In a comment to our Doofus Of The Day #811, reader Merlin linked to this video clip from the movie 'Robocop 3'. Not having seen the movie, I didn't know it: but it fit so well with our latest Doofus that I simply had to include it here.
Ebola is devastating Sierra Leone's health-care system, with a dozen medics and more than a hundred healthcare workers dead so far.
At the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Ebola’s deadly legacy greets visitors the moment they walk in the doors. Occupying pride of place on the peeling lobby wall, in a spot where a portrait of the hospital’s founder might normally hang, is a picture of staff member, Samuel Batty. A caption above reads: “In loving memory of our beloved brother and colleague.”
Mr Batty died from Ebola on December 2 at the age of 37. He was one of about 110 health-care workers killed by the virus since it hit Sierra Leone last March. Yet when his colleague Amadou Jawara walks past the picture each day, he feels pride as much as sadness.
Like Mr Batty, Mr Jawara is not a doctor but a community health worker, and the pair were on a training programme to teach them how to deal with basic surgical operations and the complications of childbirth. In a country where the health service is patchy at the best of times, it helps for even the most junior health workers to be able to “act up” – and when Ebola hit Sierra Leone, that is just what Mr Batty and Mr Jawara found themselves doing.
“In November, the junior doctors in Sierra Leone went on strike for two weeks, saying it wasn’t safe enough for them to work, and wanting better protective equipment,” said Mr Jawara, 40. “During that time, those of us on the surgical training programme helped fill the gaps, but it was very tough work.”
Too tough, as it turned out, for Mr Batty. Quite how he contracted the virus remains unclear, but his colleagues believe it was on a particularly busy day in late November, when a pregnant woman came in with a mild fever. Mr Batty had no choice but to conduct the usual internal examinations, in the interests of her unborn child. “The woman died shortly afterwards [from Ebola], and by that time it was too late for Samuel,” said Mr Jawara.
As ever with Ebola, the tragedy did not end there. Mr Batty’s wife also died, meaning that his son (who also caught the virus but recovered) and four other children are now orphans. Mr Jawara also spent time in quarantine, fearing he had become infected, too. “The whole thing was terrible,” he said. “And Samuel was such a decent, gentle and hardworking man.”
Such tales can be heard these days in nearly any hospital in Sierra Leone. It is now the worst-infected of all the West African nations hit by the Ebola epidemic, with 3,145 of the 8,641 deaths recorded so far since this outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013.
. . .
The deaths of so many health workers – coupled with the ongoing reluctance of many others to return to work – has thrown a health service already crippled by civil war into an all-out crisis. Many of the country’s hospitals and clinics remain shut or are operating at a fraction of their normal capacity, meaning that people seeking routine A&E treatment, be it after a car crash, for malaria or just for severe diarrhoea, may die.
“We estimate there are 3.8 deaths from normally treatable diseases for every Ebola death,” says Adam Forrest, an NHS consultant gynaecologist with Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.
Scientists tracking the Ebola outbreak in Guinea say the virus has mutated.
Researchers at the Institut Pasteur in France, which first identified the outbreak last March, are investigating whether it could have become more contagious.
More than 22,000 people have been infected with Ebola and 8,795 have died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Scientists are starting to analyse hundreds of blood samples from Ebola patients in Guinea.
They are tracking how the virus is changing and trying to establish whether it's able to jump more easily from person to person
"We know the virus is changing quite a lot," said human geneticist Dr Anavaj Sakuntabhai.
"That's important for diagnosing (new cases) and for treatment. We need to know how the virus (is changing) to keep up with our enemy."
It's not unusual for viruses to change over a period time. Ebola is an RNA virus - like HIV and influenza - which have a high rate of mutation. That makes the virus more able to adapt and raises the potential for it to become more contagious.
"We've now seen several cases that don't have any symptoms at all, asymptomatic cases," said Anavaj Sakuntabhai.
"These people may be the people who can spread the virus better, but we still don't know that yet. A virus can change itself to less deadly, but more contagious and that's something we are afraid of."
