Category Archives: Health

Ebola Fears Turn Into an Epidemic of Racism and Hysteria

Andrew Jerell Jones wrote for The Intercept:

‘[..] Far more contagious here has been a new virus of hysteria — and of the sort of ignorant discrimination that immigrants in general and Africans specifically have endured for decades.

People are being shunned and mocked for having visited, or even for simply having been born in, Africa — and anywhere in Africa will do, afflicted with Ebola or not. Others face discrimination simply for living in the same neighborhood where a single Ebola patient once lived. Politicians and pundits have seriously discussed closing our borders to entire nations. Panic is dividing the country at a time when the U.S. and indeed the whole world needs to pull together to solve a viral health crisis.’

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Amid Ebola, ISIS and Ukraine, Britain’s Preppers Ready Themselves for Black Swan Events

Shane Croucher reports for the International Business Times:

Steve Hart's Every Day Carry kit‘The walls of society are falling down. After months of geopolitical crises tearing through every region, the global economy has seized up and there are supply shortages of everything: food, water, energy. News comes through that riots are breaking out across the UK. What would you do?

John Bland knows exactly what he would do because he is a “prepper”. Preppers are, as the nickname suggests, prepared. To them the collapse of society is not probable, but it is still possible. So they prepare for it in all ways, from boning up on survival skills to having fully stocked bunkers.’

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Iraqi Doctors Call Depleted Uranium Use “Genocide”

Dahr Jamail writes for Truthout:

2014.10.14.Jamail.Main‘Contamination from depleted uranium (DU) munitions is causing sharp rises in congenital birth defects, cancer cases and other illnesses throughout much of Iraq, according to numerous Iraqi doctors.

Iraqi doctors and prominent scientists believe that DU contamination is also connected to the emergence of diseases that were not previously seen in Iraq, such as new illnesses in the kidney, lungs and liver, as well as total immune system collapse. DU contamination may also be connected to the steep rise in leukaemia, renal and anaemia cases, especially among children, being reported throughout many Iraqi governorates.

There has also been a dramatic jump in miscarriages and premature births among Iraqi women, particularly in areas where heavy US military operations occurred, such as Fallujah during 2004, and Basra during the 1991 US war on Iraq.’

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VA Braces for a New Front in the Agent Orange Battle

Jordain Carney reports for National Journal:

‘In 2011, Wes Carter was talking to a handful of friends when he realized they had something in common: They all flew on the C-123 planes after the Vietnam War, and they were all sick.

During the Vietnam War, C-123s were used to spray the herbicide Agent Orange. Although the planes were being used for cargo and medical flights by the time Carter served after the war, he and his fellow veterans believe their illnesses—which range from diabetes to cancer—are tied to their time on the planes between 1972 and 1982.

“We were physically scraping goop from nooks and crannies trying to get the thing as clean as possible, because there’s quite an odor to it,” said Carter, 68, who flew on a C-123 plane and believes that his prostate cancer and heart disease are tied to his time in the service.’

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The UK’s big supermarkets sowed the seeds of their own decline

Deborah Orr reports for The Guardian:

‘If Britain’s big supermarkets fondly imagined that they’d come roaring back to health once the recession ended, then they’ve been sorely disappointed. Instead, as the new Sainsbury’s chief executive, Mike Coupe, put it: “The reality is that the market has changed more rapidly in the last three to six months than I’ve seen in my 30 years in the industry.”

And Sainsbury’s isn’t even the company most in trouble. Tesco has been caught cooking its books in order to make its fall in profits look slightly less vertiginous. The conventional wisdom is that this is all because shoppers are flocking to Aldi and Lidl. Maybe that’s part of it. But figures from August confirm that the big four – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – still have a market share of nearly 75%. Between them, Aldi and Lidl have 8.4%. The real difference is that, with their pared-down approach, those two sell at a decent profit.

The success of Aldi and Lidl does mean something, of course. But I suspect that Britain’s changing grocery habits are the consequence of much more than mere bargain hunting. As a society, we are a bit different post-recession. I think a lot of people’s lives and priorities have changed.’

