Sunday, June 05, 2005

"An outbreak of a lethal new bug at a leading specialist hospital has claimed 12 lives..." (Jeremy Laurance)

An outbreak of a lethal new bug at a leading specialist hospital has claimed 12 lives and is posing a grave new threat to the NHS, doctors have warned.
More than 300 patients have been infected with the bug, a virulent new strain of Clostridium difficile, at Stoke Mandeville hospital in Oxfordshire, known for its world-famous spinal injuries unit supported by the former disc jockey Sir Jimmy Savile. But all attempts to control the infection, which causes severe diarrhoea that can be life-threatening, have failed.
The disclosure raises new concerns about NHS hygiene following a series of scares over the superbug MRSA and the pressure on hospitals to hit waiting list targets.
Cases of C. difficile have soared from fewer than 1,000 in 1990 to 43,672 in 2004 but it has not received the same attention as MRSA. Latest figures show there were 934 deaths in 2003, a 38 per cent rise in two years. A similar number of people died from MRSA in the same year, with 955 people dying from the infection, a 30 per cent increase in two years.

The above is from The Independent, Jeremy Laurance's "Superbug kills 12 at spinal unit as doctors warn of new threat to NHS."

From Ireland's I.E. Breaking News, "Adams throws down talks challenge to unionists:"

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams tonight challenged the Democratic Unionist Party to take the "difficult" decision to enter dialogue with republicans.He said the Rev Ian Paisley’s party might find it “a very uninviting prospect”, but their current position of not negotiating with Sinn Féin was not sustainable.
Mr Adams said he awaited a positive response from the IRA to his appeal for them to declare a purely non-violent democratic future – and said there was now an unprecedented opportunity to make political progress in Northern Ireland.

From IPS, we'll note Jim Lobe's "Right-Wing Hostility to NGOs Glimpsed in Amnesty Flap:"

This week's flap over Amnesty International's characterisation of U.S. overseas detention facilities and practices as a ''gulag of our times'' offers insights into the Bush administration's and its neo-conservative supporters' deep distrust of some non-governmental organisations (NGOs). President George W. Bush's administration already had responded with ritual reflex -- most recently seen in its offensive against Newsweek -- to mostly undisputed charges that U.S. authorities have committed and continue to commit serious abuses, in some cases amounting to torture, against individuals rounded up on suspicion of supporting terrorism: It blamed the messenger, be it the International Red Cross or the media. In the last case, however, it was the rights watchdog Amnesty International and there was an interesting wrinkle in the administration's reaction: The way senior administration officials -- from the president, to Vice President Dick Cheney, to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to the Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Richard Myers -- immediately followed their initial statement of outrage against Amnesty's use of the word ''gulag'' with some version of the same non sequitur: arguing, in effect, that U.S. military interventions somehow justified non-compliance with the Geneva or U.N. torture conventions.
As stated by Cheney on CNN's Larry King show, it went like this: ''I think the fact of the matter is, the United States has done more to advance the cause of freedom, has liberated more people from tyranny over the course of the 20th century and up to the present day than any other nation in the history of the world.''
That precisely the same defence figured at the top of each official's comeback suggested that their ''talking points'' were all prepared by the same source -- testimony perhaps to the extraordinary discipline exercised by this White House to ensure that what used to be called the ''message of the day'' -- perhaps now more accurately referred to as the party line -- is repeated over and over again.
While Cheney was the most direct in denouncing the world's largest and most famous human rights organisation -- ''I just don't take them seriously'' -- the other officials declined to attack Amnesty's bona fides, no doubt because even the Bush administration knows that NGOs like Amnesty get much higher credibility ratings than leaders of major business, labour or government institutions, according to surveys.

From Open Democracy, we'll note Stephen Bowen's "'Full-spectrum' human rights: Amnesty International rethinks:"

Amnesty International recently highlighted a case concerning water protestors in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. On 17 May a large group of men, women and children went to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation office in Bhopal to complain that clean water had been denied them, despite a Supreme Court of India ruling in 2004. Ground-water had been contaminated after the infamous 1984 explosion at the former Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. Clean water, the protestors claimed, was their due.
The authorities’ reaction was heavy-handed. Riot police allegedly beat the protestors with sticks, arresting, detaining and even charging some. Had the police overreacted, acting excessively? Worse, had they acted politically, whether directed to or not, suppressing legitimate free expression, not least of those with a serious grievance? Both scenarios bring with them classic human-rights concerns. Those familiar with the organisation’s work would expect Amnesty International to
step in. Indeed some would be disappointed if it did not.
However, what if the protestors had merely arrived, voiced their concerns and then gone home again, without police intervention? While less glaringly a case of human-rights abuse, informed commentators could still have said that this was a
human-rights matter. After all, the 17 May protestors were seeking partial redress for wrongs done to them in 1984, when the Union Carbide pesticide factory exploded. The disaster left a deadly legacy; toxic gases caused the death of 7,000 people within days, at least another 15,000 in the following years, and some 100,000 people have since been struck down with chronic diseases.
In addition, 500,000 people were exposed to deadly chemicals and the environment was profoundly contaminated, remaining so twenty years on despite Union Carbide’s claims to the contrary. The Bhopal water
protestors were effectively already people living in the shadow of human-rights crimes.
But what if protestors had mounted a peaceful water protest anywhere else? Should
Amnesty International and other human-rights groups support all those seeking their “right to water”? Or equally to other natural resources, to education, housing, a family life, the right to work, to speak a language of one’s choice?

