may become clear. In the meantime, weary shareholders – who include almost everyone in the UK saving for retirement via a company pension – will reflect that the running total only ever seems to go up, despite constant expressions of confidence from the boardroom that this time the corporate lawyers really are sure of the strength of their case.

The company will appeal against the ruling in the US district court that it was guilty of “gross” negligence for the accident that killed 11 people and caused 2.5m or 4.2m barrels of oil (that’s another dispute) to spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

On that word “gross” could hang about $15bn (£9bn). BP had made a provision of $3.5bn for simple negligence, but the gross variety could take the penalty to almost $18bn under the clean water act if the number of spilled barrels is indeed shown to be 4.2m. There is no point in trying to guess whether BP’s appeal will succeed. All one can say is that Thursday’s £5bn fall in BP’s stock market value fairly reflects the increased legal risks: this ruling is a serious setback.

After the jump, Japan’s whaling decision, and the last, eventful chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Urban Shield 2014 arrives in Oakland

Urban Shield 2014, the Department of Homeland Security-sponsored police paramilitarization orgasmatron we reported on earlier this month, arrived in Oakland Wednesday.

First up, a report from Phil Matier for CBS5 in San Francisco:

Phil Matier: Police Training Exercise ‘Urban Shield’ Coming To Oakland Amid Controversy

Program notes:

Oakland will soon host “Urban Shield” a training exercise and trade show for law enforcement and first responders. Police critics are upset about the event, particularly in the wake of protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Phil Matier reports.

An Al Jazeera story adds more context to an event devoted to turning cops into domestic soldiers:

[T]he majority of SWAT teams in the United States are used to wage the drug war. According to an American Civil Liberties Union report released earlier this year, drug searches account for 62 percent of all SWAT raids today. Poor communities and communities of color are disproportionately targeted, resulting in arrests, imprisonment and in some cases death.

For activists and residents organizing and living in these communities, there was nothing unusual about the Ferguson police response to the protests.

“Nothing surprised me about Ferguson,” said Andrea James, an advocate for incarcerated women in Roxbury, Massachusetts, a community that, like Ferguson, is largely poor and black. “Not that a police officer would pull out a gun, not that 60 percent of the community is a community of color, but they have an unreasonably low number of [officers of color] because they could not find ‘qualified’ candidates.”

Opposition to the event has been organizing for weeks, with the main rally scheduled for Friday.

BLOG UrbanAs the New York Times eminently reported today:

In hundreds of police departments across the country, the percentage of whites on the force is more than 30 percentage points higher than in the communities they serve, according to an analysis of a government survey of police departments. Minorities make up a quarter of police forces, according to the 2007 survey, the most recent comprehensive data available. Experts say that diversity in the police force increases a department’s credibility with its community.

“Even if police officers of whatever race enforce the law in relatively the same way, there is a huge image problem with a department that is so out of sync with the racial composition of the local population,” said Ronald Weitzer, a sociologist at George Washington University.

Under these circumstances, turning cops into paramiliataries only adds fuel to the flames.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, climate, water nukes

We begin with a number from the Associated Press:

UN: Fight against Ebola to cost $600 million

At least $600 million is needed to fight West Africa’s current Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday, as the death toll shot up by about 400 in a week to more than 1,900 people.

Experts warn Ebola could spread beyond the five West African countries that are already hit: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

The top priority is providing protective gear to health workers in the affected areas and ensuring that they receive hazard pay, said Dr. David Nabarro, who is coordinating the U.N. response to the unprecedented outbreak.

More numbers from Reuters:

West Africa Ebola death toll accelerates to more than 1,900: WHO

More than 1,900 people have died in the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, marking a major acceleration in fatalities from just over 1,500 last week.

Margaret Chan told a news conference in Washington that 3,500 confirmed or probable cases of Ebola have been reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as of this week. The death toll from this outbreak is now higher than in all the previous epidemics since the disease was first detected in 1976.

International Business Times questions:

Ebola Outbreak 2014: How Bad Could It Get?

