Friday, December 5, 2014

PARADIGM SHIFT: The World Awakens To The Savagery Of European Racism - Protests Against Police Violence Against Black People Spreads; Protesters Shutdown Major Bridges; Close Thoroughfares, Clash With Police To Decry Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision!

Protesters demonstrate in Lower Manhattan in New York City, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, December 4, 2014. A New York City grand jury
decided not to charge white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of unarmed black man Garner, sparking outrage and protests on Wednesday,
and the U.S. Justice Department said it would investigate the incident. Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was accused of illegally selling cigarettes on July 17
when police officers tackled him and put him in a chokehold. Police said he had been resisting arrest. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)

December 5, 2014 - UNITED STATES
- The outrage over a grand jury's decision not to indict a New York police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man showed no sign of abating on Friday, as activists promised a fresh round of protests.

The city was also preparing for the funeral Friday of an unarmed black man who was shot dead by a police officer last month in a dark stairwell in Brooklyn. Police say the shooting was unintentional.

The city has seen two nights of largely peaceful demonstrations after no charges were brought against New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in the chokehold confrontation in July that killed Eric Garner, a father of six. A bystander recorded the incident on video.

The 43-year-old Garner's death has spurred widespread public indignation over what civil rights activists say is a pattern of police abuse of minority citizens, and follows a grand jury's decision less than two weeks ago to clear another white policeman for killing an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

Thousands rallied in cities across the United States on Thursday, including Boston, Chicago and Washington. In Phoenix, Arizona, demonstrators protested the police killing Thursday of an unarmed black man during a scuffle.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department will pursue civil rights investigations into both the Missouri shooting and the New York case, though legal experts have said federal charges for the two officers are unlikely.

Reverend Al Sharpton, a longtime civil rights leader, was expected to speak Friday at the Brooklyn funeral of Akai Gurley, 28, who was killed last month in a housing project stairwell by a rookie police officer who said his gun discharged accidentally.

Planned events in New York on Friday include a candlelight vigil for Garner in Staten Island, where he died.


New York police have tried to take a soft approach during this week's protests, steering marchers away from a nationally televised Christmas tree lighting ceremony Wednesday, but otherwise allowing marchers to proceed unhindered.

Tensions briefly erupted late Thursday in Times Square as a multiracial crowd of about 3,000 protesters blocked a major interaction, chanting at police, "Who do you protect?"

Protesters rally against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner in Foley Square, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in
New York. A grand jury cleared a white New York City police officer Wednesday in the videotaped chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed black man, who had
been stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

People march over the Brooklyn Bridge in protest against the decision of a grand jury not to indict a police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, in New
York, New York, USA, 04 December 2014. A grand jury has decided not to indict a New York City police officer, months after unarmed African American Eric
Garner died in July when New York City Police officer Pantaleo put him in a chokehold to restrain him. The decision comes less than two weeks after a grand jury
did not indict a white police officer for the shooting and killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August.

Protesters rallying against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner chant near a collection of mock coffins
bearing the names of victims of fatal police encounters as they gather in Foley Square, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in New York. A grand jury cleared a white New
York City police officer Wednesday in the videotaped chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed black man, who had been
stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Hundreds of protestors gather in Foley Square in New York, New York, USA, 04 December 2014. A Staten Island grand jury voted against criminal charges for
New York City Police officer Pantaleo a white police officer who was accused of using a chokehold during an arrest of Eric Garner. (EPA/JOHN TAGGART)

Demonstrators are stopped by a police line on the West Side Highway during a protest against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer
involved in the death of Eric Garner, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in New York. (Gordon Donovan/ Yahoo News)

Demonstrators in Times Square protest a grand jury decision not to charge a New York policeman in the chocking death of Eric Garner, in New York December 4,
2014. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday promised a full investigation into a white New York police officer's role in the choking death of Garner,
following a night of protests over a grand jury decision not to bring charges in the incident. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Protesters carry a banner as they march on the roadway across the Brooklyn Bridge from lower Manhattan in New York City demanding justice for the death of
Eric Garner December 4, 2014. A New York City grand jury decided not to charge white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of unarmed black
man Garner, sparking outrage and protests on Wednesday, and the U.S. Justice Department said it would investigate the incident. Garner, a 43-year-old father of
six, was accused of illegally selling cigarettes on July 17 when police officers tackled him and put him in a chokehold. Police said he had been resisting arrest.
(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Hundreds of officers responded, shoving protesters onto sidewalks. A police spokesman said Friday more than 200 protesters had been arrested, but declined to provide additional details.

The National Lawyers Guild is providing legal representation for arrested protesters and training sessions for groups that request it, said attorney Martin Stolar, a member of the group.

In a sign of national concern about the issue, U.S. President Barack Obama has tapped Philadelphia's top cop to recommend ways to rebuild public trust in police.

"There is a tension, there are real issues," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said in an interview. "They feel that the police service they are getting is not fair and not impartial. They lost faith in us to a large extent, and we've got to restore that."


Unlike the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri, Garner's encounter with New York police was captured on video. It showed Pantaleo wrapping his arm around Garner's throat and wrestling him to the sidewalk as three other officers helped subdue him.

Garner, who was asthmatic, repeatedly gasped, "I can't breathe" - a phrase protesters have taken up as a rallying cry.

He was being arrested for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally.

Pantaleo could still face disciplinary action from an internal police investigation, his lawyer said. Chokeholds are banned by police department regulations.

Pantaleo told the grand jury he used a proper takedown technique and never put pressure on Garner's neck, according to his lawyer, Stuart London. The city's medical examiner has said Garner's death was caused by compressing his neck and chest, with his asthma and obesity contributing. - Yahoo.

WATCH: Eric Garner protesters flood New York after grand jury clears NYPD officer in chokehold death case.

WATCH: NYC protesters 'die' & decry Eric Garner decision, dozens arrested.

Protesters Close Thoroughfares, Clash With Police To Decry Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision

Demonstrators took to the streets all around Manhattan, clashing with police officers, in a the second night of protests a day after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.

When the protests began early Thursday evening, a crowd of a few hundreds morphed into an estimated 10,000 protesters in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan.

“Everybody’s got these posters that say black lives matter, but it doesn’t seem as if it does,” said protester Martha Fay.

