Category Archives: Development

Abby Martin’s swan song: An insightful look at Cuba


Abby Martin’s final week at the helm of RT America’s Breaking the Set with an insightful look at Cuba, offering a rare, and comprehensive, look at the people and its political, economic, and agricultural systems.

In the face of overwhelming opposition and subversion from Washington, fueled by the Cuban exile dominance of the electoral votes of Florida, the small island nation 90 miles from U.S. shores, and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union, its main base of support, Cuba faced enduring struggles, yet endured.

In the process, it has created revolutions in healthcare and agriculture, becoming the only nation in which cities provide most of their own food from intensive and organic neighborhood gardens and educating a cadre of physicians who have provided much, often most, of the total global response to medical emergencies around the world.

The outstanding examples set by Cuba in these fields have made a mockery of the enduring U.S. embargo against the island nation, leaving Israel Washington’s only ally in opposition to full normalization of relations.

In these three segments, Abby Martin demonstrates the skills she has honed during, first, her years as an unsalaried journalist at Berkeley Community Television, then during the three years at the helm of her RT America news magazine.

So sit back and enjoy a remarkable work of journalism.

From Breaking the Set:

Cuba Part I: Revolution, Sabotage & Un-Normal Relations

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin highlights BTS’ eight day trip to Havana, Cuba, starting with a historical look at the tensions between the US and Cuba that have led the two countries to the negotiating table to normalize relations. Abby then discusses the major areas of contention when it comes to these negotiations and where they currently stand. BTS producer, Cody Snell, then speaks with members of the largest delegation of peace activists to visit Cuba since the normalized relations announcement, highlighting the role of grassroots diplomacy. BTS than talks to average Cubans both in Havana and in Miami about their views on the state of US-Cuban relations. BTS wraps up the show with an interview with Kenia Serrano, a high ranking Cuban parliament member and President of The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, about everything from internet access to the crackdown on free speech in the country.

Cuba Part II: Ebola Solidarity & Castro’s Daughter on Gay Rights

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin highlights part II of BTS’ eight day trip to Havana, Cuba, starting with an interview with Cuban doctor, Katiel Llorente Izabelez, who explains how Cuba has managed to maintain such a high life expectancy rate, despite the lack of access to up to date medical supplies. BTS producer, Cody Snell, then speaks with students at the Latin American School of Medicine, an international medical school set up by the Cuban government that provides free tuition to low income individuals that want to become doctors. Abby then discusses how Cuba managed to send the largest contingent of doctors to fight the ebola crisis in West Africa, and how this is just the latest example of the country’s medical internationalism. Abby then goes over the US programs meant to encourage Cuban doctors to defect and how this undermines international health efforts. BTS wraps up the show with an exclusive interview with Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President, Raul Castro, and director of Cuba’s sexual education program CENESEX, about the biggest challenges facing Cuba’s gay community.

Cuba Part III: The Evolution of Revolution

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin features the third installment of BTS’ trip to Cuba, focusing on reforms to the country’s economic and agricultural models. Abby first gives an overview of how Cuba’s organic movement evolved and the challenges of the country’s food subsidy system. Abby then speaks with agricultural co-op founder, Miguel Angel Salcines Lopez, about how Cuba’s cooperative and food system works. Abby then talks to Ernesto Blanco, owner of La Fontana restaurant in Havana, about the difficulties of operating a private business in Cuba and how entrepreneurs are being impacted by recent economic reforms. Abby then speaks with Ricardo Alarcón, Cuba’s former minister of foreign affairs and president of the People’s National Assembly of Power, about the normalization process with the US and the biggest hurdles still remaining in the negotiations.

EnviroWatch: Measles, water, climate, & nukes


From the Guardian, An outbreak in Chicago:

Measles cluster at Chicago daycare prompts health department investigation

  • Five children younger than 12 months old – under the recommended age to receive the measles vaccine – diagnosed with infectious disease

Diagnoses of measles for five children in a Chicago-area daycare prompted an investigation by the Illinois department of public health on Thursday, although the source of the infection remained unknown.

All five children were younger than 12 months old and attended the Palatine KinderCare Learning Center in Palatine, Illinois. Two unvaccinated children tested positive for measles and results were pending for the other three, who were diagnosed based on clinical criteria, Cook County officials told reporters.

Dr Terry Mason, chief medical officer for Cook County, said there were “at least 15 children” causing concern after being “potentially exposed” to the infected infants. Mason said the county’s investigation confirmed that two cases were linked to the daycare’s common room, at which point officials contacted staff there.

The latest California numbers, via CNN:

CA confirms 99 cases of measles

California says the number of confirmed measles cases in the state is growing.

The number now stands at 99.

Many of those cases are connected to December’s outbreak at Disneyland.

And numbers for Germany, via  TheLocal.de:

Berlin counts 254 new cases of measles in 2015

Measles have taken hold in Berlin in an outbreak that could have been entirely preventable with vaccines, the federal authority for disease control said in an interview published on Thursday.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is reporting that in Berlin alone, there have been 375 people infected with measles since the beginning of an outbreak in October, dampening the federal government’s goal to have the disease eradicated by the end of this year.

Germany had signed on to the WHO’s pledge to eliminate the disease by 2015, but that doesn’t look possible, says the RKI.

And a vaccine that doesn’t work, via the London Telegraph:

Flu vaccine given to millions in the UK barely works

  • A warning has been circulated that the main strain of influenza has mutated since the jab was prepared

The flu vaccine given to millions of people in the UK barely works, health officials have admitted, amid warnings that the number of deaths this winter will be the worst for 15 years.

Public Health England (PHE) warned that the main strain of influenza in circulation – which is particularly lethal among the elderly – has mutated from the type that was used in the jab.

As a result, it is working in just three per cent of people given it, when it is normally effective in around half of cases.

And it has no effectiveness at all against the dominant strain of flu in circulation this winter, which is particularly dangerous in the elderly.

A big number for another disease, via Newswise:

Lyme Disease Costs Up to $1.3 Billion Per Year to Treat, Study Finds

  • Research suggests prolonged impact of the tick-borne illness in some patients is greater and more widespread than previously understood

Lyme disease, transmitted by a bite from a tick infected by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, had long been considered easy to treat, usually requiring a single doctor’s visit and a few weeks of antibiotics for most people.

But new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that a prolonged illness associated with the disease is more widespread and serious in some patients than previously understood. With an estimated 240,000 to 440,000 new cases of the tick-borne illness diagnosed every year, the researchers found that Lyme disease costs the U.S. health care system between $712 million and $1.3 billion a year — or nearly $3,000 per patient on average — in return doctor visits and testing, likely to investigate the cause of some patients’ lingering symptoms of fatigue, musculoskeletal pain and memory problems. These visits come after patients have finished their original course of antibiotics.