7. “The financial markets keep us on our toes.”
One way companies protect against unexpected weather is to buy weather futures — essentially financial contracts that pay off in the case of adverse weather like hurricanes or extreme temperatures. These contracts seem to be having a surprising side effect: They are making weather measurements more accurate.
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, on which many such contracts trade, says they’re used as a hedging mechanism by companies like ski resorts, electric utilities, snow removal firms, and others that depend on certain weather conditions to profit. A company might enter into a contract with a financial institution. One bets that the temperature will be on average over 65 degrees in a certain location next month, while the other bets that it will be less than 65 degrees on average. The difference between the benchmark and reality (based on NWS measurements) determines who gets a payout at the end of the month.
And exchange-traded weather contracts are just one portion of a large base of weather futures, much of which takes place over the counter, says Brown, of Swiss Re.
Amiyatosh Purnanandam, associate professor of finance at the University of Michigan, and doctoral student Daniel Weagley did research on the weather contracts and the accuracy of the NWS’s measurements. Readings from NWS stations in the field can sometimes be off initially, as a result of calibration, maintenance issues, or external interference (the agency later issues corrected temps). But the researchers found that, after a weather futures contract was introduced in a specific city, those errors fell by about 10%.
The National Weather Service doesn’t often make mistakes in its measurements, but the added scrutiny of the financial markets puts pressure on the meteorologists to make measurements more accurate, Purnanandam says. It’s an example of how financial markets can influence behavior.
But while the market may have been one factor in improving weather data accuracy, the weather service says it’s always working to improve.
MOHYELDIN: A lot of his stories when he was back home in Texas, a lot of his own personal opinions about what he was doing in Iraq, how he viewed Iraqis. Some of what people have described as his racist tendencies towards Iraqis and Muslims when he was going on some of these, you know, killing sprees in Iraq on assignment. So I think there are issues --
SCARBOROUGH: Wait, wait. Killing sprees? Chris Kyle was going on killing sprees?
MOHYELDIN: When he was involved in his -- on assignments in terms of what he was doing. A lot of the description that has come out from his book and some of the terminology that he has used, people have described as racist.
As for the recent attacks that have been focused on my sniper brethren, that is a whole different line. The insults towards what we do being “cowardly” are nothing short of inflammatory and ridiculous. I have stayed more or less silent in regards to them, but once again, there are lines. “I think most Americans don’t think snipers are heroes”. Personally, I would say Michael Moore is pretty detached from the average American. The “average” American household brings in approximately $50,000 annually, whereas Mr. Moore’s net worth is placed at $50 million (http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/directors/michael-moore-net-worth/). I’m not entirely sure on this, but I’m fairly certain that a person worth $50 million runs in different social circles than most American citizens and probably didn’t get a fair census of what Americans truly think of snipers. More accurately I would say his social circle is fairly limited to extremely leftist, highly pompous, and overly arrogant Hollywood elitists who’s major life accomplishment was winning an award for aiming a camera in a provocative manner. It’s infuriating to suffer the comments generalized at my friends, colleagues, and myself, though it’s not for the insult itself, but rather the fact that such an insignificant person who hasn’t seen a shot fired in anger can judge the honor and courage of various roles on a battlefield. Comparably, the irritation that I feel when I see these tweets is reminiscent of having your hands tied while a gnat gnaws on your cheek. Ultimately, its not going to damage you, but fuck all if you don’t just want to swat the shit out of the damn thing to make it stop. But then there’s those lines again. It would be crossing quite a major one to swat such an insignificant little insect; as pleasing as it would be to many.