In Foley Square, the protesters rallied around a sculpture called “Triumph of the Human Spirit” by artist Lorenzo Pace, which serves as a monument to the African-American experience.

“We’re out here exercising our rights and everything is peaceful. There’s no violence. There’s no drugs. There’s no anything,” said protester John Dorsey. “Everybody is here together – black, white, brown everybody.”

The protesters moved on in several directions afterward. One group headed to the West Side Highway near West 10th Street, shutting down the highway for the second night in a row; it was reopened around 9 p.m.

Tensions rose during rush hours, as commuters on the West Side Highway yelled at the protesters to go away.

Another group marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, which police shut down completely afterward.

“Shut it down,” could be heard being chanted enthusiastically by the group crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into downtown Brooklyn. Some protesters chanted “Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut it down, shut it down,” referring also to the Ferguson, Missouri case in which the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown was not indicted.

Some protesters also carried makeshift coffins, with the names of those who have died allegedly at the hands of NYPD officers, as they walked along the Brooklyn Bridge.

As Haskell reported, a police car was positioned to block Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn, but the crowd trickled through, walking among the cars.

And at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at Bowling Green, protesters knocked down barricades and a few of them clashed with police. One person was seen punching an officer, while another was seen swinging a sign.

One protester at Bowling Green was seen on Chopper 2 being hauled off by police. There was no official word on arrests as of 9 p.m. Thursday.

Another protest got physical at the corner of 8th Avenue and 14th Street, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.

In the reported altercation between the crowd and police, members of the crowd began running away and a few protesters were rubbing their eyes as if in pain, Smith reported. One man alleged he had been pepper sprayed.

Police in riot gear diffused the situation, Smith reported.

Many of the protesters said they were fed up with law enforcement and the justice system.

“This is what I have to teach my son,” said protester Tiffany Garriga. “You get your education and watch you back — not from bullies, but from police.”

Demonstrators in Times Square protest a grand jury decision not to charge a New York policeman in the chocking death of Eric Garner, in New York December 4,
2014. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday promised a full investigation into a white New York police officer's role in the choking death of Garner,
following a night of protests over a grand jury decision not to bring charges in the incident. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

New York City Police in protective gear form a line as they respond to protesters on the West Side Highway in Manhattan in New York City as thousands of
demonstrators took to the streets of New York demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner December 4, 2014. A New York City grand jury decided not to
charge white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of unarmed black man Garner, sparking outrage and protests on Wednesday, and the U.S.
Justice Department said it would investigate the incident. Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was accused of illegally selling cigarettes on July 17 when
police officers tackled him and put him in a chokehold. Police said he had been resisting arrest. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Demonstrators participate in a rally against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in
New York. A grand jury cleared a white New York City police officer Wednesday in the videotaped chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed black man, who had
been stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Protesters demonstrate in Foley Square in lower Manhattan in New York City demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner December 4, 2014. A New York City
grand jury decided not to charge white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of unarmed black man Garner, sparking outrage and protests on
Wednesday, and the U.S. Justice Department said it would investigate the incident. Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was accused of illegally selling cigarettes
on July 17 when police officers tackled him and put him in a chokehold. Police said he had been resisting arrest. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Protesters rallying against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner carry a collection of mock coffins bearing
the names of victims of fatal police encounters as they cross the eastbound traffic lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in New York. A grand
jury cleared a white New York City police officer Wednesday in the videotaped chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed black man, who had been stopped on
suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Others, such as student Jeenie Yoon, expressed hope that change would happen.

“I think it’s going to take a long time,” she said. “If you think about the Civil Rights Movement, it took 10 years for anything to happen between the protests and the boycott for the buses to the actual Civil Rights Act.”

Protests were also held in Union Square, on other East River bridges, and at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. And the demonstrators continued late into the night, with heated confrontations and several arrests at 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue in Times Square just before 11 p.m.

Protesters were still going well after midnight. At 12:15 a.m., they were seen marching between cars down busy 53rd Street in Midtown.

Police said there were numerous arrests, but exact figures would not be available until Friday morning.

Similar protests on behalf of Garner were also held around the country. In Chicago, a handful of protesters briefly got onto the Kennedy Expressway before police officers shooed them off, CBS Chicago reported.

In Boston, protesters gathered on Boston Common for a protest during the annual tree lighting, CBS Boston reported.

Thursday marked the second night that demonstrators took the streets to protest the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in connection with Garner’s death.

On Wednesday, protesters took blocked the West Side Highway, Brooklyn Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel. At Grand Central Terminal, demonstrators laid on the floor in the main hall during rush hour.

Hundreds also converged on Times Square and around Rockefeller Center, where the annual tree lighting ceremony was taking place. The grand jury’s decision also sparked protests around the country.

“This fight ain’t over. It just begun,” said Garner’s widow, Esaw.

While most of the protests in New York City were peaceful, police said 83 people were arrested, mostly for disorderly conduct.

De Blasio said police planned to use a similar strategy to handling protests Thursday night.

“We respect the right of protests, but we will keep order,” the mayor said. “It’s a very straightforward formula. This department has an extraordinary tradition of respecting the right of people to speak, but also drawing a line when that might create disorder or violence.” - CBS New York.

WATCH: Die-ins & Coffins - Massive rallies grasp New York protesting Eric Garner case verdict.

 WATCH: Thousands march in New York protesting Eric Garner verdict, decision sparks nationwide fury.

WORLD WAR III: Europe Declares War On Russia Through It's American Military Machine - U.S. Congress Passes H. Res. 758 Legislation Condemning Russian Federation; President Putin Defends Sovereignty And National Pride, Warns "No One Will Succeed In Defeating Militarily" And Ask The Obama To "Remember Lessons Russia Taught Hitler"; Ron Paul Predicts That U.S. Provocation Could Result In "TOTAL DESTRUCTION"!

December 4, 2014 - UNITED STATES
- Today the US House passed what I consider to be one of the worst pieces of legislation ever. H. Res. 758 was billed as a resolution “strongly condemning the actions of the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin, which has carried out a policy of aggression against neighboring countries aimed at political and economic domination.”

In fact, the bill was 16 pages of war propaganda that should have made even neocons blush, if they were capable of such a thing.

