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Current Event Cat of the Day: Measles Mania

Measles WHO

Another year, another series of measles outbreaks. The World Health Organization say they are “taken aback” by more than 22,000 cases in 2014 and the first months of this year and countries must step up their measles vaccinations.

“When we consider that over the past two decades we have seen a reduction of 96% in the number of measles cases in the European region, and that we are just a step away from eliminating the disease, we are taken aback by these numbers,” Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said.

“We must collectively respond, without further delay, to close immunization gaps.”

“It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years’ efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time.”

The measles comeback is largely due to a growing number of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children (thanks Jenny McCarthy) or are facing barriers in getting the immunizations they need. Considering measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man and can be easily spread through coughing and sneezing, this isn’t very good. In fact, measles had the ability to turn Disneyland from the happiest place on earth into measles ground zero after hundreds of people were exposed to the virus.

U.S. health officials announced Monday that the country has had 154 measles cases thus far in 2015 – which isn’t great considering they declared measles to be eliminated in 2000 after years of vaccination efforts.

But measles mania isn’t just a North American problem. Over in Europe, an 18-month-old child in Berlin who had not been vaccinated against measles died of the virus this week. Berlin has seen more than 600 cases since a measles outbreak began in October, prompting a nationwide debate about whether immunizations should be made mandatory.

To sum up, VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN – unless, of course, you don’t want them to develop autism.

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U.S Flirts With Ebola Quarantine, But North Korea Has A Better Solution

Ebola US North Korea

In the U.S., some states are facing a backlash for imposing mandatory isolation on medical workers who have treated Ebola patients and the army has begun quarantining soldiers who deployed to in West Africa. But North Korea has gone one several steps further by banning all foreign tourists.

According to tour operators in North Korea, the authoritarian regime plans to bar entry to foreigners on tourist trips due to fears of Ebola. Oh no! At least seven people will have to change their vacation plans!

“We have just received official news from our partners in the DPRK that, as of tomorrow, tourists from any country, regardless of where they have recently visited, will not be permitted to enter,” said Gareth Johnson of Young Pioneer Tours.

As for foreigners who somehow make it into the country, they will be quarantined to prevent any possible spread of the Ebola virus. An announcement distributed Thursday to diplomatic missions in Pyongyang said that, regardless of country or region of origin, all foreigners will be quarantined under medical observation for 21 days. Some may say this is an overreaction considering no cases of the disease have been reported in the reclusive country, or anywhere in Asia for that matter, and very few foreigners are allowed to enter anyways, but any excuse to make the North Korean people more suspicious of the outside world is a good one.

Meanwhile, over in the United States, President Obama has taken a different route to combating the spread of the Ebola virus. Obama said on Wednesday that the U.S. may face more Ebola cases but denounced closing U.S. borders and imposing mandatory quarantines out of health fears.

But that didn’t stop New Jersey governor Chris Christie from defending the use of mandatory 21-day quarantines for all travelers returning through Newark who have had contact with Ebola patients. In particular, Christie has targeted quarantined nurse Kaci Hickox, who returned from treating Ebola patients with Doctors Without Borders in West Africa last week and was quarantined against her will in New Jersey, despite testing negative for Ebola.

Hickox has said that a quarantine is unnecessary as she is showing no symptoms and has tested negative.

“I am not going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public,” Hickox said on Wednesday.

State officials have said they were going to court to try to detain her for the remainder of the 21-day incubation period – because there’s no way Chris Christie is going to let Ebola wipe out the state the New Jersey while North Korea sits around with a smug smile in their isolated Ebola-free haven!

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Texas Hospital Botches Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Opps Texas Hospital

Nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas are making some scandalous accusations about how the facility treated the first Ebola case in the United States.

On Tuesday, several anonymous nurses spoke to reporters in a conference call organized by National Nurses United and complained that the hospital’s sloppy Ebola protocols left workers and hospital systems prone to contamination. One nurse said Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, languished for hours in a room with other patients upon arrival and that officials resisted isolating him. “Oh, you’re coming from Liberia and your temperature is 103? Well just sit over here in this crowded waiting room for a few hours!”