Back to IPS, Pat e-mails to note Sanjay Suri's "G8 SUMMIT:The Climate Does Not Look Good:"

The prospects for progress on climate change at the G8 summit in July do not look too good, going by the content of a leaked document. The document purporting to be a draft for agreements on climate change was posted anonymously on a website Friday. The British Prime Minister's office confirmed later that the document was genuine, but said it was being developed, and was not the final draft. Friends of the Earth picked on the document to show how little substantial progress there had been on climate change. The document marks agreement at the officials level on the draft to be produced at the summit of heads of government of the G8 countries (the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany). The summit will be held at Gleneagles in Scotland July 6-8. Climate change is among the two top priorities named by the British hosts, along with development of Africa. The leaked draft calls for steps to deal with climate change, and for international financial institutions to play a role. But the general suggestions are not backed by any call to binding commitments.

From Australia's ABC, Lyle e-mails to note "Downer can grant defector political asylum: lawyer:"

An immigration lawyer says Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has the power to grant Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin political asylum.
Mr Chen says the Immigration Department rejected his application for political asylum, advising him instead to apply for a protection visa.
He has been in hiding, fearing retributions from the Chinese Government, since he defected from his senior post at the Chinese Consulate in Sydney more than a week ago.
He claims his Government has up to 1,000 spies operating in Australia who have been kidnapping Chinese nationals.

From Scotland's The Sunday Herald, Elaine e-mails to note Robert Burns' "Military report confirms Koran mishandled at Guantanamo Bay:"

UNITED States military officials acknowledged that a copy of the Koran was splashed with urine at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for terror suspects, but said none of the guards at the facility flushed the Muslim holy book down the toilet.
Among other newly disclosed incidents cited in a Pentagon report on the mis handling of the sacred text at the prison were reports that a detainee’s Koran was deliberately kicked and another’s was stepped on.
On March 25, a detainee complained to guards that “urine came through an air vent” and splashed on him and his Koran. A guard admitted he was at fault, but the report, which offered new details about Koran mishandling incidents, did not make clear whether the guard had intended the result.
The findings are among the results of an investigation last month by Brigadier General Jay Hood, the commander of the detention centre in Cuba. The investigation was triggered by a Newsweek magazine report – later retracted – that a US soldier had flushed one camp detainee’s Koran down a toilet.

From the Times of London, Gareth e-mails Anthony Browne and David Charter's "Battle lines drawn up as leaders get ready for a war over EU:"

The struggle between the EU’s three biggest powers over the fate of the constitution, and the future direction of the Union, is likely to deepen the turmoil caused by the French and Dutch “no” votes last week. France and Germany are also expected to step up the pressure on Britain to be a “good European” by insisting that it surrender its budget rebate at a fin ance ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg tomorrow.
The meeting is supposed to agree the EU’s budget for the next seven years, and France and Germany will argue that reaching a deal is essential to prevent a second crisis. But Gordon Brown has insisted that the rebate must stay.
José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, sought to calm tensions at the weekend by pleading with EU leaders not to play the blame game. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, will tell Parliament today that Britain is suspending the ratification process for the constitution despite Saturday night’s demand by President Chirac of France and Chancellor Schröder of Germany that all countries pass judgment on the treaty.

Amy e-mails to note, from UK's The Independent, David Usborne's "Terrorists 'using Guantanamo as a recruitment aid:'"

Senior Democrats are calling for the closure of America's detention centre in Guantanamo, Cuba, saying it has become a "propaganda and recruitment tool" for terrorists in the wake of continued allegations of prisoner abuse.
A leading senator, Joseph Biden of Delaware, suggested the time had come to consider a gradual closure of the facility, arguing its worsening reputation around the world was helping to recruit people bent on hurting the US.
"This has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world. And it is unnecessary to be in that position."
For a start, the senator argued, there should at least be an independent commission established to address the value of keeping Guantanamo. "The end result is, I think we should end up shutting it down, moving those prisoners."

The e-mail address for this site is