Category Archives: Hypocrisy

EbolaWatch: Numbers, panic, law, & Africa


Always Africa, the latest headlines from the hot zone press — including gay-blaming — after the jump. . .

First, the latest numbers from Reuters:

Ebola death toll rises, fewer cases in Guinea than thought – WHO

The Ebola epidemic has killed 4,951 people out of 13,567 infected in eight countries, the World Health Organisation said on Friday, slightly revising downwards its figures for cases mainly due to “suspected cases in Guinea being discarded”.

The toll reflects a rise of 31 deaths since the United Nations agency reported its previous figures on Wednesday, while the number of overall cases fell by 136.

“Of the eight Guinean and Liberian districts that share a border with Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), only one in Guinea is yet to report a confirmed or probable case of Ebola virus disease,” the WHO warned in the statement.

The epidemiological curve from the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Ebola curve

And from intelNews, an Ebolahobic Islamaphobe’s worst nightmare:

Are militant groups interested in weaponizing Ebola?

Does the Ebola epidemic present militant groups, such as the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, with the opportunity to weaponize viruses and direct them against Western targets? Earlier this month, United States Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson dismissed in strong terms the possibility that Ebola would be used by Islamic State militants to attack American targets.

Speaking to the Association of the United States Army, Johnson acknowledged that the Islamic State is a “very, very dangerous terrorist organization”, but added that his Department had seen “no specific credible evidence that [the Islamic State] is attempting to use any sort of disease or virus to attack” the US.

A few days earlier, however, Forbes magazine had quoted Al Shimkus, Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, as saying that the Ebola outbreak presented Islamist groups with the opportunity to use a low-tech bioterrorist weapon “to attempt to wreak strategic global infection”. Shimkus added that a group like the Islamic State wouldn’t even have to weaponize the virus’ it could “simply use human carriers to intentionally infect themselves in West Africa, then disseminate the deadly virus via the world’s air transportation system”, he said.

On Wednesday, a senior Spanish official told a parliamentary committee in Madrid that the government of Spain was “taking seriously” discussions in Internet forums linked to the Islamic State about using biological weapons against the West.

From Military Times via USA Today, militarizing the domestic response:

U.S. military to train more Ebola response teams

The U.S. military will train more medical personnel to respond to domestic cases of Ebola should they occur, a senior Defense Department official said Thursday.

Plans are under way to form more military Ebola medical response teams similar to the 30-member group that completed training this week at San Antonio Military Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

The official said the Pentagon is anticipating a request from the Health and Human Services Department for more medical personnel who would respond on short notice to civilian medical facilities should they need help treating Ebola patients.

And from Voice of America, as predicted in yesterday’s EbolaWatch:

Lawmaker Blasts US Participation in Cuba Ebola Meeting

One of Washington’s most vocal opponents of the Castro brothers’ regime in Cuba has blasted the U.S. decision to attend an Ebola conference in Havana this week.

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart called the participation of a mid-level official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the two-day multinational meeting “a disgrace.”

The United States has no official diplomatic relationship with the Communist island nation.

Dr. Nelson Arboleda, Director of CDC’s Guatemala office and Regional Programs, represented the CDC at the conference that ended Thursday.

“It’s been a very rich technical experience in which we’ve learned all the different plans of all the different countries and that helps us, as a bloc, identify the needed areas to be better prepared in our region,” said Arboleda.

From the Los Angeles Times, cool on the coast:

Most voters not worried about Ebola threat in California

Despite an onslaught of news bulletins and some missteps in the nation’s response, a majority of California voters are unfazed by the Ebola threat and confident government officials and medical workers are prepared to handle outbreaks, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll has found.

Nearly 70% of respondents in the statewide survey indicated they weren’t particularly concerned about encountering the deadly virus.

Thirty percent of registered voters said they were very or somewhat worried that they or someone in their family would be exposed to the virus. Those fears were most pronounced among Latinos, nearly half of whom said they were at least somewhat worried about Ebola exposure, the poll found.

At the same time, more than half of all respondents said they had a great deal or a fair amount of confidence that local, state and federal officials will be able to deal with Ebola, with nearly 70% expressing similar faith in local hospitals and doctors.

A legal rebuff from the New York Times:

Maine Judge Rejects Ebola Quarantine for Nurse

Less than a day after restricting the movements of a nurse who treated Ebola victims in West Africa, a judge in Maine has lifted the measures, rejecting arguments by the State of Maine that a quarantine was necessary to protect the public.

