Category Archives: Public service

Chart of the day: State, local governments hurting


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

State and Local Government Finances

EbolaWatch: Broken systems, numbers, fear


First some good news from Berkeley for a had-pressed Liberian newspaper via the paper in question, FrontPageAfrica:

Berkeley Professor Donates Anti-Ebola Gears, Cameras to FPA

Rachel Mercy Simpson, Department Chair of Multimedia Arts, at  Berkeley City College, knew she had to step in when she heard the Publisher of FrontPageAfrica describe to NPR’s “On the Media” the  challenges he and his team of reporters are going through on the front line of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

“As an award-winning newspaper, FrontPageAfrica is in a powerful position to communicate with people across West Africa, to encourage safer practices and to reduce the spread of Ebola. FPA reporters put their lives on the line to cover the stories even though they lack rudimentary safety gear. I want to help them out,” wrote Mercy-Simpson to her family and colleagues. Mercy-Simpson, who is married to a Tanzanian and whose father is from South Africa, says while neither countries are neighbors to Ebola-hit Liberia, she felt a need to reach out. “We care about what’s going on in Africa. The devastation to families and the economy in Liberia is terrible. And no one wants to see Ebola spread any further.”

When she learned from the NPR interview that FrontPageAfrica reporters lacked safety gear, Mercy-Simpson immediately contacted the FrontPageAfrica publisher and asked how she could help. “As a filmmaker, I grasped the danger of their not having a telephoto lens and how FPA reporters needed to get close to people who were very sick in order to photograph them.”

The accompanying photo:

BLOG Prof

From Deutsche Welle, numbers:

WHO releases latest Ebola figures

  • The latest figures from the World Health Organization show another increase in the Ebola death toll. Nearly 6,600 people have died from the virus since the worst outbreak on record began early this year.

The latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show 6,583 people have died out of 18,188 recorded Ebola cases.

The Geneva-based UN health agency reported that the majority of infections and deaths were in the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The WHO said earlier in the week that the death toll had remained the same in other countries also affected by the disease: six in Mali, one in the US and eight in Nigeria, which was declared Ebola free in October. Spain and Senegal have also counted one case of infection each, but were declared free of the virus in recent weeks.

Numbers contested, via StarAfrica:

S/Leone: Information Minister challenges WHO Ebola figures

Sierra Leone’s Information Minister said Thursday contrary to figures reported by the Western media and the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of infection by the Ebola epidemic were reducing in the country.Alhaji Alpha Kanu said, based on figures from the Ministry of Health and the National Ebola Response Center (NERC), the country was recorded an average of less than 40 new infections a day, “contrary to what you hear on BBC, courtesy of WHO,” he said.

He said what the media is reporting falls far behind the reality on the ground. “That’s patently not true,” he told reporters at the weekly government press conference.

At a separate engagement via an online press conference with the international media, Mr Kanu was cited disputing WHO`s report on the diamond-rich Kono which claimed 87 dead bodies were discovered with 123 sick people from “forgotten” part of the district.

Ebolaphobia strikes again, from AllAfrica:

Sudan Repatriates 26 Nigerians Over Ebola Fears

The Sudanese authorities have denied 26 Nigerians entry into their country over suspicion that they were possibly infected by the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, one of those repatriated has told PREMIUM TIMES.

Hauwa’u Ibrahim Bakori, a second year student of Pharmacy at Al Ahfad University for Women, Omdurman, said she and 25 others were denied entry after arriving Khartoum Airport on Wednesday.

They were detained, and then deported to Nigeria on Thursday, Ms. Bakori said.

Ms Bakori is in her second year at the Sudanese university and had travelled to Nigeria on holidays.

From teleSUR, an aid effort praised:

UNICEF Recognizes Cuban Efforts in Fight Against Ebola

  • The children’s rights organisation is the latest body to highlight Cuba’s role.

The representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) regional office in Central Africa recognized Cuba’s humanitarian efforts to fight Ebola on Saturday.

Cuba has sent more than 460 doctors and nurses to nations struck by Ebola such as Sierra Leone.

‘’We are carrying out a series of gatherings with nations that offer cooperation like the case of Cuba, we want to take those countries into account for next year’s Unicef aid programming in African nations,’‘ said UNICEF’s Brigitte Helali, from Equatorial Guinea where she is evaluating Unicef aid programs.

Helali also highlighted the progress Cuba has made in healthcare overall with special mention for their work with pregnant women and children under five years old.

From the Associated Press, that same effort stymied by Washington:

US embargo stalled payment to Cuban Ebola doctors

A World Health Organization official says Cuba had to cover food and lodging expenses for dozens of its doctors fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone after the U.S. embargo made it impossible for the global health group to pay them.

U.S. officials as high as Secretary of State John Kerry have praised the Cuban effort against Ebola. But the longstanding embargo affects virtually all dealings with Cubans, even for banks outside the U.S., because they depend on dollar transfers through U.S. institutions.

Jose Luis Di Fabio, the health agency’s representative for Cuba, said it had to request special licenses from the U.S. Treasury Department to transfer money to the doctors in Africa.

The government-employed doctors only recently received payments dating as far back as October, he said.

And from teleSUR English, what those doctors are doing in the country where the need is most great:

Sierra Leone: Cuban doctors reducing Ebola cases

Program notes:

While new cases of Ebola continue to arise in Sierra Leone, the Cuban medical teams on the scene, working alongside local health care workers, are confident that they can continue to contain and reduce the epidemic. Close collaboration and friendships have been forged with US medical workers who admire Cuba’s role and record in providing health care to all. Oskar Epelde reports from Porto Loko

A honcho named, via AllAfrica:

West Africa: UN Chief Appoints New Envoy for Ebola

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday appointed Ismail Ahmed of Mauritania as his new Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER.

This was contained in a statement issued by Ban’s Spokesperson, Stephane DuJarric in New York.

According to the statement, as Special Representative, Mr. Ahmed will work closely with the Special Envoy on Ebola, David Nabarro and with the governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and other partners.

Mr. Ahmed succeeds Anthony Banbury of the U.S., who would return to New York in early January 2015.

And from the U.S. News Center, an urgent plea:

UN meeting urges critical improvements to health systems of Ebola-affected countries

The international community must help Ebola-affected countries reboot their health systems so that they emerge from the current crisis more resilient and more focused on prevention efforts than ever before, a high-level meeting coordinated by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva heard today.