Others accused the hospital of providing nurses with flimsy protective gear while they were dealing with Duncan’s highly contagious blood, vomit, and feces. Plus, Duncan’s lab samples were sent through the hospital’s pneumatic tubes, which nurses say could’ve contaminated the entire system.

Based on this testimony, it was no surprise when the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed Wednesday that a second health-care worker who treated Duncan has tested positive for Ebola.

The latest infected nurse reported a fever on Tuesday and was immediately isolated – but not before she flew to Cleveland and back. Although this was the day before she felt sick and people with Ebola are not contagious until they exhibit symptoms, the CDC wants to contact all 132 passengers “because of the proximity in time between the evening flight and first report of illness.”

CDC Director Thomas Frieden said that the nurse should not have been traveling on a commercial airline (no kidding) and admitted that the Dallas hospital was still learning how to cope with the Ebola crisis (again, no kidding).

“I wish we had put a [rapid response team] on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed,” Frieden said. “That might have prevented this infection.”

The infected health-care worker will soon be transferred from the Dallas hospital to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, because clearly Dallas didn’t handle the first case all too well.

On a lighter Ebola note, yelling “I have Ebola” on a plane can lead to trouble of the “I have a bomb” variety. A man on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to the Dominican Republic reportedly sneezed and joked that he had Ebola. Big mistake. Flight attendants reported the incident and when the plane landed, passengers were told to stay on the plane as crews in hazmat suits came onto the aircraft and whisked away the Ebola joker despite his insistence that “I ain’t from Africa!”

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Dallas Ebola Patient Dies

Current Event Cat - Hazmat Ebola

Texas Health Presbyterian announced on Wednesday that Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola within the United States, has died.

Duncan, who caught the virus in his native Liberia while helping an infected, pregnant neighbor get to the hospital, was being kept in isolation in a Dallas hospital and receiving experimental drugs – which clearly didn’t work. The 42-year-old, who was visiting Texas to marry his baby mama, is the first of five patients treated for Ebola in the U.S. to have succumbed to the disease.

Now that the deadly virus has hit U.S. soil, it’s time to get serious. The Department of Homeland Security has ordered agents at airports and other ports to put in place new screenings for Ebola for passengers from West Africa, including taking temperatures of passengers. Beginning next week, passengers at Washington Dulles International, Kennedy Airport, O’Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson International and Newark Liberty International will be screened and questioned by airport authorities.

While officials in the U.S. are making sure Ebola infected bodies stay out, workers in Sierra Leone are threatening to pile them up. Burial workers in charge of putting the bodies of Ebola victims in the ground have gone on strike, claiming they have not been given hazard pay by the government.

“We cannot bury them because we are risking our lives and those in charge are depriving us of our money,” one team member said.

Another declared that, “We don’t even care if dead bodies litter all over the city. All we want is our money. We have been stigmatized in our communities, so let the government try to pay us our money.”

So now there are Ebola corpses rotting in the sun? That can’t be good…

The CDC estimates that worldwide, nearly 3,500 people have died from the virus. The Sierra Leone strike could make the outbreak even worse as dead bodies begin to pile up. Maybe this is a job for the 4,000 U.S. troops Obama pledged to send over?

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UN Official: Better to Put Down the Fork and Pick Up a Cigarette

Food Tax Cigarette

According to an investigator with the United Nations, unhealthy diets pose a greater risk to global health than cigarettes and governments should move fast to tax harmful food products.

Olivier de Schutter, special rapporteur on right to food, told the World Health Organization’s annual summit that governments should launch negotiations on a global pact to tackle the obesity epidemic.

“Unhealthy diets are now a greater threat to global health than tobacco. Just as the world came together to regulate the risks of tobacco, a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed,” he said.