Within an hour of the decision, state troopers who had been parked outside the nurse’s house for days had left.

The order, signed on Friday by Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere, the chief judge for the Maine District Courts who serves in Kennebec and Somerset counties, said the nurse, Kaci Hickox, “currently does not show symptoms of Ebola and is therefore not infectious.”

The order requires Ms. Hickox to submit to daily monitoring for symptoms, to coordinate her travel with state health officials, and to notify them immediately if symptoms appear. Ms. Hickox has agreed to follow the requirements.

One key detail from the Guardian:

Maine nurse can leave home but must maintain 3ft distance from others, court rules

  • State obtains temporary court order forcing Kaci Hickox to follow CDC’s Ebola guidelines, but Hickox will not be subject to home quarantine

The predictable from Reuters:

Judge’s rejection of nurse quarantine ‘unfortunate’: Maine governor

Maine Governor Paul LePage said on Friday it was unfortunate that a judge rejected the state’s attempts to impose a strict quarantine on an American nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa, but said he will abide by the ruling.

The ruling appeared to end a stand-off between the state and the nurse, Kaci Hickox, who had defied officials by leaving her house and going for a bike ride.

“The judge has eased restrictions with this ruling. And I believe it is unfortunate,” LePage said in a statement. “However, the state will abide by law.”

And an exercise in self-control from the Associated Press:

US Ambassador Says She’s Monitoring for Ebola

The U.S. ambassador who just returned from the three West African countries worst hit by Ebola said Friday she’s self-monitoring for the virus like anyone else.

Samantha Power, the envoy to the United Nations, has been openly critical of the quarantine restrictions that some U.S. states have struggled to put in place as fear spreads over the worst outbreak of the disease in history.

She described herself as “low-risk” and said she had not gone into Ebola treatment units while visiting Liberia, Sierra Leona and Guinea. Now, following federal guidelines, she checks her temperature and calls health authorities twice a day. She also didn’t hesitate to shake hands Friday.

Another exercise in exclusion from the London Telegraph:

Ebola: Oxford academic banned from US conference

  • Piero Olliaro told he will be confined to New Orleans hotel room

An Oxford academic has had to pull out of a conference on Ebola and tropical diseases in New Orleans after being told he would be confined to his hotel room.

Piero Olliaro, a visiting fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford, was due to present several papers on research he had been doing on malaria and river blindness.

But Dr Olliaro, who is a senior figure at the World Health Organisation Special Programme Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, has fallen foul of Louisiana’s strict quarantine rules.

He is one of around a dozen experts who have had to withdraw from the conference – the world’s biggest on tropical diseases – because of Louisiana’s strict quarantine rules.

A Spanish patient’s lament from El País:

Ebola nursing assistant: “I don’t want any interviews, I want my dog back!”

  • Teresa Romero speaks on the phone with her husband about their euthanized pet

Thursday was a day of tears and rage for Teresa Romero, the Spanish nursing assistant who became the first Ebola transmission case outside Africa.

The first cause for anger is her dog, Excalibur, which was put down while she remained in intensive care at Carlos III Hospital in Madrid. Romero found out what had happened several days ago from her husband, Javier Limón, who was himself kept in isolation for 21 days because of the risk that he might have contracted the virus through contact with her.

Romero remains isolated at the hospital despite being officially free of Ebola after a second blood test came in negative for the virus. But one last test is being conducted before she is transferred to an ordinary ward to recover from the damage wrought by the virus, especially to her lungs.

Exclusionary excess from the Associated Press:

Ashes from Ebola victim’s apartment in limbo

It took a crew 38 hours to clear out the Dallas apartment where Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before he was diagnosed Sept. 30 with Ebola. Hazmat suit-clad workers piled shoes, carpets, mattresses, bed sheets, clothes and kids’ backpacks into 140 55-gallon drums. Only a few items were salvaged: a computer hard drive, legal documents, family photos, an old Bible belonging to Duncan’s grandmother.