“People in Ebola-affected countries are dying – not only from Ebola but also from other causes – because the majority of health facilities in these countries are either not functional or people are not using them for fear of contracting Ebola,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General of Health Systems and Innovation, in a news release.

“A health system has to be able to both absorb the shock of an emergency like Ebola, and to continue to provide regular health services such as immunization and maternal and child care.”

At the meeting, participants – which included Ministers of Health and Finance from countries at the epicentre of the Ebola epidemic as well as international organizations and development partners – discussed methods of integration for health services spanning clinical care to surveillance, health promotion, disease prevention and management and palliative care.

In particular, noted the WHO news release, areas of improvement included “significantly strengthening” the health workforce; enhancing community trust, engagement and ownership; and ensuring the development of resilient sub-national health systems. In addition, the movement of people across the borders of the Ebola-affected countries spotlighted the “important” need for a greater coordination of trans-national health plans and an alignment of surveillance systems.

Another expanded effort, via Voice of America:

UNICEF Expanding Fight Against Ebola

The U.N. Children’s Fund is appealing for an additional $300 million to expand its fight against Ebola in the three heavily affected West African countries over the next six months. UNICEF said gaining the confidence of community members, increasing their awareness and knowledge of modes of transmission and prevention are key to winning the battle against this deadly disease.

UNICEF officials said money from the appeal would be used to tackle two major drivers of Ebola transmission: lack of early isolation of patients and unsafe burials.  Both of these issues are wound up with traditional cultural practices, which often have stymied aid agencies’ efforts to prevent people from getting infected with the disease and spreading it to others.

Community involvement is absolutely essential to ending this epidemic.  UNICEF’s crisis communications chief, Sarah Crowe, said recent surveys indicate people gradually have been changing their behavior for the better.

And from the New York Times, contesting the Ebola fight:

Contest Seeks Novel Tools For the Fight Against Ebola

The well-prepared Ebola fighter in West Africa may soon have some new options: protective gear that zips off like a wet suit, ice-cold underwear to make life inside the sweltering suits more bearable, or lotions that go on like bug spray and kill or repel the lethal virus.

Those ideas are among the contenders to win the Ebola “Grand Challenges” contest announced in October by the United States Agency for International Development, or among those being considered by the agency without having formally entered the contest.

All still need to undergo testing, and some may prove impractical, but the 1,500 contest submissions “blew the roof off the number of responses we’ve ever had,” said Wendy Taylor, director of U.S.A.I.D.’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact.

The agency’s Grand Challenges, modeled on those begun a decade ago by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have produced some nifty inventions, the best known of which is a device for helping women in obstructed labor that was invented by an Argentine auto mechanic after he saw a YouTube video on using a plastic bag to get a cork out of a wine bottle.

After the jump it’s on to Sierra Leone with doctors sounding the alarm, how a single case triggered a chain reaction of death, the U.N.’s Ebola emissary calls for an anti-epidemic surge, Freetown charges chiefs with containing the epidemic, Christmas and New Year’s gatherings banned, and the capital sends a strong anti-graft warning, then on to Liberia and the debilitating impacts of two viral epidemics on the economy, why the U.N. is maintaining a Liberian arms embargo, motorcycle transport riders join the Ebola fight, 1,300 volunteer case trackers recruited by the UN, healed patients head home, and an education system left in shambles. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, uncertainty, & solidarity


teleSUR English covers ongoing protests:

Mega-Marches Shut Down City Centers in Mexico

Program notes:

Marking the first day of his third year in office, Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto celebrated in Mexico’s sourthern Chiapas State, his sweeping yet polemic structural reforms.

Solidarity from on high, via teleSUR:

Latin American Presidents Express Solidarity For Ayotzinapa

  • The Latin American leaders spoke about Ayotzinapa, despite the Mexican government previously saying that the issue would not enter the summit.

Several Presidents of Latin America used the Ibero-American summit, that ended on Tuesday in Veracruz, Mexico, to express their solidarity with the Mexican people over the Ayotzinapa case.

The Foreign Affairs Minister of Argentina, Hector Timerman, said on Monday to teleSUR that the administration of President Cristina Fernandez supports both the relatives of the missing 43 and the Mexican government.

“Our total and absolute solidarity with the families of these students who were kidnapped in Mexico, but we also recognize the effort being done by the Mexican government to find a solution and punish the people responsible for this crime,” said Timermen, who travelled to Veracruz on behalf of President Fernandez.

A scribe speaks out, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Iguala Case Shows Triumph of “Criminal Terrorism” in Mexico, Saviano Says

The disappearance of 43 education students in the city of Iguala offers proof that Mexico is a country where criminal terrorism has triumphed, Italian writer Roberto Saviano said in an interview published by the daily El Universal on Tuesday.

Drug traffickers committed a mistake by being behind the forced disappearance of the students in late September in Iguala, Saviano said. “I believe the thing with the students was an error by the narcos, who think they can terrorize (the people) because Mexico is a country living amid narcoterrorism,” Saviano said.

The author of “Gomorrah” said the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School students was proof that Mexico “is a country where criminal terrorism has triumphed” because drug traffickers think they can do whatever they want.

“The (missing) students are a demonstration of this. They (drug traffickers) thought they could do anything without problems. They have done so much without anything happening” to them, Saviano, who received death threats from the Mafia for his investigative reporting in Italy, said.

One name out of 43, and perhaps no more, via teleSUR:

Further Identifications Difficult on Ayotzinapa Case: Experts

The head of the Austrian Forensic Medicine laboratory considers extremely difficult for more identifications to come out of the remains found in the Cocula dump, thus the investigation remains uncertain.

Even after the identification of one of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa Teacher’s Training School, the possibilities of identifying any other are extremely small due to the terrible conditions of the remains found in a dump in Cocula, on the southern state of Guerrero, according to the opinion of head specialist from the Innsbruck Legal medicine Institute, Richard Scheithauer.

Thus, it still remains unclear if all of the 43 students were actually dumped in the same place and had the same luck than Alexander Mora Venancio.

The director of the Austrian Legal Medicine Institute, declared there were extremely low possibilities of obtaining any more results identifying the remains collected by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) at Cocula.

From Deutsche Welle, an activist speaks out:

Mexican Human Rights Activist Alejandra Ancheita

Program notes:

After it was revealed last month that 43 students kidnapped in September had likely been murdered, tens of thousands of Mexicans took to the streets in protest. The police and members of drug cartels have been implicated in the killings.

