Monday, September 1, 2014

Who owns your children?

The ongoing case of the British couple who removed their son from a hospital there (against a local doctor's advice) and took him to Europe in search of more advanced therapy is highlighting, yet again, the insidious danger of the Big Brother "nanny state".  The latest news:

The parents of a 5-year-old British boy with a severe brain tumor they took abroad against doctors' advice were at a Madrid courthouse awaiting the start of proceedings Monday on whether to extradite them to the U.K.

Ashya King's parents, who are also British, were arrested Sunday in southeastern Spain after a European arrest warrant was issued by Interpol at the request of British police. Their son is receiving medical treatment for a brain tumor, and after his parents' arrest he was admitted to a Spanish hospital.

The family has criticized Britain's health care system, saying he needs an advanced treatment option called proton beam therapy and that it wasn't being made available to him.

. . .

British police say the parents, Brett and Naghemeh, are suspected of neglect. They are both Jehovah's Witnesses, but there has been no indication they raised any religious issue about the boy's treatment.

There's more at the link.

All sorts of red flags are raised by this report.

  1. An international arrest warrant was issued for the couple - but they had committed no crime whatsoever.  Nothing they did contravenes any law in Britain.  They merely refused to submit to bureaucratic authority.  I can't see any grounds for a criminal arrest warrant at all.
  2. There was (and is) no suggestion from anyone that the parents were planning to deny their son medical treatment on the grounds of their religious beliefs.  Instead, they had openly told the hospital (and Britain's National Health Service) that they did not agree that the therapy offered their son was the best available, and planned to take him somewhere he could get the treatment they preferred.
  3. As far as I'm aware, there is no law giving the British state the authority to override parents' wishes concerning the care and raising of their children, unless there is evidence of neglect (which must be proved in a court of law before the children can be removed from their custody).  Declining one form of medical treatment in favor of another - both of them recognized, standard treatments for the disease in question - is hardly 'neglect';  therefore, on what grounds were such allegations made?  Was this simply an attempt by an overreaching bureaucracy to find some way - any way - to take charge of the child, because they felt they knew better than the parents what should be done?
  4. If a state-run health care system decides what treatment is to be offered, whether or not it's the best or most appropriate for your condition, you're at the mercy of that system as to whether you live or die.  Sarah Palin's warning against 'death panels' comes very forcibly to mind.  It may well be cheaper for the system to decide not to offer you a particular treatment;  but if that means you'll die sooner, that's your problem, not theirs.  They're just 'going by the rule book'.

If this is allowed to stand, it will further endorse a de facto (if not explicitly de jure) situation where the state can overrule parents at will concerning the health care of their children.  From there it's a very short step to extend that to other aspects of child care.

  • You want to homeschool your child?  Sorry - the state says you can't.
  • You want to send him to a private school?  Forget it - the state says only its schools are suitable.
  • Private schools want to offer a faith-based curriculum in addition to the state-endorsed academic education?  No way!  The state says that amounts to religious discrimination!
  • You want to raise him in accordance with traditional Judeo-Christian moral and ethical standards?  Sorry, you can't do that - it's not 'inclusive' or 'gender-neutral' enough.
  • You want to let your son play with a toy gun?  Gasp!  Shock!  Horror!  Guns are evil!  You're not fit to be a parent!  You're raising him to be a menace to society!

American readers may assume that this can't happen here - but it can, and it does.  There are legions of horror stories involving child protective services around the nation.  A simple Internet search will reveal hundreds of sites with more details.  Karl Denninger put it well:

But this case, as with the case of Justina Pelletier, shows that the government believes that children are in fact their property.  Let us not forget that in Justina's case the state finally came to the conclusion that they were wrong and the parents (and their advocates in the medical system) were right.  That is, they effectively admitted to kidnapping her, in retrospect.

So who went to prison for that?  Nobody, and nobody will either.  Justina, after a year of this, actually had custody of her formally awarded to the state

And what is going to happen in this case?  The parents have been arrested and will be extradited back to the UK and, of course, have been forcibly separated from their child.

Doesn't this tell you exactly what sort of relationship the state recognizes -- or doesn't, as the case may be -- when it comes to your children?

We're not talking about a situation here where two parents disagree and someone has to make a decision of some kind (e.g. in the instance of a divorce.)  These are both cases where an intact family disagrees with what a state actor believes about a child born to that family.  As soon as that happens you discover that the state in fact has claimed ownership of that child.

