Monday, November 03, 2014



All right, after a light schedule during post season baseball, Scission returns with a Theoretical Monday that is questionable as to whether or not it qualifies as such.

Have you noticed that since the original panic in the USA that Ebola was going to suddenly erupt here in full force  has subsided somewhat so has the media coverage?  Interesting.  What has really fallen by the wayside is any real coverage of the epidemic which continues in West Africa.  The media and the American people in general seem intent on returning to what they consider the state of normalcy - Africans die in Africa, so what.  Ugh.

For months one of the things I have been trying to drive home is that the plague of Ebola in Africa is really also the scourge of global capital.  Finally, a few others are also taking up the "cause."  Not many, mind you, but a few every now and then.  I find it oddly disheartening though that many on the left who do so, do so with their own particular agenda in mind.  

Whatever, maybe I am just paranoid.  Something is better than nothing.  

Back in 2012, though, the authors of a review of Ebola outbreaks in Africa concluded, according to Mongabay that,

...extensive deforestation and human activities in the depth of the forests may promote contact between humans and natural reservoirs of the Ebola virus. 

I think a bunch of us had already concluded that as obvious, but it was nice that someone picked up on it.

Deforestation and the kind of industrial farming which has become a hallmark of global capital cannot help but be identified as a contributing, a big contributing, factor in the current Ebola outbreak.  As Food Poisoning Bulletin writes:

 The global palm oil industry has been deep-cutting into forests; this helps spread pathogens by opening areas formerly untouched to human exploration. And land grabs force animals out of forests where they come into more frequent contact with humans...These changes lead to something called an Allee effect, which occurs when changes in one part of the ecology cause populations in equilibrium to shift, increasing the chances that diseases affecting those populations will spill over to other animals and to people. Other diseases such as Dengue Fever have spread through deforestation, which forced animals out of their natural habitat. The virus then quickly adapted to secondary hosts and made the jump to humans.

Throw into the mix the wreck that is known as the health care system (a system destined for disaster by a history of colonialism, imperialism, and more) in Western Africa, and well, golly gee, what do you get, you think?

The wars, the violence which have caused such havoc in the countries now most effected by Ebola, of course, also a result largely of the agenda of global capital, have all but destroyed the infrastructure which might have helped prevent the rapid spread of the Ebola virus.  Least, anyone forget, August H. Nimtz, a professor of political science and African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota, wishes to remind us this is something not left in the past:

In recent decades, in the name of fighting wasteful government spending and corruption, international lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund have demanded as a condition for getting new funding African governments must reduce their spending. African elites have willingly agreed to do so with resulting cuts in healthcare and education—helping to create the perfect storm for the Ebola virus. 

Meanwhile, and perhaps to repeat myself, this epidemic was helped along its way by the paths opened by logging and extractive industries like bauxite mining, which have deforested large swathes of the region.  Henrietta l. Moore writes:

This massacre of the natural environment has reduced biodiversity and pushed the remaining fauna into closer contact with humans. So the fruit bats forced out of former rainforest are now seeking food from human settlements – and becoming food themselves, with the disastrous consequences we are now seeing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is thought that Ebola is “introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals…”

And we already know that the risk doesn’t only come from so-called “bushmeat” – intensive animal husbandry and battery farming can produce the same results, as we have seen with the avian and swine flus of recent years.

These diseases not only kill people, they also devastate the productive bases of economies. The World Bank has already estimated that the economic cost of Ebola to the countries of west Africa could be as high as $32.6bn (£20.2bn) by the end of 2015. But for fragile economies already teetering on the brink, this represents an incalculable human catastrophe.

We have to face up to the fact that as we are making increasing demands on habitats and exploiting animals more intensively for foodstuffs, the risk of zoonotic infections will increase....

...The fact that the global north is only now responding in earnest serves only to highlight the general indifference with which it regards the spread of infectious diseases in Africa. In fact, however, we have a lot to learn from those countries – the DRC, Nigeria and Senegal – which have already succeeded in containing the virus, despite their limited healthcare and sanitary infrastructure.

