Archive for the ‘International News’ Category
Since 2008 in Tanzania, 77 African giant pouched rats have been taught to sniff out Mycobacterium tuberculosis in human sputum samples in return for a reward. Turns out the rats are much faster and accurate than medical technicians reviewing samples under microscopes. A study from 2012 showed the rats detected TB accurately in nearly 80% of cases. The standard method using evaluation of samples under a microscope was less than 58% accurate. The rats also can evaluate 10 samples in a minute versus a human evaluating 25 samples a day with a microscope.
The rats were trained by a Belgian organization called Apopo. The Apopo’s lab is at Sokoine University in Morogoro, Tanzania. The rats smell 10 samples at a time and scratch with both paws at any sample they believe to be positive for the TB mycobacterium. All the samples have been previously tested at the clinics. If the rat scratches at a sample known to be positive, the rat gets a treat of bananas or peanuts. If a rat scratches at a sample not previously shown to be positive, the sample is marked “suspect” and retested at the clinic. To date, the rats have found 3500 cases missed by the local clinics and have improved the detection rate by 30%.
The species of rat chosen, cricetomys gambianus, is chosen due to its exceptional smell ability, intelligence, low maintenance costs and a long life span of approximately 8 years. The cost to train one of the rats is $7800. Training time takes nine months and starts when the rat is only 4 weeks old.
At the beginning of 2013, Apopo opened a second TB lab in Mozambique. The company hopes to get accreditation for the method eventually from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Source: Aljazeera.com 6/10/2013
Great Britain has agreed to pay $30.8 million to Kenyans tortured during the Mau Mau uprising against colonial rule in the 1950′s. The Mau Mau movement was started by the Kikuyu people of Kenya and it advocated violent resistance against colonial rule. The Kenya Human Rights Commission has estimated that 90,000 Kenyans were killed or “maimed” during the uprising and 160,000 detained.
The compensation payments will go to 5,228 victims represented by a British law firm. The negotiations began after a London court ruled last October that three elderly Kenyans who had suffered beatings, castration and rape during the aforementioned uprising could sue Great Britain. Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, reporting from the Kenyan capital, said that since the case was settled out of court, it would not set legal precedent for future compensation suits against colonial rulers.
Source: Aljazeera.com 6/6/2013
Active volcano Reventador caused a rupture in the main oil pipeline from Ecuador’s Amazon basin on Friday. The pipeline runs from the eastern section of the country to a port on the Pacific coast. According to Environment Minister Lorena Tapia, equipment has been put into place to control the spill. However, as a result of the break, ten thousand barrels of crude oil has already washed into the Coca River leaving locals without fresh drinking water.
Petroecuador, the owner of the pipeline, began bringing in large water bottles yesterday to locals in the village of Francisco de Orellana. Authorities in the village of around 60,000 have ordered all well-water pumping to cease until further notice.
Ecuador is not a major oil producer as only 500,000 barrels of oil approximately are pumped per day as of 2012.
Source: www.france24.com 6/3/2013
Chilean bank Banco de Credito e Inversiones SA (BCI) has agreed to buy Miami-based City National Bank of Florida for $882.8 million. The bank acquisition should close in the first quarter of 2014. Spain’s Bankia SA made the sale to the Chilean bank. This would be the first entry of Chile into the US banking market.
City National Bank of Florida has approximately 400 employees in 26 branches. The Florida bank has $4.74 billion in assets and $3.5 billion in deposits. According to BCI CEO Lionel Olavarria, BCI has high employee morale, customer service and referrals; and, the two banks have cultures that are “compatible and complementary.”
Nevertheless, investors in Santiago, Chile showed concern over the bank acquisition resulting in a share price drop of nearly 5% after the news broke. The concern revolved around the belief that additional shares will be issued to finance the purchase thus diluting the value of existing shareholders’ shares. However, even after the sell-off, the shares are still up 5% from last year.
Source: ilovechile.cl 5/24/2013
According to Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture, “corrupt government officials” have been illegally giving away state land, that by law is to go to peasants and “victims,” instead to criminals and the wealthy. The illegal distribution has occurred over the past five years in the departments of Antioquia, Amazonas, Guainía, Guaviare, Norte de Santander and Santander.
Sixty-four thousand acres in Antioquia department alone have been granted to “fake peasants.” Thirteen people have been charged in the Antioquia land fraud after an investigation. The Minister for Agriculture Juan Camilo Restrepo is to confront the issue on a national scale in Medellin today.
