Category Archives: Health

InSecurityWatch: Threats, war, cops, hacks, Asia


We begin with the New York Times:

Governor Activates Missouri National Guard

Anticipating protests after the grand jury’s decision in the death of Michael Brown, Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri activated the National Guard on Monday.

The governor said the National Guard will play a limited role as it did during protests in August, providing security at command posts, fire stations and other locations.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Governor Nixon said in a statement.

Under the executive order, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will operate as a unified command, with the St. Louis County police responsible for security in Ferguson.

And then there’s this from the Independent:

Terrorism fuelled by state violence, extra-judicial killings and ethnic tensions

Terrorism has become dramatically more deadly and more widespread across the globe with a 60 per cent rise in the number of deaths and countries affected by major attacks, a study has found.

Fatalities from terrorist incidents rose from just over 11,000 in 2012 to nearly 18,000 last year, while the number of countries which experienced more than 50 deaths from terror attacks rose from 15 to 24, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).

The authors of the comprehensive annual survey of terrorist incidents and trends said that the vast majority of the bloodshed was restricted to five countries – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – where groups such as Isis (also known as Islamic State or Isil) adhering to extreme Wahhabist interpretations of Islam are leading attacks.

From the Los Angeles Times:

CIA intelligence gap hinders counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, Iraq

“It’s a black hole,” one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in discussing intelligence, on the challenge of tracking terrorists and assessing casualties in a war zone that is in effect off-limits to U.S. personnel.

U.S. counter-terrorism officials have identified about a dozen Americans fighting with militants in Syria or Iraq, for example, including some who have joined Islamic State. But U.S. intelligence analysts have struggled to develop a complete picture of their movements or what roles they play in the militant groups.

U.S. intelligence agencies have poured resources into the war since the spring, and the CIA has set up a training camp in Jordan for Syrian fighters. They also rely on information gathered from U.S.-backed rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army.

Nordic suspicions from TheLocal.se:

Isis sleeper cells suspected in Sweden

A defector from the rebel group Isis has told a Scandinavian broadcaster that his former organization has terrorist sleeper cells in Sweden awaiting orders.

The man told Norwegian news network NRK: “There are cells awaiting orders, and there is more than one group.” NRK met the defector at a secret location in Turkey, near the border to Syria.

The man claimed to have a background as a special soldier for Isis (also known as the Islamic State or IS) and said he had defected from the terror group a few months ago.

From Homeland Security News Wire:

Terror financiers operate freely in Qatar: U.S.

Qatar’s massive financial support of the most extreme Jihadist movements in the Middle East and North Africa is not exactly a secret – notwithstanding the sheikhdom rulers’ half-hearted denials, and the nominal membership of Qatar in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.

Qatar, with a small territory, about 250,000 citizens, and a lot of oil money – some derisively call it “a bank, not a country” — some years ago made the strategic decision that, in order be taken seriously as a regional actor, it had to do things differently. It could not compete with regional power-houses such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, so it decided to undermine and weaken both countries by undermining and weakening their rulers and their allies in the region.

Qatar has been doing so in two ways.

In November 1996 Qatar has launched Al Jazeera, which, in addition to some mainstream news reporting and relatively open studio debates and call-in shows, has been a tool of the Qatari government in its propaganda and disinformation campaign to undermine the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, other Gulf Sheikhdoms, and other moderate states in the region (note that this applies to Al Jazeera in Arabic. The English-language Al Jazeera operates in a manner which is largely similar to Western news outlets).

The other way Qatar has sought to weaken moderate government in the region is by providing massive financial aid to Jihadist groups in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories.

Notable, from the Los Angeles Times:

Putin vows to protect Ukraine separatists from defeat

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to prevent the defeat of allied separatists in eastern Ukraine while clinging to his insistence that Russia hasn’t been involved in the deadly, 7-month-old conflict.

In an interview with Germany’s ARD television, Putin repeated his claim that ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine are in danger of repression by a Kiev leadership he suggested was plotting to oust them en route to creating a fascist state.

“We are very concerned about any possible ethnic cleansings and Ukraine ending up as a neo-Nazi state,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin news service account of the interview. “What are we supposed to think if people are bearing swastikas on their sleeves? Or what about the SS emblems that we see on the helmets of some military units now fighting in eastern Ukraine?”

A shotgun wedding from Taiwan’s Want China Times:

US makes ‘fatal mistake’ driving China and Russia closer: Duowei

The United States is making a “fatal mistake” by antagonizing both China and Russia and forcing the two primary opponents closer together, says Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news website.

Washington turned against Moscow following the start of the Ukraine crisis in February this year, leading the European Union and Japan in imposing heavy sanctions against Russia. The increasing distrust between the two countries has been apparent, with Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama coming into contact for only 20-30 minutes during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit in Beijing last week, with neither leader having much to say to the other.

Putin also berated the US shortly before the ensuing G20 in Australia, accusing Washington of undermining the very trade institutions it created by imposing sanctions on Russia, a “mistake” that it said went against international law and trade agreements.

Trackin’ pistol-packin’, from MIT Technology Review:

Police in California and Texas Test Networked Guns

  • A chip that tracks how a police officer’s gun is being used could prove useful in investigations and court cases

When a police officer draws a firearm he or she often doesn’t have an opportunity to radio for backup.

YardArm, a California-based company, is building technology that will automatically alert headquarters in such situations. The company makes a chip that goes into the handle of a regular firearm and transmits data over a cell-phone network connection. The data transmitted includes the location of a gun and whether it has been unholstered or discharged. The company is also working to track the direction in which a gun is pointing. The data can be fed to a police dispatch system or viewed on a smartphone.

Founded in 2013, YardArm started out making a consumer product for monitoring a firearm’s location. But since many American gun owners object to technology or policies aimed at regulating firearms, it did not find many customers.

The despicable, enabling the despicable, via the New York Times:

Indictment of Ex-Official Raises Questions on Mississippi’s Private Prisons

In 1982, Christopher B. Epps, a young schoolteacher, took a second job as a guard at the facility known as Parchman Farm, the only prison operated at the time by the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Eventually he had to choose a path. “It worked out that I was making more as a correctional officer than as a teacher,” Mr. Epps would later recall in an interview for a corrections newsletter.

By the time he spoke those words in 2009, Mr. Epps was being feted as Mississippi’s longest-serving corrections commissioner. The state inmate population had quadrupled, five private prisons had been built to help house them, and, according to a federal grand jury indictment, Mr. Epps had found a new, secretive way to bolster his income.

The 49-count indictment, unsealed last week, accuses Mr. Epps of receiving more than $1 million in bribes from a former Mississippi lawmaker named Cecil McCrory, beginning in 2007. In exchange, the indictment charges, Mr. Epps helped secure lucrative corrections department contracts for private prison companies owned or represented by Mr. McCrory.

More penal despicability, via the Miami Herald:

Detention at Guantánamo grinds on: 13 years and counting, 148 captives remain

It’s the first Tuesday in November, just another day as Guantánamo grinds on toward the detention center’s 14th year as the most expensive prison on earth with no end in sight. President Barack Obama ordered it emptied in 2009, on his second day in office, and people here are dubious that it will be done before his last.