But now should also be a time for some soul-searching. If we choose to acknowledge it, we can discern that Ebola and diseases like it are the product of a global economic model that is destructive and exploitative to the point of creating serious risks to human health – from possible pandemics, but also the ongoing effects of man-made climate change.

Again, Ebola – like HIV, anthrax, SARSavian flu and other pandemics of recent years – is a zoonotic virus, one that has crossed from animals to humans. Thus, many turn their eyes to the poor fruit bat.  Come on, world, we're going to blame our problems on a bunch of bats.  I like the way DeeAnn Reeder, a bat researcher at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania puts it,

Bats get a bad rap. Really, the problem is not so much with the bats -- they've had these viruses for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years. Everything was fine until we started cutting down forests and encroaching on their habitats.

Seriously a bat researcher gets it, so how come CNN does not. Evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace does though:

...what's happened in the last 30 years has been a fundamental shift in that kind of forestry. And we see increasingly, in the whole entire region, increasing commoditization of the crops that are being grown there. So Liberia, for instance, since World War II, has established a kind of open-door policy by which multinationals can come in and conduct mining and logging and agroindustrial cropping...Liberia is in essence--has turned into something of a land rush for multinationals. About a third of the country's land surface is dedicated to being leased or owned by multinationals. Another 15 percent is to be given to these companies. So, I mean, we're talking about nearly 50 percent of the country has been given way to multinationals for resource production. I mean, you can imagine if the United States [incompr.] given to companies from elsewhere. And it's all being cut down. The forest is being deforested. The mines are being opened. The land has been dedicated to growing monocrop, monocultural crops. And that has a fundamental effect on the ecology of the region. And, indeed, pathogens are part of that ecology. Guinea, in which ostensibly the first outbreak occurred, has only recently joined that kind of--or participated in that kind of land use. So while you had the traditional agroforestry happening in the Guinea Forest, within the last few years it's been opened up to more of an industrial production.

Back to bats, Wallace adds:

Well, the scientists have pretty much concluded that there are three bat species that are in all likelihood the reservoir of Ebola. And those species, their host range extend from deep in the Congo all the way as far west as Guinea and Liberia. Those countries represent kind of the western edge of these bats' traditional habitat. And so they have been traveling in the forest for thousands of years, and they in all likelihood have had situations, just probably even circumstances, in which Ebola has spilled over from these bats into other animals, including gorillas and chimps [inaud.]

 But what happens when you cut into the forest: it puts the bats on notice that they'd better change their mind about where to get their food. And bats aren't stupid. Even if you cut down the forest, they're not going to curl up and die. They're very smart, and they make a decision to go where the food is being grown. And that food, of course, is the crops that we raise. And so they have a particular affinity for some crops over others. And I think the example that we give is that of oil palm.

And oil palm, the bats love it. It provides them protection. It provides them the fruit that they can eat. It provides them with wide spaces between the trees that permit them to fly from their roosting sites to their foraging areas. And so, in essence, these bats are attracted to oil palm. And as the forest is cut down to grow more and more oil palm, that increases the interface between bats that are reservoirs for Ebola and the humans that are harvesting the oil palm.

I got to tell you, this fellow Wallace is on to something.

So it's not merely a matter of deforestation by the local villagers. There's a broader economic context that is changing the way the forest is being expropriated and used. And that, in turn, changed the way the local agroecology and the way the various animals and humans are interacting with each other. So it in essence weakened the notion that neoliberalism is as much a part of the story or in fact may be a much more important part of the story than any local culinary practices.