Both politicians and the police are frequently involved in the dealings of the Narcos, Mexico’s powerful drug cartels. The human rights activist Alejandra Ancheita talks about the current situation.

International Business Times covers doubt:

Mexico’s Missing Students: Some Families Of The Disappeared Doubt Official Version Of Events

The attorney general’s office said that the most likely scenario was that the mayor of Iguala, the town where the students were last seen, ordered police to go after the students for fear that they would interrupt a speech his wife was giving. The police then shot at the students, killing three, and allegedly turned them over to a local gang, who killed all 43, burned their bodies and dumped the remains into a nearby river.

But some relatives of the disappeared have cast doubt on that explanation of events, saying they heard from other witnesses who said some students were taken elsewhere. “We have information that the students were transported from one location to another; it’s not possible that all were killed and burned,” said Jose Felix Rosas, a representative for the Popular Movement of the Tecoanapa Municipality, a group representing the families of eight missing students who were from that town. He spoke during a press conference Monday evening.

“We demand the other 42 alive. We have total distrust in the PGR [Mexican attorney general’s office] and in [President] Enrique Peña Nieto,” he added. He also criticized local authorities, saying they did not contact Mora’s father, Ezequiel, upon hearing the news about his son.

“We are tired of politicking, of political parties, of money that is spent on campaigns and the poverty of the people,” he said. “We have proof that this is a failed state, and we will uproot it.”

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers promises of actions to come:

Parents of Disappeared Students Plan Strong and Decisive Actions in Mexico

Parents of the 43 missing Mexican students have refused to believe that their children were killed and incinerated in a garbage dumpster, vowing to carry out protests demanding they be returned alive.

On Monday, the parents traveled to the home of Ezequiel Mora Chora, the father of Alexander Mora Venancio, one of the missing students whose remains were positively identified by an Austrian laboratory.

Parents’ spokesperson Felipe de la Cruz said that Alexander’s remains were planted and the authorities know where they came from.

De la Cruz warned that the parents will take strong and decisive actions, including staging highway blockades if their demands are not met.

From teleSUR, a shroud of secrecy drops over another state slaughter:

Tlatlaya Massacre Case Will Remain Secret for the Next 12 Years

  • The government of the State of Mexico, the General Attorney and the military line up to maintain the investigation private.

The Tlatlaya massacre investigations, one of the most scandalous cases of human rights violations in Mexico, will remain secret for the next 12 years.

The Mexican Commission for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (CMDPDH) revealed on Tuesday that the Department of Justice of Mexico has ordered to not make public any details in the investigation of the Tlatlaya massacre, when several soldiers executed 22 alleged unarmed criminals in Tlatlaya, in the State of Mexico.

CMDPDH explained in a press bulletin that the Department of Justice refused to hand them any details on the investigation, despite the nongovernmental organization submitting a request to for the report.

From Sky News, taking justice into their own hands:

Mexican Hitmen Held In Vigilantes’ Illegal Jail

Sky News gains unprecedented access to an outlaw mountain prison where vigilantes hold gangsters snatched off the streets.

Sky News has gained access to an illegal prison where hitmen for Mexico’s drug gangs have been jailed by vigilantes who snatched them off the streets.

High in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains our guides are leading us to this much rumoured, but never before seen, prison.

In this part of Mexico, vigilante groups are fighting back against the drug cartels and their low-level gunmen who have terrorised small communities for decades.

The prison is their prize and a mark, they claim, of the success of their “revolution” against organised crime.

To close, a solidarity video from Birmingham University’s Amnesty International chapter:

Solidarity for the 43 – Birmingham University Amnesty International

Program notes:

Birmingham University’s Amnesty International society wanted to show their solidarity to the student movement in Mexico, currently protesting the disappearance of 43 students. In order to do so we sent messages of solidarity from our annual fundraiser, Jamnesty.

Massive thanks to James Spencer for making this wonderful video.

InSecurityWatch: Alarms, crime, hacks, war, more


From the Japan Times, the apocalyptic:

Hawking warns AI ‘could spell end of human race’

British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has warned that the development of artificial intelligence could mean the end of humanity.

In an interview with the BBC, he said such technology could rapidly evolve and overtake mankind, a scenario like that envisaged in the “Terminator” movies.

“The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have, have proved very useful. But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” the professor said in an interview aired Tuesday.

“Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded,” said Hawking, who is regarded as one of the world’s most brilliant living scientists.

And from Bloomberg News, servant of the apocalypse?:

Meet Your New Security Guard: A 300-Pound Robot

Program notes:

William Santana Li, chairman and CEO of Knightscope, and Stacy Stephens, vice president of marketing and sales, explain how the company’s K5 autonomous robot security guards work. They speak with Bloomberg’s Pimm Fox on “Taking Stock.”

Keep an eye on ‘em, literally, via the Associated Press:

Obama wants more police wearing body cameras

President Barack Obama wants to see more police wearing cameras to help build trust between the public and police by recording events like the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, but is not seeking to pull back federal programs that provide the type of military-style equipment used to dispel the resulting racially-charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

The White House announced the conclusions of a three-month review Monday as the president was holding a series of meetings with his Cabinet, civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials and others to go over the findings. At least for now, Obama is staying away from Ferguson in the wake of a racially charged uproar over a grand jury’s decision last week not to charge the police officer who fatally shot Brown.

“The president and his administration are very focused on the underlying issues that have been uncovered in a pretty raw way in Ferguson,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. But he wouldn’t say if additional training of Ferguson police would have resulted in different outcome in there.

Obama is proposing a three-year, $263 million spending package to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and add more resources for police department reform. The package includes $75 million for to help pay for 50,000 of the small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police on the job, with state and local governments paying half the cost. The FBI estimates there were just under 700,000 police officers in the US in 2011.

New York follows the cue, via BuzzFeed:

Some NYPD Officers To Start Wearing Body Cameras This Week

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the pilot program will begin in the next several days in six New York City precincts. Officers around the nation have begun wearing the devices to record their confrontations with people.

Officers in six New York City police precincts will begin wearing body cameras as part of a test program, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, as scrutiny of how law enforcement officers interact with the people they are sworn to protect has increased in recent months.

Volunteer officers from the 120th precinct in Staten Island — where Eric Garner was killed with a police chokehold in July — the 40th precinct in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx, and Service Area 2, which patrols public housing in the housing bureau office tasked with patrolling public housing offices in northern Brooklyn, will begin using the cameras on Friday.