It will close “a year from now, six months from now, 10 years from now — I don’t know,” says Zak, a Pentagon employee who has served as the prison’s Muslim cultural adviser since 2005.

“My focus is to ensure that I have operationally effective and safe facilities for a mission with an indeterminate end date,” says Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, the 14th commander of the prison operation.

Bobby despicability, via the London Telegraph:

A million crimes reported by public left out of police figures

  • Watchdog warns that police are failing to record one in five crimes because of the ‘target culture’ in forces

Almost a million crimes a year are disappearing from official figures as chief constables attempt to meet targets, a study by the police watchdog has disclosed.

Its report exposed “indefensible” failures by forces to record crime accurately, and said that in some areas up to a third of crimes are being struck out of official records.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said violent crimes and sex attacks were particularly vulnerable to being deleted under “inexcusably poor” systems.

Although the report stopped short of accusing police of widespread “fiddling” it said there was an “undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces” and “wrongful pressure” by managers.

From Network World, a criminal marketing twist:

New ransomware CoinVault allows users to decrypt one file for free

Cybercriminals behind a new ransomware program called CoinVault are trying out a new psychological tactic to convince users to pay up—freebies.

The new threat was discovered by security researchers from Webroot and is similar in functionality to more prevalent ransomware programs like CryptoWall. It uses strong 256-bit AES encryption with keys stored on a remote server, it kills the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service so that users can’t use it to recover their files and only supports Bitcoin as a payment method.

Users are asked to pay 0.5 bitcoins—around $200 at the current exchange rate—in order to receive the key that decrypts their files, but the cost increases every 24 hours.

One aspect that sets CoinVault apart from other file-encrypting ransomware programs is that it allows users to see a list of encrypted files on their computer and choose one they can decrypt for free.

SecurityWeek covers more criminal despicability:

Research Finds 1 Percent of Online Ads Malicious

One percent does not sound like a lot, but multiple it by the right number, and it can be.

Such is the case when it comes to malicious advertising. In research recently presented at the 2014 Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver, a team of security experts from Ruhr-University Bochum, University College London and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) examined more than 600,000 online advertisements on 40,000 websites over a three-month period and used multiple detection systems to assess whether they were good or bad. The end result: one percent of the ads were found to be involved in suspicious or malicious activity such as drive-by downloads and link hijacking.

“While this is bad news for the advertising networks, advertisers and Internet users who are all under attack from the malware producers, the good news is there are several things available today that can stop malvertising,” said Giovanni Vigna, co-founder and CTO of Lastline, one of the members of the team that worked on the research. “One of these is the use of the sandboxing attribute in iframes within HTML5. None of the 40,000 websites we observed leveraged this mechanism, even though it could stop the link-hijacking that is by far the most prevalent method by which miscreants are getting past other security measures in order to distribute malware through advertisements.”

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Britain, attacks on immigrant housing in Germany, a Columbian general captured by rebels and a massive manhunt ensues, a disillusioned Mossad agent speaks out, Pakistani police thuggery, a killer Indian medical mob, illegal student protests in Myanmar, a crackdown on Hong Kong Occupy camp nears, more repercussions from the election of an Okianawa govenor opposed to a U.S. base move as activists work to expose the toxic legacy of Vietnam War-era Agent Orange exposures on the island, and a unique Californian match made in prison. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Bird flu, toxins, climate, & nukes


We begin with a series of reports on the global spread of avian flu outbreak, first with BBC News:

Bird flu: Egyptian woman dies of H5N1 virus

An Egyptian woman has died after coming into contact with birds infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

The 19-year-old woman died in hospital in the region of Assiut in the south of the country.

It was the second death in Egypt this year out of a total of seven confirmed cases, said Egyptian health officials.

It comes after several cases of birds infected with different types of the virus were discovered in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

And from Europe, via the London Telegraph:

Emergency measures announced to contain bird flu in Britain and the Netherlands

  • The European Commission announces measures including culling and banning sales of poultry products from affected areas

Emergency measures to contain outbreaks of bird flu in Britain and the Netherlands have been announced by the European Commission.

It comes after Environment Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that a virus found at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire was the ‘’highly pathogenic’‘ H5 strain of avian flu.

The transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands was banned after an outbreak of the H5N8 bird flu strain was confirmed at a chicken farm in the central province of Utrecht.

Neither outbreak involved the H5N1 version of the virus which has caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.

More from BBC News:

Bird flu: ‘Robust action’ on Yorkshire duck farm case

“Immediate and robust action” is being taken to stamp out bird flu following a confirmed case at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire, the environment secretary has told the Commons.

Tests are yet to establish the strain, but the H5N1 form, deadly to humans, has been ruled out, Liz Truss said.

About 6,000 birds will be culled from Tuesday as a precaution and a 10km (6 mile) exclusion zone is in place.

Ms Truss repeated reassurances that there was no food safety risk.

And still more from DutchNews.nl:

Migrating birds blamed for spreading bird flu, two other Dutch farms declared healthy

Poultry experts from the European Commission believe the three cases of bird flu at farms in the Netherlands, Germany and Britain are due to migrating birds, news agency ANP says on Monday.

This infectious form of bird flu is more common in Japan and Korea and has probably been spread by infected birds, the experts say. There is no connection between the three farms where bird flu has been identified. In addition, two farms close to the Dutch farm where the disease was found at the weekend have been given a clean bill of health.

The movement of poultry, eggs and bird manure has been halted throughout the Netherlands for 72 hours following the discovery of a highly infectious variant of bird flu at a chicken farm in Hekendorp, south of Utrecht.

And a Japanese case from Jiji Press:

Suspected Bird Flu Case Reported in Tokyo

An avian influenza virus has been detected in a genetic test on the body of a common pochard collected in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, the Environment Ministry said Monday.

A further test will be carried out to examine whether the migratory bird was infected with a highly pathogenic bird flu virus. This would be the first bird flu case in Tokyo.

The ministry has designated a 10-kilometer radius of where the bird body was found as a priority monitoring zone. “There is little likelihood that humans get infected with bird flu in ordinary life,” a ministry official said.

Another critter, another ailment, via CBC News:

Sea star wasting disease likely caused by virus

  • Researchers don’t know what triggered recent deadly outbreak

Scientists have isolated a virus they are pretty sure is causing the mysterious disease that has killed millions of sea stars on the Pacific Coast from Southern California to Alaska by causing them to lose their limbs and eventually disintegrate into slime and piles of tiny bones.

A study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says a variety of densovirus is the likely cause of wasting syndrome among sea stars, also known as starfish. Varieties of densovirus are used as a biological control on cockroaches, and include the parvovirus that infects dogs.

Cornell University marine microbiologist Ian Hewson says they found larger amounts of the virus in sick sea stars than healthy ones, and the amount of virus increased as the disease progressed. Also, injecting material from sick sea stars that was filtered to concentrate virus-sized organisms caused healthy sea stars to get the disease.

