Archive for Africa

Good News on the Ebola Front!

If you’re Liberia, and even then, only sorta:

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Ebola cases are continuing to rise “frighteningly quickly” in areas of Sierra Leone, an international campaign group has said.

The Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) found that in rural parts of the country the virus is spreading nine times faster than two months ago.

In Liberia, however, the rate of new cases appears to have slowed.

Though Sierra Leone’s rural areas have been worst hit, the group says the spread of Ebola is also increasing in the capital Freetown – which is recording six times more cases per day compared to two months ago.

It’s like Whac-E-Bola! Everything we’re doing in Liberia is being undone Sierra Leone.

I say Guinea overtakes Liberia by New Year’s. Any takers?

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How to Stop ISIS

Hey, Obama ate dog (tough):

A mob stoned to death a suspected terrorist before burning his corpse and eating him in revenge for a series of attacks in Congo that have left 100 people dead.

Witnesses said the young man, who has not been identified, aroused suspicion on a bus in the north east of the country when passengers discovered he could not speak the local Swahili language and that he was carrying a machete.

Witnesses said he was then stoned to death by the crowd before his body was burned and eaten.

It’s a nasty day here today: cold, rainy, windy. But this story, and the story below of Egypt evicting Gazans from their homes, are like a warm fire. Sweet. (Or so I’ve been told.)

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Should We Send a Gift…Gifts?

Now, this sounds like the Boko Haram I know:

The leader of Nigeria’s Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has denied agreeing to any cease-fire with the government and said more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls all have converted to Islam and been married off.

In a new video released late Friday night, Abubakar Shekau dashed hopes for a prisoner exchange to get the girls released.

“The issue of the girls is long forgotten because I have long ago married them off,” he said, laughing.

Ha-ha-ha. Only not everyone is laughing:

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Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, on Oct. 17 announced that Boko Haram had agreed to an immediate cease-fire to end a 5-year-old insurgency that has killed thousands of people and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes in northeast Nigeria.

But attacks and abductions have continued with the extremists this week seizing Mubi, a town of more than 200,000 people. Fighting also continued Friday in Vimtin, the nearby village where Badeh was born.

Shekau in August announced that Boko Haram wanted to establish an Islamic caliphate, along the lines of the IS group in Syria and Iraq. Fleeing residents have reported that hundreds of people are being detained for infractions of the extremists’ version of strict Shariah law in several towns and villages under their control.

The government had said it had negotiated with two Boko Haram leaders in Chad, with talks hosted by President Idriss Deby, and that it was confident the girls would be freed soon. But Boko Haram has many factions.

Shekau’s announcement further discredits the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, who on Thursday formally announced his candidacy for elections on Feb. 14, 2015 in Africa’s most populous nation. Nigeria, with some 160 million people, is divided almost equally between Muslims who dominate the north and Christians in the south.

Sounds like the Muslims rather dominate the South, too. But then, I’m not supposed to call them Muslims, am I? Our leaders tell us this is not true Islam. This is some cheap knockoff Islam as you might see peddled like “Rolexes” and “Guccis” on the sidewalks of midtown Manhattan. It’s just that these false prophets have so much product!

With regards to the president’s reelection chances, I hope you’ll forgive me for this: good luck Jonathan.

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Different Strokes

You mean there is a way to allow American citizens to travel to and from plague-stricken lands? While protecting the rest of us from potential infection?

Do tell:

Australia came under fire on Tuesday from health experts and rights advocates after it issued a blanket ban on visas from West African nations affected by the Ebola outbreak, making it the first rich nation to shut its doors to the region.

Australia has not recorded a case of Ebola despite a number of scares, and conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott has so far resisted repeated requests to send medical personnel to help battle the outbreak on the ground.

The decision to refuse entry for anyone from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, while touted by the government as a necessary safety precaution, was criticized by experts and advocates as politically motivated and shortsighted.

“The government has strong controls for the entry of persons to Australia under our immigration program from West Africa,” Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told parliament on Monday.

“These measures include temporarily suspending our immigration programe, including our humanitarian program from Ebola-affected countries, and this means we are not processing any application from these affected countries.”

All non-permanent or temporary visas were being cancelled and permanent visa holders who had not yet arrived in Australia will be required to submit to a 21-day quarantine period, he added.

