Category Archives: Debt

EbolaWatch: Numbers, fear, aid, politics


From the Centers for Disease Control, the latest Ebola numbers for the three hardest hit West African countries:

BLOLG Ebola cases

From the CDC report, the latest corresponding Ebola curves:

BLOG Ebola curves

The Washington Post covers a high level visit:

UN chief visits Ebola-ravaged West African nations

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised health workers battling Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia on Friday, saying they have shown “the most noble face of humankind” amid an epidemic that has killed more than 6,900 people in West Africa.

Ban, who made stops in both countries on Friday, travels Saturday to Guinea where the Ebola virus first emerged a year ago.

“Today we have reason to be cautiously optimistic that this terrible outbreak can be defeated,” said Ban at a news conference with Liberia’s president.

“Our response strategy is working — where people are gaining access to treatment, where contacts are being traced, burials are becoming safer, communities are mobilizing to protect themselves,” he said.

Then to Liberia for that election, via the New York Times:

Liberia Will Proceed With Senate Vote Delayed by Ebola

Senate elections that were repeatedly delayed because of the Ebola epidemic and legal challenges, and further complicated by a presidential ban on large political gatherings in the capital, will finally be held in Liberia on Saturday. Whether they will be fair, peaceful and safe is unclear.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said the elections, first scheduled more than two months ago but postponed twice, must be held, otherwise the nine-year terms of half the members in the 30-seat Senate will expire with no successors, provoking a constitutional crisis. Critics have said mass gatherings at the polls raise the risk of more contagion that would aggravate the Ebola crisis, which had shown signs of easing in this country of four million.

Last Saturday, the Supreme Court agreed with Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, saying it would not halt the vote. “It is not our place to decide whether it is appropriate to conduct elections at this time or any other time,” said the chief justice, Francis S. Korkpor.

The elections are not only seen as a test of whether Liberia, one of the three worst-hit West African countries in the Ebola epidemic, can conduct the voting without inadvertently spreading an insidious disease. They are also seen as a barometer of Ms. Johnson Sirleaf’s popularity. The most hotly contested Senate seat pits her son, Robert, against George Manneh Weah, a former soccer star and presidential aspirant. The seat represents the capital region, where nearly half the country’s people live.

Next, on to Sierra Leone and a dose of seasonal angst from NBC News:

Could Christmas Worsen Ebola’s Spread?

  • It worries Dr. Dan Kelly. And officials in Sierra Leone were concerned enough to limit public gatherings for the holidays.

Right now, Ebola is raging out of control in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown. It’s barely under control in outlying districts like Kono and Kenema. The epidemic started as people traveled across the region’s porous borders, and this will be the first Christmas and New Year holiday since the epidemic started.

“You have a couple of million people in Freetown and I’d say 50-plus percent of those people in Freetown are interested in traveling back to remote villages for the holidays,” Kelly told NBC News.

“And they’ll spend a week there,” added Kelly, who’s worked in Sierra Leone on and off since 2006. “It could spread Ebola all around the country and just create hundreds of hotspots for sure.”

Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, says travel between all parts of the country has been restricted as part of “Operation Western Area Surge,” an effort to get a handle on the epidemic. He says public gatherings will be strictly controlled in the run-up to Christmas.

The Sierra Leone Concord Times covers belated vaccinations coming:

Ebola vaccine to be available in March

Director of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine yesterday revealed in Freetown that a new vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus disease, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Sierra Leoneans, will be available in March 2015.

Speaking at a press briefing organised by the Ministry of Information and Communications, Professor Peter Piot said they were in the country to have first-hand information about the disease, do research for developing an Ebola vaccine and getting prepared for a further outbreak.

“Since the first outbreak in 1976 in Congo, we have not been able to develop any effective cure for it. But we will make sure not to miss this opportunity to develop a vaccine that will be first implemented here in February or March 2015,” said the professor who co-discovered the Ebola virus in Zaire while working at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium.

A perspective of bodies from two different tragedies, via the Washington Post:

In Sierra Leone, the ghosts of war haunt an Ebola graveyard

To find Andrew Kondoh, walk through the gates of this city’s largest cemetery, where teams in moonsuits bury more than 50 bodies in white plastic bags each day. Look for the man with the wispy goatee and big belly, who is overseeing one of the world’s most chaotic, dangerous graveyards as if he’s done it all before.

That’s because he has.

Twenty years ago, when he was 13, Kondoh took it upon himself to guard a heap of bodies, people killed by rebels during the country’s civil war. For three years, as the pile grew, he protected them from being trampled or picked at by dogs. When that conflict ended, Kondoh made a promise to himself. He was done working with the dead.