From the Independent, a soap toxin:

Triclosan: Soap ingredient can trigger liver cancer in mice, warn scientists

A chemical ingredient of cosmetics, soaps, detergents, shampoos and toothpaste has been found to trigger liver cancer in laboratory mice, raising concerns about how safe it is for humans, scientists said.

Triclosan, a commonly used anti-bacterial agent added to bathroom and kitchen products, promotes the growth of liver tumours in mice fed relatively large quantities of the substance, a study has found.

The research is the latest to link triclosan with cancer and liver disease, but other scientists have urged caution over the findings suggesting that they do not prove a direct causal link between the chemical and the ill health of people exposed to it.

Monitoring the threatened, via the Guardian:

More than 22,000 species feature in conservationists’ ‘under threat’ list

  • Japanese yen for Pacific bluefin tuna, climate change and demand for minerals from animals’ habitats put species at risk

A fluorescent pink slug and one of the world’s most expensive fish are among the species included in an update to the list of the world’s most threatened animals.

Mankind’s demand for the wood, stone and oil where the species live, as well as using them for food, is blamed for pushing many towards the brink of extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said in its authoritative Red List update.

The Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis), a meaty fish prized in Japan that was previously listed as a species of least concern, has seen numbers decline by up to a third over the past two decades leading it to be reclassified as vulnerable. The main threat to the species is its value as sashimi – one fish can fetch more than $100,000 (£64,000).

The appetite for sashimi is also blamed for the decline of the Chinese pufferfish (Takifugu chinensis), one of the world’s most toxic fish. It is now classified as critically endangered, the Red List’s most severe listing and the final step before extinction.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, water woes:

EPA administrator: Surprise at focus of backlash to clean-water rule

The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was taken aback by parts of the response to a proposed clean-water rule that has riled agriculture interests nationwide.

In a wide-ranging Monday morning roundtable discussion sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she expected some of the push-back on what is known as the “ Waters of the United States” proposal. But not all of it.

The rule came about because the 1972 Clean Water Act pretty clearly cover rivers, lakes and year-round wetlands – but other waters aren’t so obvious, such as wetlands that dry up some months of the year.

U.S. farm interests reacted strongly to the proposal, saying it would vastly increase the EPA’s authority – something the agency disputes. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other farm groups were part of a deluge of nearly 500,000 comments that came in on the rule, as of last count; the EPA and Army Corps hope to finalize the rule next year.

From the Guardian, pipeline resistance:

South Dakota Sioux tribe calls Keystone XL pipeline approval ‘act of war’

  • Pipeline’s prospective route runs through Rosebud reservation
  • Tribe president: ‘I pledge my life to stop these people harming our children’

A Native American tribe in South Dakota has called a congressional vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline an “act of war” and vowed to close the reservation’s borders if the US government tries to install a pipeline there.

The prospective route for the pipeline, which would connect Canadian tar sands fields to the Gulf coast, runs through the 922,759-acre (1,442 sq mi) Rosebud Sioux reservation in south-central South Dakota. The House of Representatives voted 252-161 on Friday to approve the pipeline.

“I pledge my life to stop these people from harming our children and our grandchildren and our way of life and our culture and our religion here,” the tribe president, Cyril Scott, said on Monday. He represents one of nine tribal governments in the state.

Scott said he will close the reservation’s borders if the government goes through with the deal, which is scheduled to come up for a Senate vote on Tuesday.

A video report from Democracy Now!:

Naomi Klein: Reject Keystone XL Pipeline, We Need Radical Change to Prevent Catastrophic Warming

Program notes:

House lawmakers passed legislation Friday to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline to bring carbon-intensive tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. The Senate is expected to vote this week on a similar pro-Keystone bill backed by Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. Landrieu is facing a tough battle to keep her seat in a runoff next month against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who also happens to be the sponsor of the pro-Keystone bill in the House. Landrieu spoke last week about her support for Keystone. We speak to Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.”

From the Guardian, greasing the skids:

Carmichael mine: environmental impact will be unknown for years

  • Government backdown means Indian owners won’t be required to replace razed critically endangered habitat until two years into the project

Construction of Australia’s largest ever mine will be well underway before its impact upon the environment is known, with a requirement to replace critically endangered habitat razed by the project pushed back by two full years after a backdown by the federal government.

Documents seen by Guardian Australia show that the government scaled back its initial environmental conditions for the Carmichael mine in central Queensland following a request by Adani, the proponent.

The changes effectively mean the $16.5bn mine’s impact on crucial groundwater supplies, beyond the 297bn litres it will extract from aquifers, will be largely unknown until the project is at an advanced stage.

After the jump, Peru’s bloody forest wars, more African tribes displaced ads their lands are seized, a calamitous polar bear population decline as attacks on humans rise, a presidential confrontation over Aussie climate reticence, the long trail of safety violations before a deadly Tex pesticide plant leak, a most-wanted list for environmental criminals, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with those with endlessly leaking tunnels and gubernatorial pleas for waste disposal consultations and for closure or yet another plant. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Dancing, death, angst, and hope


And the latest from the African media. . .

We’ll begin with the latest poll of American healthcare concerns from Gallup, with Ebola now ranking number three, above cancer and heart disease:

BLOG Ebola

Next, and on the lighter side, a video report from Agence France-Presse:

Health workers in Sierra Leone dance to cheer up Ebola patients

Program note:

Staff tackling the Ebola virus at a treatment centre in Sierra Leone face death every day but that doesn’t mean they can’t look on the brighter side. They’ve taken to dancing to cheer up their patients.

What’s next? Dancing with the SARS?

And on the very serious side, this from the Associated Press:

Red Cross officials: Ebola flaring anew in Africa

Red Cross officials helping to lead the fight against Ebola in West Africa said Monday the virus is still spreading, and they’re having trouble recruiting health care workers to combat it.

Antoine Petitbon of the French Red Cross said that it’s easier for him to recruit people to go to Iraq, despite the security hazards there. He said the French Red Cross is facing an unprecedented problem: Sixty percent of people it signs up to work in the Ebola zone subsequently back out due to pressure from families and friends.

Birte Hald, head of emergency operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that after a recent surge of optimism that the virus was coming under control, especially in Liberia, it “is flaring up in new villages, in new locations.” On Monday, Hald said, a team of international experts was being set to Mali to assist that nation’s health authorities in stemming an outbreak of Ebola there.

From the Los Angeles Times, Californians prepare to head to the hot zone:

California National Guard prepares for Ebola mission in West Africa

A unit of the California Army National Guard has been ordered to mobilize for possible deployment to West Africa to support U.S. and international efforts to stem the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The linguist detachment of the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion is among six National Guard battalions nationwide ordered for involuntary mobilization under an order signed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The others are in Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Iowa and Kansas.

None of the approximately 1,200 soldiers from the battalions will provide direct medical care to Ebola patients, the Army National Guard said in its announcement Sunday. Another 900 Army reservists are also being mobilized for what the Pentagon calls Operation United Assistance.

The Guard soldiers and reservists will provide training on Ebola and malaria prevention and also medical readiness, the Army said.

A reminder from the National Journal:

Why It’s Too Early to Forget About Ebola

The Ebola outbreak is far from over in West Africa. Pay attention, America.

