Category Archives: Africa

New Ebola cases, and an alarming report

We begin in Liberia, where three new cases have been reported in a country declared free of the disease just weeks ago.

From the Associated Press:

Three new Ebola cases have been confirmed in Liberia, a health official said Friday, more than two months after the West African nation was declared Ebola-free for a second time.

It is a setback for Liberia, one of the three countries hit hardest by the worst Ebola outbreak in history. The country has recorded more than 10,600 cases and more than 4,800 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. More than 11,300 deaths have been recorded for the entire outbreak, which was concentrated in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to WHO.

Liberia was first declared Ebola-free on May 9, but new cases emerged in June resulting in two deaths. WHO declared the country Ebola-free again on Sept. 3

More from Reuters:

The first of the new patients was a 10-year-old boy who lived with his parents and three siblings in Paynesville, a suburb east of the capital Monrovia, said Minister of Health Minister Bernice Dahn. Two direct family members have also since tested positive, officials said.

All six family members, as well as other high risk contacts, are in care at an Ebola Treatment Unit in Paynesville, she said.

“The hospital is currently decontaminating the unit. All of the healthcare workers who came into contact with the patient have been notified,” she told a news conference.

And now comes a clear warning that West Africa and the world aren’t ready for another major outbreak.

From Nature:

The world is no better prepared for the next global health emergency than it was when the current Ebola epidemic began nearly two years ago, an expert panel warns.

The problems that led to the deaths of more than 11,000 people in history’s worst Ebola outbreak have not been solved, a group of 20 physicians, global health experts, lawyers and development and humanitarian experts convened by Harvard University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) warn in a paper published on 22 November by The Lancet1. Meanwhile, the outbreak stubbornly hangs on: on 20 November, hopes that it might be declared over by year’s end were dashed by reports of new infections in Liberia, which has twice been declared Ebola-free.

“We’re closer, but we’re not yet ready for another outbreak of this magnitude,” says epidemiologist David Heymann at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a member of the commission that produced the report.

More on the report from the London school via EurekaAlert:

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan) and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring…and yet, it took until August to declare a public health emergency. The cost of the delay was enormous,” said Jha.

The report’s 10 recommendations provide a roadmap to strengthen the global system for outbreak prevention and response:

  1. Develop a global strategy to invest in, monitor and sustain national core capacities
  2. Strengthen incentives for early reporting of outbreaks and science-based justifications for trade and travel restrictions
  3. Create a unified WHO Center with clear responsibility, adequate capacity, and strong lines of accountability for outbreak response
  4. Broaden responsibility for emergency declarations to a transparent, politically-protected Standing Emergency Committee
  5. Institutionalise accountability through an independent commission for disease outbreak prevention and response
  6. Develop a framework of rules to enable, govern and ensure access to the benefits of research
  7. Establish a global fund to finance, accelerate and prioritise R&D
  8. Sustain high-level political attention through a Global Health Committee of the Security Council
  9. A new deal for a more focused, appropriately-financed WHO
  10. Good governance of WHO through decisive, timebound reform and assertive leadership

The Harvard and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine teams felt strongly that an independent analysis from academic and civil society voices should inform the public debate, in addition to other planned official reviews of the global response.

According to Liberian Panel member Mosoka Fallah, Ph.D., MPH, of Action Contre La Faim International (ACF). “The human misery and deaths from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa demand a team of independent thinkers to serve as a mirror of reflection on how and why the global response to the greatest Ebola calamity in human history was late, feeble and uncoordinated. The threats of infectious disease anywhere is the threat of infectious disease everywhere,” Fallah said. “The world has become one big village.”

Climate change linked to rising terrorism

Is climate change a critical driver of the rising tide of terrorism?

That’s the plausible contention of New York University geographer/sociologist Christian Parenti, professor in the school’s Global Liberal Studies Program and author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, and the subject of this interview by Jessica Desvarieux of The Real News Network:

The Pentagon and Bernie Sanders Agree: Terrorism Linked to Climate Change

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So Chris, is Bernie Sanders slightly daffy to link climate change and terrorism? I just want your quick response right there.