Maybe it’s an overreaction, but how many infections/deaths do you need before it’s not? Shouldn’t Australia be praised for doing this before a single case, and not after an epidemic has begun? What “rights”
do Guineans have in Australia?

Is America’s protocol (whatever protocol rules on any given day) really better? Thomas Eric Duncan lied repeatedly to get here. Who wouldn’t? Let he who is without fever cast the first stone.

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#KidnapOurGirls

I like to be on the right side of history:

Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped at least 30 boys and girls from a village in northeast Nigeria during the weekend.

The abductions are the latest in a string of recent kidnappings by Boko Haram that dims hope for the anticipated release of 219 schoolgirls held by the group since April following a controversial ceasefire declared by Nigerian authorities.

Heavily armed Boko Haram gunmen invaded the town of Mafa, in Borno state, on Friday through Saturday and seized 30 boys and girls, local leaders said.

The news of the kidnappings was slow to emerge due to lack of telecom service in the region, where most telecom towers have been destroyed in Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency against Nigeria’s government.

“In the past two days Boko Haram insurgents stormed Mafa and abducted 30 boys aged 13 and above and girls aged 11 and above,” Mafa local government chairman Shettima Maina said.

“They took them away to their base in the bush, and we believe they are going to use them as foot soldiers,” Maina said.

Mallam Ashiekh Mustapha, the local chief of Mafa who confirmed the abductions, said the kidnappers also stole 300 cows from the farming community in the raid.


#bringbackourgurnseys

Not funny, I know, but I’m a bad person. Sorry.

I still say it’s less offensive than the posing celebrities and their moping pusses.

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Boko’s Harem

Bring back, bring back,
Oh, bring back our girls to us…

Dozens of women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s north-eastern Adamawa state have been abducted by suspected militants, residents say.

The abductions have not been confirmed by the authorities, but residents say they took place a day after the military announced it had agreed a ceasefire with the Boko Haram group.

The government hopes the Islamist group will free more than 200 girls seized in April as part of negotiations.

Boko Haram has not confirmed the truce.

I think they’ve confirmed the lack thereof.

Say, I just thought of something…

Did anyone try saying “please”? I bet even Islamic terrorists like to be asked nicely.

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The E-Word

It’s the new N-word:

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die of Ebola in the United States, was not the right kind of victim for the west: he wasn’t a pretty young woman smiling in sunglasses as a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Bentley licks her cheek; he didn’t have a young, benevolent doctor’s face that looks “appropriate” plastered on newspapers; he wasn’t a kindly older nurse who told reporters how God had spared her. He wasn’t the kind of person to whom primetime news specials would dedicate 20 minutes and glorify with quotes from loved ones about his kind spirit or ceaseless determination to overcome an unfair affliction.

Thomas Eric Duncan was black, he was poor, and he was African.

That he was.

Oops! My bad. That’s George Obama. Honest mistake. The list of poor black Africans betrayed by the West is virtually endless.

Note how the writer didn’t say he was the first American to die of Ebola. There have been plenty of those already: saintly souls who’ve risked their lives to help the sick and needy. Risked them and lost them. And Duncan certainly wasn’t the first African to die of the disease. He finished somewhere in the 4,000s, I believe. And Duncan wasn’t American.

No, he happened to be in the statistically unique position to be the first person to die of a disease endemic to Africa in the geographic proximity of the United States (as many of us feel about Texas).

Well, it had to be somebody. And it was likely (given all the above) that it would be a poor, black African.

And being the first, is it any wonder he was first misdiagnosed? Even if he hadn’t lied to get here, hadn’t shamed his country (according to the president of the country) by spreading the disease to a new continent, he would still likely have been misdiagnosed. Why would Dallas know Ebola even when it was staring them in the face?

But what do I know?

(CNN) — The tragedy of Ebola is not just its staggering toll. It’s also the implicit racism that the deadly virus has spawned. The anecdotes are sickening, particularly a Reuters report this week that children of African immigrants in Dallas — little ones with no connection to Thomas Duncan, the Liberian Ebola patient who died Wednesday in a local hospital — have been branded “Ebola kids” simply because of their heritage or skin color.