These are the kinds of resolutions I have always watched closely in Congress, as what are billed as “harmless” statements of opinion often lead to sanctions and war. I remember in 1998 arguing strongly against the Iraq Liberation Act because, as I said at the time, I knew it would lead to war. I did not oppose the Act because I was an admirer of Saddam Hussein – just as now I am not an admirer of Putin or any foreign political leader – but rather because I knew then that another war against Iraq would not solve the problems and would probably make things worse. We all know what happened next.

WATCH: House of Representatives passes resolution against Russia.

That is why I can hardly believe they are getting away with it again, and this time with even higher stakes: provoking a war with Russia that could result in total destruction!

If anyone thinks I am exaggerating about how bad this resolution really is, let me just offer a few examples from the legislation itself:

The resolution (paragraph 3) accuses Russia of an invasion of Ukraine and condemns Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. The statement is offered without any proof of such a thing. Surely with our sophisticated satellites that can read a license plate from space we should have video and pictures of this Russian invasion. None have been offered. As to Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, why isn’t it a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty for the US to participate in the overthrow of that country’s elected government as it did in February? We have all heard the tapes of State Department officials plotting with the US Ambassador in Ukraine to overthrow the government. We heard US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland bragging that the US spent $5 billion on regime change in Ukraine. Why is that OK?

The resolution (paragraph 11) accuses the people in east Ukraine of holding “fraudulent and illegal elections” in November. Why is it that every time elections do not produce the results desired by the US government they are called “illegal” and “fraudulent”? Aren’t the people of eastern Ukraine allowed self-determination? Isn’t that a basic human right?

The resolution (paragraph 13) demands a withdrawal of Russia forces from Ukraine even though the US government has provided no evidence the Russian army was ever in Ukraine. This paragraph also urges the government in Kiev to resume military operations against the eastern regions seeking independence.

The resolution (paragraph 14) states with certainty that the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 that crashed in Ukraine was brought down by a missile “fired by Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.” This is simply incorrect, as the final report on the investigation of this tragedy will not even be released until next year and the preliminary report did not state that a missile brought down the plane. Neither did the preliminary report – conducted with the participation of all countries involved – assign blame to any side.

Former US Representative Ron Paul (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)
Former US Representative Ron Paul (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Paragraph 16 of the resolution condemns Russia for selling arms to the Assad government in Syria. It does not mention, of course, that those weapons are going to fight ISIS – which we claim is the enemy -- while the US weapons supplied to the rebels in Syria have actually found their way into the hands of ISIS!

Paragraph 17 of the resolution condemns Russia for what the US claims are economic sanctions (“coercive economic measures”) against Ukraine. This even though the US has repeatedly hit Russia with economic sanctions and is considering even more!

The resolution (paragraph 22) states that Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia in 2008. This is simply untrue. Even the European Union – no friend of Russia – concluded in its investigation of the events in 2008 that it was Georgia that “started an unjustified war” against Russia not the other way around! How does Congress get away with such blatant falsehoods? Do Members not even bother to read these resolutions before voting?

In paragraph 34 the resolution begins to even become comical, condemning the Russians for what it claims are attacks on computer networks of the United States and “illicitly acquiring information” about the US government. In the aftermath of the Snowden revelations about the level of US spying on the rest of the world, how can the US claim the moral authority to condemn such actions in others?

Chillingly, the resolution singles out Russian state-funded media outlets for attack, claiming that they “distort public opinion.” The US government, of course, spends billions of dollars worldwide to finance and sponsor media outlets including Voice of America and RFE/RL, as well as to subsidize “independent” media in countless counties overseas. How long before alternative information sources like RT are banned in the United States? This legislation brings us closer to that unhappy day when the government decides the kind of programming we can and cannot consume – and calls such a violation “freedom.”

The resolution gives the green light (paragraph 45) to Ukrainian President Poroshenko to re-start his military assault on the independence-seeking eastern provinces, urging the “disarming of separatist and paramilitary forces in eastern Ukraine.” Such a move will mean many more thousands of dead civilians.

To that end, the resolution directly involves the US government in the conflict by calling on the US president to “provide the government of Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal defense articles, services, and training required to effectively defend its territory and sovereignty.” This means US weapons in the hands of US-trained military forces engaged in a hot war on the border with Russia. Does that sound at all like a good idea?

There are too many more ridiculous and horrific statements in this legislation to completely discuss. Probably the single most troubling part of this resolution, however, is the statement that “military intervention” by the Russian Federation in Ukraine “poses a threat to international peace and security.” Such terminology is not an accident: this phrase is the poison pill planted in this legislation from which future, more aggressive resolutions will follow. After all, if we accept that Russia is posing a “threat” to international peace how can such a thing be ignored? These are the slippery slopes that lead to war.

This dangerous legislation passed today, December 4, with only ten (!) votes against! Only ten legislators are concerned over the use of blatant propaganda and falsehoods to push such reckless saber-rattling toward Russia.

Here are the Members who voted “NO” on this legislation. If you do not see your own Representative on this list call and ask why they are voting to bring us closer to war with Russia! If you do see your Representative on the below list, call and thank him or her for standing up to the warmongers.

Voting “NO” on H. Res. 758:
1) Justin Amash (R-MI)
2) John Duncan (R-TN)
3) Alan Grayson, (D-FL)
4) Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
5) Walter Jones (R-NC)
6) Thomas Massie (R-KY)
7) Jim McDermott (D-WA)
8 George Miller (D-CA)
9) Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
10 Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)

Reprinted with permission from author's Facebook page.

- Ron Paul Institute.

WATCH: From Reset to Cold War 2? Resolution against Russia passed in US House.

‘Remember lessons we taught Hitler’: Top 10 quotes from Putin’s State of Nation address

In his yearly address to parliamentarians and dignitaries, Vladimir Putin gave a reminder of Russia's strength as the country that Hitler failed to defeat, while also comparing Crimea's significance to that of the Temple Mount to Jews.

In a warning to the West about further encroachment towards Russia’s borders, President Putin reminded how many previous military powers have tried, but ultimately failed, to corner Russia and then invade the largest country on Earth.

In the 1990s a weak Russia under Boris Yeltsin looked helplessly on as the US and the EU carved up Yugoslavia for their own personal gains. Almost two decades on, Putin says a repeat on Russian soil, despite the West’s desires, is unthinkable.

"They would have gladly applied the Yugoslav scenario of dismemberment and disintegration for Russia. They failed. We did not allow them to do that."

