Archive for 03/06/2012

Uganda: Mysterious Virus Kills Hundreds of Children, Infects More Than 1000

03/06/2012 Leave a comment

By Ioannis Gatsiounis – “KAMPALA, Uganda — The Ugandan government has come under fire for its handling of a mysterious disease that has killed hundreds of children in the northern part of this impoverished East African nation.

The illness, called nodding disease and characterized by symptoms similar to epilepsy, has afflicted more than 1,000 children since June. Its cause is unknown, and there is no cure. Victims often nod their heads uncontrollably. Many also suffer from mental retardation and stunted growth.

Officials are blaming each other for the outbreak. The Health Ministry faults the central government for failing to treat the disease and finance research into its cause. The government blames the Health Ministry for failing to tap funds in the ministry’s budget for malaria control to combat the epidemic…

A group of Ugandans living in Britain, alarmed by what they see as government indifference toward the country’s sick and poor, plans to raise funds to provide social care and transportation for families affected by the disease. The World Health Organization is assisting with research into its cause and treatment.

The disease mainly affects children from 5 to 15. It is characterized by repeated head drooping and is often accompanied by convulsions and staring spells. Those affected often see their growth permanently stunted, including brain growth.” Read more.

Categories: Pestilence

The Middle East: A Powder-Keg of Conflict

03/06/2012 Leave a comment

By Jack Smith

Jews Praying at the Temple Wailing Wall

Jews Praying at the Temple Wailing Wall

Ever wonder why the Middle East is always such a powder-keg of conflict? What the roots of the conflict are between the Jews and all her “neighbors”? I got this question recently from a visitor to my book’s website, so I thought I would post my reply for all to read and comment.

Let’s begin with Abraham, the patriarch of the world’s three major monotheistic religions. Abraham left his homeland (Haran) along with his wife, Sarah, to journey to the land God was to “show him” (Genesis 12:1). God’s promise to Abraham was to “make [him] a great nation,” and “bless all the families of the earth” through his obedience (12:2-3). Fast forward to the 16th chapter of Genesis. Sarah, Abraham’s wife was unable to have children (Genesis 16:1-2).  So, Sarah took things into her own hands, and gave Abraham her Egyptian slave, Hagar, to wed. Sarah’s plan was simple: any children born to Abraham and Hagar would be Sarah’s (16:2); after all, Hagar was her slave.  Abraham was “happy” to oblige. In fact, he never asked God for His thoughts on the matter, even though in the preceding chapter, God had told Abraham that he would have a son (15:5-6). Abraham and Hagar conceived a child, Ishmael (16:4), but Hagar became prideful and “despised her mistress” (16:4). Sarah demanded that Abraham send Hagar away. Once again, Abraham consents to his wife’s demands, but it is Sarah who drives Hagar away. She runs away by way of a desert road to her homeland in Egypt, only to be visited by the angel of the Lord when she is near death. The angel directs her to return to her mistress, Sarah, and to submit to her hand (16:9). Hagar does return, but before she begins her journey back home, the angel of the Lord gives a prophecy about the son, Ishmael:

Genesis 16:12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.”

In Genesis 17, God appears, again, to Abraham and tells him that the very next year, Sarah, his wife will bear him a son.  Abraham does not believe God, and laughs to himself (17:17). Abraham is 99 and Sarah is 90 years old. God tells Abraham that the son is to be named “Isaac” (literally, “he laughs” in Hebrew); and God will establish his everlasting covenant with him, and his descendants. Abraham “suggests” that God accept Ishmael, instead, as the son of promise; but God rejects Abraham’s idea (17:19). God then makes this promise to Read more…

‘Complete Disregard for Human Life’: Al Qaeda Kills 25 Policemen in Iraq, 184 Soldiers in Yemen

03/06/2012 Leave a comment

AP – “BAGHDAD – A gang of gunmen disguised in military-style uniforms and carrying forged arrest warrants killed 25 police Monday, then hoisted the battle flag of Al Qaeda in a carefully planned early morning shooting spree in western Iraq, officials said.

The killings in Haditha highlight Al Qaeda’s success in regaining a foothold in an area they once dominated through police executions and murdering city officials.

By going after police, the militants demonstrate to the residents of Haditha, a desert city closer to the Syrian border than to Baghdad, how isolated they are from the central government’s protection and intimidate those who want to join the security forces.