Americans are googling Taylor Swift more than they’re googling Ebola.

The panic that gripped the country following four diagnoses of the virus in the United States seems to have faded into a collective amnesia following a three-week period with no new Ebola cases.

But the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach ignores the crisis that continues to plague West Africa. Funding for the international response has lagged, and positive developments in Liberia have resulted in premature optimism about a situation that we still don’t fully have a grasp on. Health experts have said all along that the only way to eliminate the risk of infection in the U.S. is to end the outbreak there—and we’re still far, far away from the finish line.

“The Ebola focus we had over the past month really has been largely on that in the U.S.; many of us kept saying, ‘Don’t take the eye off the ball in West Africa,’ “ said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “[But] the interest and concern has focused on a few cases in the U.S. This is not surprising—people think, ‘Am I going to contract Ebola? If it’s over there, it’s not my problem.’”

The Guardian registers a protest:

Kaci Hickox accuses governors of exploiting Ebola fears for political gain

  • Nurse says Chris Christie disregarded science and constitution
  • ‘Politicians who tell lies … will hopefully never make it to the White House’

Kaci Hickox, the nurse who found herself in the middle of a political storm when she was quarantined on her return from west Africa despite testing negative for Ebola, has launched a blistering attack on two “overzealous” state governors, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Paul LePage of Maine, whom she accused of seeking to advance their careers at her expense.

Of the former, who is widely seen as a possible Republican nomination for president in 2016, she said: “Politicians who tell lies … will hopefully never make it to the White House.”

Writing for the Guardian, Hickox said: “I was quarantined against my will by overzealous politicians.”

“My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear. Christie and my governor in Maine, Paul LePage, decided to disregard medical science and the constitution in hopes of advancing their careers.”

From the Washington Post, lending a hand:

In Ebola fight, private foundations provide critical financial aid

The U.S. emergency response team working on Ebola in Kemena, Sierra Leone, was stuck. The vehicle they had been using to transport patients, deliver oral rehydration packets and do other critical work had two flat tires. It was early October, a time when things seemed to be spiraling out of control in the epicenter of the crisis, and there wasn’t a moment to waste.

The stranded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers knew just where to call for help: a little-known nonprofit — the CDC Foundation — that received millions of dollars in donations in recent months from Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and other philanthropists.

Within the hour, the organization authorized enough money for the staff to make the repairs. And within the week, it had ordered, paid for and shipped to the region about 200 additional pickup trucks and four-wheel-drive cars — $5 million worth.

And from New York Times, the latest press-attracting casualty:

Doctor Being Treated for Ebola in Omaha Dies

A surgeon who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, Dr. Martin Salia, died Monday while being treated in a biocontainment center in Omaha.

“We used the maximum amount of supportive care and every advanced technique available in an effort to save his life,” said Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“We are reminded today that even though this was the best possible place for a patient with this virus to be, that in the very advanced stages, even the most modern techniques that we have at our disposal are not enough to help these patients once they reach the critical threshold,” Dr. Gold said.

More from the Washington Post:

A doctor’s mistaken Ebola test: ‘We were celebrating. . . . Then everything fell apart’

When Martin Salia’s Ebola test came back negative, his friends and colleagues threw their arms around him. They shook his hand. They patted him on the back. They removed their protective gear and cried.

But when his symptoms remained nearly a week later, Salia took another test, on Nov. 10. This one came back positive, sending the Sierra Leonean doctor with ties to Maryland on a desperate, belated quest for treatment and forcing the colleagues who had embraced him into quarantine.

“We were celebrating. If the test says you are Ebola-free, we assume you are Ebola-free,” said Komba Songu M’Briwa, who cared for Salia at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center in Freetown. “Then everything fell apart.”

Salia is now in critical condition at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, his family left to wonder what would have happened if he had received earlier treatment.

Al Jazeera America covers blowback to celebrity tragedy traipsing:

‘We got this, Bob Geldof, so back off’

  • As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it’s a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good

The original campaign, and similar well-meaning Western efforts, have led to an image of an Africa full of countries, and people, unable to help themselves and constantly looking to foreigners for help.

When it was announced last week that, in response to Ebola, Geldof was planning to record a song he thinks is terrible for the fourth time, there was an eruption of criticism from Africans on Twitter and elsewhere.

Though the original song was recorded to raise money for Ethiopia, African critics say the stigma its simplistic message left behind affected not only that country, but a continent of 54 hugely-varied nations.

Detractors say an unintended legacy hinders investment, hurts tourism and inspires the sort of aid that has a negative impact.

NHK WORLD covers more Japanese preparations:

Govt., city to discuss safety steps for Ebola lab

The government and a city within Tokyo Metropolis will start drafting safety measures for an advanced laboratory of infectious diseases to handle possible Ebola cases.

Health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki on Monday visited a branch of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Musashimurayama City.

The facility’s laboratory is capable of analyzing the Ebola virus and other highly dangerous pathogens as well as developing vaccines for them.

From BBC News, more help on the way:

New Zealand to send Ebola medics to W Africa

New Zealand’s government has approved the deployment of 24 medical workers to West Africa to help fight Ebola.

The volunteers, backed by an investment of NZ$2m (£1m; $1.6m), will be based at the new 100-bed clinic being set up by Australia in Sierra Leone.

New Zealand also committed NZ$1m to a WHO fund to help Pacific nations prepare for a potential outbreak there.

On to the pharma front, first with Voice of America:

Researchers Turn to Deadly Tobacco for Ebola Cure

Notorious for its cancer-causing properties, the nicotine-rich product could soon prove to be effective in treating Ebola. A biopharmaceutical company in Guelph, Canada, called PlantForm, is currently testing a trial drug with the hopes of having it on the market in three to four years.

The company’s president and CEO, Don Stewart, said these are exciting times for the tobacco industry, long seen as a threat to good health.

“The possibility of creating, at very low cost, drugs for Ebola, is an exciting opportunity for us all.”

Next, via Reuters:

No safety concerns yet in trials of GSK’s Ebola vaccine

Almost 200 people have received GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental Ebola vaccine in trials in the United States, Britain, Mali and Switzerland, and the safety data so far are “very satisfactory”, scientists said on Monday.

The trials, which began just over two months ago, have been using healthy volunteers, rather than patients with Ebola, to test whether the vaccine is safe for humans.

The experimental shot uses a single Ebola virus gene from a chimpanzee virus to generate an immune response. Because it doesn’t contain any infectious virus material, it can’t infect those being vaccinated.

A plea, via the Liberian Observer:

“Ebola Must be Isolated, not the people”

European Union Ebola Coordinator and Commissioner for Humanitarian and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides has urged countries unaffected by the Ebola Virus Disease not to discriminate against or isolate people of Ebola affected countries, but isolate the disease itself.

Commissioner Stylianides’ statement comes in the wake of isolation and discriminatory measures by many countries including Morocco, Australia and Canada to prevent people of Ebola affected countries from entering their countries.

Speaking at a brief press conference on November 14 at the EU’s Mamba Point office, Mr. Stylianides reiterated that “we want to isolate the disease, not the people.  We must not allow fear to dictate our actions.  This is the foundation of our commitment and solidarity.”