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90,000 animals were stolen from British farms last year – a rise of 24%

Emine Saner reports for The Guardian:

Livestock rustling - for sat features‘[...] Livestock thefts have increased on British farms during the past few years, and jumped again by 24% last year. According to figures from the insurance company NFU Mutual, which insures around three quarters of the UK’s farmers, around 90,000 animals were stolen last year – mostly sheep, though pigs and cattle have also been targeted – costing farmers £6.5m. The word rustling sounds almost quaint, with its connotations of centuries-old mischiefs, or wild west-style lawlessness, but it can be hugely damaging to many farmers’ livelihoods, has serious welfare issues for the animals taken and could have terrible consequences if diseases are spread. It can even affect the health of the customers who buy illegal meat.’

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Polio: Pakistan polio outbreak hits record high

BBC News reports:

A Pakistani child receives a polio vaccination drops from a health worker in Rawalpindi - 8 April 2014‘Pakistan has recorded its highest number of polio cases for 15 years, with health officials blaming the rise on attacks on immunisation teams. The number of new cases in 2014 so far is 202, exceeding the 199 cases in 2001 but short of the 558 cases in 1999.

Most of the infections are in the north-western tribal region where militants have targeted health teams. Militants there accuse doctors of being spies and say the vaccinations are part of a Western plot to sterilise Muslims.

Suspicions over the programmes worsened after the US was accused of using a fake vaccination programme during its tracking of al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.’

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Big Tobacco’s motives for warning people about the dangers of e-cigarettes

Allegra Kirkland writes for AlterNet:

‘[...] Over the last year, Big Tobacco has made major inroads into the $3 billion e-cigarette market with major companies like Altria and Reynolds American releasing their own e-cig brands. At the same time, they have taken on an unlikely role as champions for public health. Industry leaders have been lobbying hard for any negative health effects of e-cigarettes to be publicized and for people to switch over to this purportedly less-harmful smoking alternative. This week, the CEOs of Reynolds and Lorillard, two of the country’s largest tobacco companies, urged the FDA to move faster to regulate the burgeoning industry, citing concerns that e-cig users were relying on cheap, low-quality products purchased online and imported from China.

That’s right: the leaders of an industry that sells a product that kills some 480,000 Americans every year are now in a panic to warn consumers about the health risks of smoking. It is a remarkable about-face. So what’s in it for them?’

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Ebola virus multiplying at ‘terrifying rate’ in Africa

Al Jazeera reports:

‘Ebola is spreading at a “terrifying rate,” with five people infected with the deadly virus every hour in Sierra Leone alone, according to data published Thursday by human rights organization Save the Children.

The London-based group estimates the rate of infected persons in the West African country will increase to 10 every hour if nothing is done to curb Ebola’s spread.

“The scale of the Ebola epidemic is devastating and growing every day, with five people infected every hour in Sierra Leone last week,” Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said in a statement. “We need a coordinated international response that ensures treatment centers are built and staffed immediately.”

The organization’s infection-rate figures are based on both confirmed cases and an estimate of how many cases are not being reported.’

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Suggesting Ebola will become airborne is ‘irresponsible’, say experts

Rebecca Smith reports for The Telegraph:

Ebola virus‘The UN’s chief of Ebola mission Anthony Banbury said Ebola could become airborne in a ‘nightmare scenario’ but leading scientists have slammed his remarks saying this has never happened and suggesting it is ‘irresponsible’.

Mr Banbury was speaking exclusively to the Telegraph as predictions were made that Ebola could have infected 1.4m people by January.

He said the longer the virus is in humans the greater the chance it could mutate. He said the virus being spread through the air was a ‘nightmare scenario’ but that it ‘could not be ruled out’.

However leading British scientists have rounded on him saying his comments are a distraction and accused him of spreading panic.’

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Why Michael Savage Freaks Out About Ebola

U.S. Ebola patient’s friends quarantined under armed guard

Tom Dart and Lauren Gambino report for The Guardian:

‘Four members of a household with whom the US Ebola patient had been staying were confined to their Dallas apartment under armed guard on Thursday as authorities faced tough questions over a series of mis-steps in their handling of the case.

Towels and sweat-ridden bedclothes remained for two days in the Dallas apartment where an undiagnosed Ebola sufferer – Liberian citizen Thomas Eric Duncan – was staying because health officials in Texas struggled to find a waste management company willing to accept them.

It came as a freelance cameraman working for NBC in Liberia became the fifth American to contract Ebola. He will be flown home for treatment, NBC said on Thursday.

