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September 21, 2009
By Marianne Barriaux
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.
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 22, 2009
By Paul Joseph Watson
A daycare worker employed by Northeast Health in Albany New York was shocked to be told by her boss that she would be fired if she refused to take a seasonal swine flu shot on the spot. Similar stories have been pouring in to us from all over the country as fears that the upcoming H1N1 shot will also be mandatory continue to grow.
The case emphasizes why President Obama’s claim that the swine flu shot will be voluntary is completely deceptive and misleading. Americans across the country, even those not directly connected with health care work, are being ordered to take the mandated seasonal and swine flu shots or lose their jobs.
The story of what happened to the daycare worker, who would like to go by the pseudonym “Clare,” was sent to us by her sister who also provided Clare’s real name and the full name of the facility she is employed with.
Clare works in a daycare center which is affiliated with the local hospital but in a completely separate building. It was reported earlier this month that all hospital workers in the entire region would be forced to take the seasonal flu shot or lose their jobs and that the vaccine would become a condition of employment.
“On the Tuesday morning following the Labor Day weekend (Sept 8th), the director of the daycare of Northeast Health announced to employees on the spot (without a meeting, memo or discussion) that everyone had to go get a flu shot immediately and staff would be rotated so that everyone would be inoculated by the end of the day,” writes Clare’s sister.
“Clare said “I don’t get flu shots” and was told “well then you’ll be fired.”
The director told Clare that the H1N1 shot would also be mandated in the same way when it becomes available. When Clare warned the director that the swine flu shot contained mercury, squalene and other dangerous additives, the director told her that regardless of her objections, if she refused to be vaccinated she would be suspended from November 13th and then formally fired on November 30th.
“Clare asked how she can be fired for something that was not a condition of her employment when she was hired? She was told it was not Northeast Health’s policy, it was the director of the New York State Department of Health who made the shot mandatory,” writes her sister.
However, according to the NYSDOH decree for mandatory vaccinations, exemptions exist for “personnel who have a medical contraindication and for workers, such as those offsite, who would have no contact with patients and only incidental contact with direct-care staff.” Clare clearly falls into this category as she works in a separate building from the hospital and has no direct regular contact with hospital workers.
Clare demanded answers to the following questions, none of which have been addressed by the daycare director.
1. The regular seasonal flu hasn’t even hit so how will this first mandated shot provide any immunity when it is clearly the vaccine from last year?
2. When the H1N1 is mandated – as I believe it will be – and if I did get the shot to save my job and should I have one of the adverse reactions that the CDC has predicted, will I be covered under Workers Comp since the action that caused the injury was job related? (The cost of which will fall on the employer NOT the State of New York.)
3. Should I refuse the shot will I be eligible for Unemployment Compensation since I did nothing to warrant being terminated?
4. Malpractice insurance providers in Australia are refusing to extend coverage to their clients who give the shot; will this be the case in New York?
5. Are insurance companies going to cover subscribers who fall ill as a result of the H1N1 inoculations that were mandated by the NYS Department of Health?
After concerned parents started to ask Clare why she was leaving, it some became apparent that the director had immediately produced a letter and circulated it around the daycare, claiming that Clare was leaving for “personal reasons,” without mentioning the real reason, that she refused to take the vaccine.
Clare took the letter to the head of human resources but was told that, “the New York State Labor Department would probably be instructed to side with the Department of Health and determine that you were fired for not following an order from your employer and not approve Unemployment Compensation. The meeting ended with him stating that it was the NYS Department of Health’s call and not Northeast Health and there was no way around it.”
“Not only have my sister’s rights as an employee been violated but her employer’s justification for terminating her is based on a falsehood on top of which she may be prevented from receiving Unemployment Insurance for this wrongful termination,” writes Clare’s sister.
As an addendum, Clare’s sister informs us that one of the daycare teachers who did take the seasonal flu shot on September 8th suffered a reaction less than a week later. Clare’s sister takes up the story;
September 22, 2009
By Steven Hill
Much hope has been invested in Barack Obama’s ability to strike a new course for the US following eight years of Bush administration unpopularity. Yet many in the US and abroad are impatient with the pace of progress under the Obama administration. The president made the rounds on five news talkshows on Sunday as he pressed his policies and vision, preparing for what is likely to be a difficult week.
Besides the ongoing battle over healthcare, this week sees two showdowns between Europe and the US that will reveal further slippage in American global leadership. The first showdown comes today at a UN special session on climate change in New York City; the second will come at the end of the week at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, where America and Europe will butt heads over financial system reforms designed to ensure that the AIGs of the world can never again cause an economic collapse.