Then Ebola surged in Sierra Leone.

“It’s like I’m back there again,” Kondoh said. “Except this time I don’t see the faces in the body bags. I just imagine them.”

The United Nations Development Programme covers a novel way to pay front line workers:

Mobile money for 16,000 Ebola workers

Marion Sesay gossiped with her two work colleagues while they waited in the shade of a local money handler for their names to be called.

She and her friends, nurses at a nearby hospital, are entitled to hazard pay, an extra bit of money every two weeks to offset the risk of working in health care during Ebola times.

“The money is helping us greatly,” Ms. Sesay said. “We can use the money for our kids, for our families. The money is good, but we just want this thing to end.”

For the third installment of their hazard pay entitlement, Sesay and her national colleagues, some 16,000 recipients across Sierra Leone, received text messages on their phones: how much money to expect and where to pick it up with a security code.

The system, a mobile money transfer scheme, was implemented for the first time the week before Christmas with a great deal of satisfaction.

UPDATE: We inadvertently omitted a video, forthwith rectified. From Agence France-Presse:

Sierra Leone bikers spread the message to fight Ebola

Program notes:

More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

A call for a debt jubilee from the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

Calls for IMF, World Bank to cancel Salone debts

The Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) and Jubilee Debt Campaign UK are calling for the immediate cancelation of debts owed by Sierra Leone externally, especially those owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The IMF is demanding that Sierra Leone repay the sum of US$2.7 million this week, a further US$1.8 million on Christmas Eve and US$1 million on 29 December this year.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone owe a whopping US$464 million to the IMF, out of a total debt of US$3.6 billion.

In 2015, the debt payments of the three countries worst affected by the Ebola outbreak are expected to be US$130 million, including US$21 million to the IMF.

And the president’s State House Communications Unit covers a notable visitor:

Ebola Scientist Assures President Koroma

The Director of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) Professor Peter Piot Thursday 18 December assured government of their support in the fight against Ebola through the development of a vaccine that will bring a final halt to the spreading virus.

He made this assurance during a courtesy call on President Ernest Bai Koroma at State Lodge, Hill Station.

The distinguished Belgian microbiologist well-known for his research on Ebola and AIDS is in the country to support government’s fight against the disease and discuss how best science, innovation and discovery can better contribute to defeating the virus.

Welcoming the delegation, President Koroma expressed his profound delight for receiving Prof. Piot, who had been involved with Ebola outbreaks since 1976 and has played a significant role trying to bring a closure to the epidemic.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, campaigns, predictions


We begin with the New York Times and a positive note:

Fewer Ebola Cases Go Unreported Than Thought, Study Finds

Transmission of the Ebola virus occurs mostly within families, in hospitals and at funerals, not randomly like the flu, Yale scientists said Tuesday, and far fewer cases go unreported than has previously been estimated.

That implies, they said, that the epidemic is unlikely to reach the gloomy scenarios of hundreds of thousands of cases that studies released in September had forecast were possible; the most pessimistic one, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had predicted up to 1.4 million cases by late January.

The new study, led by epidemiologists from the Yale School of Public Health, was published online by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Scientists from Texas, Brazil and the Liberian Health Ministry contributed to the research.

Leaving Al Jazeera English with the downbeat:

Survivors cope with new Ebola after-effects

  • Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues

“My eyes are dark,” she said sadly. “Even when the sun is shining, my eyes are dark.” Kamara said she was happy to have survived Ebola, but fear and misery were etched onto her face.

Kamara is one of 40 percent of Ebola survivors to have gone on to develop eye problems, according to a recent study carried out by the World Health Organisation and Kenema’s District Health Management Team. It has been more than a month since the district saw it’s last case of Ebola, and attention is turning to the plight of survivors.

The results of the survey, a copy of which was seen by Al Jazeera, outline a raft of physical, social and psychological problems the survivors are experiencing.

Seventy-nine percent, for example, now suffer from joint pain; 42 percent have problems sleeping, while more than one-third of those surveyed experienced peeling of the skin. Many others reported problems with their reproductive system.

From the Washington Post, a plea for what should be a given, in both senses of the word:

UN commission asks for Ebola debt forgiveness

A U.N. commission is asking for more debt cancellations for the three West African nations hardest hit by the Ebola virus.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said Monday that it is crucial that the current Ebola health crisis not be a catalyst for financial distress in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Carlos Lopez, a U.N. under secretary-general and the executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, appealed in Ethiopia on Monday for loan forgiveness.