The drums were packed, decontaminated and then carted away by Cleaning Guys environmental services employees. The contents were incinerated. But nearly a month later, the ashes sit in limbo at a facility in Port Arthur, Texas, according to Veolia North America, the company that owns the facility, as Louisiana officials fight to keep it out of a landfill there.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says incinerated Ebola waste poses no danger, Louisiana officials earlier this month asked a judge to block Duncan’s waste from entering the state, saying they wanted to determine for themselves that it was not dangerous. On Friday, state officials announced that Veolia has agreed to keep the ash out of the state’s landfill.

Another exclusionary exercise from the Canadian Press:

Canada won’t issue visas to residents of countries battling Ebola

Canada is following in Australia’s footsteps and is suspending visa applications for residents and nationals of the West African countries battling Ebola.

The federal government signalled it would stop issuing visas in the worker, student or visitor class and will not issue any pending permanent residency visas for people from those countries either. Any applications already in the system will also not be processed at this time.

The change, which goes into effect immediately, was announced Friday in the Canada Gazette.

A counterblast from BBC News:

UN chief defends returning Ebola aid workers

  • UN chief Ban Ki-moon says aid workers dealing with the Ebola crisis are “exceptional people”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said discrimination against aid workers who return home from the Ebola crisis in West Africa is “unacceptable”.

Strict quarantine rules are hampering aid efforts when more health workers are needed in order to deal with the crisis, he told BBC News in Nairobi.

International efforts have been insufficient but are now “catching up”, the UN secretary general added. “We have been really trying to mobilise in a massive way,” he said.

Japanese sharing from the Mainichi:

Gov’t to release flight info in cases of suspected Ebola infections

The government will release the flight information of any passengers suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus, under a new policy announced on Oct. 31.

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Akihiro Ota told reporters that under the new information dissemination policy, the government would be allowed to announce the flight number and the number of fellow passengers of those arriving in Japan suspected of being infected with Ebola. The person’s age bracket, gender and where they stayed during their trip could also be released.

Ota pointed out that information disclosure is a serious issue as airport staff and airline passengers are concerned about the spread of Ebola. The government would decide the timing of the announcement. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will release the government’s final decision on the policy as early as next week.

The Diplomat mulls motivation:

South Korea’s Ebola Response

  • Are plans to send a team to two of the most afflicted countries in Africa driven by humanitarian or political motives?

Sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly within the political and economic sights of South Korean government strategy, a strategy designed to bring some measure of stability to South Korea’s fragile food and fuel supplies. Thus, the decision to send a medical team comprising civilian volunteers and military medics recruited by the Ministry of National Defense to help fight the devastating Ebola outbreak in western Africa could legitimately be viewed as something more than a response to an international plea for help. Rather, despite concerns for the team’s safety, it enhances the Park administration’s push to establish itself as a viable development partner for Africa over China or even North Korea.

This enhancement is arguably more pressing given the response by some sectors of the South Korean citizenry to the Ebola outbreak. It is also a useful offset to concern over the involvement of South Korean ships engaging in illegal fishing, which has driven a perception that South Korean engagement in the region is far from benevolent. According to a recent report, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has become a serious economic impediment in the region, with South Korea “increasingly being implicated as a lead villain in the growing controversy … (including) its role in dubious fishing policies in waters in East Africa and off the coast of Puntland.”

Designs for a Chinese screen from CCTV News:

Beijing holds drills to detect travelers with Ebola

On Thursday, Beijing authorities held an Ebola preparedness drill in which a subject had to be identified and quarantined in the quickest, safest manner. Thursday’s scenario involved an individual passing through the Beijing International Airport while being suspected of having the Ebola virus.

The subject was immediately quarantined and transferred to a designated hospital equipped with special facilities to treat and secure the suspected Ebola patient and the medical staff taking care of him/her.  According to procedure, following a preliminary check, the details of the case were reported to China’s disease control department.  Samples were taken and the patient continued to undergo monitoring.

Authorities say that the drill was performed to further familiarize hospitals with the procedures necessary for treating suspected Ebola cases that could show up at a hospital at any time.

And the accompanying video report:

Beijing holds drills to detect travelers with Ebola

Program notes:

On Thursday, Beijing authorities held an Ebola preparedness drill in which a subject had to be identified and quarantined in the quickest, safest manner. Thursday’s scenario involved an individual passing through the Beijing International Airport while being suspected of having the Ebola virus.