Europe has been increasingly critical of America’s failures to live up to its global responsibilities. The US is not only the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases but is by far the largest per capita emitter of carbon and other pollutants. China comes close to the US in terms of total carbon emissions, but it has four times more people, who each belch far less individually. Europe, while having much the same high living standard, has an “ecological footprint” that is only half of America’s, since Europe has taken leadership in implementing renewable technologies and conservation practices.
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama promised to reverse the Bush administration’s terrible ecological record. Yet so far the world has seen more symbolic gestures from the Obama administration than accomplishments. Its biggest achievement so far has been an example of disappointment. President Obama signed an executive order to increase US motor vehicle mileage standards – but only to a level that will push fuel efficiency by 2020 to a level that European and Japanese cars reached several years ago, and even China has already achieved.
Europe has announced donations of $2bn to $15bn a year for the next decade to help developing nations cope with climate warming, yet the Obama administration has not offered anything close to that amount. Europe also wants binding, near-term targets for developed nations, proposing a 20% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020, or 30% if everyone agrees. The Bush administration of course rejected such targets – but now it looks like the Obama administration is not willing to go any further. It has said such targets should be voluntary but verifiable.
With the US Senate is bogged down in the fight over reforming healthcare, American leaders have said that the senators might not move on climate legislation until 2010, well after the global climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. That drew a sharp response from John Bruton, head of the European Union delegation: “TheUnited States is just one of the 190 countries coming to this conference,” Bruton said, “but the United States emits 25% of all the greenhouse gases that the conference is trying to reduce. I submit that asking an international conference to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position.”
Even Europe’s conservative politicians, such as Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister of climate and energy, are expressing impatience: “It’s rather crucial that the US can show a credible pathway,” Hedegaard said, pointing out that the US emits twice as much carbon dioxide per capita as Denmark, without gaining anything in improving its quality of life.
That’s the start of President Obama’s week. At the end of it, President Obama will appear at a meeting in Pittsburgh of the G20, a bloc of both developed and developing nations, representing 85% of the world’s economic output and most of its population. On the table will be what reforms to help avoiding a repetition of the financial panic and global economic collapse that is perceived as having originated on Wall Street. Despite immense, taxpayer-financed rescue packages needed to overcome the crisis, the financial sector in the US is rapidly returning to business as usual. Indeed, three US banks – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan – which received some $45bn of bailout aid, each paid billions of dollars more in bonuses in 2009 than they earned in 2008.
Here again, Europe is leading, while the Obama administration is dragging its feet. Europe has proposed far-reaching reforms designed to impose new rules on executive pay and bonuses, requiring that banks link pay to long-term rather than short-term performance, and that they “claw back” any bonuses received in the face of losses. Europe wants a financial police force that has powers to slash payments where investments prove to have failed, and to force boardrooms to control levels of speculation. Europe also wants to block the exercising of stock options for set periods and expose top bank directors to penalties, following huge payouts to failed bank chiefs.
The Obama administration’s approach has been much more tepid, to say the least. The US financial industry, as expected, is fighting these reforms, but what do we make of arecent quote by President Obama questioning the need for supporting Europe’s proposals. “Why is it,” he asked during a recent interview, “that we’re going to cap executive compensation for Wall Street bankers but not Silicon Valley entrepreneurs or [American] football players?”
Besides the fact that President Obama was wrong – the National Football League does have salary restrictions for its players – Silicon Valley businesses and NFL quarterbacks don’t cause an economic collapse when they screw up. It’s very sobering that, if David Letterman read that quote on his TV show and asked his audience: “Who made this clueless statement, former President Bush or President Obama?” we know what the response would be. Or would have been.
In response to American foot-dragging, European leader Jean-Claude Juncker said Europe should act on the bonus issue “whether the Americans are with us or not.” He said that a Europe-only charge “will take on such force over time that the Americans will not be able to sit on the sidelines.”
Many leaders and supporters are beginning to wonder what is causing this growing gap between the Barack Obama that many people saw on the campaign trail, and the Obama they see in the White House? Beyond Obama’s oratorical skills, which excited not only American voters but people all over the world, he is mostly untested as a politician. His previous experience was only a few years in the US Senate and a few years more as a state senator. A sinking feeling is arising among many that President Obama may not be up to the task, that he may not possess the artful skills needed to accomplish even his own goals.
