Friday ReadsPosted: October 17, 2014
I’m going to begin with some good news today.
It looks like the coming winter will be on the mild side. From Discovery News: Winter Forecast for US Nothing to Shiver About.
Don’t expect the polar vortex to pummel the eastern United States this winter, government scientists said today (Oct. 16).
Overall, forecasters expect mild winter conditions across much of the United States, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said as they issued their annual winter weather outlook.
While there’s always a chance that the polar jet stream will again funnel frigid Arctic air south toward the United States, nothing in the new forecast indicates a rerun of the persistent patterns responsible for the “polar vortex.” “We do not expect to see a repeat of last winter,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
Developing El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean will influence this year’s winter weather, with wet conditions forecast from Southern California to South Carolina, and dry conditions expected across the North. Temperatures will be warmer than average in the West and in New England, but colder in the South from Texas east to Florida, according to the forecast.
I hope they’re right!
Now for the latest Ebola news . . .
Why can’t Dallas hospital workers just stay home until they’re cleared? From The Washington Post: Texas hospital worker quarantined on cruise ship in Caribbean.
A Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has been isolated on board a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. The worker has shown no symptoms of the disease, according to Carnival, which said it is in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control. A Carnival spokeswoman said the guest, who was not named, will remain on board in voluntary isolation until the ship returns to its home port of Galveston on Sunday.
The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employee and a partner boarded the ship Oct. 12 in Galveston, Tex., before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the requirement for active monitoring, the State Department said in a statement. Although the worker is healthy, the U.S. government is working with the cruise line to get the ship back to America “out of an abundance of caution.”
The employee, who has not been named, did not come into direct contact with Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. However, he or she may have been exposed to his clinical specimens, the State Department said.
“It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed” Duncan’s fluid samples, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement early Friday morning. “The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin.”
Belize refused to allow the woman (gender identified by news release) to be leave the ship so she could be evacuated by the U.S.
In its own statement Thursday, the the Belize government said it “was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola….Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.”
Now that the horses are out of the barn, so to speak, officials in Texas have decided to close the barn doors. From USA Today: Travel Ban for Texas health care workers in Ebola case.
Texas health officials have ordered any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit groceries, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed.
The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States.
Duncan died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
The hospital workers were ordered to undergo monitoring twice a day, including one face-to-face encounter.
The health department said anyone failing to adhere to the rules “may be subject to a communicable disease control order.” The health workers were asked to sign a written acknowledgement of the directions when they appear for monitoring.
According to The Hill, the CDC has now decided it needs to talk to passengers who were on Amber Vinson’s flight from Dallas to Cleveland. Vinson is the second nurse to come down with Ebola after caring for Thomas Duncan, who died of the disease last week.
After reports that she may have shown symptoms on her flight back to Dallas, the CDC asked those passengers to contact the agency. But in a release Thursday night, the CDC expanded that notification to include passengers on Vinson’s flight to Cleveland. The agency said that it wants to interview passengers and that “individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.”
Ebola is contagious once an infected person starts exhibiting symptoms, so the CDC wants to keep tabs on anyone that could have come into contact with Vinson when those symptoms began. She traveled to Cleveland on Oct. 10 and returned on Oct. 13, the day before she reported her symptoms to the CDC.
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives decided to get involved in the Ebola crisis, and it wasn’t pretty. BloombergPolitics compiled The Five Worst Questions from the House Ebola Hearing. According to the article, Democrats are wrong to claim that lack of funding made the situation worse. Republicans obsessed over banning travel into the U.S. and “securing the borders.” But the most ludicrous question came from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).
Representative Morgan Griffith wanted to know if humans can catch Ebola from dogs, and Frieden said there were no known incidents. But still, the Virginia Republican wanted to know if we could stem the flow of West African dogs traveling into America.
“Don’t you think we ought to at least restrict travel of dogs?” he asked.
“Um,” Frieden replied. “We’ll follow up in terms of what’s possible.”
In addition, President Obama held an “emergency meeting” at the White House yesterday.
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola “czar” to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.
Obama’s administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday….
“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person” to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters, adding that experts have told him “a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go” because current screening measures at airports are working.
He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.
