Daily Archives: September 22, 2009

China begins mass vaccinations for swine flu

china flu vaccination

A Chinese medic administers a vaccination against A(H1N1) influenza

AFP | Sep 22, 2009

By Marianne Barriaux

BEIJING — China kicked off mass vaccinations for swine flu Monday in Beijing, making it apparently the first nation in the world to start innoculating its population against the virus.

The Asian giant has been at the forefront of international efforts to produce an A(H1N1) influenza vaccine, with at least five companies receiving government approval for the work. Officials however have warned demand will exceed supply.


Joseph Moshe (MOSSAD Microbiologist): “Swine flu vaccine is bioweapon”

The capital’s municipal health bureau announced Monday in a statement on its website that Beijing “took the lead in China in starting A(H1N1) flu vaccinations”.

Authorities kicked off the programme by immunising students due to take part in next week’s National Day celebrations, the statement said. Around 100,000 students are due to attend, according to recent state media reports.

“We believe that China is the first country in the world to start mass vaccinations for A(H1N1) flu,” Vivian Tan, spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation in China, told AFP.

The health ministry has said it plans to vaccinate 65 million people, or five percent of the country’s total population of 1.3 billion, before year’s end.

A total of 500 medical workers in nearly 50 teams have been mobilised to go to schools across Beijing to give the students their shots, which are free and voluntary, the health bureau reported.

Apart from students taking part in festivities marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of communist China on October 1, medical workers, border inspection and transportation workers will also have priority.

The military and police, other kindergarten, elementary and middle school students and teachers, and those with chronic heart and lung diseases will also be given priority, according to the health ministry.

Shipments of vaccines have so far been distributed to eight provinces including Guangdong, Shandong, Sichuan and Hunan, where outbreaks have been the most severe, state media has reported.

Other nations are also preparing to vaccinate their populations against swine flu.

Australia is to start a mass adult immunisation programme on September 30, while the United States has bought 195 million doses of swine flu vaccine and will make shots available next month.

Britain, meanwhile, has received a first batch of 100,000 doses of swine flu vaccine, which could be approved for public distribution by early October.

On Monday, China had recorded 13,262 cases of A(H1N1) flu, according to the latest information released on the health ministry’s website. No deaths have yet been reported.

A top ministry official predicted earlier this month that tens of millions of people could be infected with the virus in China in the coming months, leading to “unavoidable” fatalities.

The virus has now spread to all of China’s 31 provinces and regions and 95 percent of the cases are being transmitted domestically, rather than via travellers from abroad.

By Friday, A(H1N1) flu had killed nearly 3,500 people worldwide, and while the Americas still have the highest death toll from the virus, cases are expected to increase in Asia as the northern hemisphere enters winter.

China — hit hard in the past by bird flu and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) — took immediate measures to prevent the new virus from entering the country when it was first uncovered in the Americas.

It subsequently came in for international criticism over its severe quarantine rules, but authorities defended the moves as necessary to fend off a mass outbreak of A(H1N1).



September 11 defendants get “My Lai” massacre film

Reuters | Sep 21, 2009

By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) – Guantanamo prisoners accused of plotting the September 11 attacks were given a copy of a Hollywood movie about a U.S. massacre of Vietnamese civilians to help them prepare their defense in their mass murder trial, a prosecutor said on Monday.

Self-described 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and two co-defendants, who are acting as their own attorneys, asked for and were given copies of several movies, prosecutor Robert Swann told the Guantanamo war crimes court.

Among them were “Judgment: The Court Martial of Lt. William Calley,” a 1975 Stanley Kramer film about a U.S. soldier held responsible for the murder of Vietnamese civilians in what came to be known as the My Lai massacre. Harrison Ford played the title character’s superior officer in the movie.

“The camp provided them,” Swann told the court, referring to the movie request. Also provided were copies of the National Geographic films “Inside Mecca” and “Inside the Vatican.”