Neoliberalism, as many of your listeners may know, is in essence capitalism with the gloves off. It means reducing the barriers for foreign companies to come in and engage in local trade and production, removes tariffs on those companies. It moves subsidies that local farm cooperatives are given. It basically opens up local farmers to the onslaught of global competition. In addition to that, it reduces the investment by way of structural adjustment, the investment in public health and in animal health. So you have a mechanism by which the forest is increasingly exploited, the foods that are produced are actually produced for export economy, and the locals, who had previously been able to feed themselves and engage in full employment, are thrown out of work, and that puts the pressure on them to find food for their families, which includes, increasingly, hunting animals in the forest.

...And it's my viewpoint that many public health researchers are in a position to receive the benefits of not talking about this work, this possibility. I mean, in essence we're directing our attention to the prime directives around which civilization currently is organized. If indeed the entire world is engaged in this kind of neoliberal globalization, to put the onus on the emergence of a pathogen that could potentially kill millions of people is indeed a serious indictment of the most basic practices of our civilization.

 The way we run our economy is we run it as if ecology doesn't exist except as a source of resources, and a source of resources which will last forever, that provides everything we possibly need, and economy comes down to supply and demand. Unfortunately, in the course of destroying the environment, there are all sorts of costs that accumulate. Some of these costs, as many of your listeners know and many of your viewers know, extend to the climate change. They extend to pollution. They extend to unemployment. They extend to the effects on the animals that are raised, if we're talking about agriculture. And so there are all these external costs. And the reason why they're called external costs is because the companies who produce these costs are able to externalize them onto the public, onto the taxpayer, onto local governments.

And I believe Ebola is an example of one of those external costs. In the course of razing the forest to produce commodity palm oil, we end up producing a pathogen with the potential to kill millions. And that is a kind of economy that I think is increasingly being looked upon as something that we can no longer engage in. And we can no longer engage in trying to separate ecology from economy or economy from ecology. Those two things interpenetrate with each other, and we can't separate them out. So we have to move toward more of an economy that can integrate the effects of our production on and consumption on local ecologies.

Come on Rob, just spit it out.  We have to get rid of global capital.  We have to get rid of a system based on profit, accumulation, destruction of the environment, expansion, and war...a system which feeds the rich and tosses the rest of us in the trash.  We have to replace Capitalism with, gasp, communism - a communism which, as you say must,  "integrate the effects of our production on and consumption on local ecologies."  This must be a communism that does not bow down to production. This must be a communism not from the top down, but from the bottom up.  This must be a communism not of the elite intellectuals, not of the Party, but of the multitude.  This must be a communism committed to direct democracy, committed to a new world, committed to finally the real emancipation (and all that means) of the working and poor people of the globe.   Isn't that what we are talking about here.

So let us turn our attention back where it belongs to West Africa where the legacy of capitalism, imperialism, global capital, and Empire are creating a new kind of killing field for a new kind of world.

The following excellent piece is from Pambazuka News.

The Naked Class Politics of Ebola

by James Robb

Imperialist responses to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa have featured high rhetoric and fear-mongering. It is these same forces that are responsible for the plunder of Africa that exposes the continent to epidemics. In contrast, Cuba has shown outstanding internationalist solidarity.

“The Ebola catastrophe is as much a product of the global capitalist crisis as are the carnage in Syria and Iraq.”
Just as a glass prism differentiates sunlight into its component colours, corresponding to the different wavelengths, the Ebola crisis ravaging three West African countries has produced three distinct responses, corresponding to the three principal classes of capitalist society.
Ebola is a disease caused by a virus, that is to say, a natural phenomenon. But that is only a small part of the story. Ebola is also an epidemic, and the causes and conditions of the epidemic are social, economic, and political rather than natural. Outside of these social and economic conditions, the disease would have been contained or even eliminated long before now. The Ebola catastrophe is as much a product of the global capitalist crisis as are the carnage in Syria and Iraq, the housing shortage in New Zealand, and racist cop murders in the United States, and the solution to it is just as much a question of the class struggle.