The Ebola outbreak currently gripping West Africa has killed over 1,550 people out of 3,069 known cases in five countries – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone – and could affect some 17,000 more before the epidemic is over, according to the World Health Organization. Riots have broken out in quarantined areas, isolation centers are overwhelmed, experimental vaccines are still far from ready and health workers who have not fled the region are either getting infected or are already sick.

“It is the world’s first Ebola epidemic, and it’s spiraling out of control,” Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday. A CDC spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The fatality rate of the disease is, on average, just 50 percent, but some outbreaks of Ebola have had a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. Experts warn that the virus could spread beyond the handful of West African countries where it has already taken hold. A coordinated response to the historic Ebola outbreak – the largest and deadliest in human history – is underway, but health officials fear the ongoing effort to contain the virus is not enough.

Reuters charts expansion:

Guinea detects Ebola in new region as U.S. warns outbreak out of control

Guinea’s government said on Wednesday that Ebola had spread to a previously unaffected region of the country, as U.S. experts warned that the worst ever outbreak of the deadly virus was spiraling out of control in West Africa.

Guinea, the first country to detect the hemorrhagic fever in March, had said it was containing the outbreak but authorities announced that nine new cases had been found in the southeastern prefecture of Kerouane.

The area, some 750 km (470 miles) southeast of the capital Conakry, lies close to where the virus was first detected deep in Guinea’s forest region. The epidemic has since spread to four other West African countries and killed more than 1,500 people.

From Agence France-Presse, a first-person account:

In bed with Ebola

At 4:00am in an Ebola hot zone — when you feel flushed, a little run-down and itchy from the prickly rash developing on your ankle — paranoia can creep in.

Did that kid touch me on the arm? Did that old guy who was spitting everywhere look sick? Did I touch my face before washing my hands after that interview? Is this a headache coming on? Is this a fever?

“Hot zone” is a term virologists use for the centre of an outbreak of a maximum Level Four Biological Hazard — a “hot agent”, the kind of pathogen than can end civilisations.

Ebola is in exulted company in the “hot agent” category, along with weaponised anthrax and smallpox. It’s not much of a choice, but I’d rather be exposed to either of those.

From Al Jazeera America, a trial run:

A dummy run for deadly work: Bridging the Ebola care gap

  • In Brussels, NGO staffers are being trained to fill the shortfall of field workers in West Africa

In a mocked-up isolation unit in the back of an empty industrial lot, a plastic dummy was sprayed with disinfecting chlorine, carefully lifted and placed in a body bag. Four health care workers shouldered the burden, each dressed head to toe in protective gear and taking a limb as they disposed of the body.

Such precautions may seem out of place in the Belgian capital, but for the volunteers tasked with removing the makeshift corpse at an Ebola training session last week, the dangers could become very real very soon. While a mistake here, during a mock scenario with a mannequin, would not mean much in terms of personal danger, out in the field in West Africa it could very well lead to death.

The Ebola outbreak ravaging parts of West Africa has taken a heavy toll on medical professionals. To date, more than 120 health care workers have died, and at least 240 have contracted the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.

Shortages of protective equipment and a lack of field-experienced medical practitioners deployed in the region have contributed to the high death rate, the United Nations’ health body said. But others have blamed the international community for a response to the crisis they deem inadequate.

The World Health Organization documents spread:

Ebola situation in Port Harcourt, Nigeria

The Minister of Health of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, has now reported 3 confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease in Port Harcourt, the country’s oil hub. Additional suspected cases are being investigated.

Ebola virus was imported into Nigeria via an infected air traveller, who entered Lagos on 20 July and died 5 days later. One close contact of the Lagos case fled the city, where he was under quarantine, to seek treatment in Port Harcourt.

The close contact was treated, from 1 to 3 August, at a Port Harcourt hotel, by what would turn out to be the city’s index case. This case was a male physician who developed symptoms of weakness and fever on 11 August and died of Ebola on 22 August. His infection was confirmed on 27 August by the virology laboratory at Lagos University Teaching Hospital.