That's utterly outrageous -- but it in fact happens every day and nobody has done a thing to stop it.

Again, more at the link.

Bureaucrats hide behind government authority and their agency when dealing out such treatment.  They'll claim to be "just doing their job".  If you resist or insist on your "rights", they'll retaliate against you - as appears to be happening to the British couple mentioned above.  Some have suggested that the only way to deal with such official over-intrusiveness, in this age of the "nanny state", is to retaliate in kind against those responsible.  "You want to make my life difficult?  Then I'll make yours just as difficult.  I'll hold you, Mr. Bureaucrat, personally accountable for the damage you do to me and my family.  I'll make you, personally, Ms. Bureaucrat, pay for it."

That's a slippery slope, all right, and it can be - and has been - rightly pointed out that in cases of genuine neglect, such retaliation may harm those trying to do their job properly and for good cause.  However, in cases of bureaucratic overreach, what alternative does the average person have?  If they can't touch the agency involved, or the politicians who passed the laws allowing such intrusion, they have few - if any - other avenues available to them.  The courts tend to side with the bureaucrats, with the "official" position.  Go read some of the sites at the link above to see that for yourself.

I honestly can't blame those who think that way.  The "nanny state" is going too far, for far too many people, and the backlash is building.  The tragedy is that it's likely to damage the good work some bureaucrats do, even as it seeks to punish the bad bureaucrats for their overreach.  There are no winners in such a situation.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rediscovering Thorne Smith

When I was a teenager my mother introduced me to the comedy novels of Thorne Smith.  I found them delightful, and read and re-read her collection of half a dozen of them;  later, when I came to this country, she gave me three of them to bring with me.  (Carrying copies of an American author's books from South Africa back to the USA might seem like carrying coals to Newcastle, but there you have it.)

My copies of his books have been in storage (along with most of my library) for several years, and I'd forgotten about them, until today I stumbled across a British Web site that offers most of his books online, optimized for Web reading.  (It seems the European copyright on them ran out some years ago, although they're still under copyright in the USA.)  I've been spending some time this afternoon and evening renewing my acquaintance with my favorite of his books, 'The Night Life of the Gods'.  Next in the reading queue are 'The Jovial Ghosts' (published in the USA as 'Topper', IIRC) and its sequel, 'Topper Takes A Trip'.  (Both were filmed, along with a third movie, 'Topper Returns', that wasn't based on a Thorne Smith book.  The first and third films are available on YouTube;  if anyone knows where the second film can be found online, please let us know in Comments.)

If you've never read Thorne Smith, I highly recommend his books.  They're somewhat dated to modern readers, but still a tonic for the insanity of the world today and a dose of laughter amid the frustrations of life.  Read them online for free, or buy them in e-book format (and some in print).  I plan to buy them in e-book format to replace my old, tattered, pre-World War II hardcovers.



Religious sensibilities aside, I couldn't resist shamelessly borrowing this from The Lonely Libertarian:


Audible snobbery?

While wandering the Web recently, I was surprised to find a link to a 2013 article on NPR titled 'What Does A Song That Costs $5 Sound Like?'  Intrigued, I clicked the link to learn more.

In 1997, the first single was purchased online — "Electric Barbarella" by Duran Duran. At the time, Marenco was working for Liquid Audio, one of the first companies to offer commercial music downloads. Marenco says no one she knew even got what she was doing. "My artist and label friends looked at me like I was talking about things in a crystal ball. 'Music on the Internet? Are you crazy? How is that even possible?' "

Marenco and Liquid Audio were offering compressed audio downloads in formats like MP3 and AAC, which is what iTunes uses now. Even though she's a musician herself and could hear that MP3 was lower quality than CDs, she thought MP3s could change the industry in a way that helped artists.

. . .

MP3s were lower quality audio because they had to be. The files were small and moved quickly over a slow speed Internet connection. Marenco now says she feels guilty for helping to make MP3s popular.

. . .

These days Marenco is back at work as an engineer in a studio she built in her home. She takes great care in the recording process. During one session, she had four musicians in the studio and none of them wore headphones the way they do in most recording sessions. Marenco prefers they play together as if they were on stage, a process she believes makes the sound more authentic.

About three years ago, as most people got faster Internet connections and bigger hard drives, Marenco decided to make her DSD music files available for download. At the time, Marenco's customers could only play DSD on one device — a Sony PlayStation 3. Marenco charged $5 a song and $50 an album. It didn't sound like a formula for success. But, she says, "we were shocked. Thousands of people came to download. What was interesting to me as a business owner is they never asked me to lower the price. They asked for more content."