It was unclear why the defendants wanted the films, though they could be trying to equate the killing of U.S. civilians with the killing of civilians by the U.S. military at My Lai.

Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged al Qaeda co-conspirators are charged with 2,973 counts of murder and could be executed if convicted.

President Barack Obama asked last week for a 60-day freeze in the proceedings and said he would decide by November 16 whether to try them in a revised version of the much-maligned military tribunals or move the cases to regular civilian courts.

The U.S. military judge granted the freeze in the 9-11 case shortly before Monday’s hearing at the U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba. But he held the hearing anyway to hear outstanding requests from the defendants, who opted not to attend.

The chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo tribunals, Navy Captain John Murphy, said federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., New York and Virginia were already reviewing the case files and vying to try the accused September 11 plotters if the cases are moved into the civilian courts.


The Obama administration has ordered the Guantanamo detention camp shut down by January 22 and is still debating what to do with the 226 detainees it holds. Murphy said he still hopes to try 65 of them in military tribunals and that “We are ready to prosecute this case in this court, now.”

Obama has said he considers military tribunals to be an appropriate forum for terrorism trials of Guantanamo captives but would prefer to try them in federal courts if feasible.

The delays frustrated September 11 victims’ relatives who came to Guantanamo to watch the hearing. Several said they felt their loved ones had been forgotten as the years dragged on without trials.

“We are just damned disgusted with the whole business,” said Bob Hemenway, whose son Ronald was killed when a hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon. “We need some justice. We need it now.”

Talat Hamdani, whose paramedic son Salman Hamdani was killed in the World Trade Center, said she was disappointed at not being able to see the defendants she called “those demented people who distorted the faith of Islam.”

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Environment minister unveils action plan to cut flatulence

Global warming website helps farmers cut livestock flatulence

Farmers are being advised how to reduce their livestock’s flatulence on a new website launched by Scottish ministers to tackle global warming.

Telegraph | Sep 21, 2009

By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish environment minister, unveiled a five-point action plan for the country’s agricultural sector to reduce its greenhouse gases.

A fact sheet has been produced outlining how farmers can adjust their animals’ diets to reduce methane emissions. The measures include ensuring livestock eats the right length of grass.

Although vehicles produce a far larger volume of noxious gases, methane is 21 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.

In total, methane is thought to contribute about 18 per cent towards the global warming effect, with cattle and sheep the main culprits. Scottish ministers have pledged to cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050.

Launching the action plan and website, Mr Lochhead said: “Our farmers can lead the fight against climate change and not only help our environment but help their businesses at the same time.

“By adopting these five simple steps, farming will become part of the solution to climate change. I am confident that these practical cost-effective measures will be welcomed.”

The fact sheet tells farmers that their animals emit four greenhouse gases, methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Methane is produced by bacteria in the guts of livestock, and is associated with fermentation within sheep, cattle and, to a lesser extent, horses.

To reduce emissions, the fact sheet states: “It is important that good quality grass is available and this can be achieved by carefully managing the grazing.

“Graze at a target grass height to supply sufficient dry matter, but not so high that the grass has become mature and of lower digestibility.”

It also recommends using the right type of grass, and advises beef cattle producers use “high concentrate” diets for their livestock to reduce methane levels. Greenhouse gases can also be cut by using waste products from distilleries.

The New Zealand government briefly considered taxing farmers on their herds’ methane output but the proposal had to be dropped following opposition.

South of the Border, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs considered introducing a system of tradable methane permits but the system was considered too complex.

Jim McLaren, president of NFU Scotland, said farmers have already made a “significant contribution” to cutting greenhouse gases.

He added: “Further research into the roles that livestock diet, soil and nutrient management will go some way to helping agriculture fulfil its potential in this area.”

The Scottish campaign, titled Farming for a Better Climate, is being funded by the taxpayer and the website is hosted by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC).