Next week, officers in three additional precincts will get the devices.

There are two types of devices: The cameras coming into circulation this Friday will start recording 3.8 seconds after an officer activates it. The cameras used starting next week constantly record video in 30 seconds intervals, and the officer can at any point choose to continuously record in the event of an incident.

More on Obama’s police agenda from the New York Times, with the positive spin:

Obama to Toughen Standards on Police Use of Military Gear

President Obama on Monday announced that he would tighten standards on the provision and use of military-style equipment by local police departments, but he stopped short of curtailing the transfer of such hardware or weapons to the local authorities.

After a review of the government’s decade-old strategy of outfitting local police forces with military equipment, the White House concluded that the vast majority of these transfers strengthen local policing, but that the government should impose consistent standards in the types of hardware it offers, better training in how to use it and more thorough oversight.

Mr. Obama announced the steps at a cabinet meeting that was called to deal with lingering tensions from fiery clashes between the police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., which broke out after a grand jury declined to indict a police officer for fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager.

BuzzFeed takes a different slant:

White House: We Don’t Have A “Specific Position” On Police Militarization Legislation

The Obama administration is defending federal programs that send military equipment to local law enforcement, distancing itself from them, and promising some minor reforms to how they operate — all at the same time.

Administration officials noted repeatedly that “the vast majority” of surplus military equipment sent to local police forces is not former combat equipment and said they could not alter programs created by Congress.

Asked about proposed legislation to limit the availability of military equipment to local police, proposed by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, the official said the White House had not reviewed the bills.

“I don’t have a specific position for you,” the official said.

“Our assumption is Congress has an intent here to support local law enforcement with the use of this kind of equipment,” the official said on a conference call with reporters Monday. “Our focus is on what kind of protections are in place to make sure it’s used properly and safely.”

From Deutsche Welle, too little and too late?:

US attorney general issues new racial profiling guidelines in wake of Ferguson

After the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the US attorney general has announced new guidelines to limit racial profiling. President Obama has also ordered a review of military weapons in the hands of police

US attorney general Eric Holder on Monday announced he would soon release new guidelines to limit racial profiling by law enforcement.

Speaking at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where 1960s civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was a preacher, Holder said the guidelines would be announced in the coming days and that they would “codify our commitment to the very highest standards of fair and effective policing.”

The new guidelines would not pertain to local or state police forces, but to federal law enforcement.

Starting the holidays with a bang, from CNBC :

The right to bear arms—on Black Friday! Gun sales surge on retail holiday

Apparel and electronics are far from being the only things consumers seek out on Black Friday—many really like firearm deals as well.

Second amendment enthusiasts sent gun sales surging on Friday, according to a report from CNN.com. The federal government was on track to process more than 144,000 background checks for the purposes of gun ownership, a new record and the equivalent of 3 investigations per second, the report added.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman told the news organization that approximately 600 FBI and contract call center employees sift through thousands of requests within a 3 day span. Traditionally, Black Friday is a peak day for volume, but Friday likely topped last year’s requests of 144,758.

Segregation in the suburbs from Al Jazeera America:

‘Separate and unequal’: Racial segregation flourishes in US suburbs

  • New report shows suburban demographics resemble central cities’ of yesteryear, with the same social problems

America’s suburbs, now as diverse as large central cities were 30 years ago, are repeating the cycle of racial segregation and inequality that have haunted major cities for decades.

Ferguson, Missouri, a stark example of this suburban transformation in the St. Louis area, is at the heart of coast-to-coast demonstrations and a racially charged national debate over the relationship between police and black communities. And Ferguson may well be the first suburb to ignite unrest.

Protests that spark rioting have rarely started in suburbia and have almost always begun in major central cities, such as in Detroit (1967), Washington (1968) and Los Angeles (1992). But  in 2014, America’s suburban landscape has clearly changed.

“[It] isn’t a St. Louis ghetto,” segregation expert John Logan said of Ferguson, a suburb with about 21,000 people, more than two-thirds of them African-American. “It’s out in the suburbs, and it’s not the worst neighborhood, so why are people so steamed up?” Logan asked. “There is a high degree of segregation and steering in the housing market and divisions across racial lines.”

Droning on with Al Jazeera America:

San Jose police’s new drone prompts privacy concerns

  • Eleven months after buying a surveillance drone without public notice, the department is drafting policies for its use

San Jose could soon become the first Bay Area city to deploy a drone for police operations, despite pushback from civil rights groups and legal experts who say the invasive technology infringes on Californians’ right to privacy.

The San Jose Police Department (SJPD) purchased the drone in January without any public debate. In August a researcher with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) uncovered the purchase in city documents, which led to an SJPD apology for not opening the purchase to public debate.

“In hindsight, SJPD should have done a better job of communicating the purpose and acquisition of the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) device to our community,” the SJPD said in a statement.

The police department is now developing a drone-use policy to present to residents on Dec. 6. Police officials say up to four officers could be trained to operate the drone. Initially, they say, only police department auditors will have access to details on how the drone would be used.

And the Oakland Tribune brings ‘em even closer to Casa esnl:

Alameda County sheriff buys two drones

After an uproar by privacy advocates foiled his plan to buy drones last year, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern has found another way to acquire two unmanned vehicles that will hover over the East Bay during emergencies.

Ahern said Wednesday the drones will be for search-and-rescue missions, bomb squad operations and other emergencies, not surveillance, but the secrecy of the purchase has infuriated civil liberties groups.

“He’s acquired this drone in secret over public opposition,” said Linda Lye, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. “He is basically asking for a blank check, but when it comes to our privacy rights we deserve more meaningful safeguards.”

Precrime in Berlin with the Japan Times:

Berlin police mull crime-predicting software

Police in Berlin are considering deploying software that predicts crimes — and have even dubbed the project “Precobs” in a nod to a term used in “Minority Report,” the U.S. science-fiction film based on a similar premise.

Developed by a German firm, the software program predicts when and where a crime is most likely to occur, based on different data. It is being tested by police in the southern state of Bavaria.

“The Berlin police is first waiting for the results of the trial run in Bavaria” before deciding on on whether to acquire “Precobs,” a spokesman said in an email.

The name is a contraction of “Pre-Crime Observation System.” The “Precobs” title borrows deliberately from the “precog” term used in “Minority Report,” referring to psychics who predict crimes before they happen. That 2002 movie, starring Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg, was based on a story by Philip K. Dick.