. . .

Music fans are ready, according to a study done by the Consumer Electronics Association in 2011. It found 90 percent of consumers say sound quality is the most important part of a quality listening experience. And the industry may finally be ready to give it to them.

There's more at the link.

This sounds potentially very good;  but there's a huge fly in the ointment, one that's bugged me ever since I ran into a high-end audiophile in my days in the computer industry in South Africa.  This guy had just spent the equivalent of $20,000 on a turntable to play old-fashioned vinyl LP records.  One turntable - no amplifier, no speakers, no cables - one turntable.  For $20,000.  My mind boggled.  He swore you could hear the difference between it and his previous turntable, which had cost him a mere $10,000 or so, but for the life of me I couldn't tell their sound quality apart.  (He took great delight in demonstrating them to me one evening over a Scotch or two.)

(If you'd like to read about a modern audiophile who takes it to extremes - as in six-figure extremes - try this article.  Your mind may well boggle too . . . )

The thing that bugs me about all this is that the range of hearing of the human ear is very accurately known.  It's between 20 Hz and 20 kHz.  Basically, if someone offers to sell you a sound system that can accurately reproduce sounds between (say) 4 Hz and 44 kHz, you're being sold a pup, because you won't be able to hear more than half of that sound spectrum.  It's physically impossible.

I accept that common MP3 files are low-resolution;  that's why, when I download them or burn my own CD's onto my computer, I specify the maximum possible sampling rate to ensure the best audio fidelity.  I can hear the difference between the files when I do that.  However, when working in other formats promising much higher frequency response, I often can't hear much difference between them and a high-end MP3 file (particularly given my aging ears, which have lost much of the sensitivity they once had - loud, repeated gunfire will do that to you, and there isn't always time or opportunity to insert hearing protection).  I think mixing the sound is much more important than its frequency response - getting the balance right between instruments, vocals, etc. and balancing bass, treble and other notes.

I can't help but think that much of the emphasis on higher-frequency recordings is just hype, nothing more.  What say you, readers?  Is there more to it than marketing?  Or is it just another way to separate us from our money?


Saturday, August 30, 2014

An appropriate response

I had to laugh at this picture on Joel's blog - and at his response.

Joel's reply:

Yeah, allow me to retort by introducing you to the cuisine of my people.

If you aren't already a regular visitor to his place, you might want to stop by and look around.


Looks like the truck won't wait any longer

Thanks to everyone who responded to my request for advice about my truck's electrical problems.  There seems to be a consensus about the brake light switch and its rotary actuator, a potential ground problem, and the multifunction switch.  I'll have the local service people replace all necessary parts as a first attempt at solving the problem.

Unfortunately, tonight the brake lights won't go off at all, despite multiple restarts, kicking the pedal, and votive offerings to the automotive gods (or demons - at this point I'm not sure which!).  I guess the battery will be drained by morning.  I suppose I'd better arrange to jump-start it tomorrow, drive it down to the workshop, and leave it there for them to start work on Tuesday morning.  I'll rent something small and cheap for a few days to give me wheels.

I may yet consider buying a really low-cost commuter set of wheels to run around in, reserving the truck for longer trips and those occasions one really needs to carry a load.  If I can't find a cheap used banger, I note that the Smart ForTwo can be leased for $99 a month, which is a phenomenal deal - I might even be able to write it off against my book income if I apply advertising logos to it.  I'd prefer something a bit larger, even though they're more expensive to lease;  but if the lease can be a tax write-off, that might still be cost-effective.

I'll let you know what the mechanic finds.


More flying fun with Pilatus

Earlier this month I mentioned a new British TV series about pilots with Susi Air in Indonesia flying Pilatus PC-6 Porter STOL aircraft.  There's been a fair amount of interest expressed by readers, and Murphy even said he wanted to buy one of those planes.  (I've flown in one in Africa, and it's pretty darn impressive, I can assure you.)

To satisfy your interest, here's a longer video clip about PC-6 operations by a Susi Air pilot in Indonesia during a single day's flying.  Note the landing strips carved out of the hillsides - straight up or down!  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

And for those interested in Pilatus aircraft of all types, here's a video report of the launch, earlier this month, of the company's new PC-24 business jet.  Examples of all its previous aircraft, from World War II to date, put on an air display before the launch.  You'll find them all listed here;  click each plane's name to go to its Wikipedia page for more information. I again recommend full-screen mode to get the most out of it.