Russia has one of the largest armies in the world; however, Putin is adamant he does not want the country to be drawn into a wider conflict. The president did admit that if forced, the Russian bear is prepared to bare its claws with devastating consequences for those opposing it.

For centuries Crimea was part of Russia. The peninsula is ethnically Russian, not just Russian-speaking. However, in 1954 it was ‘transferred’ to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev, who believed national boundaries were irrelevant given that they all came under the banner of the Soviet Union. However, following the collapse of the USSR, the Crimean question surfaced once again.

The US and the EU have tried to play-up the effect sanctions imposed on Russia are having a detrimental effect on the country’s economy, when in fact the low price of oil is the real reason for the ruble’s slide. Putin says Russia is looking for new partners in the east for trade and believes the West’s aim to hurt Russia’s economy will be detrimental in the long run.

A resurgent Russia is a threat to the US, with Washington unwilling to let any nation challenge it as the world’s only super power. For almost a decade, the US has been looking at ways to diminish Russia’s role in world affairs both globally and politically. Putin was adamant that Crimea was just the excuse Obama was looking for to slap Moscow on the wrist.

The Russian Finance Ministry estimates that $130 billion will leave Russia by the end of 2014 due to heightened geopolitical tensions and the mass sell-off the ruble throughout the year. However, now Putin’s going to try and keep Russian money in Russia.

Vladimir Putin is adamant Russia will not be backed into a corner following the economic sanctions introduced by the US and the EU. On many occasions the Russian president has said that Moscow wants good relations with all countries, including the ones that are set on hindering its economic growth.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US’s tentacles, often under the pretext of NATO have encroached closer and closer to Russia’s borders and meddling in the affairs of foreign countries.

“Our US friends, whether directly or from behind the scenes always affect our relations with our neighbors. Sometimes it’s unclear whether to talk to the authorities of the country, or to their US patrons.”

Vladimir Putin said that countries are losing sight of their own national interests to suit the foreign policy of other countries. However, he said such a thing would not be happening in Russia. - RT.

WATCH: Putin's 2014 Federal Assembly address in full.

CONTAGION: The Latest Reports On The Ebola Virus Outbreak - Outbreak Has Already Sickened 17,300 People, Mostly In Guinea, Liberia And Sierra Leone; About 6,100 Have Died!

An undated United Methodist News Service photograph shows Martin Salia, left,   performing surgery at the Kissy Hospital outside Freetown, Sierra Leone,
in April.   Salia died Nov. 17 while being treated at a biocontainment unit at Nebraska Medical   Center in Omaha. (Photo: Mike DuBose,
United Methodist News Service, via   European Pressphoto Agency)

December 5, 2014 - THE EBOLA OUTBREAK
- The following constitutes several of the latest news reports on the Ebola outbreak across the planet.

UN Peacekeeper in Liberia Tests Positive for Ebola

A U.N. peacekeeper who contracted Ebola in Liberia will be flown to the Netherlands for treatment, a Dutch Health Ministry spokeswoman said Friday.

The Nigerian soldier will go into isolation at a "calamity unit" at the University Medical Center Utrecht, according to Inge Freriksen. He is expected to arrive in Amsterdam over the weekend and be transferred by ambulance to nearby Utrecht.

Late Thursday, the U.N. mission announced that the soldier had tested positive for the dreaded disease a day earlier.

The Ebola outbreak has sickened nearly 17,300 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Of those, about 6,100 have died.

Liberia has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths, but with infection rates stabilizing there, the government decided to go ahead with a Senate election this month and police agreed to allow campaign rallies and gatherings. This week, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said demonstrations are impeding efforts to contain Ebola and banned all gatherings. The order, published Thursday, is in effect until 30 days after results of the Dec. 16 election are announced.

The infection of the U.N. peacekeeper is the third case among mission personnel, according to Karin Landgren, the top U.N. envoy in the country. The previous two died.

The mission has so far identified 16 people who came into contact with the soldier, and they have been quarantined, she said. Areas the peacekeeper visited while symptomatic have been decontaminated.

The man will be the first Ebola patient hospitalized in the Netherlands. He is being treated in a Dutch hospital at the request of the World Health Organization, Freriksen said.

The U.N. force, with about 7,700 troops and police, has been in Liberia since 2003 to bring stability after two civil wars. - ABC News.

American being evaluated for Ebola at Emory

An American health-care worker in West Africa who may have been infected with Ebola has arrived at Emory University Hospital.

The patient arrived at the hospital's Serious Communicable Diseases Unit Thursday at around 5:45 a.m. The patient's name is not being released, per his wishes.

A hospital spokeswoman on Wednesday confirmed the patient was being flown there. Emory houses a specialized isolation unit that handled four of the 10 Ebola patients previously treated in the U.S.

The spokeswoman did not say why the person was being evacuated even before an Ebola diagnosis. A U.S. State Department official declined to comment, citing privacy considerations.

West Africa is suffering the worst Ebola outbreak in history, with more than 17,100 illnesses and at least 6,000 deaths this year. Six of those treated in the U.S. were Americans infected while providing medical aid there.

10 people being monitored for Ebola in Boston

A patient first suspected of having Ebola has, instead, tested positive for malaria, as officials continue to monitor several other people for the deadly virus.

The patient at Massachusetts General Hospital was being monitored under federal guidelines after flying into the U.S. from Liberia.

The Boston Public Health commission checked in with him daily, and after he reported a fever Tuesday he was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

The patient has malaria but dozens of people in Massachusetts are being monitored for Ebola, and he was among 10 in Boston.

Since October, the city's public health department has actively monitored 35 people. The monitoring includes daily reporting of temperature and possible Ebola symptoms.

Massachusetts General Hospital is one of eight area hospitals working to become designated Ebola treatment centers.  - WCVB.

Massachusetts patient tests negative for Ebola, hospital says

A patient at Massachusetts General Hospital has shown negative for Ebola in a preliminary test, a day after he was admitted with some symptoms consistent with the disease, the hospital said on Wednesday.

"The patient has, however, tested positive for malaria," the hospital said in a statement issued on its website. It added that more definitive testing would be conducted to completely rule out the possibility of Ebola.

The patient was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday afternoon and was being treated in a "specially prepared area within the hospital," Mass General said.