And from the Washington Post, suspicions confirmed:

Police: Austin shooter was a ‘homegrown American extremist’

Larry McQuilliams had “let me die” written in marker across his chest when he fired more than 100 rounds in downtown Austin early Friday morning.

McQuilliams, who Austin Police officials called a “homegrown American extremist” with ties to a Christian identity hate group, was shot dead on Friday by a police officer outside the department’s headquarters.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters on Monday that officers who searched the gunman’s home found a map with 34 targets, including two churches. McQuilliams had fired bullets into Austin police headquarters, a federal courthouse and the Mexican consulate in downtown Austin on Friday. He also tried to set the Mexican consulate building on fire.

Police believe McQuilliams associated himself with the Phineas Priesthood, an anti-Semitic, anti-multiculturalism affiliation that opposes biracial relationships, same-sex marriage, taxation and abortion. Authorities found a copy of “Vigilantes of Christendom,” a book linked to the Priesthood, in the rental van McQuilliams used during the attacks, NBC Austin affiliate KXAN reported.

From the Guardian, honors deserved:

Edward Snowden wins Swedish human rights award for NSA revelations

  • Whistleblower receives several standing ovations in Swedish parliament as he wins Right Livelihood award

Whistleblower Edward Snowden received several standing ovations in the Swedish parliament after being given the Right Livelihood award for his revelations of the scale of state surveillance.

Snowden, who is in exile in Russia, addressed the parliament by video from Moscow. In a symbolic gesture, his family and supporters said no one picked up the award on his behalf in the hope that one day he might be free to travel to Sweden to receive it in person.

His father, Lon, who was in the chamber for what was an emotional ceremony, said: “I am thankful for the support of the Right Livelihood award and the Swedish parliament. The award will remain here in expectation that some time – sooner or later – he will come to Stockholm to accept the award.”

More from Deutsche Welle:

Snowden calls on UN to protect privacy and human rights

Former CIA systems analyst Edward Snowden has called upon the United Nations to take steps to ensure individual privacy and promote human rights. The whistleblower was honored with the Right Livelihood award on Monday.

The whistleblower received a standing ovation from the delegates as he addressed the gathering through a video link. The Right Livelihood award, also known as the “alternative Nobel,” recognized the “work of so many people,” Snowden said.

In his speech on Monday, the former CIA employee acknowledged that journalists, publishers and activists were among those who had put themselves in danger and could not go home because they feared arrest, just like he did.

“These are things that are unlikely to change soon. But they’re worth it…All the prices we paid, all the sacrifices we made, I believe we’d do it again,” Snowden said, calling upon the United Nations to propose new measures that would help secure the rights of individuals and the rights of all human beings.

After the jump, the curious world of the anti-terrorism algorithm, then on to the war of the moment an a surprise bombing suggested and an endorsement from Washington, an Iraqi telephonic shutdown, scores of death sentences in Egypt as insults to political orthodoxy is criminalized, a Kenya terror attacks leads to security shakeup, Venezuelan opposition leader charged in assassination plot, on to the hack of the year starting with multiple suspects, risks acknowledged in advance, a video report, an inventory of disaster, warnings of more to come, Sony’s own suspicions, suspicions of Iranian hacking, and malware on the market, veteran Israeli spook fears Netayahu’s political suicide bombs, Pakistani police beat blind protesters, and a Pakistani police debacle, then on to Hong Kong as Washington weighs in behind an Occupy goal and London weighs in, a Hong Kong court backs the evictions as Occupy leaders surrender to police only to be released without bail, then on to Japan with a controversial “Comfort Women” retraction, and the last major Nazi killer is gone. . . Continue reading

Bernie Sanders launches his own 12-step program


And like the familiar 12-step programs, it’s about curing an addiction, the addiction to neoliberal policies that have brought us levels of inequality unparalleled since the Gilded Age.

The program is simple, and harkens back to the age of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal:

  1. Rebuild crumbling infrastructure
  2. Transform energy systems away from fossil fuels
  3. Economic reforms to benefit workers
  4. Eliminate curbs on union recruiting and membership
  5. Raise the federal minimum wage
  6. Equal pay for women
  7. Trade policy reform
  8. Affordable college education and child care
  9. Big bank breakups
  10. Provide healthcare for all as in the other industrialized nations
  11. Expand Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and nutrition programs
  12. Tax reform

Here’s Sanders delivering his message from the Senate floor:

An Economic Agenda for America: 12 Steps Forward

EbolaWatch: Quarantines, panic, pols, & Africa


We begin with root causes, starting with this from the Guardian:

Ebola is a product of a destructive and exploitative global economic system

Deforestation and increasing demands on habitats to produce food don’t just wreck the environment, they are increasing the risk of global pandemics like Ebola

Like a sleepwalker roused from his dream, the world is slowly waking up to the full nightmare of the Ebola outbreak decimating west Africa. With small numbers of cases turning up in western countries, governments here are belatedly pledging action to fight the disease, which has already claimed almost 5,000 lives.

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – all countries struggling to recover from wars still fresh in the memory – have buckled under the onslaught of this horrific virus. Inadequate, creaking health services have been no match for a ruthless killer. But while the shocking poverty of these countries provides the fertile ground for the disease to spread, there are bigger issues at play that ought to cause us to think about the macroeconomic conditions that brought us to this point.

Ebola – like HIV, anthrax, Sars, avian flu and other pandemics of recent years – is a zoonotic virus, one that has crossed from animals to humans. It was first identified in 1976 during near-simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The strain of Ebola implicated in the current outbreak is thought to have originated from a mutant pathogen found in fruit bats. This is where we see a direct connection with economic development. The conflicts which have done so much damage to the affected countries have also attracted a range of activities – both legal and illicit – including logging and extractive industries like bauxite mining, which have deforested large swathes of the region.

More from The Ecologist:

Oil palm explosion driving West Africa’s Ebola outbreak

The medical response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been monstrously inadequate, writes Richard Kock. But so has been recognition of the underlying causes – in particular the explosive spread of industrial oil palm, which disrupts the ecology of forests and farms, and undermines local economy and traditional governance, leading to a ‘perfect storm’ of disease.

It is poverty that drives villagers to encroach further into the forest, where they become infected with the virus when hunting and butchering wildlife, or through contact with body fluids from bats – this has been seen with Nipah, another dangerous virus associated with bats.