Some doctors call those persistent symptoms post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS); others call it chronic Lyme disease. Still others attribute the complaints of fatigue, headaches and memory problems to the hum of daily life, the aches and pains that come with aging. At the core of the controversy is whether PTLDS can be a severe and chronic condition that requires more than reassurance and symptomatic therapy. While a blood test can confirm Lyme disease, there is no definitive test for PTLDS and there are no approved or proven treatments. It’s a controversial topic in medicine, the Hopkins researchers say.

A report on the findings is published online Feb. 4 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Veggie validation, via Medical Daily:

Occasionally Buying Organic Produce Significantly Reduces Exposure To Pesticides

Organophosphates (OPs) are the most common and toxic pesticides used today, namely on conventionally grown produce. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified OPs as highly or moderately toxic; low levels are suspected to be enough to affect the human nervous system. While prior research deduced these conclusions by relying solely on urinary biomarkers, a new study predicts exposure to OPs based on people’s diets.

“The magnitude of pesticide exposure from diet depends partly upon personal decisions such as which foods to eat and whether to choose organic food,” researchers wrote. So they culled data from 4,466 participants already taking part in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis — a medical research study involving men and women from six communities in the U.S. This data included the types and amounts of produce each participant ate in a year, as well as how often each participant ate organic foods.

Participant-level exposure was estimated by combining the information on typical intake of specific foods with average OPs residue levels on those items. And among conventional participants (they reported rarely or never eating organic produce), researchers assessed the levels of pesticides excreted in urine. They found among “conventional consumers,” increased OPs exposure from produce was associated with higher OPs in their urine.

As for participants who bought organic produce, levels were significantly lower — and that’s if they occasionally bought and ate organic produce. For those who often or always bought organic fruits and vegetables, they experienced around 65 percent lower levels of pesticides in their urine. Live Science reported this study is among the first to consider pesticide residue levels through a person’s diet.

A Big Agra butterfly threat from EcoWatch:

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Crop System Puts Monarch Butterflies at Brink of Extinction

Center for Food Safety (CFS) released today a detailed, 80-page scientific report, Monarchs in Peril: Herbicide-Resistant Crops and the Decline of Monarch Butterflies in North America. The comprehensive report reveals the severe impacts of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops on the monarch population, which has plummeted over the past twenty years. The report makes it abundantly clear: two decades of Roundup Ready crops have nearly eradicated milkweed—the monarch caterpillar’s sole source of food—in cropland of the monarch’s vital Midwest breeding ground. At the urgent request of scientists and public interest groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering listing the monarch as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The report is being presented to Congress today at an expert briefing on the decline of monarchs.

“This report is a wake-up call. This iconic species is on the verge of extinction because of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop system,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. “To let the monarch butterfly die out in order to allow Monsanto to sell its signature herbicide for a few more years is simply shameful.”

Monarch population numbers have fallen by 90 percent in less than 20 years. This year’s population was the second lowest since careful surveys began two decades ago. The critical driver of monarch decline is the loss of larval host plants in their main breeding habitat, the Midwestern Corn Belt. Monarchs lay eggs exclusively on plants in the milkweed family, the only food their larvae will eat.

After the jump, an unpalatable petro pollution policy in California, deforestation leads to Brazilian drought, and the drought spreads to another Brazilian city, parsing the climate debate, on to Fukushimpaocalypse Now!, as American sailors press for damages, another reactor plant hits another restart roadblock, and an active fault is found near another plant, plus another exposure of the “low carbon” nuclear myth. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Alarm, end game, schools, economy


We begin with the latest U.S. alarm, and not all that far from Casa esnl, via the Los Angeles Times:

Possible Ebola patient at UC Davis Medical Center

A person has been checked into UC Davis Medical Center with symptoms consistent with Ebola, the hospital announced in a statement Thursday.

The person was transferred to the hospital Thursday morning from Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, said UC Davis Medical Center spokeswoman Dorsey Griffith.

The hospital could determine if the patient has Ebola by the end of the day Thursday, she said.

If the person is diagnosed with Ebola, UC Davis is well prepared, Griffith said.

A video report from KCRA News in Sacramento:

Suspected Ebola patient treated at UCD Medical Center

Program notes:

Health officials confirmed a patient suspected of having the Ebola virus is being treated at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento after the person was transferred from Mercy General Hospital.

More from the Sacramento Bee:

Patient being treated at UC Davis Medical Center for possible Ebola

The isolation room in which the patient is being held is “properly equipped and segregated,” and the patient poses “no risk to the public or medical center patients,” according to a statement from the hospital.

Dr. Gil Chavez, state epidemiologist and deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement that the patient was being evaluated for Ebola but officials had not confirmed if the virus was present. Without specifically addressing whether the patient had been in West Africa, Chavez referred to protocols used whenever a person displays Ebola-like symptoms and has recently traveled to Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea.

The patient is considered low-risk, and health officials are gathering more information, said Laura McCasland, spokeswoman for the county health department. UC Davis canceled a press conference at the last minute Thursday afternoon with little explanation. It was unclear when test results would come back.

From the Guardian, the/an end in sight:

Ebola outbreak moves into endgame

  • With fewer than 100 cases of deadly virus reported in west Africa in last week, focus turns to contact-tracing

Fewer than 100 cases of Ebola have been reported in west Africa in the last week, according to the World Health Organisation, which says the outbreak has now effectively moved into the endgame.

The massive effort that went into building treatment centres for thousands of sick people was now being diverted as quickly as possible into contact-tracing. All previous Ebola outbreaks, although on a far smaller scale, have been stopped by the efficient tracing and monitoring of every person who might have come into physical contact with someone with the virus.

In Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, “efforts have moved from rapidly building infrastructure to ensuring that capacity for case finding, case management, safe burials and community engagement is used as effectively as possible”, said the WHO’s latest situation report.

More from the United Nations News Center:

With new Ebola cases reaching record low, UN health agency targets ending epidemic

This week, the number of new Ebola cases recorded in West Africa fell below 100 for the first time in seven months, the World Health Organization reported today as it announced that the battle against the deadly virus has shifted from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic.

“To achieve this goal as quickly as possible, efforts have moved from rapidly building infrastructure to ensuring that capacity for case finding, case management, safe burials, and community engagement is used as effectively as possible,” WHO said in its latest update containing data up to 25 January 2015.

The WHO announcement came as the United Nations focused on recovery aspects of the Ebola epidemic that affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone the most.

