Tagged: death

Death from malaria has been diminished by half

Global efforts have halved the number of people dying from malaria – a tremendous achievement, the World Health Organization says…It says between 2001 and 2013, 4.3 million deaths were averted, 3.9 million of which were children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa.

Each year, more people are being reached with life-saving malaria interventions, the WHO says.

In 2004, 3% of those at risk had access to mosquito nets, but now 50% do.

There has been a scaling up of diagnostic testing, and more people now are able to receive medicines to treat the parasitic infection, which is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes.

An increasing number of countries are moving towards malaria elimination.

In 2013, two countries – Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka – reported zero indigenous cases for the first time, and 11 others (Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) succeeded in maintaining zero cases.

In Africa, where 90% of all malaria deaths occur, infections have decreased significantly.

Here, the number of people infected has fallen by a quarter – from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013. This is despite a 43% increase in the African population living in malaria transmission areas.

WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said: “These tremendous achievements are the result of improved tools, increased political commitment, the burgeoning of regional initiatives, and a major increase in international and domestic financing.”

But she added: “We must not be complacent. Most malaria-endemic countries are still far from achieving universal coverage with life-saving malaria interventions.”

Based on current trends, 64 countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the incidence of malaria by the end of this year.

One portion of my personal efforts to get Americans to think beyond their family, their community, is the larger community that is our world. Just as we are affected by the loss of young people who may have grown up in the poverty and illness afflicting life that we see around us – there is an even larger community outside the comparative wealth of this nation that fights the same negatives to stay alive – times 10 or 100.

As a species we all lose every time we suffer a young death from disease or war. Someone who might have grown up to discover a way to a better, longer life for us all – never had a chance to achieve any contribution to humanity. We’re all moved to a new place of potential achievement by the simple opportunity of life extended to those who would have missed that chance a decade ago, a century ago.

We have to realize the human family really is a global family.

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There’s only one source for the plastic in our oceans — us!

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There are at least 268,000 tonnes of plastic floating around in the oceans, according to new research by a global team of scientists.

The world generates 288m tonnes of plastic worldwide each year, just a little more than the annual vegetable crop, yet using current methods only 0.1% of it is found at sea. The new research illustrates as much as anything, how little we know about the fate of plastic waste in the ocean once we have thrown it “away”.

Most obviously, this discarded plastic exists as the unsightly debris we see washed ashore on our beaches.

These large chunks of plastic are bad news for sea creatures which aren’t used to them. Turtles, for instance, consume plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish. In Hawaii’s outer islands the Laysan albatross feeds material skimmed from the sea surface to its chicks. Although adults can regurgitate ingested plastic, their chicks cannot. Young albatrosses are often found dead with stomachs full of bottle tops, lighters and other plastic debris, having starved to death.

But these big, visible impacts may just be the tip of the iceberg. Smaller plastic chunks less than 2.5mm across – broken down bits of larger debris – are ubiquitous in zooplankton samples from the eastern Pacific. In some regions of the central Pacific there is now six times as much plankton-sized plastic are there is plankton. Plankton-eating birds, fish and whales have a tough time telling the two apart, often mistaking this plastic – especially tan coloured particles – for krill.

However, even this doesn’t quite tell the whole story. For technical reasons Marcus Eriksen and his team weren’t able to consider the very smallest particles – but these may be the most harmful of all.

We’re talking here about tiny lumps of 0.5mm across or considerably less, usually invisible to the naked eye, which often originate in cosmetics or drugs containing nanoparticles or microbeads. Such nanoparticles matter as they are similar size to the smallest forms of plankton (pico and nano plankton) which are the most abundant plankton group and biggest contributors in terms of biomass and contribution to primary production…

Plastic pollution of the marine environment is the Cinderella of global issues, garnering less attention than its ugly sisters climate change, acidification, fisheries, invasive species or food waste but it has links to them all and merits greater attention by the scientific community.

I’ve mentioned many times how – growing up in a southern New England factory town – my family relied on subsistence fishing to get by. That meant we ate fish at least 5 days a week, whatever was running at the time. My poor mom was an inventive workingclass cook; but, there’s a limit to how many ways you can make bluefish appetizing.

If we continue to destroy the greatest natural source of food for our species – and many others – we’re in deep trouble. So deep we may not recover to live long enough to witness all the other disasters those who profit the most from our industrial revolution continue to visit upon the planet.

RTFA. Read the research. Get on board.

BP ruled “grossly negligent” in Gulf oil spill

BP Plc was “grossly negligent” for its role in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, a U.S. district judge said on Thursday in a ruling that could add billions of dollars in fines to the more than $42 billion in charges taken so far for the worst offshore disaster in U.S. history…

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans held a trial without a jury last year to determine who was responsible for the April 20, 2010 environmental disaster. Barbier ruled that BP was mostly at fault and that two other companies in the case, Transocean Ltd and Halliburton, were not as much to blame.

“The Court concludes that the discharge of oil ‘was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct’ by BP, the ruling said.

BP said it would appeal the ruling…blah, blah, blah…

BP has already been forced to shrink by selling assets to pay for the cleanup. Those sales erased about a fifth of its earning power…

Barbier has yet to assign damages from the spill under the federal Clean Water Act. A gross negligence verdict carries a potential fine of $4,300 per barrel fine.

BP says some 3.26 million barrels leaked from the well and the U.S government says 4.9 million barrels spilled. The statutory limit on a simple “negligence” is $1,100 per barrel…

Even after the Clean Water Act fines are set, BP may face other bills from a lengthy Natural Resources Damage Assessment, which could require BP to carry out or fund environmental restoration work in the Gulf, and other claims.

They deserve to pay every penny of fine, every dollar of public compensation, every billion of responsibility owed the environment of the Gulf of Mexico.

