Archive for the 'Science' Category

Truth and Consequences

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

VDH:

Do bothersome facts matter anymore? Not really. This is an age when Americans were assured that the Affordable Care Act lowered our premiums. It…allowed us to keep our doctors and health plans, and lowered the deficit. Those fantasies were both demonstrably untrue and did not matter, given the supposedly noble aims of health care reform. The Islamic State is at times dubbed jayvee, a manageable problem, and a dangerous enemy — or anything the administration wishes it to be, depending on the political climate of any given week.

Some days Americans are told there is no reason to restrict connecting flights from Ebola-ravaged countries. Then, suddenly, entry from those countries is curtailed to five designated U.S. airports. Quarantines are both necessary and not so critical, as the administration weighs public concern versus politically correct worries over isolating a Third World African country. Ebola is so hard to catch that there is no reason to worry about causal exposures to those without clear symptoms. But then why do health authorities still try to hunt down anyone who had even a brief encounter with supposedly asymptomatic carriers?

The deaths of four Americans in Benghazi were caused by a video that sparked a riot, and then apparently not. Various narratives about corruption and incompetence at the VA, IRS, NSA, GSA and Secret Service are raised and then dropped. The larger truth is that these scandals must be quarantined from infecting the president’s progressive agenda…The Tawana Brawley case, the Duke men’s lacrosse team accusations, and the O. J. Simpson verdict were constructed fantasies. No one cared much about the inconvenient facts or the lies that destroyed people’s lives — given that myths were deemed useful facts for achieving larger racial justice.

It no longer really matters much what the grand jury will find in the Michael Brown fatal-shooting case. Whether he had just robbed a store, was high on drugs, was walking down the middle of the road and prompted a violent confrontation with a police officer, or whether the officer was the aggressor in the confrontation, these have become mere competing narratives. The facts pale in comparison with the higher truth that Brown was black and unarmed, while Officer Darren Wilson white and armed. The latter scenario is all that matters.

Language is useful for inventing new realities. “Illegal alien” is a time-tested noun denoting foreign citizens who crossed a national border contrary to law. “Undocumented immigrant” is now used to diminish the bothersome fact that millions have broken and continue to break the law. To play down the dangers of radical Islam, an entire array of circumlocutions — “workplace violence” (in the case of the Fort Hood shooting) “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters” — were the euphemisms evoked by members of the Obama administration to construct an alternate reality in which radical jihadists are no more dangerous than disgruntled office workers or gale-force winds.

Many of the current campus poster icons are abject myths. Che Guevara, for all his hipster appearance, was no revolutionary hero, but a murderer who enjoyed personally executing his political opponents. Communist leader Angela Davis was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the totalitarian Soviet Union.

We keep wondering how much energy it takes to live in this fantasy world where made-up things are real enough as long as they are politically useful. Can it be that these people believe the things they say at the moment they say them, or they just don’t care?

Bonus fun: let’s ban argon! What a world, what a government…

What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

WSJ:

The administration and Iran, engaged in direct nuclear negotiations and facing a common threat from Islamic State militants, have moved into an effective state of détente over the past year, according to senior U.S. and Arab officials.

The shift could drastically alter the balance of power in the region, and risks alienating key U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates who are central to the coalition fighting Islamic State. Sunni Arab leaders view the threat posed by Shiite Iran as equal to or greater than that posed by the Sunni radical group Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Israel contends the U.S. has weakened the terms of its negotiations with Iran and played down Tehran’s destabilizing role in the region.

Over the past decade, Washington and Tehran have engaged in fierce battles for influence and power in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan…But recent months have ushered in a change as the two countries have grown into alignment on a spectrum of causes, chief among them promoting peaceful political transitions in Baghdad and Kabul and pursuing military operations against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to these officials.

The administration also has markedly softened its confrontational stance toward Iran’s most important nonstate allies, the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Lebanese militant and political organization, Hezbollah. American diplomats, including Secretary of State John Kerry , negotiated with Hamas leaders through Turkish and Qatari intermediaries during cease-fire talks in July that were aimed at ending the Palestinian group’s rocket attacks on Israel, according to senior U.S. officials. U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly tipped off Lebanese law-enforcement bodies close to Hezbollah about threats

Progress in getting close to the Supreme Leader! What could possibly go wrong?

