Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Health workers fighting Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo have run into an invisible but powerful hurdle — a belief system that deems the disease to be a curse or the result of evil spirits

Some people are refusing medical care and turn instead to preachers and prayers to chase away the threat. The pastor of an evangelical church died several days after he “prayed” for an Ebola victim who went to him for help, a doctor said. “Some sick people believe that the Ebola epidemic comes from sorcery — they refuse to be treated and prefer to pray,” said Julie Lobali, a nurse on the front line against the DRC’s ninth Ebola outbreak. She is working in a hospital in Mbandaka, a port city on the Congo River in northwest DRC where the first urban case was reported. Since the outbreak was declared in the remote area of Bikoro on May 8th, 2018 fifty-one cases of Ebola have been reported with 27 deaths. One superstition that has become prevalent in the city, she says, is believing that Ebola began in Bikoro as “a curse on those who ate stolen meat” — a wild animal hunted in the countryside. Blandine Mboyo, who lives in Mbandaka’s district of Bongondjo, said that a hunter put a curse on the village because his big game was stolen. “This curse is so powerful because it hits those who ate this meat, having heard about the theft or having seen the stolen animal,” added Nicole Batoa, a local vendor. Another resident, Guy Ingila, observed that officials have said on the radio “this disease is incurable... It’s because it’s about witchcraft.”. For doctors and health officials these beliefs raise serious concerns, complicating efforts to contain and roll back the deadly Ebola virus. In Geneva, African health officials said that they were preparing to send anthropologists to the DRC to help with an Ebola vaccination campaign. A prototype vaccine will first be given to frontline health workers and then to people who have been in contact with Ebola cases. “If we do not handle communication well, the vaccination program may suffer,” John Nkengasong, head of Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC), said in Geneva. “So we are also assessing how in the next two weeks or so to deploy anthropologists to support the vaccine efforts.” In DR Congo, as elsewhere in Africa, disease and death are often not looked on as natural phenomena. “So many deaths is a sign of a curse and can only have been provoked by a bad spirit,” said Zacharie Bababaswe, a Congolese specialist in cultural history, explaining people’s perceptions of Ebola. Before the expansion of evangelical churches in the country, Bababaswe says that many Congolese would go see the witch doctor or village healer for treatment. Today there is still widespread superstition — but, since the 1980s, it has taken a different form, with some people turning for help to a church or a pastor who claims to have healing powers. Two people infected with Ebola from Bikoro went to the churches rather than a medical center for help. Another patient, who had been hospitalized in Mbandaka, left the medical center to seek out a local healer. To brake the spread of Ebola, “we have to convince villagers that the disease is not a curse,” said Bavon N’Sa Mputu, an elected official from Bikoro, pointing to the key role that churches can play.

Monday, May 21, 2018

African American children are taking their lives at roughly twice the rate of their white counterparts, according to a new study that shows a widening gap between the two groups

The 2001-2015 data confirm a pattern first identified several years ago when researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio found that the rate of suicides for black children ages 5 to 12 exceeded that of young whites. The results were seen in both boys and girls. Although suicide is rare among young children, the latest findings reinforce the need for better research into the racial disparities, lead author Jeffrey Bridge said. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for older children and adolescents in the United States. “We can’t assume any longer that suicide rates are uniformly higher in white individuals than black,” said Bridge, an epidemiologist who directs the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Columbus hospital. “There is this age-related disparity, and now we have to understand the underlying reasons. Most of the previous research has largely concerned white suicide. So we don’t even know if the same risk and protective factors apply to black youth.” Historically, suicide rates in the United States have been higher for whites than blacks across all age groups. That remains the case for adolescents, ages 13 to 17, according to the new study. White teens continue to have a 50% higher rate of suicide than black teens. Overall between 1999 and 2015, more than 1,300 children ages 5 to 12 took their own lives in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those numbers translate into an average of one child 12 or younger dying by suicide every five days. The pace has actually accelerated in recent years, CDC statistics indicate. The researchers based their latest analysis on the CDC's Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, which does not include geographical or socioeconomic data. Previous studies have looked at some of the characteristics and circumstances surrounding children's suicides. In 2017, research by Bridge and colleagues found that among children, ages 5 to 11, and young adolescents, ages 12 to 14, those who took their own lives were more likely to be male, African American and dealing with stressful relationships at home or with friends. Children who had a mental health problem at the time of death were more likely than young adolescents to have been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Young adolescents who killed themselves were more likely to have had relationship problems with a boyfriend or girlfriend. They also had higher rates of depression. More than a third of elementary school-aged suicides involved black children compared to just 11.6% of early adolescent suicides.

Over 40% of all the rapes in South Africa are committed against children

Of the 124,526 total rape cases reported in the last 3 financial years, children were the victims in 41% of these cases. In the same time period, 2,600 children were also murdered. That amounts to 5% of the total murder numbers across South Africa. This also means that at least 46 children are raped every day and at least two children are murdered every single day in South Africa. Only 21% of child rapes cases and only one in three murder cases resulted in successful convictions. The numbers become even more frightening when you realize that the number of child rapes has continually increased over the years. In 2014-15, there were 15,520 child rapes reported. Only 1,799 ended up in successful convictions. In 2015-16, 16,389 were reported. Just 2,488 were convicted. In 2016-17, the numbers rose even further to 19 071. There was a small improvement in convictions; 6,366 were convicted. The horrific brutality with which these children were murdered is also frightening. Weapons used, include firearms, axes, spades, pangas (African machetes), hammers, belts and poison – many of these children were practically butchered to death.