Ebola has killed more than 6,000 people in West Africa since March in the worst outbreak on record, striking hardest in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The United States has seen just a handful of cases, mostly involving people who contracted the virus overseas.

U.S. health officials on Tuesday designated 35 hospitals around the nation as Ebola treatment centers; none were located in Massachusetts.

- Reuters.

Italian Ebola victim's condition worsens

An ambulance carrying an Italian doctor, who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, arrives at the Lazzaro Spallanzani infectious diseases
institute in Rome November 25, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile

An Italian doctor suffering from Ebola is in intensive care after his condition worsened, a spokeswoman for the hospital treating him said on Friday.

The 50-year-old Sicilian contracted Ebola while working for the humanitarian group Emergency in Sierra Leone, one of the countries worst hit by the virus.

The Lazzaro Spallanzani infectious diseases unit in Rome said the patient had to be given respiratory assistance on Thursday evening. His condition had improved slightly on Wednesday.

The doctor is the only Italian to have been diagnosed with the haemorrhagic fever, which has killed more than 6,000 of around 17,000 people infected so far, mostly in West Africa, during the worst outbreak of Ebola on record.

He was transferred to Rome, where he began being treated with an experimental drug never used before in Italy, and plasma taken from survivors of the disease. - Reuters.

As Ebola Surges In Sierra Leone, Communities Take Control

A worker puts the finishing touches on the dividers that will separate patients at the community care center in the Port Loko District of Sierra Leone.

If you think the fight against Ebola is going well, here's a grim new number: 537.

That's how many new infections were reported in Sierra Leone in the past week. It's the highest weekly tally in any country since the West African outbreak began.

International governments and aid groups have scrambled to open Ebola treatment centers in the country. But, because of safety concerns, many of these centers are accepting only a fraction of the number of patients they were built to serve.

In the meantime, most sick people are being directed to makeshift, government-run centers. Some of these are simply schools or other government buildings repurposed into a "community care center" — a place for people with Ebola symptomsto be isolated.

Baimaur Laminangbatu, who heads up a chiefdom of several hundred villages in Sierra Leone's rural north, is helping transform a school into one of these care centers.

The facility is a lot more basic than the full-fledged treatment clinic down the street, which was built with funding from foreign governments, including the U.S. That facility has sophisticated in-ground plumbing and sanitation system.

Here at the school, workers are digging a big hole in the ground. "Those are the toilets for the suspected cases to use," Laminangbatu says.

The treatment offered at the care center will be limited — medication to bring down a fever and rehydration salts that patients can drink with little help or supervision. In contrast, at some treatment centers, patients are getting intravenous drips for fluid replacements and sponge baths.

Still though, Laminangbatu and his team have stood up this community care center in a matter of days. The facility is remarkably simple. In one room, there are eleven metal cots.

"This place was a classroom," Laminangbatu says. A chalkboard on the wall still has a lesson written on it. "My name is Hawa. I'm a girl. I'm 4 years old," Laminangbatu reads off the board.

These community care centers — and larger holding centers — were originally conceived of as temporary triage posts. Health officials intended them to be places where people who might have Ebola could be isolated while they waited for an Ebola test result. If the test came back positive, then a person would be sent onto a proper treatment facility.

But right now, there's no better place to go. So sick people are getting stuck at these triage centers.

It's better than nothing, Laminangbatu says. "If we allow those sick to be in the community, Ebola will spread," he says. "And all of us will die."

But a few miles down the road, at a holding center, I met Dr. Corrado Conceda, with the aid group Partners In Health. He thinks it's unacceptable that so many Sierra Leoneans will have to die while waiting for the international response to scale up.

Why should people here get a lower standard of care than Americans or Europeans, Conceda asks? "Everybody deserves the same level of care," he says. "That should always be our goal and our guiding principle."

Conceda has begun turning this existing holding center into a full-fledged treatment facility, with IVs. He's also bringing in medical workers from overseas and trainers in a matter of days, not weeks.

And Conceda totally rejects idea that Ebola has to be such a deadly disease. "Ebola kills so many people here [in Sierra Leone] because there's not the resources to take care of patients properly," Conceda says.

As soon as possible, he wants to start using start using lab tests to monitor organ function and tweak electrolyte levels — the tools that American and European hospitals have been using to support their Ebola patients.

"Let's bring the tools, and then the mortality rate will go down," Conceda says. "There's no reason why it couldn't be 20 percent, or 10 percent, if you diagnose patients early enough before they're sick."

The key to getting there, Conceda says, is to maintain that moral outrage — that sense that as long as people are dying, what you're doing is never enough. - NPR.

Is Ebola Taking a Heavier Toll on Women?

Fatmata Sowa, 28, is among the few women who've joined the Red Cross safe and dignified burial teams in Sierra Leone. ( Lisa Pattison / IFRC)

The Ebola virus, indiscriminate and opportunistic, has infected more than 17,000 people in West Africa, the World Health Organization reports. But some observers fear the epidemic may be exacting an especially heavy toll on women and girls.

Its impact goes well beyond the disease itself, amplifying females’ vulnerabilities, exploiting their limits within traditional societies, and motivating responses of strength and resilience.

"Ebola is not only a public health catastrophe, it is also unleashing devastating secondary effects on economic and social development, all of which have harmful implications for women and girls," Janet Fleischman, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently wrote for the Washington think tank’s Smart Global Health blog.

From birth to death, Ebola is wreaking havoc – primarily in the three hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Fear of infection deters women from seeking medical care during pregnancy and childbirth, likely driving up already-abysmal maternal mortality rates, health experts say [see chart below]. But the threat of contamination is greatest at death, when an Ebola patient’s viral load is highest. Cultural norms require that corpses are prepared for burial by people of the same sex – a serious problem when few women serve on official burial teams outfitted with personal protective equipment.    

Between those milestones lurk a host of other risks to females.

"Reports from the region raise fears about sexual violence and exploitation of women and girls by male Ebola survivors – the virus has been found in semen for up to three months so abstinence is recommended during that period – or by men exploiting girls who are orphaned or women widowed by Ebola," Fleischman wrote.

"… In addition, property and inheritance laws may discriminate against women and girls affected by Ebola, with some reports of Ebola widows being shunned by their families and denied the ability to inherit their husband’s property."