Smile, you’re on Candid Camera

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Well, Sharyl Attkisson, whom we mentioned the other day, certainly is not smiling for Candid Camera, though Candid Camera might be less fitting a description than some other instruments. In case you’re still in a good mood, we bring you Ralph Peters and Robert Lopez. What a world!

A poor climateer, barely kept his family dead

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

A PJ review of Steyn’s book led to this humorous bit about a Mann fighting an Amazon, and then to this. Puh-leeze!!!

Mission creep

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Richard Preston on Patient Zero and beyond:

After Ebola infected the boy, it went from him to his mother, who died, to his three-year-old sister, who died, and to their grandmother, who died, and then it left the village and began moving through the human population of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Since there is no vaccine against or cure for the disease caused by Ebola virus, the only way to stop it is to break the chains of infection. Health workers must identify people who are infected and isolate them, then monitor everybody with whom those people have come in contact, to make sure the virus doesn’t jump to somebody else and start a new chain. Doctors and other health workers in West Africa have lost track of the chains. Too many people are sick, and more than two hundred medical workers have died. Health authorities in Europe and the United States seem equipped to prevent Ebola from starting uncontrolled chains of infection in those regions, but they worry about what could happen if Ebola got into a city like Lagos, in Nigeria, or Kolkata, in India. The number of people who are currently sick with Ebola is unknown, but almost nine thousand cases, including forty-five hundred deaths, have been reported so far, with the number of cases doubling about every three weeks. The virus seems to have gone far beyond the threshold of outbreak and ignited an epidemic.

The virus is extremely infectious. Experiments suggest that if one particle of Ebola enters a person’s bloodstream it can cause a fatal infection. This may explain why many of the medical workers who came down with Ebola couldn’t remember making any mistakes that might have exposed them. One common route of entry is thought to be the wet membrane on the inner surface of the eyelid, which a person might touch with a contaminated fingertip. The virus is believed to be transmitted, in particular, through contact with sweat and blood, which contain high concentrations of Ebola particles. People with Ebola sweat profusely, and in some instances they have internal hemorrhages, along with effusions of vomit and diarrhea containing blood.

Despite its ferocity in humans, Ebola is a life-form of mysterious simplicity. A particle of Ebola is made of only six structural proteins, locked together to become an object that resembles a strand of cooked spaghetti. An Ebola particle is only around eighty nanometres wide and a thousand nanometres long. If it were the size of a piece of spaghetti, then a human hair would be about twelve feet in diameter and would resemble the trunk of a giant redwood tree.

Once an Ebola particle enters the bloodstream, it drifts until it sticks to a cell. The particle is pulled inside the cell, where it takes control of the cell’s machinery and causes the cell to start making copies of it. Most viruses use the cells of specific tissues to copy themselves. For example, many cold viruses replicate in the sinuses and the throat. Ebola attacks many of the tissues of the body at once, except for the skeletal muscles and the bones. It has a special affinity for the cells lining the blood vessels, particularly in the liver. After about eighteen hours, the infected cell is releasing thousands of new Ebola particles, which sprout from the cell in threads, until the cell has the appearance of a ball of tangled yarn. The particles detach and are carried through the bloodstream, and begin attaching themselves to more cells, everywhere in the body. The infected cells begin spewing out vast numbers of Ebola particles, which infect more cells, until the virus reaches a crescendo of amplification. The infected cells die, which leads to the destruction of tissues throughout the body. This may account for the extreme pain that Ebola victims experience. Multiple organs fail, and the patient goes into a sudden, steep decline that ends in death. In a fatal case, a droplet of blood the size of the “o” in this text could easily contain a hundred million particles of Ebola virus.

Inside each Ebola particle is a tube made of coiled proteins, which runs the length of the particle, like an inner sleeve. Viewed with an electron microscope, the sleeve has a knurled look. Like the rest of the particle, the sleeve has been shaped by the forces of natural selection working over long stretches of time. Ebola is a filovirus, and filoviruses appear to have been around in some form for millions of years. Within the inner sleeve of an Ebola particle, invisible even to a powerful microscope, is a strand of RNA, the molecule that contains the virus’s genetic code, or genome. The code is contained in nucleotide bases, or letters, of the RNA. These letters, ordered in their proper sequence, make up the complete set of instructions that enables the virus to make copies of itself. A sample of the Ebola now raging in West Africa has, by recent count, 18,959 letters of code in its genome; this is a small genome, by the measure of living things. Viruses like Ebola, which use RNA for their genetic code, are prone to making errors in the code as they multiply; these are called mutations. Right now, the virus’s code is changing. As Ebola enters a deepening relationship with the human species, the question of how it is mutating has significance for every person on earth.