The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Ebola, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, was to participate in a UN-African Union stakeholders meeting in the Ethiopian capital on the reconstruction of the affected countries, as the Executive Boards of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) was meeting today on Ebola Recovery at UN headquarters.

According to WHO, the response to the Ebola epidemic has now moved to a second phase, “as the focus shifts from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic.”

The latest UN Ebola case map [click on it to embiggen]:

BLOG Ebola map

From Deutsche Welle, a note of qualification:

Lindner: ‘Ebola crisis is by no means over’

The worst Ebola virus outbreak in history has killed nearly 9,000 people, almost of them in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The WHO says the worst is over but Germany’s Ebola envoy says there is need for caution.

DW: The World Health Organization says the number of new Ebola infections is falling and the tide may be turning. You have just returned from Sierra Leone, one of the worst affected countries. Do you share this view?

Walter Lindner: Indeed I have just returned from my fifth visit in the region within four months. It’s true, I could really see a change. For the first time there is a light at the end of the tunnel but we have to be careful because walking this last mile will be a very difficult thing to do. There are dangers on the way, people are losing their attention, they are going back to school, and they are touching each other again. In short, if we are too relaxed about this, then the whole thing could turn for the worse again. It is a turn of the tide, that’s true and we might get down to zero (cases) within the next months but we really have to keep up our efforts.

DW: The epidemic has had a catastrophic effect on the economies of the affected countries. Aid agency OXFAM has called for a program to start up the economic motor again and says there can be no excuse for other countries not to help. This is also being discussed at the African Union summit now underway in Addis Ababa. What could Germany’s contribution be?

Walter Lindner:I think everyone is aware that we all came late, except for very few organizations like Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders). They were the ones who were warning earlier on that this could be a big epidemic. We came late, but we came. I think the (international) presence is now everywhere in all the three countries. This is during the time of need and humanitarian assistance. But of course after the humanitarian assistance there will be the development partners and the development people. There might be different people who will be present but of course one part of the lessons learnt from Ebola is that we have to make sure that the health system, educational system and other things in those countries which were already weak before Ebola, should be strengthened. Only then can we avoid another outbreak of the same dimension.

And a call for help, via the U.N. Global Ebola Response:

UNMEER Chief Hails AU Contribution to Ebola Fight, Calls for Continued Global Support

Today, at a meeting of global stakeholders to review progress on the Ebola response, the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) called on all leaders to maintain commitment until the goal of zero cases is reached.

At the United Nations – African Union Stakeholder Meeting on Ebola, being held as part of the 24th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed addressed government representatives, principals from regional bodies, and bilateral and civil society partners, thanking them for their support thus far in the fight to stop the Ebola outbreak, and urging them to keep up their efforts.

“The situation is still perilous. There is still Ebola in more than 25 of the 66 districts, counties and prefectures in the region,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed. “I ask you all to maintain support until the task is completed.”

From AllAfrica, spot on:

Tanzania: Ebola Has Exposed Global Unpreparedness, Says Kikwete

THE Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been devastating because the world is unprepared for such deadly pandemics, President Jakaya Kikwete has said.

President Kikwete made the observation in Berlin where he was attending the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) meeting. Africa was represented by President Kikwete and Malian President Babacar Keita in the meeting.

The Ebola outbreak, he said, has exposed weaknesses in public health systems of some countries making it impossible to deal with pandemics and that they needed to learn lessons from the crisis.

“The world does not have the needed capability to deal with outbreak of pandemics as it has been proven by the Ebola disease,” he said.

From BBC News, changes being made:

Ebola outbreak: Virus mutating, scientists warn

Scientists tracking the Ebola outbreak in Guinea say the virus has mutated.

Researchers at the Institut Pasteur in France, which first identified the outbreak last March, are investigating whether it could have become more contagious.

Scientists are starting to analyse hundreds of blood samples from Ebola patients in Guinea. They are tracking how the virus is changing and trying to establish whether it’s able to jump more easily from person to person

“We know the virus is changing quite a lot,” said human geneticist Dr Anavaj Sakuntabhai. “That’s important for diagnosing (new cases) and for treatment. We need to know how the virus (is changing) to keep up with our enemy.”

Looking for realization, via FrontPageAfrica:

Liberia’s Ebola Prospects: What it Takes to Get to Zero?

The medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) set on fire portion of its Ebola Treatment Unit where patients who tested positive for the deadly virus were being cared for.

The decommissioning of this first section of the ELWA-3 ETU on Monday is the first time a part of the center is actually taken apart. The number of beds at the ETU had previously been reduced from 250 to 60 and other ETUs across the country continue to report a rapid decline in Ebola cases. With this rapid reduction in the number of cases, Liberia seems to be moving to a sustainable lead in its response to the deadly epidemic.

For people who have been affected by the deadly epidemic either living in Liberia or in the diaspora, the news of a rapid reduction in Ebola cases is a sigh of relief considering the level of trauma, the virus brought with it.

Amos KwesiJ essy is an Ebola survivor who now works with MSF as a security guard. For him, news of a steady reduction in Ebola cases brings relief, but at the same time a moment of reflection on all that Liberians have faced during the epidemic. Said Jessy: “Today brings a memory of joy and sadness. Joy because gradually we are bringing Ebola to an end; sad because most of the Ebola patients that entered this compound, in search of recovery, could not make it.”

After the jump, more Liberian counties on the Ebola-free list, it’s back to school time [though some dissent], one group of returnees receives special care, but Liberian economic recovery remains a distant goal and the country’s healthcare woes remain exposed, on to Sierra Leone and more economic woes, economic woes for laid-off frontline healthcare workers, and computers are brought to bear. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, the upbeat, the admonitory


We begin with the latest numbers, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

From Reuters, an enigmatic controversy:

Scientists ask if Ebola immunises as well as kills

A recent sharp drop in new Ebola infections in West Africa is prompting scientists to wonder whether the virus may be silently immunising some people at the same time as brutally killing their neighbours.

So-called “asymptomatic” Ebola cases – in which someone is exposed to the virus, develops antibodies, but doesn’t get sick or suffer symptoms – are hotly disputed among scientists, with some saying their existence is little more than a pipe dream.

Yet if, as some studies suggest, such cases do occur in epidemics of the deadly disease, they may be a key factor in ending outbreaks more swiftly by giving secret protection to those lucky enough to be able to bat the infection away.

“We wonder whether ‘herd immunity’ is secretly coming up – when you get a critical mass of people who are protected, because if they are asymptomatic they are then immune,” Philippe Maughan, senior operations administrator for the humanitarian branch of the European Commission, told Reuters. “The virus may be bumping into people it can’t infect any more.”