After the jump, it’s on to Africa, first with a new pledge from China, charges of failure to aid, an anti-exclusion plea from Nigeria, on to Liberia and a a new facility opens and challenges the Aussies, superpowered survivors, presidential confidence expounded while others take a less confident view of her, a video look at a burial detail, an official cremation espousal, and, finally, scapegoating gays from the pulpit. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: Obama’s transparency fail


From Erik Wemple, writing in the Washington Post:

At some point, a compendium of condemnations against the Obama administration’s record of media transparency (actually, opacity) must be assembled. Notable quotations in this vein come from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who said, “It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering”; New York Times reporter James Risen, who said, “I think Obama hates the press”; and CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, who said, “This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”

USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page has added a sharper edge to this set of knives. Speaking Saturday at a White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) seminar, Page called the current White House not only “more restrictive” but also “more dangerous” to the press than any other in history, a clear reference to the Obama administration’s leak investigations and its naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a possible “co-conspirator” in a violation of the Espionage Act.

The WHCA convened the event both to strategize over how to open up the byways of the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history, as well as to compare war stories on the many ways in which it is not.

Peter Baker, the veteran Washington reporter from the New York Times, provided perhaps the best instance of White House-administered madness. In covering a breaking story recently, Baker received a note from a White House handler indicating that President Obama had been briefed on the matter in question.

That information came to Baker “on background.” The gist: Not from me — a meeting has occurred..

Quote of the day: Inequality and Ebola


From Nissim Mannathukkaren of Dalhousie University’s international relations faculty in Halifax, Nova Scotia, writing in The Hindu:

Inequalities are at the heart of the Ebola crisis. Ebolas are produced in a world in which the United States spends $8,362 annually per person on health while Eritrea (Africa) spends $12. It is the same world in which the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries which constitute a mere 18 per cent of the world’s population spend 84 per cent of the total money spent on health in the world. Thus, unsurprisingly, 95 per cent of tuberculosis deaths and 99 per cent of maternal mortality are in the developing world.

And these inequalities are not only between the developed and the developing worlds, but also exist within the developed world as the health indicators of African Americans and indigenous people in North America show. In the city of London, it is estimated that while travelling on the tube eastwards from Westminster, each tube station signifies the loss of approximately one year of life expectancy.

It is not an accident that Ebola’s epicentre is in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. They are some of the poorest countries in the world with a history of wars and conflicts, and of collapsing or dysfunctional health systems. Liberia has only 51 doctors to serve 4.2 million people and Sierra Leone, 136 for six million.

Inequalities mark every step of the current outbreak. Questions are being asked about the initial tardy hospital treatment given to Duncan and whether his race and class had anything to do with it — here was an African man without medical insurance seeking emergency medical help in the most privatised and corporatised medical system in the West. That his nine-day treatment cost $5,00,000 (Rs.3 crore) should tell us something about the state of global health care.

When American missionaries Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were infected with Ebola in Liberia, the American government had them airlifted — isolated in an “aeromedical biological containment system” — and had them successfully treated in the U.S. Contrast this with the 22-year-old Liberian woman and nurse-in-training, Fatu Kekula, who was forced to look after four of her Ebola-stricken family members at home using trash bags as protective gear after hospitals turned her away.

Sugar not only fattens you, it makes you older


In the upcoming election, both Berkeley and San Francisco voters will decide ballot measures to impose a tax on sugared drinks designed as a public health measure to combat obesity and all its attendant ills.

Big Ag is resolutely opposing both measures, and supersizing the fight with millions of dollars earned by fattening us up.

Now a new study from the University of California, San Francisco, adds weight [as it were] to their arguments, exposing yet another medical threat posed by sugar [or high fructose corn syrup, in the case of most commercial soft drinks].

From Newswise:

Sugared Soda Consumption, Cell Aging Associated in New Study

  • UCSF Scientists Find Shorter Telomeres in Immune Cells of Soda Drinkers

Sugar-sweetened soda consumption might promote disease independently from its role in obesity, according to UC San Francisco researchers who found in a new study that drinking sugary drinks was associated with cell aging.

The study revealed that telomeres — the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells — were shorter in the white blood cells of survey participants who reported drinking more soda. The findings were reported online October 16, 2014 in the American Journal of Public Health.

The length of telomeres within white blood cells — where it can most easily be measured — has previously been associated with human lifespan. Short telomeres also have been associated with the development of chronic diseases of aging, including heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

“Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence disease development, not only by straining the body’s metabolic control of sugars, but also through accelerated cellular aging of tissues,” said Elissa Epel, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UCSF and senior author of the study.