Roger Simon on the latest fun. (Hey, how about getting serious? Answer: yawn)

Both the watchers and the watchees know nothing

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

NYT:

Amid Assurances on Ebola, He Is Said to Seethe…Beneath the calming reassurance that he has repeatedly offered during the Ebola crisis, there is a deepening frustration, even anger, with how the government has handled key elements of the response. Those frustrations spilled over when he convened his top aides in the Cabinet room after canceling his schedule on Wednesday. Medical officials were providing information that later turned out to be wrong. Guidance to local health teams was not adequate. It was unclear which Ebola patients belonged in which threat categories.

“It’s not tight,” a visibly angry man said of the response, according to people briefed on the meeting. He told aides they needed to get ahead of events and demanded a more hands-on approach, particularly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “He was not satisfied with the response,” a senior official said.

The difference between the public and private messages illustrates the dilemma he faces on Ebola — and a range of other national security issues — as he tries to galvanize the response to a public health scare while not adding to the sense of panic fueled by 24-hour cable TV and the nonstop Twitter chatter.

On Friday, he took a step to both fix that response and reassure the public, naming Ron Klain, a former aide, to coordinate the government’s efforts on Ebola. The appointment followed his statement Thursday that the job was necessary “just to make sure that we are crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s going forward.”

“Part of the challenge is to be assertive, to be in command, and yet not feed a kind of panic that could easily evolve here,” said David, a close adviser in his first term. “It’s not enough to doggedly and persistently push for answers in meetings. You have to be seen doggedly and persistently pushing for answers.”

For two turbulent weeks, officials have sought to balance those imperatives: insisting the dangers to the American public were being overstated in the news media, while also moving quickly to increase the president’s demonstration of action.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and its arrival in the United States, is the latest in a cascade of crises that have stretched his national security staff thin. As the people scrambled to stop the spread of Ebola beyond a handful of cases, officials were also grappling with an escalating military campaign against the Islamic State, the specter of a new Cold War with Russia over Ukraine, and the virtual disintegration of Yemen, which has been a seedbed for Al Qaeda.

Senior officials said they pushed him to name an Ebola coordinator as a way of easing pressure on the staff at the National Security Council.

At the meeting on Wednesday, officials said, he placed much of the blame on the C.D.C., which provided shifting information about which threat category patients were in, and did not adequately train doctors and nurses at hospitals with Ebola cases on the proper protective procedures.

On Thursday night, in televised remarks, he sought to reassure the public about the dangers from Ebola. But the sense of crisis that emanated from headquarters was in sharp contrast to Sept. 30, when Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who had traveled to Dallas, tested positive for Ebola. He received a telephone briefing from Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the C.D.C., after which they issued a sanguine statement that concluded: “We have the infrastructure in place to respond safely and effectively.”

In the days that followed, he carried on as usual while his aides gamely added Ebola to their bulging portfolios. On Oct. 1, he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and later had dinner with friends at the RPM Steakhouse in Chicago, where he had traveled for fund-raisers and to deliver an economic speech.

By early October, as questions about the Dallas hospital’s treatment of Mr. Duncan mounted, federal officials began reassessing their response, even as they continued to express confidence.

C.D.C. officials publicly dismissed the effectiveness of screening for Ebola at airports in the United States. But the secretary of Homeland Security, found a way to make it work over the weekend of Oct. 4. He announced the screening protocol the following Monday.

Even after Mr. Duncan’s death on Oct. 8, officials betrayed little sense of a change in approach. He traveled to California for campaign fund-raising and on his return to Washington, received a briefing from his secretary of health and human services about the announcement that a nurse who treated Mr. Duncan had contracted Ebola.

The business-as-usual sentiment at headquarters changed abruptly, officials said, when it got word early Wednesday that a second nurse in Dallas contracted the disease. The fact that she had traveled on a Frontier Airlines flight despite having a fever added to the concern, officials said.