In both the United States and Europe, Ebola is increasing racial profiling and reviving imagery of the “Dark Continent.” The disease is persistently portrayed as West African, or African, or from countries in a part of the world that is racially black, even though nothing medically differentiates the vulnerability of any race to Ebola.

Duh! People know you don’t have to be black to get Ebola. That’s why people are scared.

But Ebola is African. It’s named after a river in the Congo. It seems to be tied to African fruit bats. Its outbreaks—until now—have been in Africa alone. Do Africans get gout?

We just go done with the canard that Republicans caused Ebola by cutting funding (ads declaring such have been pulled). Now, this.

We’re not too smart, I guess. Our response to a litany of threats and tragedies is limited to blaming ourselves. It gets old fast, if you ask me.

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Congratulations Nigeria!

We’re used to losing to Africans in marathons, but we thought we had them beat in medicine.

I blame our “coach”:

Nigeria has been declared officially free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

WHO representative Rui Gama Vaz, speaking in the capital Abuja, said it was a “spectacular success story”.

Nigeria won praise for its swift response after a Liberian diplomat brought the disease there in July.

The outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa, mostly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

An estimated 70% of those infected have died in those countries.

The WHO officially declared Senegal Ebola-free on Friday.

Senegal? Senegal’s medical system bested ours? Words fail me…

The WHO can declare an Ebola outbreak over if two incubation periods of 21 days pass with no new cases. The last reported case in Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country – was discovered on 5 September.

The BBC’s Will Ross in Lagos says the nightmare scenario of Ebola spreading through Nigeria’s 170 million people has been avoided and the nation is heaving a collective sigh of relief.

I would have bet (someone else’s) money that once Ebola hit Lagos, it was goodnight Nigeria.

How’d they do it?

Officials credit tighter border controls, good patient-tracking and other medical practices, and just plain luck with keeping Ebola confined mostly to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since the outbreak was first identified nearly seven months ago.

Senegal did so well in finding and isolating a man with Ebola who had slipped across the border from Guinea in August that the World Health Organization on Friday will declare the end of the disease in Senegal if no new cases surface.

Nigeria is another success story. It had 20 cases and eight deaths after the virus was brought by a Liberian-American who flew from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital of 21 million people, in July. Nearly 900 people were potentially exposed to the virus by the traveler, who died, and the disease could have wreaked havoc in Africa’s most populous nation.

Border closings may also be helping halt the spread of Ebola.

Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, all of which share borders with at least one of the three most affected countries, have closed those borders.

Nigeria initially banned flights from countries with Ebola but relaxed the restriction once it felt that airlines were competent to take travelers’ temperatures and follow other measures to prevent people with Ebola from flying.

Nigeria has teams taking the temperature of travelers at airports and seaports.

Another factor is luck. All it takes is one infected person to slip around guards at a border post or get aboard a plane.

“God has been merciful we haven’t reported a case in Kenya, but we really need to up our disaster preparedness,” said Dr. Nelly Bosire, an official with Kenya’s main medical union.

“The fact we stopped doing the West African flights had an impact. On that part I think we got it right. But it still has more to do with luck.”

Luck is the residue of design, the saying goes. Meanwhile, we still haven’t cleaned up the residue where Thomas Eric Duncan hurled.

But we’ll get there! Look out, Senegal, we’re right behind ya!

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Coming to America

You don’t need a brain as big as this guy’s to know that travel from West Africa is a bad idea right now—but as long as he has one anyway:

[A]ccording to the head of a research institute in Cambridge, the new restrictions might still not go far enough.

Yaneer Bar-Yam leads the New England Complex Systems Institute, and for years he’s been arguing that in cases of severe infectious disease outbreaks, the best policy might be to prohibit travel from afflicted countries altogether.

“At the global level, I do think transportation should be curtailed from, but not to, West Africa,” he says.

Bar-Yam is trained as a physicist. His research primarily focuses on the behavior of complex systems, like, for example, the way an infectious disease moves through a population. In 2006 he coauthored a paper with Erik Rauch, a computer scientist at MIT, called “Long-range interactions and evolutionary stability in a predator-prey system.” The title is a mouthful, but the paper’s implications for the current Ebola outbreak are stark. Bar-Yam and Rauch used mathematical models to simulate the spread of an infectious disease; their analysis suggests that even small amounts of travel between regional populations may be enough to allow an infectious disease to jump from one country to another. “Even if significant mixing already exists,” the authors write, “a small amount of additional mixing may cause extinction.” And in this case, extinction means us.