The male physician in Port Harcourt is therefore indirectly linked to Nigeria’s first case.

Punch Nigeria indirect victims:

Orphans as newest victims

The latest outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease is driving up the number of orphans and vulnerable children around the world. But the statistics, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, is worse in West Africa where the death rate is still rising.

Reports from international organisations say that more than 3000 people have been infected with more than 1,500 mortalities recorded so far. In countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, the disease has been said to wipe out whole families. In other cases, however, majority of the deceased persons were also parents or people who leave one or more children behind.

Before the latest outbreak of the EVD, described as the worst occurrence since it was first discovered in 1976, the population of orphans and vulnerable children, according to UNICEF, stood at 163 million globally. That is more than the population of Nigeria.

And from Punch Nigeria, a reminder of other dangers:

Seven health workers abducted in Rivers

Gunmen suspected to be kidnappers have abducted seven health workers working for the Niger Delta Development Commission in Abua/Odual Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The health workers; four medical doctors, a pharmacist, one dentist and a nurse, were said to have been taken away by their captors at about 11pm on Saturday in Okolomade Community.

It was gathered that the gunmen, who stormed the community with AK-47 rifles, shot sporadically to scare away indigenes before going for their victims.

From, another European alarm:

Suspected case of Ebola in Vienna

A 45-year-old woman with a suspected Ebola infection has been admitted to hospital in Vienna.

The Nigerian woman was suffering a high fever and headache and had recently returned to Austria from a trip to Nigeria.

She is currently being treated and tested in isolation. Blood samples have been sent to the Bernhard-Nocht Institute in Hamburg for diagnosis. Results should be available within the next 48 hours.

The New York Times discharges:

British Ebola Patient Discharged From Hospital

A British nurse who contracted Ebola in West Africa has fully recovered and was discharged on Wednesday, the Royal Free Hospital in London said.

The nurse, William Pooley, 29, contracted the disease in August while volunteering in Sierra Leone. He was flown to London for 10 days of treatment at the Royal Free Hospital, which has the only high-level isolation unit in Britain, the hospital said in a statement on its website.

Mr. Pooley was treated with the experimental drug ZMapp, although it is not known whether the drug contributed to his recovery.

From the Associated Press, another America afflicted:

Mission group identifies 3rd American with Ebola

The third American sickened with Ebola is a Boston-area doctor who decided to return to Liberia after the two others fell ill with the deadly virus, the president of his missionary group said Wednesday.

Dr. Rick Sacra went back to Liberia about a month ago and was not caring for Ebola patients, instead delivering babies at the missionary group’s hospital in Liberia, SIM President Bruce Johnson said at a news conference.

When a fellow SIM worker and another missionary doctor became sick, Sacra called and said, “I’m ready to go,” Johnson said.

Punch Nigeria documents an important link:

Late P’Harcourt doctor’s sister tests positive for Ebola

The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has put the total number of confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria at 18. The 18th patient, according to the Federal Government, is the sister of the late Port Harcourt doctor who died of the EVD recently.

A statement issued on Wednesday night by his Special Assistant (Media and Communication), Mr. Dan Nwomeh, said the number of cases successfully managed and discharged was eight while the number of deaths from EVD was seven.

Chukwu also debunked rumours of EVD cases outside Lagos and Port Harcourt, adding that, “regarding the rumoured case in Zaria, the blood sample has been sent for Ebola testing.”

StarAfrica reports an outcome:

Senegal: Ebola tests on quarantined student still positive

The latest blood samples taken from the young Guinean student quarantined at the Fann Hospital in Dakar, Senegal continue to test positive for Ebola, the Ministry of Health and Social Action disclosed.
However, the ministry quickly added that the patient’s condition has greatly improved and that other samples would be tested in the next few days.

The Guinean student who contracted Ebola in his home country traveled to Senegal, where his health status was detected by the Service of Infectious Diseases at the Fann Hospital.