But it must be recognised that it’s not just Obama’s shortcomings that are causing the problem. The very structure of the American political system is at the heart of these failures. For example, thwarting Obama on a regular basis is an unrepresentative senate where “minority rule” prevails and undermines what a majority of the country may want. With two senators elected per state, regardless of population, California with more than 35 million people has the same number of senators as Wyoming with just half a million residents. This constitutional arrangement greatly favours low population states, many of which tend to be conservative, producing what one political analyst has called “a weighted vote for small-town whites in pickup trucks with gun racks.”
In addition, the senate’s use of that arcane rule known as the “filibuster” means you need 60 out of 100 votes to stop unlimited debate on a bill and move to a vote. A mere 41 senators, representing as little as 20% of the nation’s population, can stymie the other 80%. Given a vastly unrepresentative senate wielding its anti-majoritarian filibuster, it is hardly surprising that minority rule in the senate consistently undermines majority rule, whether on healthcare, financial industry reform, environmental legislation and many other policies.
Pile on to that an uncompetitive, winner-take-all electoral system, marinated in money and special interest influence, and the sclerotic US political scene is deeply troubling. None of these anti-democratic structural features are going away any time soon. Unless Barack Obama is able to demonstrate a better level of political skill than he has shown so far, everyone needs to fasten their seatbelts. The world is about to enter a challenging phase where the US – the undisputed leader of the free world for the past 60 years – is going to rapidly cede its place at the head of the line.
It appears that the wheels may be coming off the world’s post-war leader, and not even Barack Obama can stop it happening.
September 21, 2009
Bans on smoking in public places have had a bigger impact on preventing heart attacks than ever expected, data shows.
Smoking bans cut the number of heart attacks in Europe and North America by up to a third, two studies report.
This “heart gain” is far greater than both originally anticipated and the 10% figure recently quoted by England’s Department of Health.
The studies appear in two leading journals – Circulation and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Heart attacks in the UK alone affect an estimated 275,000 people and kill 146,000 each year.
Earlier this month it was announced that heart attack rates fell by about 10% in England in the year after the ban on smoking in public places was introduced in July 2007 – which is more than originally anticipated.
But the latest work, based on the results of numerous different studies collectively involving millions of people, indicated that smoking bans have reduced heart attack rates by as much as 26% per year.
Second-hand smoke is thought to increase the chances of a heart attack by making the blood more prone to clotting, reducing levels of beneficial “good” cholesterol, and raising the risk of dangerous heart rhythms.
Dr James Lightwood, of the University of California at San Francisco, led the Circulation study that pooled together 13 separate analyses.
His team found that heart attack rates across Europe and North America started to drop immediately following implementation of anti-smoking laws, reaching 17% after one year, then continuing to decline over time, with a 36% drop three years after enacting the restrictions.
Dr Lightwood said: “While we obviously won’t bring heart attack rates to zero, these findings give us evidence that in the short-to-medium-term, smoking bans will prevent a lot of heart attacks.
“This study adds to the already strong evidence that second-hand smoke causes heart attacks, and that passing 100% smoke-free laws in all workplaces and public places is something we can do to protect the public.”
Ellen Mason, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “These studies add to the growing evidence that a ban on smoking in public places seems to have a positive impact on heart attack rates, which is clearly good news for our nation’s heart health.
“The statistics also show how quickly the benefits can be felt after a smoking ban is implemented and indicate how dangerous second-hand smoke can be to the heart.
“If you are a smoker, the single biggest thing you can do to avoid a heart attack is to give up, which could also protect the heart health of friends and family.”
Latest figures show at least 70,000 lives have been saved by NHS Stop Smoking Services in the 10 years since they were established in England.
September 22, 2009
By Dr. Mercola
So far, Swine flu, H1N1, has killed thirty-six children in U.S. and analysis of CDC data indicates Vitamin D deficient children at higher risk of death.
The CDC did not realize they discovered this. However, anyone familiar with the Vitamin D literature will recognize it.
Almost two-thirds of the dead children had epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or other neurodevelopmental conditions like mental retardation.
All of these neurological conditions are associated with childhood Vitamin D deficiency. Exacerbating the problem further, many of these kids take anticonvulsant drugs, which lower Vitamin D levels.
58 million American children are Vitamin D deficient; 7.6 million are severely deficient.
When researchers looked at more than 6,000 American kids (age one to 21) who were carefully selected to be representative of the average American child. 9 percent of the kids had 25(OH)D levels less than 15 ng/mL and 70 percent had levels less than 30 ng/mL.