The likelihood of infection in this manner is compounded by inadequate rural health facilities and poor village infrastructure, compounded by the disorganised urban sprawl at the fringes of cities.

The virus then spreads in a wave of fear and panic, ill-conceived intervention and logistical failures – including even insufficient food or beds for the severely ill.

Take for example the global palm oil industry, where a similar trend of deep-cutting into forests for agricultural development has breached natural barriers to the evolution and spread of specific pathogens.

The effects of land grabs and the focus on certain fruit crop species leads to an Allee effect, where sudden changes in one ecological element causes the mechanisms for keeping populations – bats in this case – and viruses in equilibrium to shift, increasing the probability of spill over to alternative hosts.

Next, some possibly good news from the Guardian:

Ebola may have reached turning point, says Wellcome Trust director

  • Dr Jeremy Farrar says international community is belatedly taking the actions necessary to stem the tide of the disease

Writing in the Guardian, Dr Jeremy Farrar says that although there are several bleak months ahead, “it is finally becoming possible to see some light. In the past 10 days, the international community has belatedly begun to take the actions necessary to start turning Ebola’s tide.

“The progress made is preliminary and uncertain; even if ultimately successful it will not reduce mortality or stop transmission for some time. We are not close to seeing the beginning of the end of the epidemic but [several] developments offer hope that we may have reached the end of the beginning.”

Farrar’s comments come as the World Health Organisation confirmed that the number of Ebola cases in Liberia has started to decline, with fewer burials and some empty hospital beds. But the WHO warned against any assumption that the outbreak there was ending.

“I’m terrified that the information will be misinterpreted,” said Dr Bruce Aylward, assistant director-general in charge of the Ebola operational response. “This is like saying your pet tiger is under control. This is a very, very dangerous disease. Any transmission change could result in many, many more deaths.”

Science qualifies the optimism:

Liberia’s Ebola progress real, but epidemic far from under control

The apparent decline in cases could mean that  families are hiding patients and secretly burying the dead, but it is more likely that a combination of factors has reduced the spread of the disease, said Aylward. “There was a rapid scale up in safe burial practices in the month of September,” he said, adding that many people were isolated in Ebola treatment units, further curbing spread. There also has been intensive education of communities about the disease, including how it is spread, the value of seeking care, and self-protection strategies.

The situations in Guinea and Sierra Leone, the other two hard-hit countries, have not changed as dramatically.

In a disconnect with the drop of cases in Liberia, Aylward noted that WHO has tallied 13,703 cases—a jump of more than 3000 from the figures released 25 October. He said the steep increase reflects reporting on a backlog of cases “With the huge surge in cases in certain countries, particularly in September and October, people got behind on their data,” he said. “They ended up with huge piles of paper and we knew we were going to see jumps in cases at certain times that are going to be associated with more new data coming in that are actually old cases.” He said about 2000 of the latest cases came from old data collected in Liberia, where reporting of cases continues to be a problem. “Data for Liberia are missing for 19, 20, 21, 26 and 27 October,” the latest update from WHO notes.

And from Liberia itself, another caution via The NewDawn:

Ellen warns against early excitement – Chinese military team arrives

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has warned against early jubilation over news of reduction in the infection across the country with news of less than 400 cases nationwide.

The Liberian leader is cautioned citizens and residents against a repeat of a scenario in March this year when people got “too happy too soon” over decline in Ebola infection, thereby giving room for the virus to resurface by June when preventive measures were largely downplayed.

“Yes we feel good, but we want to be cautious. We don’t want people to get happy too soon; we got to continue this fight, and we got to continue it with everything that we got,” President Sirleaf said Tuesday in Monrovia when she received an advance Chinese military delegation of 15 personnel to build ETUs here.

Judging from previous scenario, she warned, “This time we want to be careful, we’ll not be satisfied until we are declared that the last Ebola victim has been cured and is freed of this disease.” President Sirleaf’s warning comes as government prepares to conduct a mid-term election for 15 senators in December.

A video report from euronews:

Ebola: WHO announces ‘slowing rate of new cases’

Program notes:

Liberia may be experiencing a slowdown in the rate of new cases of the deadly Ebola virus according to the World Health Organization.

“We are seeing a slowing rate of new cases, very definitely,” WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward announced.

The African country has reportedly seen a drop in burials and new hospital admissions, while the number of laboratory-confirmed cases has levelled out.

While the Associated Press adds more nuance:

Top UN Ebola official: new cases poorly tracked

Authorities are having trouble figuring out how many more people are getting Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone and where the hot spots are in those countries, harming efforts to get control of the raging, deadly outbreak, the U.N.’s top Ebola official in West Africa said Tuesday.

“The challenge is good information, because information helps tell us where the disease is, how it’s spreading and where we need to target our resources,” Anthony Banbury told The Associated Press by phone from the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, is based.

Health experts say the key to stopping Ebola is breaking the chain of transmission by tracing and isolating those who have had contact with Ebola patients or victims. Health care workers can’t do that if they don’t know where new cases are emerging.

“And unfortunately, we don’t have good data from a lot of areas. We don’t know exactly what is happening,” said Banbury, the chief of UNMEER.

Meanwhile, the crisis remains both critical and costly. From Sky News:

Ebola: DEC Launches ‘Unprecedented’ Appeal

The charity group asks the public for money to halt the “explosive” virus – the first time it has done so for a disease outbreak.

The Disasters Emergency Committee is to launch a major television appeal over the Ebola crisis, the first time it has called for donations in response to a disease.

The committee, which is made up of 13 of the UK’s major aid charities, said it took the decision because the killer virus threatens to become a “catastrophe”.

The DEC described the spread of the virus as “explosive”, and said it was devastating communities, health services and people’s ability to support themselves.

Next, California joins the list of states with Ebola quarantine policies, via the San Jose Mercury News:

Ebola: California is latest state to impose 21-day quarantine for those exposed to Ebola

California on Wednesday became the latest state to order a 21-day quarantine for travelers who have been in close contact with Ebola patients.

In an attempt to avoid the criticism lodged against New York, New Jersey and Maine that had blanket quarantine orders, however, California will allow county health agencies to impose the quarantine on a case-by-case basis.

By working with county health departments to assess the individual risks, the California Department of Public Health said it “respects the individual circumstances of each traveler while protecting and preserving the public health.”