As Flight Global noted about the ceremonies:

Sometimes in the life of a globetrotting Flight International scribbler you can forget what country you are in.

Not so for our colleague who attended the roll-out of Pilatus’s first jet, the PC-24. The firm’s Stans location, in an Alpine valley, is as chocolate-box Swiss as you can get. For the ceremony itself, guests were treated to yodelling and alpenhorns as the aircraft was pulled in by horses, before chairman Oscar Schwenk appeared in traditional costume – complete with edelweiss-decorated traditional shirt.

The only thing missing was a giant cowbell round the nose of the jet.


The Great Indie Labor Day weekend book sale

A bunch of independent authors (many of whom I know online and/or in meatspace, and all of whom I'm proud to call my friends) are holding an e-book sale this Labor Day weekend.  You'll find all the books listed here.  All of them are priced at $2.99 or below, for this weekend only.  (I'd gladly have joined in the sale, but because Miss D. and I have been settling into our new home this month, we simply haven't had time to fit that in amongst all the other things we've had to do.)

If you've been looking for interesting reading material at a great price, now's your chance.  You may not have heard of many of the authors, but then, a great many people have never heard of my writing - but you still come here to read my blog, and many of you have bought my books.  I strongly suggest you take a chance on some new authors and stock up while their prices are so low.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Entertainment dinosaurs

This week has seen further developments in the ongoing fight between the 'old guard' in many sectors of the entertainment industry, and the 'new wave' of tech-savvy digital vendors and entrepreneurs who want to shake off the old restrictions and move with the technological tide.

We've all read about's fight with publishers over e-book pricing.  (If you'd like to know more about it in a nutshell, Engadget provides an informative overview.)  Print news media are struggling to stay alive, and have been doing so for a long time.  In a recent article, Clay Shirky put his finger on the reason for their decline.

Many people have lamented the unpredictability in the media environment occasioned by the arrival of digital devices and networks, but the slow implosion of newspapers has been widely and correctly predicted for some time now. Print ad revenues have fallen 65% in a decade, 2013 saw the lowest ever recorded, and 2014 will be worse.

. . .

Do you see anything unclear about the trend line?

There's much more at the link.  Recommended reading.

Now the music industry is crying foul.  This week it was reported:

The record industry has just had its worst week in decades. For the first time since Nielsen SoundScan began keeping track in 1991, album sales failed to reach the four-million-sold mark this week, totaling just 3.97 million.

. . .

The music industry has struggled in recent years as consumers have shifted from physical CDs to MP3s, but even the digital side has been hit hard in 2014: Digital album sales are down 11.7 percent for the year, and à la carte downloads are down another 12.8 percent according to Billboard. Illegal downloading has no doubt eroded much of those digital sales, but it’s the emergence of legal streaming sites like Spotify and Pandora that has also chipped away at overall sales.

Again, more at the link.

I suggest that there's a very simple explanation for all of the reports mentioned above:  the ubiquitous smartphone.  It's become the single most important device in many people's lives.  Just look at the number of people using smartphones to talk, text-message, read books, watch video clips (not just short ones, but even full movies), listen to music, and so on.  They're all around you in most cities.  As far as books and publishing are concerned, Amazon spotted this trend early and provided high-quality apps to allow its customers to read Kindle e-books, watch Amazon streaming video, and play Amazon digital music on their smartphones.  Others in the industry were slower to catch on, and now they're having to catch up - but many consumers won't wait for them to do so.  They've already voted with their wallets for the early adopters, who are off and running with the crowd.

I've noticed the impact in my own life.  I now read more books on my smartphone than I do on an e-reader or on my computer (I bought a 'phablet' smartphone with a larger screen for that reason).  I don't yet listen to music on my smartphone, but Miss D. does so most mornings as she gets dressed.  She uses it at work to take pictures of things other managers need to see, and sends them straight to their addressees without delays or intermediate processing.  When she and I are on the road, we don't use in-car navigation systems - our smartphones suffice.

The entertainment industry hasn't adapted to the single-device society.  It's still producing TV programs for evening viewing on a larger screen, and movies for the theater, and music to be sold by the album rather than the track, and books for those who like to turn physical pages, and so on.  More to the point, the various segments of the industry (e.g. music, books, movies, etc.) haven't yet woken up to the fact that they're all basically in the same industry, entertainment;  and they're all competing against each other for the consumer's entertainment dollar.  There's no reason why he should buy a book or a movie ticket if there's something else that will be more entertaining for less money.