The city’s proximity to the border, just 65 miles away, means it is vital territory to Al Qaeda if they want to ramp up operations in Syria to help overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad. Already, Sunni militants who revile Assad because he’s a member of an offshoot religion of Shiism are crossing from Iraq into Syria.

The killings carried out by Al Qaeda Monday morning demonstrated a high degree of coordination, knowledge of their targets and a boldness that indicated little fear of the local security forces ability to fight back.” Read more.

Huge death toll doubles in Yemen ‘slaughter’ by Al Qaeda affiliated Islamists – “The death toll from a sophisticated attack by Islamic extremists against soldiers in Yemen jumped to 184 Tuesday, three Yemeni officials told CNN. Air raids on militant positions since the attack have left at least 42 militants dead in Abyan province, security officials said. The attack Sunday at an army base by Ansar al-Sharia, which is allied with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), originally claimed the lives of 90 soldiers and wounded many others. A spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington issued a statement giving a much lower death toll, saying ’73 martyrs’ died in the ‘battles in Abyan.’ But officials on the ground in Abyan gave CNN the higher death toll. The attack ‘illustrates AQAP’s complete disregard for human life,’ U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.” Read more.

‘The Most Important and Destructive Banana Disease in the World’ is Spreading Around the Globe

03/06/2012 Leave a comment

By Anna-Louise Taylor – “A banana and plantain fungus which has spread across the world originated in South East Asia, new research has found.

Black leaf streak disease (Mycosphaerella fijiensis) affects leaf photosynthesis, and causes premature ripening.

It also delays harvests and can affect banana quality, size and numbers.

A Molecular Ecology Journal study found ‘an original and unprecedented global scenario of invasion’.

It is the most important and destructive banana disease in the world, says one of the authors, Stephanie Robert.

‘It starts with small flecks and spreads to the whole banana leaves – the disease can totally destroy the whole banana plant,’ she says.

Using genetic markers, the team were able to map the streaks on 735 banana leaves from 37 different countries and identify genetic similarities.

‘The historical hypothesis was that it came from South East Asia,’ Ms Robert says.

Banana leaf with black leaf streak disease The fungus can cause bananas to ripen prematurely

While the fungus was first recorded in Fiji in 1963, it was initially thought that the centre of origin could have been Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands.

However, the study found the whole of South East Asia could be the centre of diversity – encompassing at least Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea…

Ms Robert says fungal spores cannot travel more than a few metres and are very sensitive to UV rays, but when travelling on the wind spores can be dispersed up to several hundred kilometres.

So this does not explain how the disease has travelled so far around the world, she says.” Read more.

Japan: Quake Researchers Warn of Tokyo’s ‘Big One’, ‘We Must Prepare for the Earthquake That Will Happen’

03/06/2012 Leave a comment

Japan Today – “TOKYO — A year on from one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history, Japanese scientists are warning anew that Tokyo could soon be hit by a quake that will kill thousands and cause untold damage.

Greater Tokyo, home to 35 million tightly packed people, has seen a three-fold increase in tectonic activity since the magnitude 9.0 undersea quake that unleashed a killer tsunami last March.

Every day, an average of nearly 1.5 quakes are recorded in and around the city, one of the most populated places on earth.

But Tokyoites are so used to being shaken in their beds or at their desks that the majority pass almost without comment.

The city is, without doubt, one of the most earthquake-proofed places in the world. Even the monster quake of March 11 last year that struck just 370 kilometers away caused little structural damage.

Public transport was thrown into temporary disarray, leaving thousands stranded, but no buildings collapsed and there were no large-scale casualties.

The University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute says the city, built at the intersection of four tectonic plates, has a 50% chance of suffering a major quake—anything above a magnitude 7.0—in the next four years.

‘We must prepare for the earthquake that will happen,’ says Asahiko Taira, executive director of the government’s Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.

A simulation by the agency suggests that if an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 occurred in the northern part of Tokyo Bay on a weekday evening, around 6,400 people would die, with 160,000 injured.

Approximately 471,000 homes and buildings would be destroyed, most of them by fires, or because of liquefaction, a process where reclaimed land turns to mush.

Around 96 million tons of waste would be instantly generated—four times the total left behind by the tsunami that hit the northeast coast.

Millions of people would be unable to get home and emergency shelters would be over-run. More than one million households would be without water, gas, electricity and telephones for several days.

Economically, the cost would be a colossal $1.45 trillion—around a third of Japan’s GDP.” Read more.

Categories: Earthquakes
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