A company with experience of dealing with medical waste was finally due to clean the apartment on Thursday afternoon, but only after the patient’s girlfriend told CNN that the materials had not been disposed of.’

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A U.S. professor is telling Liberians that the Defense Department ‘manufactured’ Ebola

Terrence McCoy reports for The Washington Post:

‘[...] A major Liberian newspaper, the Daily Observer, has published an article by a Liberian-born faculty member of a U.S. university implying the epidemic is the result of bioterrorism experiments conducted by the United States Department of Defense, among others.

And while some commenting on the article were critical, the number who praised it was telling. “They are using” Ebola, wrote one, “for culling the world population mainly Africa for the…purpose of gaining control of the Africans resources criminally.”

The piece purports to describe scientific findings from various “reports,” which are not cited in detail, and even references the bestselling thriller, “The Hot Zone.”’

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Americans consume 80% of the world’s supply of painkillers

Michael Zennine reported in 2012 for The Daily Mail:

‘Americans consume 80 percent of the world’s supply of painkillers — more than 110 tons of pure, addictive opiates every year — as the country’s prescription drug abuse epidemic explodes.

That’s enough drugs to give every single American 64 Percocets or Vicodin. And pain pill prescriptions continue to surge, up 600 percent in ten year, thanks to doctors who are more and more willing to hand out drugs to patients who are suffering.

As more people get their hands on these potentially-dangerous drugs, more are taking them to get high. Their drug abuse leads to 14,800 deaths a year — more than from heroin and cocaine combined.’

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The Havoc of the Unrestrained Drug Industry

Ralph Nader writes for CounterPunch:

‘It is remarkable what very profitable drug companies—as they merge into fewer giant multinationals—continue to get away with by way of crony capitalism. Despite frequent exposure of misdeeds, the army of drug company lobbyists in Washington continues to gain political influence and rake in corporate welfare at the expense of taxpayers. The drug industry goes beyond crony capitalism when it then charges Americans the highest drug prices in the world.

Here is a short list of the honey pot produced by the lobbying muscle of the $300 billion a year pharmaceutical industry. It receives billions of dollars in tax credits for doing research and development that it should be doing anyway. Some companies reaped billions of dollars in revenues when they were granted exclusive rights to market a drug, such as Taxol, developed by the government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH). These corporations turn around and gouge patients without any price controls or royalties to NIH.

The pharmaceutical industry spends far more on marketing and advertising to physicians and patients than what it spends on research and development. More drug industry funds go to influencing politicians to prevent the implementation of price restraints on its staggering markups.’

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GlaxoSmithKline Fined $488.8 Million for ‘Massive Bribery Network’ in China

Kaijing Xiao reports for ABC News:

‘China has fined the British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) $488.8 million (3 billion Yuan) for a “massive bribery network” to get doctors and hospitals to use its products. Five former employees were sentenced to two to four years in jail, but ordered deported instead of imprisoned, according to state news agency Xinhua today.

The guilty verdict was delivered after a one day closed door trail in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province. The fine was the biggest ever imposed by a Chinese court.

The court gave Mark Reilly, former head of GSK Chinese operations, a three-year prison sentence with a four-year reprieve, which meant he is set to be deported instead of serving his time in a Chinese jail. His co-defendants received two to four years prison sentences with reprieves.’

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Militarizing the Ebola Crisis

Joeva Rock writes for Foreign Policy In Focus:

‘[...] Few would oppose a robust U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, but the militarized nature of the White House plan comes in the context of a broader U.S.-led militarization of the region. The soldiers in Liberia, after all, will not be the only American troops on the African continent. In the six years of AFRICOM’s existence, the U.S. military has steadily and quietly been building its presence on the continent through drone bases and partnerships with local militaries. This is what’s known as the “new normal“: drone strikes, partnerships to train and equip African troops (including those with troubled human rights records), reconnaissance missions, and multinational training operations.

To build PR for its military exercises, AFRICOM relies on soft-power tactics: vibrant social media pages, academic symposia, and humanitarian programming. But such militarized humanitarianism—such as building schools and hospitals and responding to disease outbreaks—also plays more strategic, practical purpose: it allows military personnel to train in new environments, gather local experience and tactical data, and build diplomatic relations with host countries and communities.