And we all know how liberals love models. Sounds like “settled science” to me.

“Severe pathogens . . . can be stopped by the very fact that they’re destructive,” he says. “If they kill off their host, whatever’s going to happen is going to happen locally.” In other words, epidemics burn out on their own when the disease has no one left to infect, provided they’re not able to hop across oceans on airplanes.

One of the biggest arguments against travel restrictions is the sense that our health care system can handle isolated Ebola cases as they crop up here. Bar-Yam thinks that confidence is misplaced, a view which has gained some currency as it’s emerged that a Dallas hospital misdiagnosed and released Duncan when he first showed up for treatment.

Doctors trace the severity of an outbreak by the average number of people become ill after contact with an infected person. If the number is one or less, the outbreak is stable or declining. If it’s greater than one, it’s spreading. Thomas Eric Duncan infected two people (that we know of), trained nurses, in a “health care system can handle isolated Ebola cases as they crop up here”.

If you weren’t soiling your drawers before, now’s a good time to start. If you were, you should get checked out. It’s a symptom.

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Ebola Failures

I said I would lay off Ebola for a while, and I will. Soon. Promise.

Until then:

Recent pledges of help and deployments to Africa’s Ebola-hit regions have had no impact on the epidemic, a senior Medecins Sans Frontieres official says.

Christopher Stokes, who heads the charity’s Ebola operation, said it was “ridiculous” his volunteers still bore the brunt of care for sufferers.

The remarks came as UN chief Ban Ki-moon pleaded for funds, as a drive for donations fell short of its target.

UN Secretary-General Ban said a $1bn trust fund he launched in September has received just $100,000 (£62,000) so far.

Donors have given almost $400m (£250m) to other UN agencies and aid organisations directly but the UN trust fund, intended to act as a flexible spending reserve, has itself only received pledges of just $20m (£12m).

The ultimate Jack Benny dilemma: Obama or the UN? I’m thinking, I’m thinking!

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I’m not sure whether the chart counts only pledges or aid delivered—indeed, whether it counts the troops we have over there now—but it would appear to me that America has provided (or will provide) more aid than the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the EC, the UK, Germany, and China combined.

But if the world looks at the UN as the savior of humanity from contagion, it’s no surprise it looks away in disgust.

PS: The fun is beginning to wear off:

The current Ebola outbreak is “running much faster” than the international response to it, the co-discoverer of the virus said Thursday.

“This is the first Ebola epidemic where entire nations are involved, where big cities are affected,” Peter Piot, a microbiologist and a former undersecretary general of the United Nations, told Global Public Square host Fareed Zakaria. “And I continue to be worried that the response to the epidemic is really running behind the virus.”

According to the World Health Organization’s latest update, there have been almost 9,000 confirmed and suspected cases, with almost 4,500 deaths. However, the WHO warned there could be as many as 10,000 new cases per week in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of this year.

Piot, a member of the team that discovered the virus in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, made headlines earlier this month when he told The Guardian newspaper he feared an “unimaginable catastrophe” if the virus became lodged in a mega-city such as Lagos.

“The three countries that are affected are being totally destabilized, not only in terms of people who are killed by Ebola — their families, the orphans that now are coming up because the parents died — but the economy has come to a standstill,” Piot said Thursday, speaking from Oxford.

“People are massively dying from other diseases that are normally treatable, like malaria, or women die while giving birth because hospitals are abandoned or are full with Ebola patients. So that’s a very, very destabilizing factor,” he said, adding that the impact of its spread is “beyond Ebola.”

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Ebola Follies

A great, great, GREAT, GREAT call to Rush today:

RUSH: Here’s Thomas in Washington, DC. Thomas, you’re our first call today. It’s great to have you on the program. Hello.

CALLER: Longtime listener first-time caller. I really appreciate what you’re doing.

RUSH: Thank you, sir.

CALLER: I wanted to make a statement that I think the American people need to hear. (huffing for air) Sorry, I was just out jogging. The… (gasping) I’m a physician here in Washington, DC. I used to be in the military.