“This is the first demonstration that soda is associated with telomere shortness,” Epel said. “This finding held regardless of age, race, income and education level. Telomere shortening starts long before disease onset. Further, although we only studied adults here, it is possible that soda consumption is associated with telomere shortening in children, as well.”

Chart of the day II: Subsidizing what’s killing us


And taxing us to do it. . .

A stunning graphic from a new Oxfam report, Food, Fossil Fuels, and Filthy Finance [PDF]:

Post-tax fossil fuel subsidies in a sample of the world’s largest economies

Post-tax fossil fuel subsidies in a sample of the world’s largest economies

A rebuff to Japanese revisionism: Iris Chang


The militarists of the Shinzo Abe government in Japan have let it be known that they may order the renunciation of  the apology to the so-called “Comfort Women,” women forced into sexual slavery in nations conquered by Japan in World War II.

Also up for their campaign of historical revisionism is the Rape of Nanking, one of the greatest atrocities committed during World War II, in which 300,000 men, women, and children were slaughtered and countless women raped were raped.

In light of that, we offer this talk by the Iris Chang, a brilliant journalist whose seminal 1997 book The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II broke new ground a revealed the true scope of atrocities committed by Japanese troops during the six weeks after the city fell on 13 December 1937.

The book landed like a bombshell, in part because Chang had written not only a piece of brilliant journalism; she had written a notable work of serious historical scholarship as well, a book that impacted world politics roiled Sino/Japanese relations.

The book also had a profound impact on survivors.

Chang was passionate, and like so many brilliant writers, her life was to end at her own hand on 9 November 2003 as she was working on another grueling work on wartime atrocities committed during the Bataan Death March.

On her website is posted this statement:

I want the Rape of Nanking to penetrate into public consciousness. Unless we truly understand how these atrocities can happen, we can’t be certain that it won’t happen again.

If the Japanese government doesn’t reckon with the crimes of its wartime leaders, history is going to leave them as tainted as their ancestors. You can’t blame this generation for what happened years ago, but you can blame them for not acknowledging these crimes.

Denial is an integral part of atrocity, and it’s a natural part after a society has committed genocide. First you kill, and then the memory of killing is killed.

Please believe in THE POWER OF ONE.  One person can make an enormous difference in the world. One person — actually, one idea — can start a war, or end one, or subvert an entire power structure. One discovery can cure a disease or spawn new technology to benefit or annihilate the human race. You as ONE individual can change millions of lives. Think big. Do not limit your vision and do not ever compromise your dreams or ideals. — Iris Chang

In light of the epidemic revisionism sweeping Japanese right wing politics, we offer this talk by Chang, delivered 0n 22 November 1998 at Miami-Dade Community College and aired on C-Span’s Book Channel.

Via the Film Archive:

The Nanking Massacre: Iris Chang on the Controversy, Causes, Casualties, Denial

John Oliver, at it again: Civil asset forfeiture


Yep, the ongoing assault on malicious hypocrisy that is HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is at it again, this time with a takedown of rapacious looters acting under the color of authority provided by those Bill of Rights destroying provision of the PATRIOT ACT and its subsequent enabling acts:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Civil Forfeiture

Program notes:

Did you know police can just take your stuff if they suspect it’s involved in a crime? They can!

It’s a shady process called “civil asset forfeiture,” and it would make for a weird episode of Law and Order.

See?

And some outtakes with Jeff Goldblum:

Oliver’s singular skill in employment of the reductio ad absurdum is particularly devastating in exposing the single-minded arrogant greed and entitlement assumed by too many cops in the wake of 9/11 and their ennoblement by the mainstream media because of the unquestionably heroic actions of so many police officers [and firefighters, lest we forget] on that dreaded day.

We seem to have forgotten that abuses by armed officers of the state fueled the American Revolution itself and gave rise to the Bill of Rights, with its checks on precisely such abuse.

But the carefully stoked fear of terrorism blinded too many to the inevitable consequences of empowering poorly educated men and women [mostly men] with powers seize loot for their own enrichment and for the enhancement of their own sense of power.

The one question is, will it take another revolution to end it?And, gee, wouldn’t a nice chilly margarita be nice right about now?