He was admitted and has been quarantined at the same hospital since August 29, 2014.

From the New York Times, panic on the ground:

Video Shows Panic in Liberia as Man Wanders Out of Ebola Clinic

As Liberia struggles to contain the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record, health workers say that fear of the disease, and the stigma of being identified as a possible carrier, is creating a hostile environment for those seeking treatment.

That terror was on display on Monday in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, where at least 270 people have already died of the illness, when a man suspected of having the disease wandered out of a treatment center and sowed panic in a nearby market.

The incident, which was captured on video by witnesses, showed the man, wearing a medical bracelet, being confronted by angry and worried bystanders. He was then surrounded by health workers in yellow protective suits from the international medical group Doctors Without Borders, who eventually bundled him into the back of a pickup truck and returned him to the clinic.

And the video, via euronews:

Ebola patient escapes quarantine, spreads panic in Monrovia

Program notes

A patient suspected of suffering from the deadly Ebola virus left quarantine in Monrovia to search for food at a local market. The video shows him being chased and finally being caught by doctors. He is forced back into an ambulance while scared and angry crowds watched on.

One local woman said care for Ebola patients was so inadequate they were not even being fed. “The patients are hungry, they are starving. No food, no water. The government need to do more,” she said.

More than 1,550 people in four West African countries have died from the virus since the outbreak was first recorded in March. Liberia has the highest infection rate with around 700 deaths out of 1,327 suspected and confirmed cases.

He wasn’t the only runaway, as StarAfrica reports:

S/Leone: Manhunt for runaway Ebola patient

The military and Police in the eastern Sierra Leonean district of Kenema have mounted a manhunt for an Ebola patient who abandoned a treatment center.Health authorities at the Kenema treatment center said Wednesday that 36-year old Daniel Kamara, who was a resident of Makeni in the north of the country, eluded security by jumping over the fence of the facility where he was receiving treatment.

There are fears that his escape poses serious threat to the public in a district already grappling with one of the highest numbers of infections in the country.

Kenema is home to the only fully functional treatment centers in the whole country, meaning it has both a treatment center and a lab for testing for the Ebola virus.

The Hill poses a conundrum:

Who will volunteer to help fight Ebola?

Increasingly desperate health officials are asking for volunteers to help fight the Ebola epidemic that threatens to overwhelm several countries in West Africa.

The United Nations said Wednesday that the healthcare force currently on the ground must triple or quadruple in size very soon if there is any hope to contain Ebola’s spread.

Though officials declined to endorse sending military personnel, they said time was running out fast.

“We are not in a position where we can afford to lose one day,” said David Nabarro, senior U.N. coordinator for Ebola.

StarAfrica names a leader:

S/Leone: Media told to lead anti-Ebola crusade

The media has a leading role to help contain the ongoing Ebola epidemic, a senior presidential aide said in Freetown on Wednesday.Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said journalists were needed not just to report on how people could ensure avoiding infection or getting timely treatment, but also sending “messages of hope” that there is a chance for survival for patients.

The media had come under criticism for failing to properly report on the outbreak which was detected in Sierra Leone in May.

The media have been blamed for raising fear among the people which saw the initial display of denial and distrust for health workers.

From Punch Nigeria, a con of the sort every crisis spawns:

Lagos warns Nigerians against fake Ebola test kit

The Lagos State Government on Wednesday warned Lagosians and other citizens in the country not to fall victims of suspected fraudsters who were selling a kit that could purportedly be used to test for Ebola Virus.

The government, in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media to the Governor, Mr Hakeem Bello, explained that the reality on ground was that there was nothing like that.

It added that the product, which was called Rapid Response Canada, was nothing but a hoax to rip-off unsuspecting Nigerians of their earned money.

Another continent, another disease, with Jiji Press:

Dengue Fever Cases Rise to 48

Twelve more people have been confirmed as infected with dengue virus in Japan, raising the total number of dengue fever cases to 48 since the first domestic infection was reported last week, the health ministry said Wednesday.