I’m not an obtuse man. I have a bit of clarity that most people see movies and see snipers in movies and have a general belief that a sniper is some guy that gets up in a bell tower somewhere and shoots a bad guy in the face. While that’s not completely untrue, there is much more to it than it seems. Snipers operate in the smallest groups on the battlefield. We have less guys watching our backs. We go deeper into unfriendly territory than everyone else, and we survive against the greatest odds. We are masters of precision fire. A sniper and his rifle can do with one well placed shot what it would take an artillery barrage to accomplish, and do it with a lot less collateral damage. We are more than just a gun. We are a psychological factor. If you need proof, Mr Moore’s uncle was shot by a sniper and to this day he feels the need to demonize them. Psychologically effected an entire generation into the future with one single shot which Mr. Moore didn’t even witness. Now imagine the enemy’s resolve after the man next to them is taken out by a single accurate shot. You just took two men out of the fight, maybe more. We create chaos. Imagine trying to ask your boss what your tasks for the day are, but he decided not to show up for the day. What work gets accomplished? Who takes charge? Who has to do the work of the guy that took charge? Disorder ensues. Leadership is the priority target of a sniper.
Snipers are not as base as an anti-war sensationalist would lead you to believe. We are feared on the battlefield and can do more to shape it than an entire battalion of soldiers. A single, well-placed, arrow completely ended the Battle of Hastings in 1066 by reportedly piercing the skull of the then crowned king, King Harold. This one arrow changed the future of England and allowed the Normans to conquer it and establish a new ruling dynasty in Britain. Obviously, when you are that effective there is going to be some animosity thrown in your direction. There is going to be a lot of misunderstanding and fear. There are, apparently, even going to be people calling you a coward. All you can do is toe the line, keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire, and, from time to time, shoo away some gnats gnawing at your cheek.
American Sniper portrayed Chris Kyle as a guy trying to do the best he could in shitty situations. Doing what he had to in order to protect American lives. It highlighted perfectly that coming home is almost impossible. There’s always an urge to go back and keep working. Not for fortune or glory, but for each other. The way I always thought was, “if I don’t go, who will?” I couldn’t bear the thought of some 18-19 year old kid taking my perceived place in the long line of casualties. American Sniper showed the anguish at the bureaucracy of the Iraq war and the tough decisions that had to be made and later scrutinized by someone at home on the couch. He even said, “we’re at war, and I’m going to the mall.” It accurately shows the disillusionment of returning to a country that isn’t engaged in any capacity with what’s going on with their troops. It captures the essence of what it’s like to come home and try to assimilate into a society that is oblivious.
It’s most powerful statement was that it clearly shows the absolutely bitter loneliness a vet can experience coming home. I don’t mean loneliness as is synonymous with solitude. Kyle was surrounded by family and loved ones. He had reasons to celebrate his life, his wife, and his babies. Yet, he still felt a void. He had the support structure of a family that needed him, yet he couldn’t relish in the love they gave. He could not sit back and enjoy being home, due to the longing for his brothers and a crippling grief for the men he could not keep from harm.
. . .
However, I read a piece by Amanda Taub ... in which she bashes the film and accuses it of “rewriting American history.” Her point of contention was that the film was too black and white for her tastes. She calls the war in Iraq a grey area, which I agree. I also agree with her disdain at the treatment of the conventional troops in the film as cannon fodder or inferior to the SEALS in importance. However, she smashes on Eastwood’s flick by calling into question the lack of mention of G.W. Bush, WMD, or Saddam Hussein. She accuses the movie of inventing fictional characters for Kyle to fight. I’m taking this as she is mad the movie didn’t take a political stance or mention any of the media hype, hot buttons, or buzzwords normally associated with the war in Iraq.
My answer to that: Yeah, no shit.
The film wasn’t about any of that because for US, the war wasn’t about any of that. Do you think any of us gave a fuck about Saddam Hussein, WMD, Bush, Cheney, or any of that shit that was being ejaculated by the news? The film wasn’t about grey areas, because to us it didn’t matter. All that mattered to us was the guy to our left, and the guy to our right…and especially the guy that still had a can of Skoal. It wasn’t that we were willfully ignorant of the issues surrounding the Iraq, or that we were in denial, but when your finger is on a trigger, when you’re face is covered in your friends’ brain matter, you aren’t thinking about “good and evil” or “grey areas.” That is the entire point this civil rights attorney misses, the film was about a man on the ground and the struggle to come home with a head full of grief and regret, not the Iraq war itself.