Commenting further on strategies to curb the disease and take precautionary measures to prevent future outbreaks, the EU Commissioner said now is the time to begin thinking about a plan to build infrastructures, especially the healthcare delivery system on a long-term basis, noting that success cannot be assured without a long-term plan.

And from the Associated Press, an upbeat assessment:

Hagel credits US military with Ebola progress

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday there are encouraging signs of progress against the Ebola virus in West Africa, and he said the U.S. military can take some credit for containing it.

Hagel told a group of 101st Airborne Division soldiers Monday that it is too early to say when the U.S. military’s Ebola mission in Liberia and Senegal will be finished.

“We’re not at the end yet,” he said.

Hagel toured the pre-deployment training that is given to soldiers before they go to West Africa. The soldiers are providing logistics and other support there but are not in direct contact with people infected with the virus. Nevertheless, soldiers are required to undergo 21 days of quarantine upon their return.

After the jump, its on to Africa and an Ebola blackout in the Sudanese press, Ebola fears in the Cote d’Ivoire, on to Mali and a critical time ahead, hundreds monitored for symptoms, and a presidential visit to the border, next to Guinea and villages reluctantly opened and a French clinic readied, then on to Liberia, with accommodations for survivors, a plea to reform responsiveness, a legislator’s call for permanent hospitals rather than mobile emergency treatment units, and Chinese help arrives, plus the woes of the pregnant in Sierra Leone. . . Continue reading

Map of the day: Food insecurity and Ebola


Click on the image to enlarge.

From the World Food Program [PDF]:

MM15

EnviroWatch: Health, pollution, nukes, & more


We begin with sins of the past, via the Guardian:

Thalidomide: how men who blighted lives of thousands evaded justice

  • Newly exposed files show how victims were betrayed by political interference in trial – and how the pill has remained on sale

What should have happened for justice to prevail was for the government to support the families while the criminal court tracked liability for an enormous crime. That was demanded by the West German Social Democratic party in opposition in 1962, but they forgot about it in government.

Instead, while the witnesses testified and endured cross-examination in noisy, angry scenes in the courthouse, the real action was elsewhere. The large number of private documents newly discovered in German state archives by the researcher for the UK Thalidomide Trust speak to government interference in the judicial proceedings.

On July 21, 1969, the documents show, Grünenthal directors and their lawyers met in secret with the federal health ministry. The principal defendant in the criminal trial had been excused attendance in court for health reasons, but he was there at this and other meetings: Grünenthal’s founder, Hermann Wirtz, a 71-year-old father of five, a member of a devout Catholic family socially prominent as philanthropists in Aachen. No victims or their representatives were present, nor were they advised of the meeting.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, barfing aboard:

Norovirus sickens 172 on Pacific cruise ship

More than 170 passengers and crew on a US cruise ship in the Pacific have contracted Norovirus, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Sunday (Nov 16).

The highly-contagious stomach virus infected 158 of 3,009 passengers and 14 of 1,160 crewmembers, the CDC said in an investigation report.

This is the second time Princess Cruises “Crown Princess” has had an outbreak of Norovirus this year. More than 150 passengers caught the virus during a cruise in April.

TheLocal.dk covers an outbreak of a drug-resistant menace:

Second Danish death attributed to MRSA

A second person has died in Denmark from swine MRSA, the latest report from the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI) has revealed.

According to SSI’s third quarter report, a patient was hospitalised with a hardening of the arteries and underwent several procedures before dying within 30 days of being infected with MRSA CC398, a variant that can be transmitted from livestock to humans.

“There were three new incidences [of MRSA] in the third quarter, one of which ended in death. Throughout all of 2014 there have been six cases of toxaemia in total, two of which ended in death with 30 days,” SSI spokesman Robert Skov told DR.

Two leading experts said in August that between 6,000 and 12,000 people are currently infected with MRSA CC398 in Denmark. It has also been found that at least 13 babies whose parents work in the swine industry have been infected with MRSA.

From the New York Times, a dangerous complication:

Rare Vaccine-Derived Polio Discovered in 2 Countries

Cases of paralysis caused by mutating polio vaccine have been found in South Sudan and Madagascar, the World Health Organization said Friday. New rounds of vaccination will be conducted in December in both areas. The two paralysis cases in South Sudan were in a displaced-persons camp where revaccination is relatively easy, the W.H.O. said, while testing suggests that the one case in Madagascar did not spread far. “Vaccine-derived polio paralysis” is a rare but small risk inherent in oral vaccine, so the polio eradication campaign is trying to introduce injectable vaccine wherever it is safe and practical. The injectable vaccine contains a “killed” virus that cannot mutate. But it provides less protection than the live, weakened virus in oral vaccine, is more expensive and is much harder to give. Only 279 cases of polio have been detected in the world this year, almost all of them in Pakistan or in Pakistani families in Afghanistan.

And the Los Angeles Times ponders another public health woe:

As Ebola scare dies down in U.S., infectious disease preparations wane

Hospitals seek a balance between preparation and overreaction when planning for the possibility of an outbreak of a deadly virus like Ebola, the spread of a pandemic flu or the emergence of another little-known infectious disease, according to hospital and healthcare officials.

In an era of high costs, constrained budgets and tight profit margins, many hospitals struggle to determine what resources they can spare to prepare for an epidemic that may never come.

“You have to walk that fine line between an event happening and not saying the sky is falling all the time,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti, head of infection prevention at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. Her hospital helped isolate and test one of the first suspected Ebola cases in the country in July.

From Reuters, another outbreak:

EU Commission to adopt urgent measures to contain Dutch bird flu outbreak

The European Commission will on Monday likely adopt urgent interim protective measures to contain an outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu in the Netherlands, it said on Sunday.

“The Commission is expected to adopt tomorrow, Monday 17 November, a decision with urgent interim protective measures in relation to this outbreak,” said Ricardo Cardoso, spokesman for the Commission.

The decision will describe the zones established by the Dutch authorities around the infected poultry farm where it will be forbidden to sell live poultry, eggs, poultry meat and other poultry products to other European Union member states and third countries.

Modern Farmer covers consequences of killing insects with neurotoxins:

Landmark 20-Year Study Finds Pesticides Linked to Depression In Farmers

A landmark study indicates that seven pesticides, some widely used, may be causing clinical depression in farmers. Will the government step in and start regulating these chemical tools?

Earlier this fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health finished up a landmark 20-year study, a study that hasn’t received the amount of coverage it deserves. About 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers were interviewed since the mid-1990s to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression, a connection that had been suggested through anecdotal evidence for far longer. We called up Dr. Freya Kamel, the lead researcher on the study, to find out what the team learned and what it all means. Spoiler: nothing good.

“There had been scattered reports in the literature that pesticides were associated with depression,” says Kamel. “We wanted to do a new study because we had more detailed data than most people have access to.” That excessive amount of data includes tens of thousands of farmers, with specific information about which pesticides they were using and whether they had sought treatment for a variety of health problems, from pesticide poisoning to depression. Farmers were surveyed multiple times throughout the 20-year period, which gives the researchers an insight into their health over time that no other study has.