“This Frontier thing took it out of the abstract thing and to this level where people could identify with and made them scared,” a senior official said. Within hours, aides canceled a planned trip by him to Connecticut and New Jersey. Hours later, Thursday’s trip to Rhode Island and New York City was also scrubbed.

This piece definitively demonstrates that both the watchers and the watchees know nothing. The senior of the 2 NYT reporters has been to a lot of countries but he and his colleague have never done anything in their lives other than observing people who do things. We’re reminded of Hilton Kramer’s critique.

As for the watchees, that’s really scary. Putting ideology aside, we have idiots running things. Any executive would begin analysis of Ebola with (a) lethality; (b) incubation period; (c) ease of transmission; (d) mutability of virus; (d) current track record of containment. From there he’d get to implementing action items at Warp Speed: (1) making drugs that cure it; (2) making vaccines that prevent it; (3) emulating containment strategies that have proven successful.

In the NYT piece above the executives apparently are not consumed with the blindingly obvious action items we outlined, indeed they don’t seem to be thinking about them at all. And the reporters covering all this don’t even know enough to ask relevant questions. Recipe for disaster.

The appearance of action versus action

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

This is the appearance of action, something for the cameras that has no intrinsic merit, indeed many risks for nothing. This would be real action, but it apparently cuts so deeply against the administration’s culture of micro-control of actions and narratives that it’s literally unthinkable to them. BTW, we know we may be overreacting to the Ebola problem, but so what? There’s little cost to that versus the opposite.

Overreactions versus Underreactions to Ebola

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Underreaction has come from the political side and its timid colleagues at CDC and NIH. The young JV team at work no doubt. Arguably some overreaction has come from the army and the marines. You know which side we’re firmly on. However, we’re puzzled with the underreactors, since it’s such a horrible PR strategy to always have to issue corrections every few days. Very puzzling indeed.

It turns out there is a public sector CEO of sorts

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Several sources:

Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)…“I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover,” Lurie said…

“Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.”

So where is she? MH answers. BTW, WHO is backing away from happy talk.

If all this doesn’t pick up your mood, there’s Steyn, Lasky, and VDH. Will the last adult to leave please turn out the lights — oops, too late!!

For want of a nail

Monday, October 13th, 2014

NIH:

much of the focus has been on an experimental cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies known as ZMapp. But the current stockpile is not nearly great enough. Collins, a touch exasperated, said it would be all but impossible to have significant doses available by the end of the calendar year — with a lack of funding once again playing a disruptive role. “Had it not been for other shortages, we might very well by now know that it works and have a large stock of it,” he said.

Exasperated? Exasperated? The NIH director seems like a nice enough fellow, but the ZMapp Manhattan Project needs a CEO, not an academic.

Bonus fun: the CDC and NIH seem to have money for other critical priorities.

E-BOLO

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

CBS:

The CDC confirms the patient with the newest case of Ebola was not among the 48 individuals being monitored by the CDC twice daily because she came into contact with Duncan after he was admitted to the hospital and placed in isolation. The patient was considered to be low-risk

CDC: remain calm. All is well. Our guess is that they don’t believe this for a moment; rather, it’s the only thing they can say in the absence of an actual game plan to kill the bug dead.

Comparing Ebola with Smallpox and Bubonic Plague — the US needs ASAP to appoint a global CEO and team whose sole mission is to kill this bug dead

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Six or seven billion people on the planet is evidence enough that diseases and infections that are both highly lethal and highly contagious are extremely rare. But they do happen.

Smallpox kills a third of the people who get it, but fortunately is most contagious only after the onset of the rash, so it’s potentially somewhat avoidable. The incubation period is 12 days or so. The last naturally occurring case was almost 40 years ago. For safety’s sake, the US keeps enough vaccine around to inoculate the entire population at $3 a pop.

Plague killed about 2/3 of the people who got it, and wiped out about half the population of Europe in the 14th century. It is transmitted by infected fleas and kills most of its victims within 4 days. It is treatable by that old standby Streptomycin and many other prescription drugs that are plentiful and broadly available.