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Giant Corporations Want to Control All of Your Beer

Benjamin Dangl writes for CounterPunch:

Beer Brand Brands‘The variety of the craft-brewing wave sweeping the US makes drinking beer more fun than ever. Maine’s Flying Dog Brewery brews a beer from local oysters, and the Delaware-based Dogfish Head uses an ancient beer recipe they dug up from 2,700-year-old drinking vessels in the tomb of King Midas.

But as this trend spreads, there’s another revolution going on that’s concentrating most of the world’s beer into the hands of just a few mega-corporations. These kings of beer are riding the wave of craft brewing enthusiasm, buying up smaller breweries, and duping customers along the way.’

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‘Soccer moms’ to sue FIFA over concussion risk to children playing football

Ian Johnston reports for The Independent:

‘A group of American families is suing football’s governing body Fifa for putting children who head the ball at risk of concussion, according to a report. The lawsuit, filed in California, accuses the sport’s administrators of acting “carelessly and negligently”.

It is not seeking financial compensation, but wants to see a limit on the number of times young players are allowed to head the ball among a number of other rules designed to protect children, according to The Daily Telegraph. Ben Pepper, a personal injury lawyer at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said the case might prompt people in the UK to consider legal action.’

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New ‘zero waste’ store in Berlin may be supermarket of future

CTV reports:

‘A packaging-free supermarket has opened in Berlin, targeting eco-minded consumers by positioning itself as a “zero waste” store.

The concept of “Original Unverpackt” is simple: there is none of the usual superfluous supermarket packaging which either requires extreme levels of urban recycling or results in waste.

Instead, customers bring their own containers (tubs and recycled bags can be bought at the store) and help themselves to dry goods and non-foodstuff items which are stored in giant bins and dispensers.’

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The Namibia Legacy: Germany’s African Genocide

Andre Vltchek writes for CounterPunch:

‘How outrageous, how heartbreaking, how truly grotesque! Windhoek City – the capital of Namibia – is, at one extreme full of flowers and Mediterranean-style villas, and at the other, it is nothing more than a tremendous slum without water or electricity.

And in between, there is the town center– with its Germanic orderly feel, boasting ‘colonial architecture’, including Protestant churches and commemorative plaques mourning those brave German men, women and children, those martyrs, who died during the uprisings and wars conducted by local indigenous people.

The most divisive and absurd of those memorials is the so-called “Equestrian Monument”, more commonly known as “The Horse” or under its German original names, Reiterdenkmal and Südwester Reiter (Rider of South-West). It is a statue inaugurated on 27 January 1912, which was the birthday of the German emperor Wilhelm II. The monument “honors the soldiers and civilians that died on the German side of the Herero and Namaqua ‘War’ of 1904–1907’”.

That ‘war’ was not really a war; it was nothing more than genocide, a holocaust.

And Namibia was a prelude to what German Nazis later tried to implement on European soil.’

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Severe black lung returns to 1970s levels

James R. Carroll reports for The Courier-Journal:

fileblacklung.jpg‘Coal miners in Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia are contracting serious cases of black lung disease at rates not seen since the early 1970s — just after preventive regulations were enacted, according to a study published Monday.

Only 15 years ago, progressive massive fibrosis — an advanced form of black lung for which there is no cure — was virtually eradicated, health researchers say. But now, the prevalence of the disease in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia is at levels not seen in 40 years… Black lung is caused by the excessive inhalation of coal dust.’

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Study: Artificial sweeteners may alter gut microbes, raise diabetes risk

Allison Aubrey reports for NPR:

Should we drink diet soda or not? The latest study doesn't really clear things up.‘The debate over whether diet sodas are good, bad or just OK for us never seems to end. Some research suggests zero-calorie drinks can help people cut calories and fend off weight gain. But in recent years, the idea that artificial sweeteners may trick the brain and lead to “metabolic derangements,” as one researcher has theorized, has gained traction, too.

Now, a new study published in the journal Nature introduces a new idea: Diet sodas may alter our gut microbes in a way that increases the risk of metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes — at least in some of us. In the paper, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel describe what happened when they fed zero-calorie sweeteners, including saccharin, aspartame and sucralose, to mice.’