There’s a significant correlation between pesticide use and depression, that much is very clear, but not all pesticides. The two types that Kamel says reliably moved the needle on depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants, which increase the farmer’s risk of depression by a whopping 90% and 80%, respectively. The study lays out the seven specific pesticides, falling generally into one of those two categories, that demonstrated a categorically reliable correlation to increased risk of depression.

These types aren’t necessarily uncommon, either; one, called malathion, was used by 67% of the tens of thousands of farmers surveyed. Malathion is banned in Europe, for what that’s worth.

A more lethal encounter with pesticide chemicals in La Porte, Texas, from KHOU-TV in Houston:

4 workers killed in DuPont chemical leak

  • Company officials said a valve somehow failed on a container of methyl mercaptan, a chemical used to make insecticide

Four DuPont workers are dead and another is in the hospital following a chemical leak at its facility here Saturday morning.

DuPont company spokesman Aaron Woods said a valve somehow failed on a container of methyl mercaptan, a chemical used to make insecticide, around 4 a.m. Officials are still investigating why the valve failed.

Workers were able to get it under control by around 6 a.m. At that point, five workers had already been exposed to the gas, four of whom died inside the unit. The fifth was transported and is recovering in an area hospital.

Complications from another Big Ag chemical addiction from PBS NewsHour:

Increased immunity in weeds may threaten U.S. crops

Program notes:

On Saturday, NewsHour Weekend traveled to Iowa to explore the widespread issue of herbicide-resistant and hard-to-control weeds.

Millions of acres of farmland have been affected, rendering some fields unable to be farmed.The EPA recently approved a new Dow herbicide that the industry says could help the problem. Opponents have sued claiming it could possibly harm the environment and human health.

From StarAfrica, a report of a growing number accounting for 3.4 percent of the population in a country with a total population of 174 million:

Six million Nigerians living with diabetes – official

No fewer than six million Nigerians are living with diabetes and the number could increase because of predisposing factors in the country, Mr Peter Ujomu, Executive Director, Health Matters Inc, said in a statement in Abuja on Sunday.Ujomu’s statement issued on the sidelines of activities to mark the 2014 World Diabetes Day (WDD), said, “Like every other statistics in Nigeria, there is always controversy about the number but right now, we believe about six million people are living with diabetes in this country.”

Some of the factors are the kind of foods consumed, culture, lifestyle and other things, he added.

“These are all signposts of an imminent danger in the increase of the number of people living with diabetes” Ujoma pointed out.

And an unusual tale from the Guardian:

The new strain of cannabis that could help treat psychosis

Although widely seen as a potential trigger for schizophrenia, marijuana also contains an ingredient that appears to have antipsychotic effects. Tom Ireland visits the UK’s only licensed cannabis farm and meets the man responsible for breeding a plant that might be of benefit to millions

In high doses, THC can induce temporary schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, delusions, anxiety and hallucinations. Yet cannabis also contains a cannabinoid known as CBD (or cannabidiol), which appears to have almost the exact opposite effect.

Purified CBD has been shown to have antipsychotic and anti-anxiety effects, and can lessen the psychotic symptoms normally experienced by people given high doses of THC. Research by University College London also suggests that people who smoke cannabis rich in CBD are less likely to experience “schizophrenia-like symptoms” than those who smoke cannabis containing only THC.

Unfortunately for the mental health of many young cannabis users, the chemical profile of the drug has changed drastically over the past three decades. Not only does modern cannabis contain more than twice as much THC as it did in the 1960s, it also now contains hardly any of the “neuroprotective” cannabinoid CBD.

A global-warming-enabled aquatic pest proliferation from the Daily Climate:

‘Explosion’ of gill lice besets Wisconsin’s beloved fish

  • As streams warm, a gruesome parasite is gaining the upper hand against Wisconsin’s iconic brook trout – and anglers bemoan the loss

Creepy critters are leaching onto the gills of Wisconsin’s brook trout and choking off their oxygen, stoking fears in anglers that the iconic fish may be on the outs in many streams.

Biologists fear warming waters may be behind the parasites’ recent surge, further hampering a cold-water fish already beset by a host of environmental changes.

“I would say it looks like little minute rice attached to their gills,” said Len Harris, a law enforcement retiree and outdoor writer who has been fishing Wisconsin streams for about 50 years. “

Gill lice aren’t aquatic versions of head lice, the bane of any elementary school teacher. They’re tiny crustaceans that attach to trout and char gills. They make breathing difficult, impede development and can slow sexual maturation – none of which is good news for fish. Worse, warmer water appears to give gill lice a boost. For the state’s only native trout, the brook trout, evidence points to yet another climate change concern.

The Contra Costa Times covers an amphibian action:

Oakland Zoo joins mission to raise and save endangered frog

In a quest to save an endangered California mountain frog from extinction, the Oakland Zoo is seeking to build a tougher tadpole.

Zoo staffers, borrowing a strategy that worked with the California condor, are caring for 26 adult Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs and 18 tadpoles captured in Alpine lakes and streams where fungus and planted fish have devastated the frog population.

The goal: to rear tougher tadpoles with stronger immunities so they can return to their home waters.

After the jump, a fish in decline to feed a Japanese hunger, Spanish boats ram Greenpeace activists, global-warming-enabled terrestrial gas-passing, an Aussie climate change retreat, Japan ups its climate fund ante, an ancient African tribe’s lands sold out from under them for a oil sheikhdom’s private royal hunting preserve, testing for a China Syndrome event in Japan?, the high costs of global decommissioning, and those 80 million bacteria swapped in the tongue tango. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Warnings, food, and more politics


A shorter edition today, and not for lack of seeking.

We begin with the only Ebola patient in the U.S., via the Los Angeles Times:

Nebraska hospital officials: Ebola doctor still ‘extremely critical’

A surgeon who was transported to the U.S. for treatment after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone was still in “extremely critical” condition Sunday, according to a Nebraska Medical Center spokesman.

No further details were immediately available on the patient, identified by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ as Dr. Martin Salia, 44.

Salia is a member of the church and was working as a surgeon at Kissy United Methodist Hospital in Freetown. He is a citizen of Sierra Leone and has family in the U.S., according to a church spokesman.

A presidential plea from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Obama to world on Ebola: We can’t build a moat around our countries

President Barack Obama and leaders of the world’s largest economies urged governments across the globe Saturday to swiftly send money, healthcare workers and equipment to combat the deadly Ebola outbreak in the West Africa.

“We invite those governments that have yet to do so to join in providing financial contributions, appropriately qualified and trained medical teams and personnel, medical and protective equipment, and medicines and treatments,” the G-20 countries urged in a statement issued Saturday.

Some nations have contributed. But international health experts have warned that the response remains dangerously inadequate to meet the needs in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

And from CCTV America, an emerging critical complication:

Food price increases in Ebola affected countries

Program notes:

Food prices are soaring in countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. The U.N. has warned of food shortages. CCTV America’s Nina deVries reports from Sierra Leone on how people are coping.