Ebola kills as many as 88% of people who get it, and has an incredibly long incubation period, up to 3 weeks. Its combination of lethality and time-to-severe-symptoms make it potentially deadlier than smallpox and bubonic plague. And yet the US government is fooling around with airport interviews and drug development programs that might generate 100 treatments a month, even though the CDC itself estimates 1.4 million cases in just 2 countries by next year.

The need for private sector leadership on this is obvious, with funding by the government. The potential threat is unprecedented. Put Ben Carson or Bill Gates or ourselves in charge and get out of the way. Yet there is little to no US leadership on this. The really odd thing is that the crew in Washington is obsessed with creating good PR by any means necessary, yet is MIA on this, and in an election season to boot! Announcing and implementing the Ebola Manhattan Project could be just what the doctor ordered for November 4. Yet all we hear is the chirping of crickets.

We need a ZMapp Manhattan Project at Warp Speed

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Bloomberg discusses ZMapp, which, along with related treatments, needs to be produced in the millions of doses, not 100:

Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which has nine employees, released its experimental ZMapp drug, until now only tested on infected animals, for the two health workers…The two scientists behind Mapp, President Larry Zeitlin and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Whaley, “are both brilliant,” said Charles Arntzen, a plant biotechnology expert at Arizona State University who collaborated with the two researchers years ago. “They are very, very bright guys and free spirits”…

Mapp’s drug is being developed with Toronto-based Defyrus Inc., which has six employees, according to Defyrus CEO Jeff Turner. ZMapp is a “cocktail” of monoclonal antibodies that help the immune system attack the virus…Kentucky BioProcessing LLC, a subsidiary of tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), manufactures the treatment for Mapp from tobacco plants…

The tobacco plant production system was developed because it was a method that could produce antibodies rapidly in the event of an emergency, he said. To produce therapeutic proteins inside a tobacco plant, genes for the desired antibodies are fused to genes for a natural tobacco virus, said Arntzen. The tobacco plants are then infected with this new artificial virus, he said. “The infection results in the production of antibodies inside the plant,” Arntzen said. The plant is eventually ground up and the antibody is extracted, he said. The whole process takes a matter of weeks.

We have no idea if ZMapp is the best treatment for ebola, but we know it worked in several cases. We also know that the San Diego and Toronto companies total 15 employees between them. This is real and real-time, not silly fantasies like Solyndra. We need a ZMapp Manhattan Project at Warp Speed to avoid a potential disaster by relying on containment luck.

ZMapp and Ebola vaccine updates

Friday, October 10th, 2014

TIME on ZMapp:

The doses administered to the U.S. aid workers exhausted a nearly nonexistent supply, according to its manufacturer, Mapp Biopharmaceuticals. But that’s not because it takes a long time to manufacture the antibodies that make up the ZMapp cocktail. ZMapp is taking longer to produce in large quantities because one of the three antibodies in the cocktail doesn’t grow well in the plants — which is how ZMapp is produced.

The process involves growing tobacco plants, not in the acres of fields earmarked by tobacco companies for their cigarettes, but in a controlled environment in a greenhouse, for six weeks. Then, the leaves of the plants are injected or infused with a plant bacterium that carries a valuable payload — the genes for the antibodies that can bind to and neutralize the Ebola virus. The plant cells treat the new genes as one of their own, and start making the antibody. It takes about 14g of these antibodies to treat a patient, says Yuri Gleba, CEO of Icon Genetics, the German company that pioneered the platform, and to produce that much requires around 78 tobacco plants and about seven to 10 days.

A team led by Gleba is helping Mapp Biopharmaceuticals to optimize that production and to make the entire process more efficient so it requires fewer plants. “If everything is properly optimized, those plants can be full of that antibody,” he says. (Mapp officials declined to comment for this article on the status of their ZMapp production.)

Why plants? The time it takes to grow a plant is less time than it takes to genetically engineer a mouse or other rodent to produce human antibodies, which is how such products have been made in the past. It’s also less expensive. Plant-based manufacturing represents a promising new way of producing drugs that could cut the time it takes to bring critical medications, such as a flu vaccine during a pandemic, to a large number of people. Researchers have used the technology to develop a vaccine against norovirus, the infection that plagues cruise ships, for example, that is being tested now.

Dozens (hundreds???) of parallel teams in several countries would seem to make urgent sense. More tobacco, more greenhouses, more of everything. US, UK, China, Switzerland, France, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Japan, etc. And this, from GSK: “a vaccine regimen produced ‘durable immunity’ against Ebola, protecting four out of four monkeys for 10 months.” That’s nice but where’s the follow up?