Next, from the U.N.’s Global Ebola Response:

UN Stresses Need for Ebola Surveillance in Border Towns

Representatives of the Governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire today began meeting in Freetown, under the umbrella of the Mano River Union, a sub-regional political grouping comprising the four countries, to agree on methods to control and prevent disease outbreaks in the border areas.

The United Nations supports the initiative, according to Amadu Kamara, Crisis Manager for the UN Mission Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) in Sierra Leone. Kamara told the gathering that included Ebola Response administrators, medical officers, technical and operational planning experts from all four countries that Ebola could not be defeated without “addressing its regional dimensions.” The virus should be seen as “one epidemic with many fronts,” he said.

Dubbed the “Sub-regional Ebola Technical Meeting on Border Surveillance and Disease Control,” participants hope to formulate guidelines that will regulate how patients, corpses and laboratory samples are transferred across borders. Such guidelines will also focus on cross-border surveillance conduct and contact tracing.

There is a UN mandate to support “efforts to rationalize resources, provide the strategic framework for a regional approach, as well as to ensure that our borders do not make it easy for the disease to escape,” stressed Kamara. Currently, he said: “We have moved from a phase where we were being hounded and hunted to a stage where we are now hunting Ebola.” Recent figures by the World Health Organization show that transmission rates are declining in all three countries.

From IRIN, the quest continues:

Ebolanomics – the search for a vaccine

When Ebola hit West Africa last year, it was a disease with no sign of a vaccine or cure. To those affected that may have been an indication that the wider world didn’t care about them or the diseases that affected them, but in truth there has simply been no incentive for anyone to develop these therapies. Yet now pharmaceutical companies are racing to produce an effective vaccine, and on 23 January the British company GlaxoSmithKline shipped the first 300 doses of its candidate to Liberia to start phase II trials.

At an event in the UK Houses of Parliament to discuss the economics of developing such vaccines, Jon Pender, a vice president of GSK, said he had been surprised, in the circumstances, that companies had any possible candidates at all on their shelves which could be developed and tested. He challenged suggestions that this was just because Ebola epidemics happened in poor countries where there was little scope for profit.

“That isn’t the reason why we don’t have vaccines for Ebola. The reason we don’t have a vaccine is because it wasn’t a priority for anyone, and there are understandable reasons for that…. The number of people affected each year was very small and the overall disease burden, in comparison to other disease like malaria or HIV, is tiny. The fact is that in the forty years that we have known about Ebola, including the present outbreak, there have been about 24,000 known cases. There are that many cases of malaria every hour.”

Now, clearly, it has become a priority. So if it isn’t just about money, how do you persuade the pharmaceutical industry to work on a normally obscure disease like Ebola? Adrian Thomas is a vice-president at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, which is also now working to get an Ebola vaccine to market. He says, “The first question is, what is the strength of the science? The second thing is to what extent there is a reward for innovation or a willingness to risk-share. And the third is, will we actually reach people? I think we have to understand what are the clear priorities for global health…

On to Liberia, first with Voice of America:

Official: Liberia Entering Last Lap in Ebola Crisis

A senior Liberian official says most of his country is Ebola-free and he is optimistic that cases of Ebola can be brought down to zero in a matter of weeks.

Ebola cases in Liberia have declined from a peak of more than 300 a week in August to fewer than 10 per week in January.

Liberia’s Minister for Commerce and Industry, Axel Addy, said Monday that 13 of 15 counties now are reporting zero cases of Ebola for 21 days, the period of incubation for the disease.

He said only about 31 patients currently are being treated nationwide in ETUs, or emergency treatment units. He said the dramatic drop in the number of people falling ill from the virus is giving rise to hopes that this menace is nearing its end.

“We think we can make it to zero by end of February [at] the latest. We are very close to that. The border towns are being monitored very closely with Sierra Leone and Guinea and we are working with the teams in those countries to make sure that the cases in those areas do not spread beyond the borders,” said Addy.

The exception, via the Liberia News Agency:

Montserrado ‘Active Transporter Of Ebola’ – Nyenswah

Montserrado County is the only place in Liberia that is now the “active place of the transport of the Ebola virus,” the head of the Incident Management Team (IMT), Tolbert Nyenswah, has disclosed.

He said the fact that 13 counties have reported no new cases recently shows “there is a drastic reduction in new Ebola cases in the country,” the Liberia News Agency reports.

Nyenswah made the disclosure when he addressed the MICAT regular Ebola press briefing at the ministry Tuesday.

From the Liberian Observer, winding down:

CAAE-Ebola Massive Awareness Campaign Ends in Lofa

  • Leadership Sends SOS for Post-Ebola Challenges, Awareness

A massive awareness and sensitization campaign against the deadly Ebola virus under the banner of Citizens Action Against Ebola (CAAE) has  ended in seven administrative districts in Lofa County.

However, initial preparations for the Ebola virus awareness and sensitization activities were characterized by some serious challenges and constraints that ranged from financial and logistical constraints in Monrovia and the various districts of Lofa County.

The Ebola virus awareness and sensitization initiatives were carried out during the height of the medical crisis for almost six weeks by volunteers of the CAAE’s leadership in Lofa County.

From IOL News, shutting down:

Ebola: Liberia closes clinic

Liberia’s president on Monday announced the closure of an Ebola treatment facility which lay at the epicentre of the virus’s worst outbreak in history, as the disease’s spread has slowed in the country.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf warned Liberians that while they could not yet afford to relax, the country had made significant progress in the fight against Ebola, and thanked states who helped Monrovia combat the virus.

“Lofa, the epicentre of the virus, has had no new cases for over 70 days,” she said in the speech at the national parliament.

“The Ebola Treatment Unit in Foya is closed,” she said, referring to an area in the north of the country near its border with Guinea, where the virus hit Liberia for the first time.

FrontPageAfrica covers the lingering human cost:

200 Children Orphaned By Ebola Virus in Liberia’s West Point

The deadly Ebola epidemic caused so many children to become orphans in Liberia. Many children lost one or both of their parents and most of them were rejected by family members for fear that taking them may lead them to contracting Ebola. In the suburb of West Point, which was quarantined at the height of the epidemic, it has been discovered that over two hundred children are orphaned by the deadly virus outbreak.

Jacob Dennis, 7 and his sister lost their parents to the Ebola virus. He lives with his aunt in West Point but said he has never been in the classroom. The child has said he wants to go to school but with his parents dead, he does not know if he would make it to the classroom. Dennis has a two-year-old sister and both children cannot recall how their parents died.