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Study: Workers who cycle, walk and use public transport are “happier than drivers”

The Daily Mail reports:

No traffic: Including a form of exercise such as walking to the bus stop, and then 'switching off' during the ride to work improves mental and physical well being ‘Active travel’ such as cycling or walking to the bus stop improves well-being, while those who get behind the wheel of a car feel under strain and less able to concentrate, the University of East Anglia suggests.

While most commuters associate public transport with cramped Tube carriages and delays, it appears that they are better off than those in their cars. Including some form of exercise in the daily commute, whether it’s cycling the entire way or simply walking to the train station, improves mental well-being as well as physical.  ‘Switching off’ during a ride on public transport is also beneficial.’

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Newsweek’s Monkey Meat Ebola Fearmongering

Peter Hart recently wrote for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

newsweek-bushmeat‘It’s 2014, and a national magazine has a cover story about how African immigrants might spread a deadly virus in the United States, thanks to the peculiar and unsanitary food they eat. The cover image is a photo of a chimpanzee.

Yes, this really happened.

“A Back Door For Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark a US Epidemic” read the headline on the August 29 Newsweek, a profoundly shocking  image and message that immediately drew criticism.

But the problems of the piece were bigger than just the cover. The piece is built around the idea that illegally imported “bushmeat”–what we would call “wild game” if it were being eaten in the United States–could carry the deadly Ebola virus.’

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Growing Ebola Epidemic Has Been Underestimated and Ignored: Interview with Laurie Garrett

‘The World Health Organization is warning that the number of new Ebola cases in West Africa is growing faster than relief workers can manage. The organization says that thousands are at risk of contracting the virus in the coming weeks and more medical professionals are urgently needed to help contain the outbreak. So far, Ebola has claimed some 2,400 lives and continues to ravage Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It is the worst outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976. Meanwhile, Sierra Leone has lost a fourth doctor to Ebola after efforts to transfer her abroad for treatment failed. The loss is a major setback for the impoverished country, which is already suffering from a shortage of healthcare workers. Since the Ebola outbreak began, approximately 144 healthcare professionals have died while serving affected populations. We speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations.’ (Democracy Now!)

Will the Ebola virus go airborne? (And is that even the right question?)

Sarah Larimer writes for The Washington Post:

‘The Ebola virus, which has killed more than 2,400 people during the ongoing epidemic in West Africa, spreads through contact with bodily fluids. That means you can catch it from infected blood, for example, or if you come in contact with vomit from an Ebola patient.

You can’t catch it from breathing in the same air as someone suffering from Ebola — at least you can’t right now. But as the virus continues to spread and mutate, could airborne transmission become a concern? Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, raised that possibility in a New York Times op-ed last week.’

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Boots on the Ground? Obama Declares War on Ebola

Decades of corruption led Liberians to think Ebola was a government scam to attract Western aid

Sara Jerving reports for The Nation:

‘The distrust in the government is deeply rooted in anger at years of corruption and a lack of accountability within the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said Rodney Sieh, editor-in-chief of FrontPage Africa, a Liberian daily newspaper. Sirleaf, who became president in 2006, after the end of Liberia’s brutal civil war, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her role in the “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

 But the ghosts of the nation’s past soon began to haunt her administration. In 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia recommended Sirleaf be forbidden from holding public office for thirty years because she previously backed Charles Taylor, the guerilla leader responsible for many of the atrocities committed during the war. Sirleaf remained in power. Her fellow Nobel laureate, Leymah Gbowee, resigned from her role in the commission and publicly distanced herself from the president in 2012.’

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State Republican Party Official Resigns After Suggesting Women On Welfare Should Be Sterilized

Bryce Covert reports for Think Progress:

Former Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce‘Former state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) resigned his position as first vice chair of the Arizona Republican Party late on Sunday evening amid criticism of comments he made on his radio show about women on welfare.

[...] His ideas are far from being on the fringe. They in fact help inform our policies. The Nixon administration pushed through funding for serializations in the 1970s aimed mostly a low-income people, usually women of color, and many were done involuntarily. And while it may sound like long-ago history, the practice of sterilizing low-income women hasn’t been entirely done away with. Between 2005 and 2013, 39 tubal ligations were given to women in California’s prison system without full consent. The majority of those were performed by Dr. James Heinrich, who has said of the practice, “Over a ten-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children — as they procreated more.” The state is now considering banning inmate sterilization.’

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