The Associated Press covers the latest outbreak:

Mali on high alert with new Ebola cluster

For nearly a year, Mali had been spared the virus now blamed for killing more than 5,000 people across West Africa despite the fact the country shared a porous land border with Guinea, the country where the epidemic first erupted.

Now there are least three confirmed Ebola deaths, and two others suspected deaths in Mali’s capital, Bamako. Residents here who have seen the horrific death tolls from Ebola in neighboring Guinea now fear the worst.

“I feel uneasy because I have the impression that our authorities are not giving us the whole truth,” said Ibrahim Traore, who works at a supermarket in the capital. “There are a lot of things not being said about how the Ebola virus came to Bamako.”

Health officials now must try to track down not only family and friends who visited the 70-year-old man at his hospital bed, but also the scores of people who prepared his body for burial and attended his funeral. Teams of investigators are also headed to the border community where authorities believe the Patient Zero in the Bamako cluster — the 70-year-old man — first fell ill.

From the Associated Press, a consequence:

US to screen travelers from Mali for Ebola

Travelers from Mali will be subject to the same screening and monitoring that was ordered for people arriving from three other Ebola-affected countries, U.S. health officials said Sunday.

Mali is not suffering widespread Ebola illnesses. But federal officials are growing increasingly worried about a new cluster of seven illnesses in Mali that have left health public health workers scrambling to track and monitor at least 450 other people who may have had contact with the seven people and may be at risk.

“At this point we can’t be confident that every exposed person has been identified, or that every identified person is being monitored daily,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A parallel action from AllAfrica:

Mali: France to Screen Arrivals for Ebola

France has extended its Ebola airport screening procedures to cover passengers flying into Paris from Mali after the west African country confirmed its second case of the deadly virus.

“As part of the fight against Ebola and because of the evolution of the epidemiological situation, the control and monitoring will be extended to cover passenger flights from Bamako [Mali] from Saturday 15 November 2014,” a health ministry statement said.

Passengers flying into Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly international airports will have their temperatures taken and will be given information on what to do in the case of a fever running higher than 38°C within 21 days.

Punch Nigeria raises the anxiety level in a stricken country just freed of its own outbreak:

Health minister raises fear over Ebola resurgence

The Health Minister, Dr. Haliru Alhassan, has raised the fear over resurgence of Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria.

Expressing worry over the nationwide strike embarked upon by the Joint Health Staff Union, the minister said Nigeria was not free from Ebola as long as there were reported cases of the deadly virus in any part of the world.

Alhassan, who appealed to all concerned to support the leadership role of President Goodluck Jonathan in tackling the deadly disease, said the indefinite strike embarked upon by JOHESU, at a time when many Nigerians would return home from abroad to celebrate Christmas and New Year, could threaten the success achieved.

And a move that might seem contradictory, via StarAfrica:

Nigeria’s Rivers State donates Ebola protective equipment to ECOWAS

Nigeria’s Rivers State Government in south-eastern Nigeria has announced the donation of 5,000 complete set of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to ECOWAS in support of Member States affected by the outbreak that has claimed more than 5,000 lives from the more than 13,000 reported cases, mainly in the region.Rivers and Lagos States reported Ebola cases in July to September but along with support from the Federal Government and development partners successfully fought the scourge, resulting in Nigeria being declared free of the disease by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 20th October 2014.

A statement by the ECOWAS Commission on Sunday in Abuja said that the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sampson Parker, who announced the PPEs donation on behalf of State Governor Chibuike Amaechi, to ECOWAS delegation in Port Harcourt on Friday, disclosed that the state was contributing 100 volunteer health workers to the pool of 500 pledged by Nigeria to assist ECOWAS countries affected by Ebola.

Lagos State is also contributing more than 200 of the Nigerian volunteers due to travel to their respective countries of assignment.

On to Liberia and a political move from the Associated Press:

Liberia health minister ousted in Cabinet shuffle

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Sunday replaced her health minister as part of a broader Cabinet reshuffle amid widespread criticism of her government’s response to the country’s Ebola outbreak.

In a statement read on state radio, Sirleaf said Health Minister Walter Gwenigale would be replaced by George Warner, formerly head of the civil service.

“Dr. Gwenigale, who continues to have my full confidence, will continue to serve as adviser in the Ministry of Health and will continue to work with me on the presidential advisory Ebola committee until his planned retirement in February,” Sirleaf said.

A deadline set, via Reuters:

Liberia sets national target of no new Ebola cases by Dec. 25

Liberia has set a national goal of having no new cases of Ebola by Dec. 25, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said in a radio address on Sunday, in a further sign that authorities believe they are getting on top of the virus.

Liberia is the nation hardest hit by the epidemic. At least 2,812 people have died in the West African country, out of a total of 5,165 victims in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data on Friday.

“We continue to combat the Ebola virus and strive to achieve our national objective of zero new cases by Christmas,” Sirleaf said in an address that also announced a cabinet reshuffle.

And from the the NewDawn, allegations of a missing $12,000 [U.S. dollars, with the Liberian dollar worth slightly more than a penny]:

11 Million Ebola money missing

Several health workers in Nimba County have threatened to take the county’s health team to court over an 11 Million Liberian Dollars saga. The aggrieved health workers told The NewDawn correspondent in Nimba that their position is based on the lack of transparency by the county health team in handling the money reportedly sent to the county by the Government of Liberia.

The head for the Nimba County health workers association, Tilekpeh Weh-Johnson, said out of the amount in question, officers-in-charge or senior officers of health facilities in the county are to receive 40,000 Liberian Dollars each, but this has not been done.

Mr. Weh-Johnson said the situation has created a bad working relationship between health workers in Nimba and the county health team.  When contracted, the head for the Nimba County health team, Dr. Collins Bowah, said that the money saga is being discussed on community radio stations in the county, but refused to confirm the actual amount involved.

EnviroWatch: Health, climate, fuel, nukes


From RT, new hope for people like Ted Kennedy and our own mother who died of brain cancer:

Cannabis combined with radiotherapy can make brain cancer ‘disappear,’ study claims

Two cannabis components can have a significant effect on the size of cancerous tumors in the brain, especially when combined with radiotherapy, according to new research. The study says the growths can virtually “disappear.”

The research was carried out by specialists at St Georges, University of London and published in the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics journal.

There are some 85 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but the two that had a demonstrably positive effect were tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Combining their use alongside radiotherapy shows a drastic effect, the study claims.

And a possible source of the medication from the Guardian:

Can Zambia save its environment with marijuana?

  • Green party’s presidential candidate Peter Sinkamba is promising voters to cut country’s dependency on mining – by growing and exporting marijuana

For decades, Zambia has staked its economic fortunes on copper mining. But when voters in this southern African nation go to the polls in January to select a new president, at least one candidate will be looking to send that tradition up in smoke.

On Friday, Peter Sinkamba will announce his candidacy on the Green party ticket to replace the late President Michael Sata, who died on 29 October from an undisclosed illness. Sinkamba, regarded as Zambia’s leading environmentalist for his battles against the country’s big copper mines, is running on an unlikely platform, especially in this socially conservative nation: legalising marijuana.