For four centuries West Africa was plundered of its human resources, in the form of the slave trade. Entire kingdoms and cultures were shackled to the hunger of the European powers for slaves, others were ground to dust by the incessant slave raiding. Alongside this came the plunder of the region’s natural resources. The lands along the Gulf of Guinea were called the Grain Coast, Ivory Coast, Gold Coast and Slave Coast – countries named not for the peoples who inhabited them but the commodities which they supplied to the conquering powers. (Côte d’Ivoire retains the name to this day, though its great elephant herds have been reduced to a tiny remnant). Whatever railways, roads and infrastructure the colonial powers built were for the purpose of speeding the extraction of these commodities.

Through the surge of freedom struggles following the Second World War, these countries threw off the shackles of colonial political rule – and in the process produced some of the finest thinkers and fighters the world has ever known. But the economic exploitation didn’t let up for a minute. Nigerian oil, Liberian rubber, Ivorian cocoa, Guinean bauxite still flowed to markets in the former colonial powers, principally France, Britain, and the United States* (and more recently, to China and India) at rock-bottom prices dictated by the buyer.
“The bourgeois response to the epidemic has been notable for its numb indifference to the death and suffering.”
To the extent that modern industry has developed, such as the oil industry in Nigeria, it has been at a colossal environmental and human cost. The Niger River delta, a rainforest, wetland and mangrove area with exceptionally high biodiversity, where Nigeria’s oil industry is centred, has been degraded by decades of easily preventable oil spills, the drinking water, farmland, fisheries of its thirty million people poisoned.
The three countries at the centre of the Ebola epidemic are among the most impoverished in the world. The permanent legacy of centuries of uninterrupted plunder is chronic and widespread malnutrition, dirt roads, poor or non-existent sanitation, unreliable or non-existent electric power, and one doctor per 100,000 inhabitants. These are the conditions in which an Ebola outbreak becomes an epidemic. “Before the outbreak, Liberia’s only lab capable of testing blood for highly infectious diseases was the Liberian Institute on Biomedical Research—a compound of World War II-era buildings and rusted cages that used to house chimpanzee test subjects. The bat-infested facility could only process 40 blood specimens a day and the electricity only worked intermittently,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “Bomi’s Liberia Government Hospital hasn’t had a working X-ray machine since the machine’s processor ‘blew up’ two years ago. The hospital had to shut for a month after its first Ebola case appeared in June.”
However, Ebola does not present a major threat to the continued extraction of Africa’s natural wealth. Thus, the bourgeois response to the epidemic has been notable for its numb indifference to the death and suffering, and its consequent economic dislocations.
For several months after the existence of Ebola was confirmed in the three countries of West Africa, the world bourgeoisie did nothing to assist them to combat the disease and prevent it from spreading. On the contrary, their first actions were to withdraw such minimal assistance schemes that were operating. In July the United States withdrew all its Peace Corps volunteers from the three countries, including those engaged in health education programs – at the very time when health education programs were urgently needed.
The burden of providing trained medical personnel was left to a handful of charities, especially Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières).
The Australian government publicly announced their refusal to send medical personnel into the region. “We aren’t going to send Australian doctors and nurses into harm’s way without being absolutely confident that all of the risks are being properly managed. And at the moment we cannot be confident that that is the case,” Prime Minister Tony Abbotsaid. The government of Israel took a similar stance.
In August British Airways suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone against the protests of those governments. Christopher Stokes, director of Médecins Sans Frontières in Brussels, added: “Airlines have shut down many flights and the unintended consequence has been to slow and hamper the relief effort, paradoxically increasing the risk of this epidemic spreading across countries in west Africa first, then potentially elsewhere. We have to stop Ebola at source and this means we have to be able to go there.”
The bourgeois response became a lot noisier when the first cases of Ebola were diagnosed in the imperialist countries, but the isolationist character of the response remained the same: protecting those unaffected at the expense of those most affected or directly threatened by the epidemic.
Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who developed symptoms in the US six days after arriving from Liberia, was treated as a hostile vector of contagion rather than a human being in need of treatment. Dallas County prosecutor publicly discussed laying criminal charges against Duncan if he should survive. The prosecutor’s spokesperson Debbie Denmon said, “If he ends up being on his deathbed, it would be inhumane to file charges,’ she said. ‘It’s a delicate situation.” Duncan later died.
“The bourgeois response became a lot noisier when the first cases of Ebola were diagnosed in the imperialist countries.”