Two years ago, in another report to the rights council, de Schutter called for similar action, encouraging governments to tax unhealthy products, regulate fats and sugars, crack down on advertising for junk food, and rethink agricultural subsidies that make unhealthy food cheaper. But apparently nothing happened and people just kept eating.

“It has been two years since my report on nutrition and the right to food, and ten years since the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its Global Strategy on Diet Physical Activity and Health,” he said. “Yet obesity continues to advance—and diabetes, heart disease and other health complications along with it. The warning signs are not being heard.”

Will anything change this time around? Probably not, but Consumers International and the World Obesity Federation are on WHO’s side, calling for greater regulation of the food industry. The two organizations said governments around the world should impose compulsory rules for the food and drink industry, similar to tobacco regulations. These rules could include pictures on food packaging of damage caused by obesity (similar to those on cigarette packets), reducing the levels of salt, saturated fat and sugar in food, improving food served in hospitals and schools, imposing stricter advertising controls, and educating the public about healthy eating.

Apparently global deaths due to obesity and general fatness rose from 2.6 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2010. Still, are fatty foods really worse than cigarettes? Just think of that awful stale cigarette smell… then again, a 500lbs man with Taco Bell gas probably smells just as bad. Verdict: it’s a tie.

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Hot Pockets

Current Event Cat - Hot Pockets

If you’re drunk or trailer trash, you might want to think twice about shoving the rest of that Hot Pocket into your face, because contrary to popular opinion, Hot Pockets aren’t made from the finest quality rat meat.

Two types of Hot Pockets products are being pulled from shelves for containing “diseased and unsound animals”. Yum!

Upon discovering that Rancho Feeding Corp, a California meat firm, processed nearly nine million pounds of beef from animals that had not been inspected, Nestle took a look at its supply chain and decided to recall its “Philly Steak and Cheese” and “Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese” Hot Pockets. Nestle said “a small quantity of meat” from Rancho was used at a California production facility that makes Hot Pockets and now all the Pockets must go!

The US. Department of Agriculture said in a statement Tuesday that the Rancho meat company processed animals that were “diseased” or otherwise “unsound,” and that products made from the meat were “unfit for human food”.

No illnesses have been reported so far – outside of the usual Hot Pocket runs that is.

For more on Hot Pockets, see Jim Gaffigan:

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Marlboro Man Dies From Smoking (What Else?)… And Other News

Marlboro Man

And another Marlboro cowboy hits the dust.

Marlboro ad man Eric Lawson has died of chronic lung disease at the age of 72. Lawson, the actor who portrayed the rugged Marlboro man in cigarette ads during the late 1970s, is the third Marlboro cowboy to die from lung damage. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that there was some kind of correlation here…. Lawson, who began smoking at the age of 14, went on to appear in an anti-smoking commercial after his Marlboro days – despite the fact that he was still smoking. “He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him,” his wife said. “He knew, yet he still couldn’t stop.” The Guardian

Quebec FireResidents of a retirement center in a rural town in Quebec were faced with an agonozing decision early Thursday morning when a fire broke out in the building: run outside into -30C weather and freeze to death or stay inside with 1000C weather and burn to death. The obvious choice is outside but 37 of inhabitants were at least 85 years old and only five of the residents were fully autonomous. As a result, the raging fire took the lives of 14 people and 18 are still missing. High winds, poor visibility and frigid temperatures are making the rescue effort incredibly difficult as firefighters attempt to recover the missing bodies. The local firefighter chief called it “a night from hell.” CTV News

south-korea-north-korea-Why can’t we be friends? Besides the fact that we continually threaten to nuke you off the face of the earth… North Korea’s National Defense Commission crafted a rather surprising letter to South Korea vowing to “halt hostile military acts” and “create an atmosphere of reconciliation and unity.” Is this a new era of Korean friendship? Probably not. South Korea was a little skeptical about the letter. Especially considering the friendship outreach came with a few conditions: South Korea would have to stop any upcoming military drills with the United States and publicly support North Korea’s right of a “precious nuclear force for self-defence.” Washington Times