PARENTI: No, Bernie Sanders is not in error in that regard. And most of the U.S. defense establishment agrees with him. The quadrennial defense review makes an issue of climate change as a threat multiplier, as a dynamic that is going to increase all sorts of threats, including terrorism. There are numerous declassified reports from various branches of the military and from numerous militaries around the world that take climate change seriously as a driving cause of violence.

So it’s very real, and experts really across the political spectrum accept this. The question, then, becomes what do you do? You know, the classic rightist response is, well, then you have to build higher walls and you have to prepare for open-ended counterinsurgency on a global scale forever. And a more progressive response would be no, we have to, one, radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately, mitigate emissions, but also deal with adaptation. And provide technology and capital for people to cope with the new, extreme weather that is already happening.

DESVARIEUX: But I want to still talk about this issue, about linking climate change and terrorism, before we get to alternatives, because there are some experts–I have two authors from the libertarian Cato institute. They came out with a recent article from Huffington Post. They say these drought issues have more to do with serious history of bad water management policies and a population that has tripled in the past 35 years. Don’t they have a point in here, Christian? Don’t 300 percent more people create water scarcity issues?

PARENTI: Well, if there is also a drought. But the fact of the matter is Syria went through the worst recorded drought in terms of lack of precipitation. So Syria, between 2005-2010, was not getting enough rainfall. There’s also the precipitating issues–I wouldn’t blame population. I would blame, as I do in my book, neoliberalism. Free market economics totally undermine people’s ability to adapt to this extreme weather. When the state cuts back on agricultural extension, veterinary services, that means farmers whose crops fail due to drought have to leave the land and go to cities, and there they end up often struggling over state power, which is exactly what happened in Syria.

So the thing about climate change is that it doesn’t ever act in isolation to cause violence. It acts by exacerbating pre-existing crises. Crises that libertarians have, intellectuals like the ones you mentioned, have been important in creating, mainly the, the 30-year legacy of free market economic restructuring pushed by the United States and the Bretton Woods institution, the World Bank and the IMF, on the developing economies of the global south, which have mandated that in exchange for lifeline loans, state assets such as state companies, et cetera, must be sold off. [Inaud.] must be deregulated. State support for health and human services, et cetera, must be cut back. This is austerity, this is the neoliberal restructuring agenda. And it has created increased inequality and increased absolute poverty, which is an endemic crisis in many places.

Chart of the day: Poverty, the real terrorism

From SHOCK WAVES: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty [PDF], a new publication of the World Bank:

BLOG Child killers

Map of the day: Sub-Saharan poverty

From HarvestChoice, a map of poverty in 24 nations of Sub-Saharan Africa:

BLOG Afropoverty

Life at Guantanamo Bay and the art of protest

Our video offering features the latest edition of the Laura Flanders Show, a report on the art of protest in the form of an unusual performance piece featuring an American musician and performance artist teamed up with one of the youngest prisoners ever held at the Guantamo Bay concentration camp.

Because Mohammed el Gharani is barred from entering the United States, he appears in the form of a hologram projected onto a chair that is also a work of sculpture.

So who is he?

From Wikipedia:

Mohammed el Gharani is a citizen of Chad and native of Saudi Arabia born in 1986, in Medina. He was one of the juveniles held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp with an estimated age of 15–16 years when he arrived at the camps. Human Rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith identified Al Qarani as one of a dozen teenage boys held in the adult portion of the prison.

The Independent said Gharani was accused of plotting with Abu Qatada, in London, in 1999 – when he was a 12-year-old, living with his parents, in Saudi Arabia. He was detained for seven years in the United States Guantanamo Bay detention camps.

On January 14, 2009, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ordered the release of Gharani because the evidence that he was an enemy combatant was mostly limited to statements from two other detainees whose credibility had been called into question by US government staff. Gharani’s attorney Zachary Katznelson said after the ruling “Judge Leon did justice today. This is an innocent kid when he was seized illegally in Pakistan and should never have been in prison in the first place.”