Under increasing pressure to be seen to be doing something, some imperialist governments began announcing aid packages, mostly limited to money and equipment, and chiding each other for not doing enough. US President Barack Obama declared it to be a “security crisis” – not a health crisis – and promised troops, making it clear they would stay well away from any person who might be infected with the disease. One month later, not one of the 17 special tent-based treatment centers promised by the US is yet operational.
By mid-October, with the crisis growing daily, only a tiny proportion of the money and equipment promised had been delivered. Médecins Sans Frontières spokesperson Christopher Stokes said it was “ridiculous” that volunteers working for his charity were bearing the brunt of care in the worst-affected countries. MSF runs about 700 out of the 1,000 beds available in treatment facilities Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the BBC. Above all, it was trained medical personnel that was needed – labor – and the bourgeoisie, while it commands vast resources of labor in capitalist industry, came up well short of the need in that regard. “Money and materials are important, but those two things alone cannot stop Ebola virus transmission,” Dr Margaret Chan, director-general at the World Health Organization, said last month. “Human resources are clearly our most important need.”
If the bourgeois response to the Ebola crisis has been one of indifference, the response of the petty-bourgeoisie has been marked by panic and unscientific speculation. The petty-bourgeoisie is a dependent class, beholden to the big bourgeoisie for its privileges, yet in constant fear of being cast down into the working class, and hence wracked by insecurities.
Panic in the face of this threat has been consciously whipped up in big-business press coverage and statements by the authorities. For example, Anthony Banbury, chief of the UN's Ebola mission, said in early October that “there is a chance the deadly virus could mutate to become infectious through the air.”
Such claims have no scientific foundation. While viruses do evolve and mutate, no human virus has ever been known to change its mode of transmission. Alarmist predictions and speculations such as this are an attempt to frighten the bourgeoisie into taking action on the epidemic.
Having lost any connection to verifiable fact, the natural extension of such speculations is into the realm of conspiracy theories. The Liberian Daily Observer newspaper ran an article by Liberian-American academic Dr Cyril Broderick claiming that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was deliberately initiated by US military medical researchers who were experimenting on the virus as a possible biological weapon.
In another speculation that wraps several fears into one, Forbes Magazine reported Al Shimkus, a Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, as saying that “the Islamic State may already be thinking of using Ebola as a low-tech weapon of bio-terror,” raising the fear that IS members might infect themselves and then deliberately spread the disease to others.
Broderick’s speculation is not totally implausible. The US military and public health authorities, including the Centre for Disease Control which is prominently involved in the Ebola response, have a proven record of carrying out clinical trials and medical experiments on unknowing human subjects, especially Black people, including one where people in Guatemala were deliberately infected with syphilis without their knowledge. The poisonous legacy of these government crimes has not been forgotten, nor should it ever be. Broderick’s conspiracy theory rests on the fully justified distrust of these institutions, which runs deepest among people of African descent.
But none of these speculations and conspiracy theories is backed up by any verifiable evidence; they remain purely speculative and, like all speculations, essentially idle. By focusing attention on the question “what if,” they become yet another obstacle to facing the known facts of the situation, the urgent question of what is.
“Panic has been consciously whipped up in big-business press coverage and statements by the authorities.”
The meeting-point of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois responses to the Ebola crisis, where inaction masquerading as “taking action” combines with anti-scientific irrationalism, must undoubtedly be the policies adopted by the US and UK to carry out body-temperature screening at the airport for passengers arriving from West Africa. Given the nature of the Ebola condition, the fact that symptoms can take up to 21 days after the date of infection to appear, and then strike rapidly and severely, such border checks could not possibly prevent more than a tiny fraction of infected travelers from crossing a border. At the same time, they will inevitably “catch” great numbers of people with body temperatures raised for other reasons, thereby diverting resources further from where they are needed. David Mabey, professor of communicable diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said “the screening was a complete waste of time.”
The working class has only its labor to contribute, yet that labor is the key to solving the crisis. The proletarian response to the Ebola crisis is exemplified by the unselfish actions of the West African health workers, who are carrying out the socially necessary tasks of caring for the patients, collecting and burying bodies, and educating the population in prevention and containment measures. They do this despite inadequate safety equipment, serious threats to their own health, inadequate pay, and despite sometimes being ostracized in their own communities. The shortages of medical personnel are being overcome by dozens of volunteers.