Agatha Tagbeh, 14, like Dennis is another Ebola orphan, she said her mother contracted the deadly virus when she went to mourn the death of a friend. She said the mother came home and became sick. She said when her mother became sick, her father started to care for her with all of them sleeping in the same room.

She said she was attending the N.V Massaquoi Public School in West Point before the epidemic struck and in the 4th grade. “My ma went on her family mat and that’s how she brought Ebola to us, we are three children, two girls one boy, one is eight years and the other is one year,” she said.

Across the border with the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

Cuban doctor who survived Ebola returns to Kerry Town

A Cuban medical doctor who was treated for Ebola returned to Kerry Town to thank the UK Military Health Care Workers who helped him to defeat this terrible disease.

Dr. Felix Baez was admitted to the now 20 bed Ebola Virus Disease Treatment Unit in November after becoming infected. Although the World Health Organisation took the decision to move him to Geneva for treatment, there was no doubt in his mind that the treatment he received from British Military staff was second to none.

Dr. Baez was accompanied by his colleagues Felippo and Jorge Delgado Bastillo to meet the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Alison McCourt and her team of Health Care Workers.  After their first meeting in very different circumstances two months ago, Dr. Baez was “very happy” to see Alison and her team again.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a call:

Post-Ebola plan needed to avert “double disaster” in West Africa – Oxfam

The three West African countries worst hit by Ebola risk a “double disaster” unless a multi-million dollar plan is put in place to help their economies recover, Oxfam said on Tuesday.

In Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone people were struggling to make ends meet having seen their incomes plummet, the aid agency said.

“The world was late in waking up to the Ebola crisis, there can be no excuses for not helping to put these economies and lives back together,” Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s chief executive, said during a visit to Liberia.

He said a post-Ebola “Marshall Plan” should address three areas of urgent need: cash for families affected by the crisis, investment in jobs and support for basic services.

More from the Associated Press:

Oxfam: Rich countries must support Ebola recovery

Rich countries must act swiftly to repair battered health systems and get cash to millions of families in the three countries hit hardest by the world’s worst Ebola outbreak, the international development agency Oxfam said Tuesday.

Though the economies of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia were recording strong growth prior to the outbreak, the countries remain some of the world’s poorest and incomes have shrunk dramatically since the first Ebola cases were confirmed in Guinea last March.

New cases now appear to be on the wane, but Oxfam said donor countries should commit to a post-Ebola “Marshall Plan” that would address urgent cash shortages and crippling damage to social services like health, education and water and sanitation.

EnviroWatch: Ailments, environs, fuel, and nukes


And more.

A new hot zone, via the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Deadly Japanese encephalitis surges in northeast India

Cases of deadly mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis have risen nearly five-fold in five years in India’s northeast Assam state as a result of warming weather and changing rainfall, health experts say.

Between 2010 and 2014, the number of annual cases rose from 154 to 744, with deaths rising from 41 to 160, according to data from the Assam health department. The disease, which in 2009 was recorded in only half of the state’s districts, now is seen in all of them.

Doctors say climate change has played a major role in the spread of the disease, which once appear largely from May to July, but now is seen as late in the year as November, as mosquitoes survive longer in warmer conditions.

From BBC News, making connections:

Dementia ‘linked’ to common over-the-counter drugs

A study has linked commonly used medicines, including over-the-counter treatments for conditions such as insomnia and hay-fever, to dementia.

All of the types of medication in question are drugs that have an “anticholinergic” effect.

Experts say people should not panic or stop taking their medicines.

In the US study, in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, higher doses and prolonged use were linked to higher dementia risk in elderly people.

Another hot spot, via Deutsche Welle:

German hospital gripped by outbreak of multiresistant bacteria

  • A team of experts has arrived in Kiel following an outbreak of a multiresistant pathogen at a university clinic. At this point, 27 patients have been infected with the strain. Eleven have died.

The bacterium in question, Acinetobacter baumannii, has been excluded as the cause of death in nine of the 11 cases, according to a hospital statement. In the other two cases, concerning patients aged 87 and 70, Schleswig-Holstein University Clinic (UKSH) spokesman Oliver Grieve said it “couldn’t be ruled out” that the strain was solely responsible for the deaths.

As of Saturday, 27 patients had been infected with the bacterium, which, according to experts, is particularly infectious among patients with immune deficiencies. For patients of normal health, the strain is considered far less dangerous.

The reason for the alarm – and the impetus for flying in a team of leading specialists from the Frankfurt University Clinic – concerns the strain’s almost impregnable resistance to antibiotics, the standard treatment of bacterial infections.

“We are dealing with an extremely resistant strain of bacteria,” Harald Seifert, a professor at Cologne University’s Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene, said in an interview with DW. “Over the years, the spectrum of its resistance has grown to the extent that, to my knowledge, only one antibiotic can be used: colistin.”

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, a virus makes landfall:

B.C. resident diagnosed with first North American case of H7N9 avian flu

The Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed North America’s first human case of H7N9 influenza, a strain of avian flu that can cause severe pneumonia and death but is not believed to spread easily from person to person.

A British Columbia couple in their 50s fell ill with the “classic” influenza symptoms of a fever and cough shortly after returning to the province’s lower mainland on Jan. 12 following a trip to China.

On Monday morning, tests confirmed that the woman has H7N9. The man, who is also sick, is suspected of having the same strain of the virus, but that has not yet been confirmed.

Deprivation sculpts the brain, via Science:

Childhood neglect erodes the brain

In perhaps the most famous study of childhood neglect, researchers have closely tracked the progress, or lack of it, in children who lived as infants in Romania’s bleak orphanages and are now teenagers. A new analysis now shows that these children, who display a variety of behavioral and cognitive problems, have less white matter in their brains than do a group of comparable children in local families.

The affected brain regions include nerve bundles that support attention, general cognition, and emotion processing. The work suggests that sensory deprivation early in life can have dramatic anatomical impacts on the brain and may help explain the previously documented long-term negative affects on behavior. But there’s some potential good news: A small group of children who were taken out of orphanages and moved into foster homes at age 2 appeared to bounce back, at least in brain structure.

“This is an exciting and important study,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatric researcher Martin Teicher, who directs the developmental biopsychiatry research program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. The “crucial question” of whether children can recover from the setbacks of early adversity had not been answered before, he adds.

From the New York Times, damned if you do/don’t:

A Tragic Choice: Fight Malaria or Starve

Program notes:

Millions of mosquito nets are given out fight to malaria in Africa, yet many faced with hunger use them as fish nets, creating potential environmental problems.