A new poll has revealed that Scots are far less royalist than other Britons

In the run-up to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, just 41% of people in Scotland said that they backed the monarchy. However, only 28% said that they were opposed to the institution with 27% describing themselves as ambivalent. This compared with clear majority backing for the monarchy in England where 55% were for and just 14% against. Delta Poll surveyed around 500 people in each of the four nations of the United Kingdom on behalf of the center-right think-tank Policy Exchange. Support for the monarchy was 49% in Wales and 52% in Northern Ireland. Royal Wedding fever appeared much less intense in Scotland than elsewhere. Only two street parties were organized in the country. Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP said: “Given the challenges we need to tackle in our society - including inequalities in income, health and education - it’s no surprise that Scots are least likely to support the anachronism that is the monarchy. It serves only as a distraction from those important issues and a reminder of the social inequality that the UK class system is based on.” Scotland was the only nation of the UK where a majority did not see the monarchy as a unifying force after Brexit, the poll found.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Muslim man accused of killing a cow was beaten to death by a mob in central India, police have said, the latest vigilante murder over the animal considered sacred by Hindus

Siraj Khan, a 45-year-old tailor, was attacked in the Satna district of Madhya Pradesh state and died at the scene, local police official Arvind Tiwari said. Kahn's friend Shakeel Maqbool, who was also attacked, has been admitted to hospital with critical injuries. As details of the violent assault emerged 400 additional police were deployed to the district as inquiries widened. "We have arrested four people, and they have been sent to judicial custody. We are investigating what prompted the attack," Tiwari said. He added that meat and a bull carcass was found at the scene, but did not elaborate as investigations were ongoing. Hindus consider cows sacred and slaughtering the animals, or possessing or consuming beef, is banned in most Indian states. Cow slaughter in Madhya Pradesh carries a maximum seven-year jail term but many other parts of India impose life sentences for infringements. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised to completely outlaw cow slaughter in India. The Hindu BJP has been accused of turning a blind eye to a rising number of vigilante attacks in the name of cow protection. Rights groups say that Hindu mobs have been emboldened under the party, who stormed to power in 2014. Many of the victims are Muslims. In two prominent cases, a dairy farmer was killed on a roadside for transporting cows and a Muslim teenager accused of carrying beef was stabbed to death on a crowded train.

Voters in England would prefer to lose Scotland than Gibraltar in the Brexit process, a new poll has found

Pollsters from Panelbase asked people in England for their views on a scenario in which the price of leaving the EU would be for Britain to be without Scotland or Northern Ireland or Gibraltar. Voters expressed most concern about Gibraltar heading off, followed by Scotland, and were least concerned about Northern Ireland opting to go. Some 37% said that losing Gibraltar would not be a price worth paying for Brexit, while 35% said that losing Scotland would not be worth it. In terms of losing Northern Ireland just 31% that said it was not a price worth paying for Brexit. Some 1020 people were asked their views by researchers carrying out the poll, which was commissioned by pro-independence website Wings Over Scotland. The sample included both leave and remain voters. The website's Stuart Campbell said: "Many will remember bitterly the short-lived 'lovebombing' campaign from the indyref, in which a list of semi-celebrities from the rest of the UK was assembled to assure Scots of how much they were valued and cherished by their UK partners. Four years on, not so much. Because overall, the voters of England – that’s Remainers and Leavers combined – would drop Scotland like a hot potato if it were somehow to be necessary in order to secure Brexit. (And remember, very nearly half of them don’t even WANT Brexit. How much must those guys hate us?) Just a third of English voters don’t think it’d be worth ditching Scotland to get out of the EU. The only thing that our English cousins were almost reluctant (51-49 excluding Don't Knows) to sacrifice was the part of the UK that’s actually just a tiny rocky outcrop of someone else’s country and has roughly the same population as Dumfries or Irvine or Falkirk. (To be honest we’re kicking ourselves for not asking about the Falkland Islands now.) The people of England would, by a comfortable distance, rather hang on to the 34,000 citizens (plus some apes) of Gibraltar than the 7.2 million of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but they’d still quite happily surrender all three just to reduce the number of immigrants coming to the UK and trash the economy."

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Dominican nanny who was convicted of brutally murdering two small children in her care while their parents were out has been sentenced to life in prison without parole

Yoselyn Ortega has been convicted of the gruesome October 2012 stabbing deaths of 6-year-old Lucia Krim, known as Lulu, and 2-year-old Leo Krim. The children's parents, Marina and Kevin Krim, spoke in court of how Ortega robbed them of their children and how Ortega's family and friends helped with this by lying to them about Ortega's personality and experience as a nanny. Ortega, who's from the Dominican Republic, had been recommended by her sister, a nanny for another New York family, and her background and references were faked by her family. The consequences, the Krims said, were horrifying. Judge Gregory Carro referred to Ortega as pure evil and said that she should spend the rest of her life in prison. Kevin Krim eviscerated Ortega for not pleading guilty and forcing the case into a courtroom. He said that she should never have put the family, the jurors, or the audience through it. "The defendant is an evil and utterly dangerous narcissist," he said. "It is right that she should live and rot and die in a metal case, like the ugly and dark shadow of Lulu and Leo's bright and shiny lights."