A Guardian report on the “Ebola burial boys” of Sierra Leone describes the situation: “One morning, residents in Kailahun [Sierra Leone] woke up to find their only bank closed. Those with cars fled. Life did slowly pick up again, but a state of emergency in July shut down schools. Soldiers poured in to quarantine entire communities and, in these lush farming hills, trade slowed to a trickle.”
In desperation, 20 young men signed up for the burial teams, each paid $100 (£61) a month for the task. ‘Hunger is killing more people than Ebola,’ said Abraham Kamara, 21, a fellow digger. They work to rigorous standards enforced by the Red Cross, but pay a heavy price.
“When I'm passing, people I know say, 'don't come near me'!” Jusson said. He looked skyward for a moment before continuing: “I try to explain to them. If we don't volunteer to do this, there'll be nobody to bury the dead bodies because all of us will be infected.”
The proletariat is an international class; its watchword is solidarity. Solidarity differs from aid. Solidarity means tying one’s fate to that of the people you are aiding. Given the real personal dangers to the health of those caring for Ebola patients, no matter how careful they are, this distinction is crucial to understanding the different international responses. Solidarity and isolationism are opposites.
“The proletarian response to the Ebola crisis is exemplified by the unselfish actions of the West African health workers.”
In stark contrast to the response of the imperialist world has been the outstanding solidarity offered by the one country where the working class hold state power: Cuba. When the call went out for volunteer health workers to go to West Africa, fifteen thousand experienced health workers stepped forward, living proof of Che Guevara’s statement: “to be a revolutionary doctor, there must first be a revolution.” This is in a country of 11 million people, under extreme economic pressure from the US blockade, a country which already has 50,000 health workers serving overseas in 66 countries.
103 nurses and 62 doctors selected from among the 15,000 arrived in Sierra Leone in early October, a further 296 will go to Guinea and Liberia shortly. The Cuban government has indicated its willingness to send still more personnel, provided there is enough funding and infrastructure to support them.
This commitment has many precedents. The Cuban people – a large proportion of who are descended from African slaves – made a similar commitment to Africa by sending volunteers to defend newly-independent Angola from attack by apartheid South Africa in 1975. (Recently declassified documents have revealed that the US Secretary of State at the time, Henry Kissinger, was so incensed by this that he drew up plans to ‘smash Cuba’ with airstrikes in response.)
Nelson Mandela said of Cuba’s action in Angola, “It was in prison when I first heard of the massive assistance that the Cuban internationalist forces provided to the people of Angola, on such a scale that one hesitated to believe; when the Angolans came under combined attack of South African, CIA-financed FNLA, mercenary, UNITA, and Zairean troops in 1975.”
“We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defense of one of us.”
“We know also that this was a popular action in Cuba. We are aware that those who fought and died in Angola were only a small proportion of those who volunteered. For the Cuban people internationalism is not merely a word but something that we have seen practiced to the benefit of large sections of humankind.”
Asked about the dangers involved in volunteering to join the medical mission in Sierra Leone, Julio César Gómez Ramírez, a nurse who is going to West Africa with the brigade said, “I’m not afraid. We’ve been taught to help others. Like many of my compañeros, I participated in the war in Angola, and we risked our lives there. This isn’t more difficult.”
On several occasions during this crisis the health workers in Liberia, Nigeria, and elsewhere have engaged in strikes to demand adequate safety protection while they carry out their perilous tasks, and to demand payment of unpaid wages and adequate compensation for the dangers involved in their work. These struggles are an essential part of advancing the fight against the disease.
“For the Cuban people, internationalism is not merely a word.”
A lesson from history is relevant here. A hundred years ago and more, tuberculosis was a killer disease afflicting workers in the advanced capitalist countries in Europe and elsewhere. It is commonly believed that the scourge of tuberculosis was overcome (at least in the imperialist countries) by the development of antibiotic vaccines and cures. This is false. Long before the antibiotics were widely used, death rates from tuberculosis had been steadily decreasing. By the time the antibiotics were widely used in the post-World-War-2 world, 90% of the decline in tuberculosis mortality had already been achieved. The reduction had taken place as a consequence of working class struggles for decent housing and higher wages – and consequently, better nutrition.
Today the working class is rapidly growing and strengthening in West Africa. Powered chiefly by oil exploitation in Nigeria, Ghana, and offshore developments in several regions along the Gulf of Guinea including Liberia, a process of social transformation is underway. This is bringing into being the class that has the power to drive back Ebola and all the social and economic conditions that gave rise to it.
* Footnote: The United States is a former colonial power in West Africa. The state of Liberia was founded as a settler-colony for former slaves who wanted to return to Africa. The “Americos” in Liberia formed a distinct social layer in Liberia, who held, up to 1980, a monopoly on political power. Liberia still has strong commercial ties with the United States today.
James Robb, a communist at large living in New Zealand, blogs at convincing reasons.