Out of school and at risk

School closings in all three countries exacerbate low literacy rates [see chart above] and fuel other problems.

In Sierra Leone, where the Ebola caseload recently surged to more than 7,000, "we’ve heard of young ladies [falling] prey to so many different child-protection issues," said Yeniva Sisay-Sogbeh, a longtime educator now working in Freetown with the Israeli humanitarian aid group IsraAID. She helps its clients deal with trauma and loss.

Unstructured, unsupervised time heightens chances for unplanned pregnancy, Sisay-Sogbeh said, adding that she’s even "heard of young ladies in quarantine raped by a police officer meant to guard them."

And "once a girl child becomes pregnant, the possibility for that girl to go back to school is slim," added N’yella Maya Rogers, a human rights lawyer from Sierra Leone and fellow with the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. As it is, too many in her native country "believe it’s better to send the boy to school" and have the girl stay home and do housework, she said. "… That kind of discrimination has been going on very long in a tribal society like this."

Sisay-Sogbeh also expressed concern about household incomes falling as a consequence of quarantines and other Ebola-related economic disruptions. "If money becomes a problem," she said, "you’re going to see more interest in families having [daughters] married off early."

Adjusting burial teams

Perhaps the most widespread immediate risk involves Ebola contagion through traditional burial practices. Anthony Banbury, who heads the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, told the Associated Press it appears that women are washing female victims’ corpses before calling authorities to collect them.

In Sierra Leone, the 1,583 fatalities recorded as of November 30 were almost equally divided between males (51 percent) and females (49 percent), a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization’s Sierra Leone office reported, citing figures from the national health ministry.

But women’s representation on burial teams is not. The Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, one of several entities authorized to provide safe burials, has 50 teams nationwide – and 20 women among them, spokesman Edward Aloushious Renner said. But, he added, "more women seem to be coming forward."

Fatmata Sowa, one of four women volunteering in the country’s Western Area district, joined the effort "to help break the transmission of Ebola through dead bodies," she said in a short profile posted on the national society’s Facebook page.

When the Ebola victim is female, "I will be the first to enter the room ... to ensure that she is covered in a dignified position before my male colleagues would be allowed to enter," said Sowa, described in another Red Cross article as a 28-year-old mother of two.

She then will wash and dress the body, preparing it for burial.

More data sought

Fleischman, a specialist on women’s global health issues and related U.S. policy, recommends collecting and publicly sharing sex-disaggregated data about Ebola infections and deaths.

"We’ve learned in past crises that you can’t wait … to start looking at whether there is a disproportionate impact on girls and women," Fleischman, who has studied HIV/AIDS and other public health threats, told VOA. "You have to start looking at that as you’re developing policies and programs."

She said existing U.S.-supported international programs – including some on curbing gender-based violence or planning families – could serve as models for applying the gender lens.
Fleischman also urged investigating reported abuses against women and girls as part of the Ebola response.

Empowering women

She and others called for more authority and respect for women, involving them in everything from the immediate Ebola response to rebuilding communities.

That’s easier said than done. Though Liberia has a woman president, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, in neighboring Sierra Leone, "certain sections of our country do not allow women to be leaders," said Doris Lenga-Caulker Gbabiyor.

Caulker is paramount chief, or administrator, of Kagboro chiefdom, about 100 kilometers or 62 miles southeast of Freetown. She said she was pleased to learn women had been added to burial teams, because "women should be represented." Her chiefdom has held down the number of Ebola infections to 10, she said, adding, "We’ve put responsible people around."

Sisay-Sogbeh isn’t waiting for a call to action; she's issuing it. In August, she started Power Women 232, a network of Sierra Leone women professionals that takes its name from the country’s telephone exchange code.

"Community service is part of the mandate," she said of the Freetown-based organization.

This fall, its members organized food drives, delivering at least 450 baskets to health care workers in Ebola isolation units, to patients and survivors and to orphans.

Early in the new year, Sisay-Sogbeh said the network would look at other ways to help. "The welfare of women and children is our business. It is our concern," she said. "We want to look into advocacy for building empowerment."

Rogers, the human rights attorney, called for more efforts to involve women in Ebola education: "When women are sensitized, when they are fully aware, they are the ones who will be able to fully pass [the information] on to other family members."

And when decisions are made and policies set, "women should be involved from the community level" on up, Rogers said. "If they are leaving women behind, it will be hard to end Ebola." - VOA News.

Nigerian medics deploying to Sierra Leone

The Nigerians are part of an African Union promise to send 1,000 medical workers to Ebola-hit areas

About 100 Nigerian medical workers are expected to arrive in Sierra Leone to help with the response to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

The workers, who include doctors, scientists and hygienists, have been trained by the medical aid agency, MSF.

It came a day after residents in the Guinean capital, Conakry, protested about the construction of an Ebola treatment clinic in their district.

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 6,000 people in West Africa this year.

The Nigerian medical workers are the first part of a contingent of about 250 specialists the West African country is deploying to the three countries worst hit by Ebola - Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The workers are expected to stay for between three and six months, Nigerian officials say.

The BBC international development correspondent, Mark Doyle, says it is a reminder that although richer countries and the big aid agencies have been giving crucial help, Africans are very much part of the fight against Ebola too.

The Nigerian commitment is part of an African Union promise to send 1,000 medical workers to Ebola-hit areas by the end of this year.

Malaria warning

The deployments come amid a UN warning that people infected with malaria in Sierra Leone are sometimes not seeking care for fear of being shunned as suspected Ebola cases.

Medical experts say the symptoms of both diseases can be similar in their early stages and there are also fears that some people are being referred unnecessarily to Ebola treatment centres.

The UN agency, Unicef, has said it will supply anti-malarial drugs to about 2.4 million people in Sierra Leone.

Under the programme, thousands of community health workers will go door-to-door in districts where the risk of Ebola is highest to administer anti-malarial tablets to everyone aged six months and above.

"This campaign will benefit the fight against both malaria and Ebola," said Unicef local representative Roeland Monasch, by reducing cases of malaria, easing the strain on the health system and allowing true cases of Ebola to be treated.

On Thursday, people in the Yimbaya district of the Guinean capital, Conakry, staged protests about the construction of an Ebola treatment centre, fearing it may spread disease in their neighbourhood.

The project is being funded by the French government, which has said it will help fight Ebola in Conakry and benefit local residents.