Introductions out of the way, I’m going to cut to the chase:

CALLER: Just, for instance, somebody comes into contact with somebody with Ebola and the virus now replicating in the host body, in the human.

RUSH: But the host may not know it. The patient may not know that he’s contagious yet.

CALLER: He has no idea.

RUSH: Okay.

CALLER: If you’re in an infected area or high-risk area where it’s found, you should be concerned about it. But if you’re around somebody, say, in an airport and they’re shedding the virus and they’re asymptomatic you have no idea. What I’m saying is the virus can reach elevated levels prior to 21 days, prior to sickness symptoms and be shed through close contact prior to the patient getting sick. So if we’re just leaving it as a litmus test, “Oh I’m sick; therefore I shouldn’t be on a plane,” or, “therefore I now can transmit this disease,” that’s wrong. The viremia prior to getting sick can be shed even though it may be smaller but it’s still infectious.

RUSH: So let me… So what you’re essentially saying is that when we are told, “If a patient is not showing symptoms, you can’t catch the disease,” that may not be true.

CALLER: That may not be true. Like I said, studies to prove or disprove this have not been made.

This confirms something I thought—and wrote—days ago: how likely is it that you become toxic just the moment you start feeling poorly? The only reason you start feeling poorly in the first place is that the viral load is building up in your body. It must be true that you are “shedding” the virus for a period of minutes to hours before you acknowledging feeling sick yourself.

But let the doctor tell you:

CALLER: Because from a statistical point of view, that’s probably true 99% of the time, for the majority of the time. But the virus is replicating in the body prior to it getting to a high enough titer where they can get sick. But prior to the symptoms occurring, the virus can still be spread or shed from the body that has been infected prior to actually having symptoms. This is what people need to know. We cannot be allowing people to come into America even if they’re asymptomatic, because the virus can be shed prior to symptoms. Prior to a level of the virus actually hurting the body, the body can be shed in the same manner prior to sickness. It may be statistically low, but it can happen.

They finished with the politics of situation:

CALLER: Well, they’re hurting us. Our own health care workers are at risk. Our patients are at risk. You look at what happened down in Dallas and you’ll realize that our facilities are ill equipped to handle an outbreak more than maybe a patient or two. We’re not equipped to handle this. We should not be allowing patients to come in from infected areas without like a 31- or 40-day waiting period.

RUSH: No, no, no. Doctor, as has been stated by a number of people now — particularly when it comes to Liberia and Sierra Leone — we cannot turn our backs on those people because it was slavery in this country that was responsible for those countries being set up and established so that slaves in this country could escape and have a place for freedom. Now if they’re getting sick, we can’t turn our backs on them. We can’t close the borders. That isn’t going to happen for political reasons, among many others.

CALLER: Well, that’s illogical. It bares no common sense, and from a national security point of view —

RUSH: Maybe not, but there is common sense if you have different objectives.

Rush has made the point several times that Obama can’t close the borders to Liberians because he wants to open the borders to everyone else. Anyone want to convince me that’s not so?

I didn’t think so.

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What Did I [Bleeping] Tell You?

Thanks, Liberia. Thanks a [bleeping] bunch:

A man claiming to have recently traveled to Liberia in West Africa who turned up at the Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates urgent-care offices in Braintree this afternoon complaining of a headache, muscle aches and other Ebola-like symptoms was quarantined and has been brought to one of Boston’s top hospitals under police escort, according to multiple authorities.

“Out of an abundance of caution we immediately notified authorities and the patient was securely removed from the building and put into an ambulance now headed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The building was closed briefly but has now re-opened. We are working closely with the Department of Public Health who will determine next steps,” said Dr. Ben Kruskal, chief of infectious disease for Harvard Vanguard.

The driver of the Brewster Ambulance transporting the patient shortly before 4 p.m. was seen wearing a hazmat suit and face mask. Beth Israel is planning to hold a press conference shortly.

A second person was later brought out on a stretcher in a hazmat suit and placed in a second ambulance.

Department of Public Health spokeswoman Anne Roach, when asked about the Braintree case, told the Herald, “There are no cases of Ebola in Massachusetts,” while adding, “DPH is only reporting on confirmed cases.”

Odds of it being Ebola are less than 50%, probably. But still.

Seriously, Obama?

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