Unfortunately, Colombia has a long history of paramilitary and guerrilla groups pushing peasants off their land and then legally obtaining the land with the help of middlemen and corrupt government agricultural officials. The current President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, after taking office in 2010, had promised to return these lands to the original owners.
Source: ColombiaReports.com 5/16/2013
Mentally ill people live like “chained dogs” or are locked up in shacks in Indonesia. There are 350 such cases in Bali and around 40,000 in all of Indonesia. The mentally ill live this way due to the overwhelming burden they are on their families, a broken health care system and because mental illness in Indonesia is often seen as “punishment by the gods.”
The Indonesians refer to these mentally ill people as pasung or “in chains.” Other countries that practice pasung are Somalia, Nigeria and Sudan. Pasung is illegal in Indonesia and the country has set a goal of eliminating the practice by 2014. However, there are only 48 psychiatric hospitals with a total of 7,700 beds in all of Indonesia–a country with a population of over 200 million. Furthermore, patient stays in these mental hospitals often are limited; then, the patient is discharged, usually to the family, who may resume putting the family member in chains. Medications which may help the mentally ill family member are mostly too costly for the family to afford.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) approximately 85% of mental disorders are untreated in developing countries.
Source: spiegel.de 5/10/2013
Alberto Lazaro del Valle was shot seven times as he left work at Radio Cadena, May 10, in Cali, Colombia. Del Valle was taken to a nearby hospital where he died of his injuries. Del Valle had been a journalist in Colombia for the past thirty years.
There had been no record of threats against the journalist, per Colombian press freedom foundation FLIP. Local authorities condemned the homicide and posted a $27,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the assailants. Del Valle’s assassination came less than 10 days after a “failed assassination attempt of one of Colombia’s most renowned investigative reporters in central Colombia.” Additionally, death threats were issued to eight journalists in the north of the country approximately one week ago. According to FLIP, Del Valle’s murder was the first of a journalist in Colombia since 2010.
Source: ColombiaReports.com 5/11/2013
The 2013 Human Development Report shows that Nicaragua is making significant progress in human development and alleviating poverty. The country is averaging 1.1% improvement in the human development index as opposed to Latin America’s average of 0.7% and the world average of 0.95%.
Significant improvements have been made in the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty, in particular. Those earning less than $2.50 per day dropped from 59.1% in 1993 to 36.2% in 2009. Those living on $4-10 a day, a population the UN defines as “vulnerable,” improved from 19.7% to 32% over the last 16 years.
Nevertheless, Nicaragua is still in the bottom half of “medium development countries.” The country ranks 129 out of 186 countries. Namibia came in ahead and Iraq slightly behind. By comparison in Central America, only Guatemala has a worse human development index score at 133. Other countries in Central America had the following results: Honduras 120, El Salvador 107, Belize 96, Costa Rica 62 and Panama at 59.
Part of the reason for Nicaragua’s poverty is the average middle class worker in Nicaragua earns less than his other Central American counterparts ie. $538.90 per month. Additionally, the average Nicaraguan family has more dependents than any other Central American country has.
Source: NicaraguaDispatch.com 5/8/2013
The Australian government’s Climate Commission report, Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change, issued 4/29/13, noted that China has reduced the “carbon intensity” of its economy significantly and has nearly halved its growth in electricity demand. Of particular note is the rate of coal use has declined dramatically.
The report found specifically that between 2005 and 2012, China increased its wind power generation by nearly 50 times. Additionally, new solar power capacity expanded by 75% this year. The report also pointed out that China invested over $65 billion in clean energy in 2012. This investment was unmatched by any other nation and represented 30% of the entire G-8 countries’ renewable energy investment for 2012.
Source: english.peopledaily.com.cn 4/29/2013
The H7N9 human cases in China stand at 108 with 22 deaths. Closing of various live poultry markets are thought to be slowing the progression of the avian virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prevention of the transmission of the virus to humans calls for routine “hand and respiratory hygiene” and food safety measures. There are no confirmed cases of human to human transmission. It is still unknown exactly how people are becoming infected with this H7N9 virus. Additionally, there is yet no vaccine for the prevention of H7N9 virus infection.
Previous H7 virus infections in people were reported from the mid-1990′s to 2012 in several countries in Europe as well as Canada, the USA and Mexico. Those infections mainly resulted in conjunctivitis and mild respiratory infections with the exception of one death in the Netherlands. No H7 infections had been reported in China until this new H7N9 outbreak.
Sources: english.peopledaily.com.cn 4/25/2013