Similar protests took place two months ago in another district, Kaporo Rail, where the centre had been initially planned to be built.

Meanwhile, a clinic in the German city of Frankfurt said a Ugandan doctor it had treated for Ebola was free of the disease and had been released last month.

The doctor, who had been working in Sierra Leone, had undergone seven weeks of intensive treatment in an isolation ward. - BBC.

Tracking the EBOLA Virus Outbreak

MAJOR STORM ALERT: Residents In The Philippines Prepare For Super Typhoon Hagupit's Landfall - Mass Evacuation Underway As Winds Exceed 150MPH; Potentially Life-Threatening; Widespread Destruction Expected!

Hagupit: Infrared Satellite

December 5, 2014 - THE PHILIPPINES
- Typhoon Hagupit, a powerful tropical cyclone in the tropical western Pacific Ocean, is closing in on the Philippines and will make landfall there this weekend. Preparations are underway for potentially life-threatening winds, storm surge and flash floods in the Philippines, where the typhoon has been named Ruby.

For days, major disagreements between American and European computer forecast models had created major questions about whether Hagupit would even make it to the Philippines. However, on Thursday, the models began to converge on an ominous forecast track that could take Hagupit on a slow, agonizing path across the heart of the island nation. Among the areas at risk is Tacloban, a city devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) just 13 months ago.

WATCH: Strong Typhoon Moves Towards Philippines.

While Hagupit has lost its super-typhoon status, it is still a formidable storm with the potential to cause serious damage.

On Wednesday night U.S. East Coast time, the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) estimated Hagupit's maximum sustained 1-minute wind speed at 180 mph, putting it in a tie with Super Typhoons Vongfong and Nuri in October as the most powerful typhoon of 2014.

As of 2 a.m. EST Friday, JTWC lowered its estimate of Hagupit's top winds to 145 mph, meaning it is no longer a "super" typhoon. However, it is still the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane.

WATCH: Storm signals raised as Hagupit (Ruby) nears Visayas.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) earlier declared Hagupit a "violent" typhoon, the highest classification on its scale, with 10-minute sustained winds of 130 mph and gusts to 190 mph. That ties Vongfong for the highest wind speeds of 2014 in JMA's bulletins. Hagupit has since been downgraded to a "very strong" typhoon on JMA's scale with winds of 115 mph and gusts to 160 mph as of 4 a.m. EST Friday.

Hagupit moved into the waters east of the Philippines early Thursday local time, prompting that country's weather agency (PAGASA) to give it the name Ruby. The Philippines has its own alphabetical list of names, separate from the international list, for tropical cyclones passing near or over its territory.

Forecast: Increasing Danger for Philippines

Hagupit Forecast Path

PAGASA has issued public storm warning signals for 34 geographic areas, spanning from southeastern portions of Luzon (the main northern island) through the Visayas (central Philippines) and northeastern parts of Mindanao (the main southern island).

PAGASA has placed a large part of this region in Public Storm Warning Signal No. 2, meaning 61 to 100 kph (38 to 62 mph) are possible "in at least 24 hours." Metro Cebu, the second-largest metropolitan area in the country after Metro Manila, is included in Public Storm Warning Signal No. 2.

First, the typhoon is expected to approach the eastern shores of the central Philippines (Eastern Visayas Region) on Saturday local time. There is still some timing uncertainty, as the typhoon is expected to slow its forward motion. However, the most likely time frame for landfall appears to be Saturday evening local time (Saturday morning U.S. time).

WATCH: Severe Conditions Expected in Southern Luzon and Samar.

During this initial period of contact with land, Hagupit will likely unleash its most powerful winds. It should be at least a Category 3 equivalent tropical cyclone by that time, but could easily still be a Category 4 storm.

In areas where the wind blows onshore, dangerous storm surge is likely. Philippine officials have issued storm surge advisories for a number of communities at risk. Some communities on the islands of Samar and Leyte are at risk of storm surge up to 3.7 meters (12 feet) according to the alerts, equivalent to the height of a one-story home.

As Hagupit grinds west-northwest across the Philippines, the danger will gradually transition from one of wind damage and storm surge to one of heavy rainfall.

Model Rainfall Forecast:  The latest rainfall forecast from the U.S.-run GFS computer model. This gives a broad idea of where the heaviest rain will fall,
but details will depend on the typhoon's track and interaction with mountains.

Again, there is some uncertainty in Hagupit's path and forward speed, but in general its center should move in the general direction of Metro Manila. The process is expected to be agonizingly slow -- potentially taking 48-72 hours to move from the eastern Philippines to Metro Manila.

We expect Hagupit's winds to have weakened considerably upon nearing Manila, however, some downed trees/tree limbs, power outages, and structural damage is still possible, there, Monday.

In general, the slower a tropical cyclone moves, the higher its rainfall potential. Hagupit will be moving along very slowly over an area with rugged terrain. As a result, rainfall totals could be extraordinarily high -- locally exceeding 2 feet -- leading to landslides, debris flows, and life-threatening flash floods.

Just three years ago in December 2011, Tropical Storm Washi (Sendong) dumped tremendous rainfall on the island of Mindanao, causing massive floods that killed more than 1,200 people.

Storm Spares Small Pacific Islands

Earlier in its lifetime, Hagupit made its closest approach to the Yap Islands Wednesday evening, local time (15 hours ahead of U.S. EST), passing about 60 miles to the south of the islands. Given its relatively small wind field at that time, only tropical storm-force wind gusts (peak gust to 43 mph) were recorded at Yap International Airport as of late Wednesday evening.

The center passed north of the Republic of Palau Thursday morning, local time (Wednesday afternoon and evening, mainland U.S. time).

Closest to the center of Hagupit was Kayangel, a cluster of three atolls making up the northernmost state of Palau. It is not immediately clear how intense Hagupit's winds were in Kayangel, which like Tacloban was also heavily damaged by Haiyan in 2013.

A plea for help in SOS is painted on a road in an aerial view from a U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter over San Jose, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2013.
(AP Photo/Wally Santana) 

Winds peaked at only 21 mph to the south in Koror, the more heavily populated state of the republic.
Typhoon and tropical storm warnings have been discontinued for Yap and Palau.