. . .
To the people that saw the movie for what it was, it was a glimpse into our world. It offered up our collective hearts to you in a manner a typical, movie-going civilian would understand. That is powerful, and hopefully opens a broader dialogue about our struggle to really come home. This is what we’re thinking and why we’re still fighting. As far as our silent war goes, this movie got it right.
To those that saw it as more “pro Bush/Iraq/Right Wing/anti-Muslim” political statement and want to bash it and our military, I say this:
The movie wasn’t for you. It was for the guy with mud on his boots and a hole in his heart, and for the families that are left to pick up the pieces. Go back to your latte.
ISIS still hasn't entered the big leagues. To do that, it needs to do one thing. It needs Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia offers one thing to the jihadi entrepreneurs that no other place can offer. It's not Mecca and Medina. Those holy sites, although extremely important to the cohesion and legitimacy of the jihad, come in a close second to the real goal.
To the jihadi entrepreneurs consumed 24x7 with making enough money to keep ISIS going, Saudi Arabia is the end game. Almost unlimited amounts of loot. A mountain of loot. Enough loot to finance the unlimited expansion the jihad. A chance to mint new Emirates by the boatload.
To these entrepreneurs, this is the IPO (initial public offering) of the Century. An event so financially fruitful it makes the IPOs of Google, Facebook, and all of their Internet brethren pale in comparison. Given this trajectory, the only question is when? When will ISIS pivot south and go IPO? Soon.
Q: You owe the European Central Bank six billion Euros between July and August. Are you not going to pay?
A: Well, if you look at the existing agreement, the existing agreement recognizes that, ah, we can't pay. And it imposes upon us the very strange notion that as a bankrupt state, we must borrow money from our partners - even more money than they've already given us - to repay a central bank which is in the process of printing one trillion Euros. Now, you only have to state this to realize that this is not a God-given, Divine imperative which Europe shouldn't be discussing.
After alerting the authorities to his plight, the pilot ... was directed by the US Coast Guard towards a cruise ship in the area and ditched in the Pacific Ocean. The pilot was able to exit the four-seat aircraft onto a life raft and was rescued by crew from the ship. Crew on a USCG Lockheed Martin HC-130, flying overhead, coordinated, and filmed, the rescue.
The pilot, who had left California for Lahaina on the island of Maui on 25 January, contacted the authorities at 12:30 local time to say he had 3h of fuel remaining and would be forced to ditch in the sea.
Cirrus says it is the 51st time the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System has been deployed, “resulting in 104 persons returning safely”.
How have we come to be told that global temperatures have suddenly taken a great leap upwards to their highest level in 1,000 years? In fact, it has been no greater than their upward leaps between 1860 and 1880, and 1910 and 1940, as part of that gradual natural warming since the world emerged from its centuries-long “Little Ice Age” around 200 years ago.
This belief has rested entirely on five official data records. Three of these are based on measurements taken on the Earth’s surface, versions of which are then compiled by Giss [NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies], by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and by the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit working with the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction, part of the UK Met Office. The other two records are derived from measurements made by satellites, and then compiled by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) in California and the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH).
In recent years, these two very different ways of measuring global temperature have increasingly been showing quite different results. The surface-based record has shown a temperature trend rising up to 2014 as “the hottest years since records began”. RSS and UAH have, meanwhile, for 18 years been recording no rise in the trend, with 2014 ranking as low as only the sixth warmest since 1997.
One surprise is that the three surface records, all run by passionate believers in man-made warming, in fact derive most of their land surface data from a single source. This is the Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN), managed by the US National Climate Data Center under NOAA, which in turn comes under the US Department of Commerce.