And a case at hand, via KCBS in San Francisco:

Stanford Surgeon Under ‘Modified Quarantine’ In San Mateo County After Returning From Liberia

A Stanford surgeon has been put on modified quarantine in San Mateo County after treating Ebola patients in Liberia for the past month.

Dr. Colin Bucks returned to the Bay Area on Friday, but no state or federal quarantine orders were in place at the time. Dr. Bucks is not experiencing any symptoms of Ebola, but he is the first Californian to be quarantined under the new guidelines. Bucks is considered by health officials to be at “some risk.”

The doctor contacted San Mateo County health officials. After consultation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the California Dept. of Public Health, Dr. Bucks was told to stay away from work and to stay away from others for 21 days. However, he can leave his house to go jogging by himself. He is taking his temperature every day and has not developed any symptoms.

Politics of pain, via the Los Angeles Times:

Obama urges Americans to honor aid workers fighting Ebola in Africa

President Obama on Tuesday urged Americans to set aside their fears of the Ebola virus and make sure U.S. healthcare workers who go to West Africa are “applauded, thanked and supported” when they return home.

If those workers are successful in fighting the virus at the source of the outbreak, he said, “we don’t have to worry about it here.”

“They are doing God’s work over there,” Obama said, “and they are doing that to keep us safe.”

And a fundamental lack from the Associated Press:

Funding to tame an Ebola outbreak has fallen short

“We don’t really have a pharmaceutical response for Ebola,” said retired Air Force Col. Randall Larsen, the former executive director of the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction. “But could you imagine if there were 20,000 sick people in 10 cities and we did not have a pharmaceutical response? We would be completely overwhelmed.”

Emergency preparedness programs ramped up significantly in the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2001 anthrax scare, said Dr. Gerald Parker, a former principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Health and Human Services preparedness office. Those efforts included research and development of vaccines and anti-viral drugs.

“It was recognized that there would be a dual benefit from research on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to counter bioterror threats and emerging infectious diseases,” said Parker, now a vice president at Texas A&M Health Science Center.

But a combination of budgetary constraints and politics has delayed many of those plans.

Other quarantine news from the New York Times:

New York State Ebola Policy Allows for In-Home Quarantine

Offering the first detailed account of how New York State’s quarantine order for health care workers returning from West Africa will be put into effect, the Cuomo administration has issued guidelines that go beyond federal recommendations but seek to allow individuals to spend their enforced isolation in a location of their choosing.

The state documents, copies of which were obtained by The New York Times, show an effort by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration to portray the quarantine in a humane manner.

The protocols are meant to ensure “a respectful and supportive approach” to arriving travelers, who are supposed to be “treated with the utmost respect and concern,” according to a document prepared by the State Health Department that outlines the screening procedures.

While the Guardian covers a controversy:

Ebola: Maine deploys state police to quarantined nurse’s home

  • Kaci Hickox, who was held for days in an isolation tent in New Jersey, says she doesn’t plan on obeying home quarantine in her home state

A nurse freed from an Ebola isolation tent in a New Jersey hospital declared on Wednesday the she will not comply with a quarantine request imposed by state officials, saying the policy is not based on science and infringes on her civil liberties.

“I don’t plan on sticking to the guidelines,” nurse Kaci Hickox told the Today show from her home in Maine. “I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me, even though I am in perfectly good health and feeling strong and have been this entire time completely symptom-free.”

The governor’s office said in a statement that Maine state police would monitor Kickox’s home “for both her protection and the health of the community”. A TV reporter with the local WLBZ news channel said as of 1pm ET on Wednesday at least two police cars were parked out front of the home.

More from the Washington Post:

Maine Gov. Paul LePage is seeking legal authority to enforce Ebola quarantine on nurse

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is looking for ways to force a nurse released from mandatory Ebola isolation in New Jersey to abide by a similar 21-day quarantine in Maine.

“The Office of the Governor has been working collaboratively with the State health officials within the Department of Health and Human Services to seek legal authority to enforce the quarantine,” LePage’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “We hoped that the health-care worker would voluntarily comply with these protocols, but this individual has stated publicly she will not abide by the protocols.”

Still more from the Guardian:

Maine prepared to go to court to enforce nurse’s Ebola quarantine order

  • Officials plead with Kaci Hickox to abide by 21-day order
  • ‘I have been this entire time completely symptom-free’

Maine’s top public health official has said the state will if necessary seek a court order to ensure a nurse stays quarantined in her home after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.

Mary Mayhew, the commissioner of the state department of health and human services, pleaded with Hickox to abide by the state’s 21-day at-home quarantine order.

“We do not want to legally enforce an in-home quarantine unless absolutely necessary,” Mayhew said on Wednesday afternoon.

More quarantine politics from Reuters:

Obama sees different Ebola rules for U.S. military than for civilians

President Barack Obama on Tuesday appeared to back more rigorous procedures for dealing with soldiers returning from missions to Ebola-hit West African countries, even as he criticized moves by some U.S. states to quarantine returning civilian health workers.

Obama said that American military personnel were in a “different situation” compared with healthcare workers. While civilians may be discouraged from volunteering to help fight the Ebola if they are facing quarantine on their return, troops were sent as part of their mission and could expect such inconveniences.

“They are already by definition if they are in the military under more circumscribed conditions,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “We don’t expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians.”

More from USA Today:

Quarantine ordered for troops returning from W. Africa

U.S. troops returning from Ebola-stricken nations will be isolated for 21 days, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Wednesday, a day after the White House raised concerns about states imposing strict quarantines of health care workers returning from West Africa.

Top commanders for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps made the recommendation to Hagel on Tuesday. The Army instituted an isolation requirement for 21 days — the incubation period for the deadly virus — on Monday.

Hagel directed the isolation policy be reviewed in 45 days to see whether it was necessary to continue with it, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary.

Still more from the Guardian:

Conflicting Ebola guidelines put US defense secretary in a tough spot

  • Hagel’s choice on quarantining troops returning from west Africa involves rebuking either government scientists or military leaders

The Ebola outbreak has placed the US secretary of defense on the horns of a dilemma: whether to back the military service chiefs about a quarantine for troops or to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends no such thing.

Defense chief Chuck Hagel has received a recommendation for a “quarantine-like program” for all US servicemembers returning from Liberia and Senegal, where they are supporting civilian efforts to contain the disease, Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said on Tuesday.

The recommendation, made by the heads of the military services, would expand across the military a directive made on Monday from the army chief, General Raymond Odierno, to keep soldiers returning from Operation United Assistance in Liberia and Senegal under a 21-day period of “controlled monitoring”.