A new report on the socio-economic impact of Ebola said the overall impact on Africa should be minimal because the three countries account for only 0.68 percent of Africa’s GDP. The report estimates that Ebola’s impact on the continent’s GDP levels in 2014 and 2015 will be only -0.19 percent and -0.15 percent.

On to Liberia, where BBC News covers an infusion of help:

Ebola serum supply reaches Liberia

Liberia has begun treating Ebola patients with serum therapy – a treatment made from the blood of recovered survivors.

Doctors hope the experimental treatment could help combat the virus that has been sweeping West Africa and killing thousands of people.

If a person has successfully fought off the infection, it means their body has learned how to combat the virus and they will have antibodies in their blood that can attack Ebola.

Doctors can then take a sample of their blood and turn it into serum – by removing the red blood cells but keeping the important antibodies – which can be used to treat other patients.

Ebola patients treated in the UK and the US have already received this type of treatment.

Decline affirmed, via the Monrovia Inquirer:

Ebola Cases Still Decreasing…Internal Affairs Minister Discloses

Internal Affairs Minister, Morris Dukuly, has corroborated reports that the Ebola virus is still decreasing as efforts continue by government and its partners to eradicate it in the country.     Speaking at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing on Ebola, the Minister said as the Ebola crisis continues to decrease in the country, members of the Ebola Burial Team need to be remembered and considered as heroes as well as health workers.

The Minister noted that the burial team has played a significant role in the fight against the virus and as such they should be encouraged and appreciated, noting that they stand a high risk of getting in contact with the virus. “ As we all know, since the outbreak of the virus people have always talked about the nurses and doctors who have fallen prey to the virus and those who are still in the fight but not many attentions have been paid to the Burial Team something I think we need to consider. Those young men are risking their lives on a daily basis, so it is fair enough for us to appreciate them as well.”

Minister Dukuly encouraged citizens to continue all the necessary preventive measures given by the Ministry of Health and its partners noting that Ebola is real and it is still in the country and as such people should not be complacent of the fact that cases are on the decrease.

Front line fighters recover, via the NewDawn:

Liberian healthcare providers discharged

D’Geedawoi stops just long enough to look back and share a smile with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers waiting beside the Ebola survivor board for the release of the next patient.

D’Geedawoi, a father of 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls, with his wife Sadatu age 32, is grateful for all that was done for him at the Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU) but he is anxious to get home.

D’Geedawoi, age 46, is full of energy and ready to return to his work as a Drug Dispenser and Contact Tracer.  He told us, “ever since I experienced the illness of Ebola all I could think about was death.”

He went on to say that after being infected and then getting the news that he was negative, he felt encouraged to tell others about this place.

D’Geedawoi said, “I will be happy if I can be of any kind of assistance for you all. I want to get out in the field and get the message out there because I have been saved.”

The Liberian Observer covers a showdown over a government-imposed ban on political assemblies:

Looming City Lockdown: CDC Plans 3-Day March

Opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) has decided to stage another “city lockdown” in and around Monrovia, the party’s vice chairman for Operations, Mulbah Morlu, has announced.

Addressing a news conference yesterday in Monrovia, CDC disclosed the staging of a three-day political rally aimed at creating the platform where their political leader, Ambassador George M. Weah, will interact with the “ordinary Liberian people.”

According to Morlu, who is also CDC deputy campaign manager, the party has decided to begin “a three-day roadmap to victory,” parade through the streets of Monrovia, beginning with various market places in the city.

“CDC will begin parading the streets with Amb. Weah beginning with the Small Town Community behind our party’s headquarters and move on to the Peace Island Community in Congo Town.

From the NewDawn, a warning:

Another Serious Ebola Outbreak is Possible, If…

National and international publicity characterizing what may appear to be a gradual decline in the spread of the deadly Ebola virus disease in Liberia may not have just done justice to the fight against the epidemic, but encouraged complacency among some Liberians.

As a result of such publicity, some, including those involved with political campaigns, especially in Monrovia and its environs, have already been disregarding the public health laws, as well as preventive measures authorized by the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health and partners.  Political rallies are occasioning huge gathering of supporters and sympathizers of candidates, while hugging and handshaking has resumed; vehicles carrying supporters of candidates are over-loaded with the belief that “Ebola is finishing.”

These violations of the public health laws may not necessarily be occurring un-noticed by the National Elections Commission, Ministry of Health and Liberia National Police. Whether or not it is out of embarrassment or fear that actions are yet to be taken against these violators, it is yet to be established. All we say is that these violations are taking place, while those responsible to enforce the laws remain conspicuously silent.

And should these violations continue as they are under the eyes of those who should enforce the laws, the possibility of another serious Ebola outbreak is high.  While we highlight the foregoing issues, the attention of the Government of Liberia and partners must again be drawn to the current severity of the Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Even though we may be aware that the Liberian health authorities are cognizant of such development, the issue of border control is very paramount.