From United Press International, inevitable:

Murkowski: Obama’s Alaska move an act of war

  • Former state governor estimated the region could hold vast oil reserves

The Obama administration has declared war on the economic future of Alaska by proposing new acreage as protected wilderness, congressional leaders said.

The White House announced plans Sunday to set as 12 million of the 19 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as protected wilderness.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, said in a statement President Barack Obama launched an assault on the health of the state’s economy with the policy recommendation.

Fox News Latino covers a notable Mexican move:

Mexican gov’t shuts down Dragon Mart project on environmental concerns

The Dragon Mart, a trade mart being built in the southeastern Mexican state of Quintana Roo with Chinese investment, has been ordered to shut down due to environmental damage caused by the project, federal environmental officials said Monday.

The project, located in the El Tucan district of the city of Benito Juarez, was ordered to close down following a visit by federal environmental inspectors who determined that developers had failed to comply with orders recently issued by officials, the director of the Profepa environmental protection agency, Guillermo Haro, said in a press conference.

Developer Real Estate Dragon Mart was building the trade mart in a jungle area that is home to wildlife and a coastal ecosystem that are “all protected” by environmental laws, Haro said.

Defining the dominant market sector, via StarAfrica:

Botswana leader blames Asian market for increase in animal poaching

Botswana President Ian Khama on Monday said that the Asian market was to blame for increase in poaching activities in the Southern Africa region.
Speaking at the refurbishment of Khama Rhino Sanctuaryin north-eastern Botswana, the President said “you are all aware of the threat to the rhino in the region by poachers feeding foreign markets in Asia.” He said rhinos, like other wildlife, must not be looked upon as just animals.

“They have a value in terms of our important natural heritage. Like diamonds, another of our natural resources, they bring in much needed revenue into the country and create a lot of employment,” he said.

InsideClimate News tackles a fuel foul in the Golden State:

Study Raises Concerns About Toxic Oil and Gas Emissions in California Air

  • An infrared camera, air sampling and surveys reveal that methane and toluene are among the contaminants showing up in Kern and Ventura counties

The infrared video showed an eerie scene: waves of volatile chemicals floating from the vent pipes of an oil-and-gas processing plant in the Lost Hills region of Kern County, Calif. The gas wafting into the air looked like heat shimmering off asphalt on a hot summer’s day.

The fumes are invisible to the naked eye, yet the special camera employed by researchers working with two environmental advocacy groups revealed the toxic emissions that flow from the facility every day it operates.

Based on the infrared camera video, air sampling and health surveys, a study by Earthworks and Clean Water Fund has concluded that the communities of Lost Hills and Upper Ojai in Ventura County are being exposed to dangerous air contaminants associated with oil-and-gas production.

An Old Blighty ban vanquished, via BBC News:

Fracking moratorium rejected by MPs

MPs have overwhelmingly rejected a bid to suspend fracking for shale gas. But the government agreed to Labour proposals for 13 new conditions to be met before shale gas extraction can take place.

During a Commons debate, ministers also pledged an “outright ban” on fracking in national parks. Earlier, a committee of MPs called for a moratorium on the practice on the grounds that it could derail efforts to tackle climate change.

The Environmental Audit Committee also warned that there were “huge uncertainties” about the environmental impact of fracking.

But a concessin is made, via the London Telegraph:

Fracking to be banned in national parks, Government concedes

  • Government u-turn introduces outright ban on fracking in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty as well as new red tape on shale gas companies

Fracking will be banned in national parks and new red tape imposed on shale gas companies, the Government has announced, in a major concession to Labour and opponents of the industry.

Amid a mounting political backlash over the Government’s staunch support for fracking, ministers on Monday announced a series of u-turns that will significantly restrict where the controversial drilling technique can take place.

Thousands of square miles of the UK including national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and areas near to groundwater sources will now have a total ban on fracking.

After the jump, European fears of trans-Atlantic trade deal lawsuits, an Indo/American greenish agreement, Japan belatedly gives consideration to special rules for mercury, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with radioactive fish, trouble passing water, nuclear power quota pondered, Taiwan ponders the nuclear power route, one U.S. state’s unique nuclear power oversight model, and to close, a necessary reminder. . . Continue reading

Envirowatch: Alarms shriek, outbreaks, & nukes


We begin with a three-alarm fire, first from the New York Times:

Unprecedented Level of Human Harm to Sea Life Is Forecast

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of committing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a co-author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found. Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

Next, via the Washington Post:

Scientists: Human activity has pushed Earth beyond four of nine ‘planetary boundaries’

At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world.

The paper contends that we have already crossed four “planetary boundaries.” They include the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean.

“What the science has shown is that human activities — economic growth, technology, consumption – are destabilizing the global environment,” said Will Steffen, who holds appointments at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center and is the lead author of the paper.

And this from the Guardian:

Rate of environmental degradation puts life on Earth at risk, say scientists

  • Humans are ‘eating away at our own life support systems’ at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years, two new research papers say

They found that the changes of the last 60 years are unprecedented in the previous 10,000 years, a period in which the world has had a relatively stable climate and human civilisation has advanced significantly.

Carbon dioxide levels, at 395.5 parts per million, are at historic highs, while loss of biosphere integrity is resulting in species becoming extinct at a rate more than 100 times faster than the previous norm.

Since 1950 urban populations have increased seven-fold, primary energy use has soared by a factor of five, while the amount of fertiliser used is now eight times higher. The amount of nitrogen entering the oceans has quadrupled.

All of these changes are shifting Earth into a “new state” that is becoming less hospitable to human life, researchers said.

From the report:

BLOG Boundaries

The Pope draws a conclusion, via Reuters:

Pope says climate change mostly man’s fault

Pope Francis said on Thursday he believed that man was primarily responsible for climate change and that he hoped this year’s Paris conference would take a courageous stand to protect the environment.

The Pope said his long-awaited encyclical on the environment was almost finished and that he hoped it would be published in June, ahead of the U.N. climate meeting in Paris in November.

Speaking to reporters on the plane taking him from Sri Lanka to Manila, he was asked specifically if man was mostly to blame for climate change.

“I don’t know if it is all (man’s fault) but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature,” he said.

Next, some good newws [?] from the London Telegraph:

Haggis is the cure for American obesity epidemic, say peers

  • President Obama urged to drop ban on sale of haggis in the US

The United States should lift its ban on the import of haggis in an attempt to tackle the country’s obesity crisis, a leading medic has said.

Lord McColl of Dulwich, a retired professor of surgery, said American Scots were being deprived of the “wholesome” food and as a result dying of obesity.

Lord Winston, a leading fertility doctor and television presenter, told the Lords that haggis was “revolting” but if it could be used to curb obesity it should be promoted in Glasgow.

