Monday, October 24, 2005

Reporting from outside the US mainstream media

A new outbreak of avian flu has been detected in Russia's Altai region in southern Siberia, after the disease had been detected in the Urals and in the Tula region south of Moscow last week, the Russian news agency reports, quoting a spokesman for the local office of Emergencies Ministry.
Bird flu antibodies were found in the blood of 59 birds that died in seven poultry farms in the village of Pokrovka, the spokesman says.
The dead birds have been destroyed and the village placed under quarantine, he added.
The blood samples "have been sent to Novosibirsk for confirmation of the laboratory findings," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted the spokesman as saying.
Outbreaks of avian flu were detected in Russia's south Urals region of Chelyabinsk Saturday and in Tula, 300 kilometres south of Moscow, on Tuesday.

The above is from "New bird flu outbreak in southern Siberia" AFP via Australia's ABC and Olive e-mailed to highlight it.

Kyle e-mails to note Ahmed Fathy's "US to Use Mehlis Report to Cow Syrian Regime: Experts" (Islam Online):

Arab experts expect the US to use the UN report implicating senior Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Al-Hariri to cow the Syrian regime.
"This will further tighten the noose around Damascus," Abdullah Al-Ashal, a former assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister and an international law expert, told
"The US will now step its pressures further to shake the Syrian regime to its foundation in order to get it under its thumb."
German judge Detlev Mehlis, leading an international team investigating the massive bomb blast that killed Hariri and 20 others in Beirut in February, said he found "converging evidence" of Syrian and Lebanese involvement and accused Damascus of blocking and misleading the investigation.
The 53-page report, released in New York on Thursday, October 20, said the probe was still incomplete.
In an accompanying letter to the report, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan extended the mission of the team until December 15.
US President George Bush asked the UN Friday, October 21, for an "immediate action" against Syria.
Immediately rejecting the findings as "politically biased," Syria accused Mehlis of preparing a report to underpin Washington's rhetorical assault on the country.
"It looks really as if Mehlis was trying his best to get information linking Syrian and Lebanese to the killing rather than find an answer to the key question: who assassinated Hariri?" said Ashal.

Billy e-mails to note Jim Lobe's "Serious Lapses Taint Probes of Detainee Deaths" (IPS):

Despite repeated vows by the Pentagon to fully investigate the deaths of all detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq and elsewhere in the "war on terror", a major human rights group has found a pattern of "grossly inadequate and flawed investigations" that have made it difficult or impossible to hold perpetrators accountable.
Human Rights First (HRF), a 25-year-old lawyers' group, said record-keeping of detainee deaths, of which Pentagon has reported 108 since 2002, has been "grossly inadequate" and that criminal investigators have routinely failed to interview key witnesses or collect and maintain usable evidence, such as body parts or basic ballistics evidence, for possible prosecution. In addition, commanders have often either repeated failed to even to report deaths of detainees in the custody of their command, or delayed reporting them for days or even weeks after they occurred, greatly complicating efforts to collect relevant evidence.
In one case, a death of an Iraqi detainee was not reported until a year later, and the case was closed without any determination of the cause of death. In some cases, the military has launched serious investigations, but only after the case was reported in the media. In others, deaths that clearly resulted from foul play were initially attributed to natural causes, according to HRF, which said it is preparing a soon-to-be-released report on detainee deaths.
Of the Pentagon's estimate of 108 deaths in custody, the Army has identified 27 cases of suspected or confirmed homicides and at least seven cases in which detainees were tortured or beaten to death. The report, which features case studies reconstructed from military records, comes on the eve of a series of meetings by a Congressional committee that will decide whether to include in next year's defence appropriations bill an amendment by Republican Sen. John McCain. If passed, it would ban all abusive treatment of detainees in compliance with U.S. Army Field Manual, which generally conforms to the Geneva Conventions.
Republican senators earlier this month deserted the George W. Bush administration, which had opposed the McCain amendment, en masse, joining all Democrats in approving the amendment by a surprising 90-9 margin. The House of Representatives, however, has no such provision in its version of the defence bill, and so a "conference committee" must meet to decide which version will be presented for final approval and sent to the White House for signature.

Dominick e-mails to note Rungrawee Pinyorat's "Thai man dies of bird flu after eating sick chickens" (The Irish Examiner):

A 48-YEAR-OLD man has died of bird flu in Thailand after eating his neighbour’s sick chickens, and Taiwan yesterday confirmed the island nation’s first case of the disease in birds smuggled in from China.
In Russia, emergency workers were killing domestic and wild fowl in and near a bird flu-affected village south of Moscow while the World Health Organisation said China had destroyed 91,100 birds around a farm in the country's north to stop an outbreak.
The birds were culled after 2,600 chickens and ducks died of the H5N1 strain of the virus in a breeding facility in a village in the Inner Mongolia region. Amid worrying signs the deadly virus was spreading across Siberia to the Mediterranean along the pathways of migratory birds, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation warned Wednesday of a marked increase in chances that bird flu would move to the Middle East and Africa and hit countries poorly equipped to deal with an outbreak.

Skip e-mails to note Tanya Giles and Gerard McManus's "Home prison power for bird flu" (Australia's Herald Sun):

VICTORIAN health officials and police have sweeping powers to confine people in their homes and fine them $20,000 for breaching orders if a deadly flu pandemic strikes here.
People suspected of coming into contact with the virus or showing signs of being infected could be forced into home detention and have their movements restricted under the plan.
In extreme cases, police would be called in to arrest people who refuse to comply with orders and detain them in quarantine to control an outbreak.
Blood tests could be conducted on those suspected of carrying the virus, by force if necessary.

Victorian health authorities are also prepared to close schools or limit large gatherings to control its spread.

Pru e-mails to note that a guest on Democracy Now! ("Mike Davis on The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu"), Mike Davis has an article entitled
"Avian flu: a preventable pandemic" (Socialist Review):

Avian influenza is the undocumented immigrant from hell that the EU will not be able to turn away from its borders.
The H5N1 virus, like other present and future plagues of globalisation, exposes the biological absurdity and moral vacuity of the concept of "fortress Europe".
Wild birds have brought H5N1 to the gates of Europe, and those same birds will soon carry the seeds of a pandemic to the poor megacities of Africa and South Asia.
If avian flu and urban poverty combust, then it won't matter whether all the chickens in Europe are sleeping indoors or not. The pandemic, like Sars before it, will be on the next plane to Rome, London or New York.
The majority of the world’s flu vaccine capacity and all of its current production of Tamiflu -- theantiviral agent that rich countries are desperately stockpiling -- are concentrated in Europe.
But these resources are fetter-ed by corporate property rights and narrow national self-interest. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has abandoned hopes of a world vaccine programme because of the unwillingness of the EU and US to make the required commitments.
When Thailand and South Africa raised the question of the generic licensing of Tamiflu at a WHO meeting earlier in the year, France and the US joined forces to squelch the challenge to drug giant Roche’s monopoly over manufacture of the drug.
Yet the global surveillance campaign against H5N1 is currently faltering because the same governments refuse to donate the almost trivial amounts of aid requested by poor frontline countries like Vietnam.
The challenge to the left is to mobilise Europe's scientific capabilities on behalf of humanity as a whole. Neither epidemiological nationalism nor idiot reverence for profits should override the urgency of global solidarity in face of the pandemic danger.
Our survival demands a massive aid programme to support flu surveillance in poor countries, as well as a free, global lifeline of vaccines, antivirals and antibiotics as a human right.
Mike Davis is author of The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu, available from Bookmarks
See also his 2004 feature from SW, warning of the threat A deadly plague of slums
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