Graham Kerr, who leads the programme for the SAC, said: “This is an issue that challenges us all and land managers can play their part in reducing carbon emissions.”

Scientist researching Black Death dies from infection linked to plague

An American scientist studying the origins of the Black Death has died from an infection related to the plague he studied.

Telegraph | Sep 22, 2009

Chicago health officials said there was no sign of any spread after the death of Malcolm Casadaban, a genetics researcher at the University of Chicago.

But as a precaution, antibiotics have been offered to co-workers, friends and family of the scientist.

The 60-year-old died on Sept. 13 after being exposed to a weakened form of the bacteria that causes the plague. The strain, which has been used as a vaccine in some countries to protect against bubonic place, is approved by the US government for lab studies.

Casadaban’s lab has been sealed off while authorities investigate.

Officials have said it is unlikely that anyone else would be infected, and a Chicago Department of Public Health spokesman said on Monday the window for that happening is almost over.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also is investigating.

The Black Death, one of the deadliest pandemics in history, swept across Europe between 1348 and 1350. The plague, believed to be caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, killed as much as 60 per cent of Europe’s population.

Japanese couples rely on fake friends

japan fake friends

Fake friends must look happy, be well dressed and look like people with jobs. Photo: GETTY

Japanese couples, too busy for a normal social life, are increasingly turning to actors to play their friends on the most important days of their lives.

Telegraph | Sep 21, 2009

By Julian Ryall in Tokyo

Several agencies have sprung up offering actors to attend weddings or even funerals. The first guest-for-hire company was established about nine years ago and around 10 now send out dozens of pretend friends to family events.

Agencies such as Hagemashi Tai – which means “I want to cheer you up” – charge around £100 for each “guest”. Other services such as giving a speech in praise of a bride or the groom cost extra.

The emergence of the small fake friends industry has been linked to social and economic changes in Japan. With lifetime employment a thing of the past, couples feel uncomfortable about inviting work colleagues to their wedding. Increasingly busy and put upon, many Japanese surround themselves with only a very small circle of friends.

When they marry, however, they are under pressure to match the number of their new partner’s wedding guests.

Office Agents, the largest provider of pretend friends, makes sure that its employees have done their homework and know all about the bride or groom before the wedding.

Hiroshi Mizutani, the company’s founder, said the fake friends he provides must look happy, be well dressed and look like people with good jobs.

Much vaunted North-East Passage crossing merely a global warming publicity stunt

Hopelessly lost in the North-East Passage

Telegraph | Sep 19, 2009

By Christopher Booker

There was much warmist trumpeting last week, led by The Independent and the BBC, over a German businessman’s claim that two of his ships had managed to sail round the Arctic coast of Russia. “A triumph for man, a disaster for mankind” proclaimed The Independent. The opening of “the fabled North-East Passage”, it said, is “a vivid sign of climate change in the Arctic”.

While other papers speculated that this could slash journey times for container ships to and from the Far East, Greenpeace hailed it as further proof of the urgent need to halt global warming at December’s Copenhagen conference.

It was not long, however, before my colleague Richard North, on his EU Referendum blog, tore the story to shreds. The Arctic journey round the top of Russia, it emerged, had been made scores of times before. These went back at least to 1935 when the trip was made by four Soviet freighters. In 1940 a German raider used it to sink seven merchantmen in the Paciific. Since 1979 the Arctic route has been regularly used by ships sailing between Russia and Vancouver.

It turned out that the German shipowner was a rabid warmist. His ships needed the services of a Russian icebreaker and there is no way such a route could be used by any ships larger than 20,000 tons because they need to be of shallow draught and strengthened against ice. In other words, this warmist publicity stunt was no more than a silly-season fable.

It did aptly coincide, however, with the moment when the Arctic ice began its annual re-freeze last week – earlier than usual. At the end of this summer’s melt, the ice area was 25 per cent greater than its record low in September 2007.