And what constitutes Groundskeeper Willie’s favorite dish? From Wikipedia:

Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach.

On to outbreaks, first with Jiji Press:

Bird Flu Outbreak Confirmed in Okayama Pref.

An outbreak of highly pathogenic bird flu has been confirmed in the western Japan prefecture of Okayama, prefectural government officials said Thursday.

Chickens that died at a poultry farm in the city of Kasaoka tested positive for H5 subtype avian flu virus in a genetic test, the officials said.

This was the fourth case of highly pathogenic bird flu in Japan this winter, following two in the southwestern prefecture of Miyazaki and one in the western prefecture of Yamaguchi last month.

Closer to Casa esnl with the Associated Press:

6 more California measles cases tied to Disney outbreak

California health officials confirmed that six new measles cases are connected to an outbreak at Disney theme parks last month, bringing the total number of illnesses to 32.

The new cases include five in Los Angeles County and one in San Diego County. Craig Sturak with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency said Thursday that the latest case in his area posed no threat of public exposure.

Officials were working to confirm additional possible cases in San Diego County after several people showed up to an urgent care clinic with measles symptoms. Sharp HealthCare spokesman Curtis Ippolito says the La Mesa clinic closed after patients arrived Wednesday morning with fevers and rashes. He declined to say how many people were involved or whether they were related.

Across the Atlantic with StarAfrica:

Cholera outbreak kills 20 in oil rich Rivers State of Nigeria

The outbreak of Cholera in 11 communities in the oil rich Rivers State in south-eastern Nigeria has claimed 20 lives, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Sampson Parker, has confirmed.

Parker told journalists in Port Harcourt on Wednesday after visiting the affected communities in Andoni Local Government Area that the outbreak was reported on January 5.

“So far, 171 cases have been recorded with 20 deaths in the outbreak which was reported on January 5. The Local Government Area Rapid Response Team with State Emergency Response Team, have responded swiftly,” he said.

From StarAfrica again, and even more troubling:

Rwanda faults imported bed nets for surge in malaria infections

For a country that has been acclaimed as a role model in the fight against malaria, Rwanda’s story has now somewhat become worrying.

Malaria skyrocketed by over 30 percent to one million cases in 2013, while the most affected, Kirehe District, reported more than 40, 000 cases in December last year, up from 37,812 in November.

According to the Rwandan Minister of Health, Agnes Binagwaho, the worrying situation is being blamed on sham mosquito bed nets imported from Netprotect – a Danish firm.

After conducting investigations, the government is now awaiting approval from its Justice Ministry to drag Netprotect to court for providing nets that did not serve their purpose.

On to China and another epidemic, via People’s Daily:

China reports over 100,000 new HIV/AIDS infections in 2014

China reported 104,000 new HIV/AIDS infections in 2014, up 14.8 percent from the previous year, the country’s central health authority revealed on Thursday.

Wang Guoqiang, vice head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said that the overall rates of infection and number of HIV/AIDS cases have stayed at a low level.

China has provided anti-viral treatment for an additional 85,000 HIV/AIDS patients last year, an increase of 21.2 percent compared with 2013, Wang said at a national conference on disease control.

Wang said despite the low pandemic situation, the spread of the disease in certain areas is still high.

SciDev.Net covers anther outbreak:

Race is on to save banana from fungus wilt

A global plan to fight Fusarium wilt, a fungus spreading from Asia to Africa and the Middle East, is needed to prevent the world’s most popular banana variety from disappearing.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and 30 other organisations have estimated that a strategic global plan to contain the disease could cost US$47 million to implement.

The fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense Tropical Race 4, or TR4, is a destructive one that afflicted Asia for more than 20 years, affecting China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan, as well as northern Australia.

Its appearance in Mozambique in early 2013 raised the alarm of cross-continent spread, and sparked moves to devise the global plan, the main goals of which were discussed last month during a meeting in Rome where the FAO is based.

After the jump, avian climate change deaths in Mexico, deforestation threatens the world natural medicine wellsprings, on to the fracking front, with numbers from the Golden State and a fracking transformation of Ohio into an earthquake hot zone, Colombian farmers await a verdict in their BP pollution suit, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, with a hot waste shipment delay, Japanese subsidies for faster reactor restarts, Fukushima fears haunt nuclear power politics in Seoul, China’s President Xi sees a golden nuclear power future, and an international nuke disaster compensation accord draws nigh. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, patients. money, woes


We begin with the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control:

BLOG Ebola

Next, from NBC News, a front line fighter returns:

Dr. Rick Sacra Won’t Push His Luck in Return to Ebola Zone

Dr. Rick Sacra may be immune to the Ebola virus, but he’s not going to push his luck by testing that natural defense.

Sacra was infected with Ebola in September while working in Liberia. Now, he’s headed back. “In fact, the experts tell me I am immune,” Sacra said. “I don’t plan to test that but I am grateful for it.”

The University of Massachusetts emergency room physician survived the virus after he was flown to the University of Nebraska’s special treatment unit where he received every available treatment.

It’s been a long, tough road, Sacra said at a news conference. But the medical missionary for North Carolina-based SIM said he never doubted he’d be going back to help fight the epidemic that’s infected more than 21,000 people and killed more than 8,200.

He’s the first American to return after having survived Ebola.

Another First World healer emerges from the shadow of death, via the Guardian:

UK Ebola nurse no longer critically ill, hospital says

  • Pauline Cafferkey is showing signs of improvement and remains in isolation at the Royal Free hospital in London

British nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, is showing signs of improvement and is no longer critically ill, the Royal Free hospital in London has said.

The Scottish public health worker remains in isolation at the hospital where she is receiving specialist care. She was diagnosed with Ebola after returning to Glasgow and was admitted to the city’s Gartnavel hospital on 29 December before being transferred to the Royal Free the following day.

Cafferkey, from Cambuslang in south Lanarkshire, had volunteered with Save the Children at the Ebola treatment centre in Kerry Town before returning to the UK.

From the World Bank, the hardly surprising:

Ebola Hampering Household Economies across Liberia and Sierra Leone

  • Latest surveys point to declines in employment, food insecurity, and long-term welfare concerns

The socio-economic impacts of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone are far-reaching and persistent, according to two new World Bank Group reports. Both countries continue to experience job losses, despite their differing health outlooks. These impacts have not been limited to the areas where infections have been the highest, which points to economy-wide slowdowns. As a result, many households have been forced to take short-term actions to cope, which can have substantial long-term effects on welfare.