The US has a leadership team that speaks nonstop about the “global community” — mostly in situations where the phrase is nonsensical. Here, it is not, but curiously the usual rhetoric seems to be missing. Question: who serves as CEO of the “global community” on Ebola, where is he, and what is he doing now to coordinate and run this nexus of life-or-death responders? (As would be typical of our DC clown carnival, we suspect that the CEO position is vacant, though the position of bloviator has been filled.)

If you like your death spiral, you can keep your death spiral

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

DOD:

“By the end of the year, there’s supposed to be 1.4 million people infected with Ebola and 62 percent of them dying, according to the CDC,” Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly said. “That’s horrific. And there is no way we can keep Ebola in West Africa.” If it comes to the Western Hemisphere, many countries have little ability to deal with an outbreak of the disease, the general said. “So, much like West Africa, it will rage for a period of time,” Kelly said.

This is a particularly possible scenario if the disease gets to Haiti or Central America, he said. If the disease gets to countries like Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, it will cause a panic and people will flee the region, the general said. “If it breaks out, it’s literally, ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment”…

Kelly spoke of visiting the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua with U.S. embassy personnel. At that time, a group of men “were waiting in line to pass into Nicaragua and then on their way north,” he recalled. “The embassy person walked over and asked who they were and they told him they were from Liberia and they had been on the road about a week,” Kelly continued. “They met up with the network in Trinidad and now they were on their way to the United States — illegally, of course.” Those men, he said, “could have made it to New York City and still be within the incubation period for Ebola.”

This is a matter of the utmost seriousness, and it is being handled in an idiotic manner. We’ve made it clear what needs to be done, and it’s not being done. This is not one of those occasions where you hang around, with a tell-all book to follow. If Kelly thinks what is necessary is not being done, he should resign loudly and publicly and bring along some other adults with him.

Horrible miscellany

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Roger Simon, Thomas Sowell, VDH of course, today’s Ebola news; and finally, did you know ISIS publishes a magazine?

A “pandemic” is not 10, 20, 40 or 100 cases per month

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

NYT:

ZMapp, which is actually a cocktail of three different antibodies, is being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, a tiny San Diego company, with funding from the United States and Canadian governments. The doses used to treat the American aid workers were produced in tobacco leaves at a facility in Owensboro, Ky., that is owned by Reynolds American, the tobacco company. That facility has now resumed production, but the federal official said it was expected to produce only about 10 to 20 treatment courses by the end of the year, and the same amount every month going forward.

So the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, is considering additional production from Caliber, which is based in Bryan, Tex., and co-operates on projects with Texas A&M University. Caliber also produces proteins, including antibodies, in hydroponically grown tobacco plants but has a larger production capacity than the Kentucky facility.

No official contract has been signed, so plans could still change. But federal officials have visited Caliber regularly. “They are actively engaged, pretty much on a daily basis, working with Caliber and A&M,” Dr. Brett P. Giroir, the chief executive of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, said Wednesday. Executives at Caliber and Mapp declined to comment for this article.

Both Caliber and the Kentucky facility sprang from a project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was looking for a way to quickly produce vaccines or therapeutic proteins in the event of an emergency like a flu pandemic.

Now these facilities are likely to get their first big test. “It’s not been tested, live-fire,” the federal official said. “And now we’re doing it.” The system involves infecting tobacco with a genetically engineered virus that contains the instructions to make the antibody. “Every time the virus tries to replicate, it spins out a copy of a monoclonal antibody,” said Charles J. Arntzen, a professor at Arizona State University who has long worked on such systems. The leaves are ground up to extract the antibody.

The federal official said that Caliber and other facilities that will be brought on line could produce 40 to 100 treatment courses per month.

So “Caliber and the Kentucky facility sprang from a project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was looking for a way to quickly produce vaccines or therapeutic proteins in the event of an emergency like a flu pandemic.” So even DARPA is part of the clown carnival now?

What on earth is wrong with these people in government bureaucracies? The goal is a maximum of 100 treatments a month for a virus that has killed as many as 88% of those who get it and has an incubation period as long as 3 weeks? This effort needs a real CEO and a lot of money and manpower — fast. As we said: Manhattan Project at Warp Speed, nothing less will do.