A final dose of stupid came from Sen. Rand Paul, who told an audience of college students that you could catch Ebola by standing three feet from someone who is infected.
His comments directly conflict with statements from world health authorities who have dealt with Ebola outbreaks since 1976.
Paul…made his comments during a stop at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire Wednesday. In his remarks, he called Ebola “incredibly contagious” and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic, according to CNN video footage….
“You’re not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That’s what they make it sound exactly like,” Paul, a doctor and potential presidential contender, said Thursday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone.”
World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus. Health workers are at particular risk because in the course of caring for patients, they draw blood and clean up diarrhea when the patients are most infectious. Likewise in the epidemic zone in West Africa, people involved with burials of highly infectious bodies are at high risk.
In other news . . .
Bill Clinton is heading down to Louisiana on Monday to stump for Mary Landrieu, according to Politico.
Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in Louisiana Monday with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, joining the endangered incumbent in the state capital of Baton Rouge.
Clinton, unlike President Barack Obama, can be an effective surrogate in the red Southern states where the Democratic majority hangs in the balance.
The visit, Clinton’s second for Landrieu this election cycle, comes a day before the start of early voting, which runs from October 21-28.
I’ve been hoping Bill would find time to come to Massachusetts to campaign for Martha Coakley for Governor, and what do you know? He blew through here yesterday! He spoke at Clark University in Worcester.
WORCESTER — Former President Bill Clinton told a capacity crowd at Clark University today that elections are just one big job interview.
Speaking in Worcester in support of Martha Coakley’s run for governor, Mr. Clinton said Ms. Coakley’s actions and advocacy as attorney general indicate how well she will perform once she completes that job interview.
“All you’ve got to do,” he told more than 800 people who waited in a line the length of the Main South campus in monsoon-like conditions to get into Atwood Hall, “is increase the number of employers who make the hiring decision.”
Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, and her running mate, Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster, are in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury. Mr. Clinton tried to convince the crowd they had the potential to make it a landslide.
“I don’t care what the polls say, she can win this race handily if you want it bad enough,” Mr. Clinton said.
Now we just need Hillary to show up.
How about a little economics news? It seems people in Europe are getting fed up with Angela Merkel’s austerity obsession, according to the NYT. I can’t excerpt from the piece, but here’s a report from The Local in Italy:
Italy and France on Thursday reacted to turmoil in global stock markets by stepping up their calls for the European Union to switch course to focus on growth, not on balancing budgets.
But their calls were once again batted away by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted the way out of the crisis was for all eurozone states to stick to agreed rules on the size of their deficits.
In the latest salvos in a simmering row that is set to come to head at a summit of EU leaders next week, Rome and Paris went on the offensive on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting in Milan.
“We in a very delicate moment in terms of the international economic and financial situation,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.
“Which is all the more reason for Europe to show itself capable of producing an economic response based on investment in growth and not only on rigour and austerity,” Renzi said.
He also said a “focus on growth” was recommended by the IMF – “and they don’t seem to be dangerous communists to me”.
According to UK Reuters, the U.S. has warned Europe about the possibility of deflation.
The United States on Wednesday renewed a warning that Europe risks falling into a downward spiral of falling wages and prices, saying recent actions by the European Central Bank may not be enough to ward off deflation.
In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department also said Berlin could do more to help Europe, namely by boosting demand in the German economy, Europe’s largest.
“Europe faces the risk of a prolonged period of substantially below-target inflation or outright deflation,” the Treasury said.
The Guardian today published a summary of Europe’s “five years of economic crisis.”
Finally, Janet Yellen has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the U.S. Reuters reports:
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the growth of economic inequality in the United States “greatly” concerned her, and suggested in a detailed speech on the politically charged issue that Americans should ask whether it was compatible with their values.
With global financial markets rebounding from days of frenzied selling, Yellen did not comment on the volatility or on monetary policy. Instead she focused on the gulf between rich and poor that has only grown wider over the last several decades and, she said, through the U.S. economic recovery.
“The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Yellen told a conference on inequality at the Boston branch of the central bank.
“It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she told economists, professors and community workers.
“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”
Good for Yellen. Now let’s see some action beyond the words.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!