In a piece for the London Review of Books, el Gorani described one experience at Gitmo, a conversation with another black man, intermediated by prison bars:

Once, in 2005, one of our brothers was badly beaten in front of us. I sat in my room not speaking to anyone all day. During night shift, one of the good guards, a black guy from Louisiana, came to me. We called him Mike Tyson because he was a boxer. He used to bump my fist through the bars: ‘Wassup, Chris?’

‘If at least we’d done something bad, I could understand …’

‘Brother, look at my face!’ he said. ‘How long you’ve been here with Americans?’

‘Four years.’

‘I’ve been suffering 27 years, man! I know what it is. They put my brother in jail for no reason, instead of a white guy.’ Most of the people in jail in US are blacks, he told me. ‘My grandfather and my great-grandfather were in the situation you’re in now.’ He meant they were slaves, shackled like us.

So how did Anderson work to convey a sense of the emotional intensity of Gharani’s experience given his physical absence?

From Telesur English:

Laura Flanders – Laurie Anderson & Mohammed el Gharani: Habeas Corpus

Program notes:

Like all men held at Guantanamo Bay, Mohammed el Gharani, who was imprisoned at the age of 14, is barred from entering the USA. But American artist Laurie Anderson found a way to bring him to the states, via telepresence. Laura talks with Anderson about presence, absence and the questions raised in Anderson’s latest attention-getting performance, Habeas Corpus. We also hear from el Gharani, who was held at Guantanamo from 2002 until his release in 2009, about prison-camp solidarity, the prisoner who is his hero, and his thoughts on slavery and the Middle Passage – then and now. All that and an F Word from Laura on a long, 40 second delay.

The Empire Files: Refugees, class, and warfare

Not so very long ago in historical terms, a wave of xenophobic alarm flooded American media, triggered by a wave of immigrants seen as offering allegiance not to the duly elected government in Washington but to a foreign religion.

That alarm was raised by Christians [Protestants with British and Northern European ancestors] against fellow Christians [Irish Catholics].

Nowadays, new waves of religious xenophobia are sweeping both Europe and the U.S., this time aimed at the flood of immigrants fleeing sectarian violence that directly caused by the ravages of the needless wars launched in the wake of the 9/11 attacks delivered by nationals of the one country the U.S. and Europe wouldn’t think of bombing.

And would-be refugees die in their hundreds, swamped at sea in overladen boats and suffocating in trucks on Europe’s highways, all because the dangers they faced at home were event worse. Meanwhile, their rich compatriots suffer no such dangers as they emigrate freely from the Mideast and North Africa to Europe and North America.

And once in their countries of refuge, poor immigrants are becoming targets of violence directed by rising numbers of the populist far Right.

In this latest edition of Telesur’s The Empire Files, Abby Martin looks at the story behind the latest exodus, a story mainstream media are reluctant to present in its full nuance.

From The Empire Files:

Who Is To Blame For The Refugee Crisis?

Program notes:

Today 60 million human beings are displaced from war and extreme poverty. Many European countries are responding to the crisis with racist hysteria, polices and police state measures.

Abby Martin exposes the facts that are left out of the mainstream reporting: the role of criminal wars, disastrous neoliberal economics and why mass displacement is a permanent feature under this system.

Featuring interviews with:

  • Atossa Abrahamian, journalist and author of the new book “The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen” (Twitter: @atossaaraxia)
  • Professor Saskia Sassen, sociologist and expert on human migration, currently serving as co-chair of Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. She just published her latest book on the subject, “Expulsions.” (Twitter: @SaskiaSassen)

Chart of the day: Ebola continues to smolder

From the World Health Organization, graphic evidence that Ebola continues to emerge in West Africa, though at much reduced rates; three cases emerged in Guinea in the latest reporting week. Click on the image to enlarge:

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