Fire CafeteriaLast week saw a truckload of school/mall shootings. Three people, including the gunman, died on Saturday after a shooting at a shopping mall outside of Baltimore, Maryland, one student was killed on Friday in a shooting outside an on-campus dorm at South Carolina State University, and a teaching assistant was shot and stabbed at Purdue University on Tuesday. Not a good week for gun violence. But this week, a student, presumable fed up with gun violence (and life), walked into his high school cafeteria in Colorado and lit himself on fire. About 65 students were in the cafeteria at the time and were promptly evacuated. A custodian quickly put the fire out with the extinguisher after a school cafeteria worker suffered a minor cut when she broke the fire extinguisher glass. The 16-year-old’s attempted suicide didn’t go as smoothly though. The teenager, who had reportedly doused himself with oil before setting himself on fire, survived but suffered burns on 80 percent of his body. Ouch. Maybe gun violence is the answer? USA Today

BarfThe only thing worse than getting food poisoning is getting food poisoning on boat with 600 other people who also have food poisoning. 577 of the 3,050 passengers and 49 of 1,165 crewmembers reported vomiting and diarrhea on a 10-day Royal Caribbean cruise ship. That’s a lot of diarrhea. The illness spread rapidly after the Explorer of the Seas departed New Jersey on January 21, en route to the Caribbean. Once the crew realized there was no way to stop the diarrhea, they decided to cut the trip two days short. The Center for Disease Control is investigating, and the ship is being sanitized, thank god. CNN

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So Long Trans Fats, Hello Nanny State!

Trans Fats Child

U.S. regulators have taken steps to ban the use of trans fats, citing health concerns. Translation: Americans are way too fat.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed measures that would all but eliminate artificial trans fats, the artery-clogging oils that cause heart disease and obesity.

“Partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not ‘generally recognized as safe’ for use in food,” the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

After examining the scientific evidence, the FDA concluded that the use of trans fats was a threat to public health and that a ban, which would require the food industry to gradually phase out trans fats, could prevent 7,000 deaths and 20,000 heart attacks in the U.S. each year.

The regulatory agency opened a 60-day comment period before the move can become final – so if you love trans fats, you have 60 days to give your input. If the proposal does turn into a full-out ban after the 60 day period, PHOs would be considered food additives and could not be used in food unless regulators authorized it.

Public health campaigns warning Americans about the dangers of trans fats and the 2006 requirement that trans fat amounts to be listed on foods have already prompted many food companies to begin phasing out the heart-clogging oils, which are typically used as a way to improve the shelf life or flavour of foods. Still, trans fats are commonly found in many processed foods including microwave popcorn, desserts, frozen pizzas, margarine and in restaurants that use the oils for frying.

If you want to get your fill of trans fat before the ban comes into play – there’s only one place to go: Long John Silvers. The fast food chain’s Big Catch fried fish meal comes with 33 grams of transfat – all for the low price of $4.99. The only catch? It might kill you.

Big Catch

Via: The New York Times

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Dick Cheney Wrote Secret Resignation Letter

Dick Cheney Resignation

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has revealed that he drafted up his own resignation letter just under 70 days after taking office and presented it to President Bush.

In a 60 Minutes episode entitled Dick Cheney’s Heart, Cheney comes clean about his multiple heart attacks and how it affected his political career. Yes, even Dick Cheney has a heart – although it did try to kill him five times.

In light of his poor health and the realization that there was no constitutional provision to replace an incapacitated vice president, Cheney decided to jump the gun by drafting a “pending” resignation.

“Basically, what I did was I resigned the vice presidency effective March 28, 2001,” Cheney told Sanjay Gupta Sunday on 60 Minutes.