The advent of digital technology has changed everything, and opened doors to all of us to produce as well as consume entertainment.  That's why I'm able to make a living as a writer - I don't have to beg, plead and grovel to traditional publishing gatekeepers for admittance to the market.  My work will stand or fall on its own merits, and I can price it to sell rather than having to make obscene profit percentages to support a bunch of staff and functions over and above the author.  Readers can judge for themselves whether my work's any good, and they, rather than traditional gatekeepers, will decide whether or not I'll succeed.

One wonders how long the dinosaurs of the entertainment industry can survive, given the apparent refusal of so many of them to adapt to a changing world.


A real-life Crispi critter!

Seems alcohol and bacon make a dangerous combination.

A [Utah] woman faces arson charges after police say she drunkenly started a fire in her ex-boyfriend's house ...

. . .

When officers arrived, they saw smoke billowing out the front door. Apparently, [Cameo Adawn] Crispi had placed a pound of bacon on a lit burner. In the home, officers discovered hot coals on the floor around an open wood stove and the burned bacon.

Charging documents say Crispi's blood-alcohol level was 0.346, four times the legal limit.

There's more at the link.

They should charge her with wasting valuable bacon while they're at it!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

There are none so blind as those who will not see . . .

. . . particularly when it comes to politics, race, or other contentious issues.

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, continues to attract an inordinate amount of media attention;  but what strikes me most of all is the way the two sides are talking past each other rather than to each other.  It's not so much that they don't understand each other as that they begin from diametrically opposed viewpoints, so far apart that they have almost nothing in common.  As a result, there's no dialog at all.  Consider the following two examples.

Peter Coy, writing in Bloomberg's Businessweek, opines that there was 'Injustice in Ferguson, Long Before Michael Brown'.  He takes a civil rights perspective on the issues there.  Here's an excerpt.

Who’s to blame in the confrontation that led to Brown’s death has yet to be sorted out. But the ArchCity Defenders report is the clearest evidence to date that Ferguson’s justice system was discriminatory in practice, if not intent, long before the police force’s heavy-handed response to the riots that followed the fatal shooting. Harvey and his co-authors found that middle-class drivers stopped by police routinely hire lawyers who knock speeding tickets down to non-moving violations; poorer drivers, mostly black, who can’t afford lawyers, often find themselves caught in a downward spiral. They get points on their licenses, they can’t afford their fines, they’re jailed, they lose their jobs, they drive with suspended licenses and get into deeper trouble.

One can question ArchCity Defenders’ blunt claim that “defendants are incarcerated for their poverty.” It’s harder to dispute the defense attorneys’ warning that Ferguson’s practices “destroy the public’s confidence in the justice system and its component parts.”

The rioting and looting in Ferguson are plainly wrong in every respect, but they’re taking place in a society that plainly isn’t working.

There's more at the link.

On the other hand, Walter E. Williams (himself black) argues that 'Blacks Must Confront Reality'.  He takes a sociological and anthropological perspective.  For example:

Though racial discrimination exists, it is nowhere near the barrier it once was. The relevant question is: How much of what we see today can be explained by racial discrimination? This is an important question because if we conclude that racial discrimination is the major cause of black problems when it isn't, then effective solutions will be elusive forever.

. . .

The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 28.1 percent. A statistic that one never hears about is that the poverty rate among intact married black families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8.4 percent. Weak family structures not only spell poverty and dependency but also contribute to the social pathology seen in many black communities -- for example, violence and predatory sex. Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person.

. . .

If it is assumed that problems that have a devastating impact on black well-being are a result of racial discrimination and a "legacy of slavery" when they are not, resources spent pursuing a civil rights strategy will yield disappointing results.

Again, more at the link.

I suspect there's some truth in both articles;  but from my own experience of crime and criminals (which is more extensive than most), I tend to side more with Prof. Williams than with Mr. Coy.  I note, too, that as far back as 1965, the Moynihan Report (which we've encountered in these pages before) warned of precisely the consequences that Prof. Williams highlights.  Its predictions have been proven by history to be grimly prescient.

In my personal judgment of any person or situation, I apply two 'acid tests'.  They complement each other, in my experience, and I seldom find that one is positive while the other is negative.