“The Ebola virus itself must be eradicated- this is the number one priority,” said Ana Revenga, Senior Director for Poverty at the World Bank Group. “But its socio-economic side effects put the current and future prosperity of households in Liberia and Sierra Leone at high risk. We must pay careful attention to those who are most vulnerable to both health and economic shocks, and ensure that they are supported throughout and after the crisis.”

In order to capture the key socio-economic effects of Ebola, the World Bank Group and partners are undertaking high-frequency mobile phone surveys.  In Liberia the surveys are conducted by the Gallup Organization in partnership with the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, and in Sierra Leone, the data collection is led by Statistics Sierra Leone in partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action.

From Reuters, harsh but logical:

After Ebola, WHO blames governments and seeks more clout

The World Health Organization says governments flouted their obligations during the Ebola crisis and wants more power to tackle health emergencies in future, documents published by the international agency showed on Monday.

The Geneva-based U.N. health organisation has been heavily criticised for its slow response to the Ebola epidemic, which has now killed at least 8,371 people out of more than 21,000 cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The WHO promised in October to publish a full review of its handling of the outbreak once the epidemic was under control.

But it has not yet done so.

CCTV Africa covers preventive measures:

Health experts Discuss ways to Prevent Ebola from Reaching Middle East

Program notes:

More than 170 international and regional health experts gathered in the Egyptian capital Cairo – to discuss how to prevent the Ebola virus from spreading to the Middle East. The meeting follows evaluations done in 18 countries to identify measures that are being taken to avoid spread of the disease.

More from the World Health Organization:

WHO-EMRO: Ebola assessment missions in the Eastern Mediterranean Region

Program notes:

In response to the Member States’ request, the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean completed Ebola assessment missions in 18 out of 22 countries in the Region during November and December 2014. More than 60 experts reviewed preparedness and readiness measures for Ebola in six main areas: leadership and coordination, points of entry, surveillance and contact tracing, infection prevention and control, laboratory services, and risk communications. At the end of the mission, the WHO teams shared their key findings and recommendations in each of the six areas.

Reuters covers a Chinese move:

China quietly toughens travel restrictions on West Africans

China has been quietly toughening travel restrictions on students and businessmen traveling from Ebola-hit West Africa even as it increases support to fight the deadly disease on the ground in the region, diplomats say.

Beijing-based ambassadors from Liberia and Sierra Leone, whose countries along with Guinea are the hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak, say some of their nationals are staying away from China due to the new procedures.

No cases of Ebola have so far been reported in China.

While AllAfrica covers a plea in the opposite direction:

Kenya: Uhuru Calls for West Africa Flight Ban Review

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday called for a review of the Ministry of Health and Kenya Airways decision to suspend flights to three Ebola ravaged West African nations.

He said that in the spirit of Pan-Africanism, Kenya cannot afford to isolate its “kin” in times of trouble and should instead stand in solidarity with them.

“Bwana MD,” he told Kenya Airways Managing Director Mbuvi Ngunze, “when you get there (Liberia and Sierra Leone) you need to see how we shall resume flights there so we can visit with you from time to time,” he said to the 170 health workers who left Kenya Friday for the Ebola hit-nations on board two chartered Kenya Airways planes.

From StarAfrica, a recovery grant:

IDB grants $35m to Ebola nations in Africa

Representatives from the four countries plagued by the Ebola epidemic namely Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali, on Monday secured from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), a $35 million fund for their recovery once the hemorrhagic fever is over, APA can report.

The agreement to this effect was signed in Conakry between IDB boss, Dr. Ahmed Muhammad Ali and delegates from the beneficiary countries participating in a ministerial meeting on Ebola by Mano River Union member countries.

According to the IDB boss, the funds disbursed by Saudi Arabia are already under the custody of the financial institution, which will make it available to four countries.

Guinean Minister of International Cooperation, Dr. Moustapha Sanoh Koutoub, disclosed that his country will receive the lion’s share of the funds, benefiting from some $12 million.

On to Liberia and a back-to-school story from FrontPageAfrica:

Children & Parents Eyeing Return to School as Ebola Slows

Grace Travers is a mother of three and had been wishing to register her Three-year-old daughter in school last September but due to the deadly Ebola epidemic, schools in Liberia remains closed and students have lost almost a whole semester of schooling.

Travers’ daughter will no longer start school at three because of the delay, but she tells FrontPageAfrica that she cannot bear the thought of the older children missing a whole year of school and wants the government to keep its promise of reopening of school in February. “I want schools to reopen because the children are playing all day. For me as a parent, I want school to reopen because our children have been sitting home for so long due to Ebola,” she says.

Travers says her children are home all day, though she has to work and it is difficult keeping them under proper control without school. She says it is important that the government reopen school soon, because they longer children stay without school the more difficult it will be for families to keep them out of trouble. She said school is a very important part of a child’s upbringing and missing it has many consequences.

Major progress continues, via the Monrovia Inquirer

Lofa County Still Ebola Free…As Citizens Remain Vigilant

Lofa County, the epicenter of the vicious Ebola virus that has killed thousands of Liberians as well as foreign nationals has made significant strives in the war against the virus.

For the past three months there has been no reported new cases of the deadly virus as intimated by Philip Michael Forkpa, Hygienist Supervisor of the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Foya now Community Case Center following the departure of the charitable organization MSF that had been running the center during the heat of the health crisis.

“Thanks to the citizens who have remained vigilant and continue to observe all the health measures in every village and town because it was due to the resilience of the people of Lofa County that has caused the county to make such gains against the virus,” Forkpah stated.

Ebola started in Foya on March 19, 2014 when the first case was discovered at the FoyaBarma Hospital in the Northern County of Lofa. In the month of March 2014, authorities at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare reported the first case of the Ebola disease in Lofa County.

More from the Liberia News Agency:

Lofa Supt. Urges Joint Effort To Avert New Ebola Outbreak

Lofa County Superintendent George Dunor has said the battle against another Ebola outbreak in Lofa must get the collective efforts of all citizens and not only government and its partners as was the case during the first outbreak.

Superintendent Dunor noted that although the Ebola situation in the county is gradually declining, the need for everyone to continue to follow preventive measures to avoid a new outbreak should be the concern of everyone.

He told the Liberia News Agency in Voinjama over the weekend that traditional and religious leaders, women and youth organizations must constantly carry out the Ebola awareness campaign aimed at eradicating the virus from the county.

After the jump, a familial disaster follows a funeral, a door-to-door campaign, deadly conflict erupts at the border, and aid dispatched to another afflicted country, and on to Sierra Leone with a reporter’s traumatic encounter with Ebola, communities plagued by depression and panic, and an existential question to close. . . Continue reading