But two aspects of this system for measuring surface temperatures have long been worrying a growing array of statisticians, meteorologists and expert science bloggers. One is that the supposedly worldwide network of stations from which GHCN draws its data is flawed. Up to 80 per cent or more of the Earth’s surface is not reliably covered at all. Furthermore, around 1990, the number of stations more than halved, from 12,000 to less than 6,000 – and most of those remaining are concentrated in urban areas or places where studies have shown that, thanks to the “urban heat island effect”, readings can be up to 2 degrees higher than in those rural areas where thousands of stations were lost.
To fill in the huge gaps, those compiling the records have resorted to computerised “infilling” or “homogenising”, whereby the higher temperatures recorded by the remaining stations are projected out to vast surrounding areas (Giss allows single stations to give a reading covering 1.6 million square miles). This alone contributed to the sharp temperature rise shown in the years after 1990.
But still more worrying has been the evidence that even this data has then been subjected to continual “adjustments”, invariably in only one direction. Earlier temperatures are adjusted downwards, more recent temperatures upwards, thus giving the impression that they have risen much more sharply than was shown by the original data.
An early glaring instance of this was spotted by Steve McIntyre, the statistician who exposed the computer trickery behind that famous “hockey stick” graph, beloved by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], which purported to show that, contrary to previous evidence, 1998 had been the hottest year for 1,000 years. It was McIntyre who, in 2007, uncovered the wholesale retrospective adjustments made to US surface records between 1920 and 1999 compiled by Giss (then run by the outspoken climate activist James Hansen). These reversed an overall cooling trend into an 80-year upward trend. Even Hansen had previously accepted that the “dust bowl” 1930s was the hottest US decade of the entire 20th century.
Assiduous researchers have since unearthed countless similar examples across the world, from the US and Russia to Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, an 80-year cooling of 1 degree per century was turned into a warming trend of 2.3 degrees. In New Zealand, there was a major academic row when “unadjusted” data showing no trend between 1850 and 1998 was shown to have been “adjusted” to give a warming trend of 0.9 degrees per century. This falsified new version was naturally cited in an IPCC report (see “New Zealand NIWA temperature train wreck” on the Watts Up With That science blog, WUWT, which has played a leading role in exposing such fiddling of the figures).
By far the most comprehensive account of this wholesale corruption of proper science is a paper written for the Science and Public Policy Institute, “Surface Temperature Records: Policy-Driven Deception?”, by two veteran US meteorologists, Joseph D’Aleo and WUWT’s Anthony Watts (and if warmists are tempted to comment below this article online, it would be welcome if they could address their criticisms to the evidence, rather than just resorting to personal attacks on the scientists who, after actually examining the evidence, have come to a view different from their own).
One of the more provocative points arising from the debate over those claims that 2014 was “the hottest year evah” came from the Canadian academic Dr Timothy Ball when, in a recent post on WUWT, he used the evidence of ice-core data to argue that the Earth’s recent temperatures rank in the lowest 3 per cent of all those recorded since the end of the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.
Islam, being a programmatic faith not confined to the mosque, provides detailed commentary and rules on daily life, including matters sexual that invariably seem strange to post-modern Westerners, who view any infringement on personal sexuality as oppressive. This is a subject of regular mocking in parts of the Western press. Few care to note that Islam is very like Orthodox or Conservative Judaism in such matters.
Islam as actually lived by its adherents easily breaks down into three basic groups that are replicated everywhere there is Islam. Seeing how people live their faith, day in and day out, is illuminating. There is a genuinely radical element — perhaps ten percent, rather more in the West — that advocates Islamism, that is applying Islam in politics, by force if necessary. The aggressively pious vanguard of this sort pushes violence, even murderous barbarism, to further its aims. It has no sympathy for the West and seeks confrontation and victory, not dialogue. Its loudest adherents are usually dysfunctional sorts with a criminal past.
On the other side, maybe another ten percent, there are Muslims who actually reject the faith, de facto, but if they’re living in a Muslim country they keep relatively quiet about it, lest they be denounced as “apostates.” Many are well educated. Such atheists, or at least serious Islam-skeptics, are frequently encountered in the West; it’s seldom noted that many such people emigrate to freer countries precisely to be able to live their skepticism openly.