Director charged over crew death while producing Greg Allman biopic


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The director of a biopic about singer Gregg Allman, and two of the film’s producers, are facing involuntary manslaughter charges.

It follows a fatal train crash on the film’s set in south east Georgia in February, which led to the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones.

A grand jury charged Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin and executive producer Jay Sedrish…

Jones, 27, was hit by a train on the first day of filming Midnight Rider.

Seven other crew members were injured in the incident, which saw the camera assistant fatally struck after the crew placed a bed on the railway tracks in Doctortown while filming a dream sequence.

It is understood the crew were expecting two local trains to pass through, but a third had arrived unexpectedly. A warning whistle was blown, but they had less than a minute to remove the bed from the track.

Miller, Savin and Sedrish are each charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass, according to a statement from local district attorney Jackie Johnson…

It remains unclear whether the crew had permission to be on the tracks. Local police investigators say they did have permission to be on property nearby.

The manslaughter charges against the film team could bring a possible sentence of 10 years in prison under Georgia law…

Filming on Midnight Rider was suspended in the aftermath of the train tragedy, and actor William Hurt – who was due to play Allman – pulled out of the production.

I haven’t any personal insight into the case. Though I spent an important though small portion of my life with folks deeply committed to the craft of acting all I can say is there wasn’t any uniform opinion of producers or directors, film or stage. Most discussion resolved to questions of political courage or cowardice – for that was in the darkest days of the blacklist throughout this so-called land of freedom.

Thanks, Mike

Why was 1918 flu pandemic so deadly? New clues…

In 1918, as one global devastation in the shape of World War I came to an end, people around the world found themselves facing another deadly enemy, pandemic flu. The virus killed more than 50 million people, three times the number that fell in the Great War, and did this so much faster than any other illness in recorded history.

But why was that particular pandemic so deadly? Where did the virus come from and why was it so severe? These questions have dogged scientists ever since. Now, a new study led by the University of Arizona (UA) may have solved the mystery…

They hope the study not only offers some new clues about the deadliness of the 1918 pandemic, but will also help improve strategies for vaccination and pandemic prevention, as Prof. Worobey explains:

“If our model is correct, then current medical interventions, especially antibiotics and vaccines, against several pneumonia-causing bacteria, could be expected to dramatically reduce mortality, if we were faced today with a similar set of pandemic ingredients…”

Researchers reconstructed the origins of the 1918 pandemic virus, the classic swine flu and the postpandemic seasonal H1N1 flu virus lineage that circulated between 1918 and 1957, to find out why the 1918 pandemic was so deadly…

For their investigation, the researchers developed an unprecedentedly accurate “molecular clock,” a technique that looks at the rate at which mutations build up in given stretches of DNA over time…

Prof. Worobey and his team used their molecular clock to reconstruct the origins of the 1918 pandemic virus, the classic swine flu and the postpandemic seasonal H1N1 flu virus lineage that circulated between 1918 and 1957…

They found that a human H1 virus that had been circulating among humans since around 1900 picked up genetic material from a bird flu virus just before 1918 and this became the deadly pandemic strain.

Exposure to previous strains of flu virus does offer some protection to new strains. This is because the immune system reacts to proteins on the surface of the virus and makes antibodies that are summoned the next time a similar virus tries to infect the body.

But the further away the new strain is genetically from the ones the body has previously been exposed to, the more different the surface proteins, the less effective the antibodies and the more likely that infection will take hold.

Prof. Worobey notes…”We believe that the mismatch between antibodies trained to H3 virus protein and the H1 protein of the 1918 virus may have resulted in the heightened mortality in the age group that happened to be in their late 20s during the pandemic.”

He says their finding may also help explain differences in patterns of mortality between seasonal flu and the deadly H5N1 and H7N9 bird flu viruses.

The authors suggest perhaps immunization strategies that mimic the often impressive protection that early childhood exposure provides could dramatically reduce deaths from seasonal and new flu strains.

Biologists of this calibre are walking encyclopedias of science, history, chemistry and the knowledge to assemble it all within the guidance of evolution into a unique illuminating dialectic.

It is a delight to stand inside the cone of enlightenment made possible by dedication to science, the addition of something of value to human understanding.

OTOH, you may spend your spare time watching reality TV. :)

Thanks, Mike

FDA proposed E-Cigarette regulation leaked to industry first

After years of FDA foot-dragging amid calls for action on electronic cigarettes, an industry group nearly stole the agency’s thunder with an apparently leaked copy of an impending draft regulation.

The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA) put up a picture of the scanned document on its website Friday, indicating it was the “Deeming Tobacco Products to be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as Amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act; Regulations on the Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products and Required Warning Statements for Tobacco Products.”

However, the e-cigarette advocacy group said it decided not to go ahead with plans to release the document following informal discussions with the agency on Friday.

“[W]e all decided that [it would be] in the best interest of the regulatory process, as well as the industry and the public, not to post the document on Tuesday,” TVECA explained in a brief note on its website…

The title of the document shown by TVECA appeared to fit expectations that the FDA’s move will be to bring e-cigarettes under largely the same regulatory scheme as other tobacco products, which would involve blocking sales to minors and restricting marketing.

The agency has had e-cigarettes on its agenda for years, but finally sent a draft proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) last fall; action was further delayed by the partial government shutdown.

The document was still with the OMB as of last month. Whether the copy obtained by TVECA indicates an impending release for public comment wasn’t clear.

Anyone surprised? Anyone expect documents which might affect corporate profits and the health of Americans to be leaked to scientists or public interest advocates? Our government is working harder than ever to squash the possibility of another Edward Snowden popping up, say, in the FDA or USDA.