His plan, first announced in April, calls for cannabis’ legalisation for medicinal use in Zambia, which would be a first in Africa. The surplus crop would be exported abroad, earning Zambia what Sinkamba claims could be billions of dollars.

A serious cause for concern from BBC News:

Warning over plastics used in treating premature babies

US researchers have warned that premature babies are being exposed to high levels of a potentially dangerous chemical in plastics.

A study suggested babies may be exposed to high levels of a phthalate called DEHP in medical equipment. Some US healthcare providers have banned the use of DEHP, and other products were available, the researchers said.

The UK is currently re-evaluating its position on phthalate use in devices. Evidence on the safety of phthalates in humans has been inconclusive, but European regulators have classified DEHP as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Tragedy on the Subcontinent from the New York Times:

India Sterilization Deaths Linked to Pills Tainted With Rat Poison, Officials Say

The women who died after sterilization surgery in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh might have been given antibiotic pills contaminated with rat poison, a senior official said on Friday.

Sonmoni Borah, the divisional commissioner in the district of Bilaspur, in Chhattisgarh, said that tablets of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin that were seized in police raids of Mahawar Pharma, a small company supplying medicines to the state government, were found to contain the chemical zinc phosphide.

“If you do a quick Google search, you will find it is rat poison, and the women were displaying symptoms similar to poisoning,” Mr. Borah said in a telephone interview. State officials issued an urgent warning on Friday to practitioners across the state, telling them to stop distributing or using ciprofloxacin “with immediate effect,” he said.

Another outbreak threatens, from MercoPress:

Fears of a new Chikungunya viral strain in Brazil with the coming of summer

The Chikungunya outbreak which continues to affect thousands of Caribbean residents since it first appeared in St. Martin last year has been relatively self-limiting in the United States, due to the fact that the current strain only spreads through the Aedes egypti mosquito vector, which is uncommon on the US Eastern seaboard.

But recent diagnoses of a new viral strain in Brazil may turn the current hemispheric spread of the crippling disease on its head. The strain – which is prevalent in some African states and which has been the cause of several outbreaks in South-east Asian countries – readily infects the Aedes albopictus mosquito, a hardier species which is common along the US East Coast, and which is adapted to colder climates.

Brazil has recorded over 200 cases of Chikungunya – predominantly in the country’s east-coast Bahia state – but according to Kansas State University virologist Stephen Higgs, the African strain in Brazil has not yet developed the type of dangerous mutations observed in South-east Asia.

Such mutations could make the strain up to 100 times more infectious to mosquitoes, says Higgs, allowing the vectors to become more easily infected and pass the virus on to humans. The virus itself has been shown to develop rapid adaptive mutations, underscoring fears of eventual epidemic circulations of the new strain.

From Reuters, and closer to the U.S.:

Mexico detects first case of mosquito-borne chikungunya virus

Mexico has detected its first domestic case of the painful mosquito-borne viral disease chikungunya in the southwest of the country, the state government of Chiapas said on Saturday.

Chikungunya is spread by two mosquito species, and is typically not fatal. But it can cause debilitating symptoms including fever, headache and severe joint pain lasting months.

The government of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, said an 8 year old girl became the first person to contract the disease in Mexico, and that she was treated in hospital in the town of Arriaga. The girl has since been released.

Polio-vaccine-pressured Pakistan, from the Express Tribune:

Travel restricted for Pakistanis without polio certificate, says IHC

In a meeting held by the International Health Committee, restrictions have been placed on Pakistani’s travelling abroad without a polio certificate, Express News reported Saturday.

The committee had declared Pakistan to be a nation responsible for spreading the polio virus across the globe.

Between July and now, three cases of polio have arisen in Afghanistan, for which the committee attributes blame to Pakistan.

In attempts to eradicate polio in six months, the International Health Committee have come down hard on Pakistan and ordered that no Pakistani could travel abroad without a polio certificate.

Infectious sausage, via BBC News:

One in 10 sausages ‘carries risk of hepatitis E virus’

One in 10 sausages and processed pork meat products in England and Wales could cause hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection if undercooked, experts warn.

There has been an “abrupt rise” in the number of cases in England and Wales as people do not realise the risk, scientists advising the government say. Sausages should be cooked for 20 minutes at 70C to kill the virus, they said.

Although serious cases are rare, HEV can cause liver damage or be fatal.

Wikidemiology, via the Los Angeles Times:

Scientists use Wikipedia search data to forecast spread of flu

Can public health experts tell that an infectious disease outbreak is imminent simply by looking at what people are searching for on Wikipedia? Yes, at least in some cases.

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory were able to make extremely accurate forecasts about the spread of dengue fever in Brazil and flu in the U.S., Japan, Poland and Thailand by examining three years’ worth of Wikipedia search data. They also came up with moderately success predictions of tuberculosis outbreaks in Thailand and China, and of dengue fever’s spread in Thailand.

However, their efforts to anticipate cases of cholera, Ebola, HIV and plague by extrapolating from search data left much to be desired, according to a report published Thursday in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. But the researchers believe their general approach could still work if they use more sophisticated statistics and a more inclusive data set.

Keystone pipelined, from BBC News:

Keystone XL pipeline approval passes House

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The legislation will now be put to a vote in the Senate next week, where its prospects are unclear.

The 875-mile (1,408km) pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the US state of Nebraska where it joins pipes running to Texas.

President Barack Obama is said to take a “dim view” of the legislation, but has not directly threatened a veto.

More from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Keystone pipeline good for Canada, not U.S., Obama says

As a pro-Keystone XL effort gathered bipartisan steam in Congress, President Barack Obama suggested that the controversial pipeline may be good for Canada but doesn’t offer much to Americans.

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed – by a 252-161 vote – a pro-Keystone XL bill intended to force Mr. Obama to approve the Canadian oil export project.

It was the ninth time the House of Representatives has passed a pro-Keystone XL measure. The Senate is expected to take up a similar bill next week.

More from the Christian Science Monitor:

Keystone XL pipeline: Obama says he ‘won’t budge’

A Keystone bill swept to easy approval in the House Friday, with 31 Democrats joining the Republican majority, and a parallel bill is scheduled for Senate action next week.

Mr. Obama saying he’ll act on immigration reform because Congress has failed to, while Congress is acting on Keystone to try to end what many lawmakers view as presidential obstructionism.

And now Obama is squaring off formally against fellow Democrats, as well as Republicans.

A Keystone bill swept to easy approval in the House Friday, with 31 Democrats joining the Republican majority, and a parallel bill is scheduled for Senate action next week, with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana as a lead sponsor. (Until now Senate majority leader Harry Reid has kept the issue off the Senate floor, in a bid to protect Democrats from a divisive vote.)

After jump, heads in sand in G20 climate protest as Obama shines a spotlight on Abbott and lobbyists battle over the Great Barrier Reef, one of climate change’s more striking effects, a legal battle over the humanity of chimps, then it’s on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with new questions over health risks, more radiation spikes, the new governor takes the tour, and a waste site decision delayed again, China mulls adding more new nuclear power plants, and an appetite for an Iranian nuclear deal. . . Continue reading