The first is that actions speak louder than words.  If someone's speech is honeyed and persuasive, but their actions are self-serving, violent, repellent - any other negative you care to name - then they're basically hypocrites and not worthy of trust.  Their actions are a far more accurate guide to their true nature than their dissembling words.

The second is the Biblical test, found in the words of Christ in Matthew 7:15-20.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

If someone produces positive results, or outcomes, in people and situations, that's good fruit.  If someone stirs up more trouble, whips feelings into a frenzy, polarizes and divides rather than unites and restores . . . bad fruit, and a bad person.  I invite readers to judge the leaders who flocked to Ferguson, Missouri, by this standard.  What 'fruit' did Missouri State Police Captain Ronald Johnson produce?  Contrast his efforts with those of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.  Who produced the more positive fruit, and who the more negative?

Those who speak the truth about the crime and violence endemic in the Black community are often pilloried as racists.  That's not true.  It needs to be confronted head-on, as Fred Reed did in his two columns we've referenced in recent days.  Walter Williams confronts it in his article.  Bill Cosby confronted it in his famous 'Pound Cake' speech in 2004.  I've embedded it here before, and I'll do so again for the benefit of those who may have missed it.

When I hear others complain about civil rights issues in Ferguson, or anywhere else, I first want to know more about the local community and what it's doing to address the issues identified by Prof. Williams, and Bill Cosby, and so many others.  Unless and until they've been addressed, there's no point in worrying about external issues.  In the words of Christ (Matthew 15:10-11, 17-20):

Hear and understand:  Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man ... Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man ...

These things can defile an entire community, not just an individual.  Evil comes out of the heart, and only a change of heart - individual hearts, because there's no such thing as a collective heart - can remove it and replace it with good.  We can argue until the cows come home about whether that needs to be a religious/spiritual or political/social or ethical/moral conversion, but conversion there must be.  No amount of civil rights complaints or legal action or police presence can produce it.  It can only come from within . . . and the refusal of civil rights activists to acknowledge that reality means that they're forever doomed to failure.


An amusing beer ad

I had to smile at this ad from Austin Beerworks.  I like their irreverent touch.

Looks like at least a minivan, if not a pickup truck, will be needed to get it home, though!


Ebola: this s*** is getting serious

I mentioned the Ebola virus earlier this month.  Suddenly things are looking a whole lot worse, and cases are spiking exponentially in several African nations.  Reuters reports:

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday it had shut a laboratory in Sierra Leone after a health worker there was infected with Ebola, a move that may hamper efforts to boost the global response to the worst ever outbreak of the disease.

At least 1,427 people have died and 2,615 have been infected since the disease was detected deep in the forests of southeastern Guinea in March.

The WHO has deployed nearly 400 of its own staff and partner organizations to fight the epidemic of the highly contagious hemorrhagic fever, which has struck Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. A separate outbreak was confirmed in Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday.

. . .

The WHO said it had withdrawn staff from the laboratory testing for Ebola at Kailahun -- one of only two in Sierra Leone -- after a Senegalese epidemiologist was infected with Ebola.

"It's a temporary measure to take care of the welfare of our remaining workers," WHO spokesperson Christy Feig said, without specifying how long the measure would last.

There's more at the link.

Zero Hedge published this horrifyingly informative graphic yesterday:

You're looking at an exponential upward spike there.  Some of it might be deaths that occurred earlier, but have only recently been reported;  but all the signs are that the incidence of sickness is rising dramatically.

Zero Hedge concluded with this comment from a World Health Organization spokesman:

It’s not “a question of incompetence or complacency,” according to Morrison ... “It’s the fact we’re catching up with the unknown, and it’s way ahead of us.”

(Bold print is my emphasis.)

I said earlier:  "I think we have to assume for safety's sake that the risk of [Ebola's] spreading around the world may be a lot higher than the authorities have so far indicated".  Given the spike in cases illustrated by the graphs above, I think we can now take that risk as a virtual certainty.  I wouldn't be planning any international travel in the short term unless I had to:  and then only on airlines that didn't fly to any of the affected countries, because whilst airlines are reported to be checking boarding passengers for symptoms, I'm not sure that their aircraft are restricted to that route, or properly sterilized in between flights.  For example, wouldn't it be fun to find out - after takeoff - that the Air France aircraft flying you from the USA to Europe had been on the West African route the previous week?  India's taking the threat seriously.  I wonder when the US will begin to do so (or at least admit publicly to doing so)?