Kirby said Hagel has yet to make a decision, having received the quarantine recommendation earlier on Tuesday. But imposing a broader military quarantine for returning servicemembers goes beyond new guidance set on Monday by the CDC, which urged a home quarantine only for high-risk individuals, such as those whose body fluids have been directly exposed to Ebola. US troops have not been involved in treating Ebola patients.

And yet more from Reuters:

US isolates troops

The U.S. military has started isolating soldiers returning from an Ebola response mission in West Africa and Australia became the first rich nation to impose a visa ban on the affected countries amid global anxiety about the spread of the virus.

The latest measures, along with decisions by some U.S. states to impose mandatory quarantines on health workers returning home from treating Ebola victims in West Africa, have been condemned by health authorities and the United Nations as extreme.

The top health official in charge of dealing with Washington’s response to Ebola warned against turning doctors and nurses who travel to West Africa to tackle Ebola into “pariahs”.

From Reuters, intranational man of mystery:

In Ebola response, Obama’s ‘czar’ stays behind the curtain

It’s not often that a White House official gets mocked on both Saturday Night Live and a major daily newspaper before he makes his first public appearance.

But Ron Klain’s low-profile first week as President Barack Obama’s behind-the-scenes Ebola “czar” has become another attack point for a White House struggling to show it’s on top of the crisis.

Since starting last Wednesday, Klain has been seen only once, in a photo op on his first day, leaving health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health – and Obama himself – to be the public “face” of the response.

The White House has declined to give details about his activities, especially what role he played as governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey undermined the White House’s attempt to keep the nation calm about the risk posed by healthcare workers returning from Ebola-stricken West Africa.

More predictable politics from the Associated Press:

Jeb Bush: Obama handling of Ebola ‘incompetent’

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday criticized President Barack Obama’s initial handling of the Ebola crisis as “incompetent,” saying it gave rise to unneeded fears among the American public about the virus.

Bush, who is the latest potential Republican presidential candidate to attack the president over Ebola, also said in a wide-ranging discussion at Vanderbilt University that he supports travel restrictions for people who have been to the most severely affected countries in Africa.

Bush said Obama should have been more “clear and concise” about his plans, and lent more credibility to health officials leading the response.

“It looked very incompetent to begin with, and that fueled fears that may not be justified,” Bush said. “And now you have states that are legitimately acting on their concerns, creating a lot more confusion than is necessary.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration made a notable symbolic move sure to piss off some of Bush’s former Florida constituents, via the Associated Press:

US sends health official to Cuban Ebola meeting

The United States has sent a health official to a Cuban meeting on coordinating Latin America’s response to Ebola. The participation of the Centers for Disease Control’s Central America director is the most concrete sign to date of the two nations’ expressed desire to cooperate against the disease.

The two-day meeting that began Tuesday in Havana is sponsored by ALBA, a forum of left-leaning Latin countries founded by Cuba and Venezuela as a counterweight to U.S. influence in the region.

Cuba is sending at least 256 medical workers to West Africa to treat and prevent Ebola. The World Health Organization says it’s the largest contribution by a single government, although there may be more doctors of other nationalities who are sent by non-governmental organizations.

The U.S. has welcomed Cuba’s response.

Ebolaphobia from the New York Times:

Connecticut Child Barred From School After Trip to Africa; Father Sues

The father of a Connecticut third grader filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday, saying his daughter has been unfairly barred from school amid fears she may have been exposed to the Ebola virus while in Africa.

The daughter, Ikeoluwa Opayemi, and her family, who live in Milford, visited Nigeria for a wedding from Oct. 2 to 13, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Federal District Court in New Haven.

When the girl tried to return to the Meadowside Elementary School, she was told by the school district’s health director that she would have to stay home until Nov. 3 “due to concern from certain parents and teachers that she could transmit Ebola to other children,” according to the lawsuit.

More from Ebolaphobics from Science:

Been to an Ebola-affected country? Stay away from tropical medicine meeting, Louisiana says

Ebola fears are interfering with the world’s premier scientific meeting on tropical diseases. Today, Louisiana state health officials asked anyone who has traveled to Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea in the past 21 days, or has treated Ebola patients elsewhere, to stay away from the annual meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), which begins on Sunday in New Orleans.

ASTMH doesn’t know exactly how many scientists will be affected, but there are several, says incoming president Christopher Plowe, including representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “They are quite disappointed,” says Plowe, a malaria researcher at the University of Maryland. ASTMH sent all meeting registrants an email today containing a letter from Kathy Kliebert, secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health & Hospitals, and Kevin Davis, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, that outlines the state’s position. ASTMH referred registrants to the state’s health department for further information.

“Given that conference participants with a travel and exposure history for [Ebola] are recommended not to participate in large group settings (such as this conference) or to utilize public transport, we see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans to simply be confined to your room,” the letter says.

After the jump, an infectious lie, a sole supplier, North Korean Ebolaphobia, Hong Kong preparedness, fast-tracking a vaccine, anger at Aussie exclusion, Japanese angst leads to a task force, then on to Africa and vigilance in the newest addition to the ranks of the stricken while a border remains open, a study of who survive in Sierra Leone, Tokyo lends mobile assistance, Brits train “Ebola warriors,” missing funds, and survivors are shunned, then on to Liberia and the crisis personified, the healthcare worker’s painful conundrum, another blow to overstretched police resources, long overdue pay for healthcare workers, a cultural belief hampering prevention efforts with specific voices heard, Christian leaders call a three-day fast, a Christian tradition invoked, a change in command of American boots on the ground, and a presidential birthday is deferred, thence to Nigeria and an unanticipated arrival, followed by a precipitous tourism decline in Kenya. . . Continue reading

Inside the Ebola ward: The struggle in Liberia


Another superb video report on the Ebola crisis from Ben C. Solomon of the New York Times, this time from inside an ETU [Ebola Treatment Unit] near the Liberian capital.

One of those featured is Colin Banks, a Stanford University emergency room physician who says he was impelled to come on hearing of the extent of the crisis.

From the New York Times:

Inside the Ebola Ward | Virus Outbreak 2014

Program notes:

Workers at the International Medical Corps treatment center in Suakoko, Liberia, use faith, hard work and caution as they face a stream of sick people in this remote hilltop east of Monrovia.

Produced by: Ben C. Solomon