Bush was “a little surprised. But he thought it was a good idea.” After all, it’s never a good thing to have an incapacitated vice president control your puppet strings. Although in this case, maybe it would have been a good idea…

In Cheney’s decades long effort to convince Americans he has a heart, he has detailed his medical story in his new book Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, written with his cardiologist Jonathan Reiner. The book reveals how Cheney’s cigarette and fatty food addiction combined with a family history of heart disease led to five heart attacks, open heart surgery, multiple catheterizations and angioplasties, an implanted defibrillator, and a pump attached directly to his heart – and all of this happened before his big heart transplant at the age of 71. Lucky for him he had government health care to pay for it all!

The book also reveals how Cheney’s cardiologist was worried terrorists might hack into the wireless feature of his implanted defibrillator and electroshock him into cardiac arrest. Worried that “someone could kill Cheney”, the doctor ordered the manufacturer to disable the wireless feature. Hey – it happened on Homeland! Unfortunately, in the fictitious version, the vice president dies after terrorists gain remote access to his defibrillator, whereas in real life, 72-year-old Dick Cheney is apparently immortal. 

Via: CBS News

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Oreos Are Just As Addictive As Cocaine… And Other News

cookie-monster Oreos

Attention lovers of Oreos: you are now considered recreational drug users.

A new study by undergraduates at Connecticut College (sounds very legit) has found that Oreos are just as addictive as cocaine and morphine. The lab rats especially loved their creamy white filling – who wouldn’t? The completely unverified and poorly thought out study was meant to show how high-fat/ high-sugar foods can be addictive and “may present even more of a danger [than drugs] because of their accessibility and affordability. Moral of the story: we should concentrate less on the war on drugs and more on the war on obesity. First step: more Biggest Loser spinoffs. Globe and Mail

250124-130715-alexei-navalnyWhile the rest of Russia is out beating up Dutch diplomats, a Russian appeals judge overturned a sentence for anti-corruption crusader and blogger Aleksei Navalny, handing him a suspended sentence instead of five years in prison. Navaly was sentenced in July on embezzlement charges to 5 years in the gulag but still managed to run in Moscow’s mayoral election last month while his case was being appealed. Navalny placed second in the race, garnering an unexpected 27 percent against the Kremlin-backed incumbent. The opposition leader is now free to roam the streets – as long as he stays within Moscow and doesn’t utter a bad word about Putin.  USA Today

ted_cruz2Even Ted Cruz’s hometown hates him. Ted Cruz’s hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, took back their endorsement of him on Wednesday, criticizing his role in the government shutdown and polticial deadlock. The editorial, which reads “Does anyone else miss Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison?”, calls for the return to the principles of Texas conservative Kay Bailey Hutchinson, whom Cruz beat in the primary. But mostly they miss her because if she were in the Senate, Ted Cruz would not be in the Senate – and that’s a win-win for everybody. Houston Chronicle

Syrian-RefugeesBulgarians have taken a chapter out of the Minitemen’s playbook and announced plans to build a 30 km, $3.4 million fence on its border with Turkey to stop those dirty illegal Syrian immigrants from getting into their country and creating a refugee crisis. Over 6,800 foreigners – 70 percent of them Syrian – have entered Bulgaria illegally since the beginning of this year but Bulgaria is so poor that it has only been able to formally grant refugee status to 17 people. Another 965 have received humanitarian status that allows them to leave the shelters but not the country and the rest are camped out in cramped reception centres. Maybe if they spent less money on building border fences, they wouldn’t be so poor… AFP

Erich-Priebke_2699777bWhere’s the Westboro Baptist Church when you need them? The coffin of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke is in limbo after his funeral, scheduled to take place south of Rome, was called off amid scuffles between angry protesters and Nazi sympathizers. Priebke died under house arrest last week while serving out his sentence for being one of the SS officers who killed 335 Italian men and boys at Rome’s Ardeatine Caves in 1944. Priebke admitted his role in the massacre, but he never expressed any remorse. What a prieck. An Italian military airport is now holding the 100-year-old body of Priebke, because no one really knows what to do with him at this point.  BBC News

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