Hagupit began to undergo a period of rapid intensification late Wednesday morning (U.S. East Coast time). According to the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Hagupit became a super typhoon as of 2 p.m. EST Wednesday when its maximum sustained winds reached 150 mph -- a sharp increase from 115 mph just six hours earlier. Another six hours later, Hagupit's winds reached an estimated 180 mph.

The rapid intensification was the result of impressive upper-level "outflow channels," basically air flow in the upper levels of the atmosphere spreading apart, or away from, the center of Hagupit. Those outflow channels near the top of the typhoon force air to rise more vigorously within its core circulation, allowing the central pressure to plummet and the typhoon's winds to increase.

Hagupit is the seventh Western Pacific cyclone to reach super typhoon status in 2014. - TWC.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: CDC - Mutated Flu Virus Could Signal More Hospitalizations, Deaths This Season; Vaccine May Not Be Effective Against These More Virulent Strains!

December 5, 2014 - UNITED STATES
- This season’s flu vaccine may not be as effective against new and possibly more virulent strains of the virus that could become the nation’s dominant form of influenza in the young flu season.

The emergence of a mutated flu virus has caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a national health advisory urging caregivers to prescribe the antiviral medications Tamiflu and Relenza to suspected flu patients, even before they’ve been confirmed to have the virus.

Although flu activity has been relatively mild in the U.S. thus far, Influenza A viruses, known as H3N2, have been seen in most states.

“We know that in seasons when H3 viruses predominate, we tend to have seasons that are worse flu years with more hospitalizations from flu and more deaths from influenza. . . . The rate of hospitalization and death can be twice as high or more,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a conference call with reporters.

So far this season, five children have died from the flu, and outbreaks have occurred in schools and nursing homes, Frieden said.

Testing has found that 52 percent of more than 1,100 H3N2 virus samples were found to be antigenetically different, or “drifted,” from the H3N2 virus used in this year’s flu vaccine, Frieden said.

“They’re different enough that we’re concerned that protection from vaccination against the drifted H3N2 viruses may be lower than we usually see,” Frieden said. “These changes can signal that the immune response provided by vaccination won’t protect as well for these viruses.”

Despite the prospect of lower protection rates, Frieden said vaccination is still the best protection against the flu “and may have some effectiveness against the drifted strain.”

To fight complications from the flu, Frieden said antiviral medications, which shorten the duration and severity of flu symptoms, are an “important second line of defense,” particularly for people who are at high risk of serious flu complications.

This includes children under age 2, adults 65 and older, people with chronic pulmonary and cardiovascular problems and those with neurologic and immunosuppressant disorders.

It also includes pregnant and postpartum women, people under age 19 who are on long-term aspirin therapy, American Indians, the morbidly obese and nursing home and chronic-care facility residents.

Antivirals are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. But fewer than one in six flu patients actually get the drugs, Frieden said.

“It’s very important that we do better. We need to get the message out that treating early with these drugs can make a difference between having a milder illness or a very severe illness,” Frieden said.

Many doctors don’t prescribe antivirals because they mistakenly believe that patients must first be tested for the virus. Others just aren’t familiar with using antivirals for flu treatment because they’re most effective in treating bacterial infections, Frieden said.

The drifted viruses were first detected in March. Frieden said their emergence could have resulted from their attempts to escape the immunity being developed by widespread vaccination. The drifted viruses became prominent in September when it was too late to include them in this year’s vaccine formula. It takes four months to make the vaccine.

“Up until now, there’s been so little activity it was hard to say that this virus was going to be of public health importance or not,” said Dr. Joseph Bresee of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “I think now, with the increasing cases of flu, and (the fact) that this virus is maintaining a presence and maintaining a prevalence in the United States, we felt it necessary to come out and talk about it a little bit.”

Currently, four different strains of flu are circulating in the U.S., and “only time will tell which of them, if any, will predominate for the following weeks and months of this year’s flu season,” Frieden said.

The flu vaccine provides protection against several of the virus strains and may provide partial protection against the drifted strains, Frieden said.

About 146 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed in the U.S. and there is no shortage. - Charlotte Observer.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Ice Age Now - Fall Snow Cover In The Northern Hemisphere Was The Most Extensive On Record, Even With Temperatures At High Mark; Extent Exceeds 22 MILLION SQUARE KILOMETERS!

November snow cover extent in the Northern Hemisphere (Rutgers Global Snow Lab)

December 5, 2014 - NORTHERN HEMISPHERE
- In 49 years of records, more snow covered the Northern Hemisphere this fall than any other time. It is a very surprising result, especially when you consider temperatures have tracked warmest on record over the same period.

Data from Rutgers University Global Snow Lab show the fall Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent exceeded 22 million square kilometers, exceeding the previous greatest fall extent recorded in 1976.

Fall snow cover extent in the Northern Hemisphere, 1967 to 2014 (Rutgers Global Snow Lab)

New Jersey state climatologist David Robinson, who runs the snow lab, shared these additional snow cover statistics:
  • For the fall (September, October, and November), when Northern Hemisphere snow cover set a record:
    • North America had its most extensive snow cover on record
    • Eurasia had its third most extensive snow cover on record
  • In November:
    • North America had its most extensive snow cover on record
    • The Lower 48 had its most extensive snow cover on record (which is not surprising given the Arctic blast and snow events in the final two weeks)

November North American snow cover extent 1967-2014. (Rutgers Global Snow Lab)

The sprawling snows may seem counter-intuitive considering recent reports that September and October were the warmest months on record for the globe according to NOAA (and November the second warmest on record, according to satellite analysis from the University of Alabama-Huntsville).

However, the amount of snow does not necessarily correlate with temperature.  It simply needs to be near or below freezing for snow to fall.  Temperatures that average 1-2 degrees F above normal over the globe can still support snow in many places.  Furthermore, slightly warmer than normal temperatures increase atmospheric moisture content, elevating potential snow amounts where they occur.

A recent modeling study showed high latitude extreme snows could increase 10 percent by the end of the century under global warming scenarios.

Rather than temperature, the more important factor for snow cover is the jet stream circulation.  If and when the jet stream is able to transport cold air from the Arctic into the mid-latitudes, that opens the door for snow cover to build south. 

This fall, the jet stream took some notable southward excursions, spreading snow into places where it’s not always common. - Washington Post.

WATCH: December Starts with Blistering Cold & Snow in North America.