And from FrontPageAfrica, a faith-based effort:

Ebola Outreach Goes To Muslim Neighborhoods in Liberia

A team from the Montserrado Community Based Initiative Project (MCBIP) over the weekend took Ebola sensitization outreach to Muslim neighborhoods in West Point. The team headed by Varlee Sanor, United Nations Volunteer (UNV) Field Associate on the MCBI project, held meetings with Muslims at the West Point Central Mosque on Saturday and Sunday.

The meeting was intended to solicit the views of members of the Muslim community and to seek possible ways of collaborating to battle the deadly Ebola virus disease in communities. These are efforts geared toward promoting and enforcing the Liberian Government “zero new Ebola cases” by December 25. The gathering was necessitated by reports about continuous denial, secret burials in the communities, hiding of sick and other anti-Ebola practices in the communities.

During the meetings, Sanor told the Muslims not to be complacent, as the virus was still in the country and continues to kill people in communities in Liberia. He said many people in Liberia have heard and accepted the preventive messages, but continue to be blinded by different cultural and traditional practices.”The fight against the Ebola virus has been difficult not because the messages are not reaching the people, but because of culture and traditions…” Mr. Sanor said.He told the Muslim community that the government and partners were working to ensure that their dead family members are handled with the care and respect they deserve.

After the jump, on to Sierra Leone with a strike threat followed by help from the U.N., the government mobilizes fear for the fight, British predictions of better times ahead coupled with word to America to keep out, a chief calls for quarantine, and the plight of Sierra Leone’s Ebola victims, Mali nears an all-clear, and concluding with a soap brigade in Guinea. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: State, local governments hurting


From the Census Bureau, a look at the impact of the crash on the combined assets, debts, and revenue flows of U.S. state and local governments:

State and Local Government Finances

Rap News: Tacklin’ the New World Order


Direct from Melbourne, Australia, we bring you the latest edition of Juice Rap News, created by Giordano Nanni and Hugo Farrant, this time targeting yet another powerful meme.

From their YouTube channel, thejuicemedia:

The New World Order [RAP NEWS 30]

Program Notes:

The New World Order: They control the world’s governments; THEY rule over all of us from the top of the pyramid. While WE suffer at the bottom. Right? Today we blow open the truth about the NWO in order to shed light on this widespread conspiracy which has frequently been invoked to explain the state of our world. Join intrepid host Robert Foster as he takes control of the lever of critical inquiry, alongside special guests Russell Brand, conspiracy guru Terrence Moonseed, and NWO representative William De Berg, in order to ask: who is the New World Order? And how can we stop it?

Warning: This episode of Rap News has been in the making since we started the show, 5 years ago. No punches will be pulled, no quarter will be given, and no depth will be left unplumbed on this arduous quest for the harsh truth. Welcome to the New World Order, bitches.

Written & created by Giordano Nanni & Hugo Farrant in a suburban backyard home studio in Melbourne, Australia, on Wurundjeri Land.

The pyramid of the hierarchy of control/power is posted here, and worthy of your consideration [click on the image to enlarge for legibility].

Bernie Sanders breaks it down: The rich win


In a deft takedown of the new spending bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders places the trillion-dollar spending package in the context of the flow of wealth to the few at the very top as the national infrastructure collapses and families fall further behind and the young are burdened with ever-larger debt obligations to obtain an education that will merely enable them to tread water while the elderly see their pensions and Social Security payments covering less of their living expenses.

One family, the Waltons [no, not those Waltons, but the Walmart Waltons] owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans, while 90 percent of new income goes to the top one percent.

The major beneficiaries of the package are defense contractors, most of whom, as Sanders notes have been found guilty of fraud or made settlements with the government for  constantly underestimating costs, then collecting payments for massive overruns.

The bill also allows significant benefit cuts for employees who belong to more than one pension plan and can end in disaster for millions of middle class employees. In some case, cuts can reach half of the promised pension benefits. Meanwhile, the banksters who caused the crisis used to justify the draconian cuts escaped punishment and continue to salt away their millions and billions.

Anyone who things that Congress regulates Wall Street has it backwards, Sanders said. With their power and wealth and massive campaign funding, its the banksters who regulate Congress and write the laws the pass.

And now Wall Street’s giants have infused the spending bill with a provision repealing the regulations passed in wakes of the crash that imposed weak but real limitations on their rampant greed, setting the stage for another crash [and bailout] to come.

From his YouTube channel:

Bernie Sander: Wall Street Wins Again

Program notes:

Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses the omnibus appropriations bill on the Senate floor.