Reporting in these times

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Washington Post:

Some West Africans believe that the day you die is one of the most important days of your life.

Amazingly, the average age of the reporters seems to be well above 25. Also, check out this NYT piece which could have come straight out of the scene with the mayor in Ghostbusters.

All is well

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

CNN:

Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen said when she and two colleagues recently returned from reporting in Liberia, they got a mixed bag of responses from Customs and Border Protection officers. “We all said we were journalists who had just been in Liberia covering Ebola,” Cohen said. “One of my colleagues was told, ‘Oh, OK, welcome back home, sir’ — and (was) just let in — that was it.” Cohen herself got a different response. “I was told, ‘Wait a minute, I think I got an email about this,’ and the border patrol officer went and consulted with his colleagues,” Cohen said. That officer later told her she should check her system for 21 days. “I said, ‘What should I be checking?’ And he wasn’t sure,” Cohen said. The third colleague merely had his boots checked to see if there was mud on them.

HT: AT

Duncan just “walked out” on September 4 and walked into a US without ZMapp

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

This Liberian Observer piece once again suggests that Mr. Duncan suspected he was exposed to Ebola a couple of weeks before flying to Dallas through several airports on several airlines:

About Duncan being aware of his medical condition before he left Liberia, his former boss, Mr. Henry Brunson, 60, manager of SafeWay Cargo, a licensed agent of FedEx, agreed that Duncan knew that he was infected with the virus, having directly participated in efforts to help save the life of his landlord’s daughter, who was pregnant. Mr. Brunson said Duncan was his “personal chauffeur” before he (Duncan) just “walked out” on September 4, and never saw nor heard from him again until it was reported that he had been diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the US. He stated that while he is sorry that Duncan might have passed the virus to others over the last few days, he, however, said he is glad that Duncan is in the US where he would get the best treatment to survive. “If he were in Liberia, he was going to surely die,” Mr. Brunson added sadly.

Duncan’s landlord’s daughter, Ms. Nathaline (earlier reported as Marthaline) Williams, 19, was seven months pregnant when she died of Ebola on September 16, having been rejected at three major hospitals in and around Monrovia, including JFK Memorial Hospital, ELWA Hospital and Benson Hospital. She was also rejected at Fredai Clinic at Police Academy Junction.

According to Duncan’s 72nd residence neighbors and Mr. Jiminez Grugbaye, taxi driver, who drove Duncan, Nathaline and her parents to all these health facilities, Duncan helped carried Nathaline when they got back home at midnight after she had been rejected at all those health facilities. “He was holding her hands; her brother held her from her back while her father held her feet as they carried her from the taxi to their apartment where she died,” 31-year-old Irene Seyou, who lives next door to Mr. Duncan’s apartment in the same building, told the Daily Observer.

Our Health Correspondent was told that Nathaline’s brother and an aunt of hers died few days ago, too, of Ebola. Her father and mother are now being isolated in the Ebola treatment unit.

Meanwhile, Grugbaye, the taxi driver, who looks healthy at the moment, said after they had been rejected at all of those health facilities, knew that something wasn’t right about his sick passenger’s illness. “When I got home, I chlorinated my entire vehicle. I repeated it the next day before I got back in the traffic,” he stated. He told the Daily Observer that he felt feverish on Wednesday and visited a “German Clinic”, where he was treated and discharged few hours later the same day. He, however, said he is willing to be placed under quarantine by health officials.

Typical entry in the comments section: “If I was in the position of Mr. Duncan, I would done the same because our leaders have fail us in this country.”

This situation is far more serious than our current deeply dishonest and corrupt government lets on. (We pointed to an outstanding Jonah Goldberg piece the other day that describes the alternate reality they live in.) The truth, as evidenced by the case of Mr. Duncan, is that the US, the states, the CDC, etc., have no effective means of stemming the tide of Ebola, and that those infected with the disease have every incentive to get to the USA, which is what Duncan did.

Alas, those fleeing to the United States are fleeing to a country that, as of this moment, is only a dream. In the good ol’ USA of yore, we’d be doing a ZMapp Manhattan Project at Warp Speed. In the US of today, what you get is theater, and really really stupid theater at that. God save us!!!