But the vast majority of Muslims fall into a big group that lives the faith as best they can, without questioning its essentials. They try, they fail, they keep trying. They usually make an effort during Ramadan, at least, and if a life crisis appears, they will pray and seek the comfort of the mosque; the rest of the time their lived faith is rather hit-or-miss. In other words, they are completely normal human beings.
. . .
It must be deeply confusing to any Muslim newcomer to France to encounter a place of such unbelief and debauchery as Paris, where raw sexuality is everywhere, women run free in every sense, and faiths of all kinds are mocked openly. Free speech is not a French priority, and certain kinds of speech are protected, while others are not. Since I cannot rationally explain why French law protects certain speech, and not others, I don’t expect an unlettered immigrant from West Africa to make sense of it all either.
The list of things that can get you thrown in a French jail for saying is long, including “offensive” speech against various racial, religious, and sexual minorities, but it must be mysterious to Muslims why gross public indecencies against the Prophet are tolerated when denial of the Holocaust, a purely human affair, is not.
. . .
Short of a coercive reeducation program worthy of Mao’s Cultural Revolution I’m not sure what can be done about all this in 2015. Even if Muslim immigration were halted tomorrow — which is surely not on the table yet — Western Europe will still possess twenty million Muslims, many quite unassimilated, who are reproducing at a rate far beyond the native population. It’s difficult to see how this can end well — or peacefully.
. . .
How, then, are European countries today doing such a terrible job of assimilating Muslim immigrants? In the first place, Christianity has been replaced by secularism, often of an aggressive kind. We have changed; Muslims have not. The sort of in-your-face secularism that’s commonplace in Europe now is difficult for Muslims to relate to, having no resonance with their historical experience, and is viewed with contempt by many of them. Bonds of tribe and kin that have frayed in the West remain powerful among Muslims. Post-modern permissiveness in sexual matters is likewise met with bemused anger by many Muslims, some of whom gleefully rape European women they view as whores.
Crime is one of the great unmentionables in all this, preventing honest dialogue. In 2010, Éric Zemmour was convicted of racial incitement for stating that Muslim immigrants were grossly overrepresented among France’s violent criminals, though few could plausibly state he was wrong on the numbers. Over the last generation, France has created a serious problem in the suburbs of Paris, among other major cities, where Muslim ghettos are crowded with young people who seldom if ever work, living on welfare while plotting crimes of various sorts, while seething with resentment and hate for “infidels” around them. For some, this path of hatred leads to jihad. Here the Paris killers, with their obsession with angry American rap music, were a walking, vapid, and murderous cliche.
Many are now worried about low-grade warfare erupting across Western Europe, as jihadist cells go active and plant bombs and open fire. All over the European Union, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, police and spies are watching would-be killers closely. Although there is no enduring security fix to this daunting problem, as I’ve explained before, consistent police and intelligence pressure on Salafi radicals can reduce terrorism, if the will exists to sustain such aggressive operations by the security services.
While more terrorism seems likely, it may not be anything as dramatic as alarmists and thrillers would promise. France already faces an Islamic insurgency of a low-grade kind — it is habitually downplayed by the authorities as “isolated incidents” that happen “at random” when shootings and driving cars into people is anything but random — that may continue on low-boil for years, claiming a few victims at a time, not dozens, much less hundreds. French inner cities may come to resemble shambolic American inner cities like Detroit or Chicago, where war-like casualty rates among civilians are similarly dismissed as “street crime,” with the difference that France’s troublemakers will be inspired by Salafi jihadism while being shockingly well armed. Needless to add, more militarization of police and society will follow.
It’s all too soon to tell. All-out civil war — think more Mad Max than Gettysburg — cannot be ruled out at this juncture. What is clear, however, is that Europe has no idea how to respond to this mounting crisis in any politically coherent fashion.