Chart of the day: Notable national security threat


Call it the national debt bomb. From Reuters:

BLOG Debt bomb

Protests challenge California, British tuition hikes


The desideratum of the neoliberal regimes governing on both sides of the Atlantic can be summed up simply: It is the abolition of any barriers toi the infinite accumulation of wealth by that the very apex of an increasingly rigid and increasingly steep class hierarchy.

Two graphics drawn on the work of Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez and colleagues sum up the reality:

First, the hyperconcentration of wealth by the American elite, via VoxEU:

BLOG wealth

Second, evidence that a parallel process is at work in Europe as well, most notably the U.K., via the London School of Economics:

Print

One major factor in this process of hyperaccumulation is the deconstruction of progressive income tax and the replacement of lost revenues by regressive taxation that penalizes the porr and, increasingly, middle classes.

And one major initiative has been the replacement of student tuition and fees to replace lost tax revenues, with the result that student costs are soaring at rates far higher than inflation, forcing the young to mortgage their futures through student loans, debts that in the U.S. can’t be forgiven in bankruptcy court, effectively insuring a form of debt servitude.

Just how bad has the increase been? Well, here’s what is looks like for the University of Califonia, via the Committee on Student Fees:

BLOG UC tuition

But it doesn’t stop there.

From the Associated Press:

Tuition hike tentatively approved in California

A proposed tuition hike was tentatively approved Wednesday by a committee of the University of California governing board.

The committee voted 7-2 to approve the plan recommended by UC President Janet Napolitano that would raise tuition in each of the next five years.

The proposed tuition hikes still must be reviewed by the full Board of Regents on Thursday.

Napolitano said the increases are needed to protect the quality of education in the face of insufficient state funding.

Before the meeting, students made their feelings known as the Los Angeles Times reports:

UC tuition hike: Shoving, anger among protesters, police

Student protesters and university police tussled outside a UC San Francisco meeting hall early Wednesday where the regents for the 10-campus system were about to debate a proposed tuition hike.

About 100 protesters tried to block entrances into the building as regents and other UC officials tried to enter. Some of the officials were jostled as they wedged their way through the yelling crowd. Pushing matches between police and protesters erupted at several entrances and at metal barricades.

There was one arrested in an incident that led to the shattering of a glass door in the building’s rear, UC police said. No one appeared to be seriously injured in the protest.

A video report on the protest from Sacramento Bee:

UC students standoff with CFO Nathan Brostrom

Program notes:

University of California students protested a proposed tuition hike outside the Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco on Nov. 19, 2014.

The Bee also covered a Tuesday protest in nearby Davis, home of another University of California campus:

UC Davis tuition protest

Program notes:

Hundreds of students at UC Davis marched Tuesday to protest proposed tuition hikes.

And from ABC 10 News in San Diego, a report on a protest at the UC campus there:

UCSD students protest proposed tuition hike

Program notes:

UC San Diego students staged a sit-in Tuesday to protest a tuition hike proposal — an action mirrored at other University of California campuses.

And just as the wealth concentration process is going on in the U.K., so is the ceaseless rise in unviserity tuition, so that at the same time studentds were taking to the streets in California, their counterparts were doing the same in London.

From the Guardian:

Student protest over tuition fees ends in scuffles with police

  • Organisers say 10,000 joined march, which saw NUS offices daubed with paint after it refused to back protest

Organisers said the demonstration against tuition fees and wider cuts to education was the biggest mobilisation of students since 2010 when demonstrators occupied Tory party offices at Millbank.

Wednesday’s protest saw the National Union of Students (NUS) headquarters in London daubed with paint after it decided not to back the demonstration due to “an unacceptable level of risk” to its members. That provoked anger among those who took part in the march. “We did not organise what happened at the NUS but we do know students are very angry about being let down by the NUS,” said Beth Redmond from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, one of the groups that organised the demonstration. “When you see the numbers here today, they are in danger of becoming an irrelevance.”

Organisers claimed that up to 10,000 protesters took part in the march with university students joining those from further education colleges and sixth forms.

The protest passed off peacefully until demonstrators arrived at Parliament Square. A breakaway group of several hundred, including many who were wearing masks, pulled down fences blocking off the square, provoking minor scuffles with the police.

A video report for the Press Association:

Two arrested in mass student protest

Program notes:

Two protesters have been arrested after protesters on a student demonstration charged the headquarters of the Tory party in central London. Thousands of students marched through central London in protest against tuition fees and debt.

We agree with the students. Tax those who can afford it, and save the most precious resource any community has, its future, embodied in the students of today.