None of the 12 have traveled abroad recently, but all of them have visited Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park or nearby. Eleven went there last month although it is uncertain when the other person made such a visit.

The 12 people are men and women aged between 10 and 79. Nine live in Tokyo, one in Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo, another in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and the other one in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido.

Another health woe from South China Morning Post:

90 million pill capsules laced with toxic metal are sold in China; 11 arrested

Police in China are trying to trace 90 million drug capsules laced with the toxic metal chromium that have been sold on the open market, in the latest product safety scandal to hit the country.

Eleven people in Zhejiang province were arrested following the discovery that the capsules – which pharmaceutical companies use for their drugs – were tainted with the poison.

Police, along with food and drug authorities in Ninghai county, seized more than 440,000 chromium-laced capsules from an illegal workshop on July 22.

They also confiscated more than 100kg of semi-finished capsules and more than 700kg of capsule material made from industrial gelatin containing the toxin, according to a Zhejiang newspaper hosted by official news agency Xinhua.

Environmental Health News covers more toxic impacts:

Toxic gulls: Quebec’s contaminated bird colony offers clues about flame retardants

The gulls that inhabit Deslauriers Island every summer are the most contaminated colony in Canada when it comes to flame retardants, including one compound that has accumulated in their eggs at concentrations up to 44 times higher than elsewhere.

Although several of these flame retardants were banned a decade ago, they are still showing up in gulls, kestrels and other winged creatures from the Great Lakes to China, prompting scientists to examine where they are lingering, what hidden health effects they are having on birds and what this all might mean for humans.

Research on Deslauriers and in Canadian laboratories indicates that flame retardants are altering birds’ thyroid hormones, reducing their clutch sizes, damaging their eggs, changing their behavior, shifting their gender ratio toward males and weakening their bones.

“Unfortunately for birds they’re the sentinels,” said U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Director Linda Birnbaum, a toxicologist who specializes in the health effects of environmental contaminants.

Still more, via CBC News:

Canadian beekeepers sue Bayer, Syngenta over neonicotinoid pesticides

  • Class action lawsuit seeks $400 million in damages

Canadian beekeepers are suing the makers of popular crop pesticides for more than $400 million in damages, alleging that their use is causing the deaths of bee colonies.

The class action lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the Ontario Superior Court on behalf of all Canadian beekeepers by Sun Parlor Honey Ltd. and Munro Honey, two of Ontario’s largest honey producers, the Ontario Beekeepers Association announced Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that Bayer Cropscience Inc. and Syngenta Canada Inc. and their parent companies were negligent in their design, manufacture, sale and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides, specifically those containing imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiomethoxam.

After the jump, water woes [including California fires, fracking fights at home and abroad, a polluted inland sea in the Golden State, and mining the Baltic Sea], soaring GMO lobbying costs, threatened landscapes, a cobra on the loose near Los Angeles, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Snowden leaks talk reluctance

From the Pew Research Center’s Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence [PDF], source of our first COLTD, a telling look at how the medium shapes the message, in this case, how comfortable we’d be in sharing our thoughts about the implications of all those stunning Snowden leaks in different forums, virtual and physical:

BLOG Reticent

Bankster greed fueled Ferguson violence

Finally someone connects two critical dots, the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, and the crimes of American banksters and bubble collapse foreclosures.

Pay close attention to this conversation from RT’s The Keiser Report featuring Max Keiser and award-winning investigative journalist Matt Taibbi and you’ll see the extremely close correlations between banking deregulating and oppressive policing on the streets of America’s poorest neighborhoods.

From RT:

American gangsters! Matt Taibbi & Max on suckers buying bogus & big bank mass perjury

Program notes:

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss how some looters are more equal than others as Jamie Dimon gets to keep his mortgage fraud deal with the Department of Justice secret while others get gunned down in broad daylight for lifting a cigarette. In the second half, Max interviews journalist and author, Matt Taibbi about the injustice that follows the wealth divide and how Ferguson, Missouri plays into that.