NOTE from Scission:  I do disagree with the comment above which concludes that it is impossible that ebola could ever become airborne.  That it has not happened does not mean it cannot happen.  The larger the outbreak the more the mutations.  The more the mutations, well, you get that.  Many microbiologists, infectious disease specialists, and others have some concern about this possibility, as unlikely as it may be. Some have said that evidence exists Ebola Reston (which was transmitted from monkey to monkey) was airborne.  I am not sure about that myself. In any event, one has to always point out that airborne and droplet borne are two different matters.  Ebola is transmitted, or capable of being transmitted, via droplets through the air from coughing, sneezing and such.  The distance droplets can travel is limited most say to three feet or so.  This does in fact mean if you were sitting next to someone with ebola and they coughed in your direction, it would not be impossible for you to become infected.   None of this is simple fear mongering speculation.  What one should say is that today, and as far as we know, Ebola is not transmitted by an airborne route, like say flu, or smallpox.  The truth is that if this mode of transmission ever becomes common, we will all know it damn soon.  It should also be admitted that some evidence does exist that this current strain of ebola virus does seem more virulent than previous ones.  


James Robb said...

Thanks for this useful and interesting discussion of the environmental aspects of the Ebola epidemic.
A response to your final remark on the possibility of the virus becoming airborne. Since writing the passage which you disagree with, I have read some scientific discussions of this question, and I now agree with your comment: It was an error to state so categorically in my original article that the possibility of it becoming airborne is excluded. It seems that it may be possible, albeit still highly unlikely.
I don't think that this changes the important political point substantially. For the top UN Ebola official to mouth on about the disease becoming airborne, solely in order to prod the sluggish governments into action, was still an act of irresponsible panic-mongering.

Oread Daily said...

I can't make up my mind...not that it matters much what I personally think. We need something to convince the governments, the States, global capital that it is it in their interest apparently to actually respond to ebola epidemic and the conditions which make it epidemic (and endemic) in Africa. They aren't going to to it out of the goodness of their heart or because they care much about Africans. There are obvious options in the long run, but something needs doing in the here and now. I doubt seriously that my concerns are the same concerns as the "top UN Ebola official," but what the hey. On the other hand, the air borne "fear mongering" tactic is one that surely will and has led to stigmatization, racism, and all the rest.