Lassa fever: Death toll rises to 24

Moses Emorinken, Abuja

No fewer than 10 more people died in the third week of the outbreak of Lassa Fever, bringing the death toll to 24.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 14 persons initially died from the outbreak as at the second week.
indicates that additional 10 people lost their lives in the third week of the disease outbreak.

In a report of the epidemiological report 13 – 19 January, the centre said: “In week 3, the number of new confirmed cases has increased from 64 cases in week 1, 2020 to 81. These were reported from six states – Ondo, Edo, Delta, Taraba, Plateau, and Bauchi.

“89 percent of all confirmed cases are from Edo (38 percent), Ondo (38 percent) and Ebonyi (11 percent) states. The predominant age-group affected is between 11 and 40 years (Range: >11 to 60 years, Median Age: 33 years). The male to female ratio for confirmed cases is 1:1”.

Ondo has the highest number of new confirmed cases at 43, followed by Edo at 33.

Delta and Bauchi states had new confirmed cases of 2 each while Taraba and Plateau stood at one each.

Read Also; Lassa Fever kills three in Kano

The national average for case fatality stands at 10.4 percent and while target case fatality rate should be below 10 percent.

However, Ondo state seems to have overshot the national average and target case fatality rate at about 10.7 percent.

“The overall case fatality rate (CFR) for 2020 is 14.7 percent which is lower than the CFR for the same period during 2019, which was 23.4 percent. In total for 2020, nine states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 32 local government areas.

“The number of suspected cases has increased but is lower than the numbers reported in 2019. No Health Care Worker infection was identified in the reporting week 03,” the report said.

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Interest rates: Powell tells Congress federal debt is ‘unsustainable’

Powell: U.S. debt is ‘on unsustainable path,’ crimping ability to respond to recession

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers Wednesday that the ballooning federal debt could hamper Congress’ ability to support the economy in a downturn, urging them to put the budget “on a sustainable path.”

Powell suggested such fiscal aid could be vital after the Fed has cut its benchmark interest rate three times this year, leaving the central bank less room to lower rates further in case of a recession.

“The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, with high and rising debt,” Powell told the Joint Economic Committee. “Over time, this outlook could restrain fiscal policymakers’ willingness or ability to support economic activity during a downturn.”

Powell also reiterated that the Fed is likely done cutting rates unless the economy heads south.

“The outlook is still a positive one,” he said. “There’s no reason this expansion can’t continue.”

The testimony marks a more aggressive tone for Powell, who generally has steered clear of lecturing lawmakers on the hazards of the federal deficit. But after raising its key rate nine times since late 2015, the Fed has lowered it three times this year to head off the risk of recession posed by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and a sluggish global economy.

Those developments have hurt manufacturing and business investment while consumer spending remains on solid footing.

The Fed’s benchmark rate is now at a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, above the near-zero level that persisted for years after the Great Recession of 2007-09 but below the 2.25% to 2.5% range early this year.

“Nonetheless, the current low-interest-rate environment may limit the ability of monetary policy to support the economy,” Powell said.

Noting the Fed has lowered its federal funds rate an average 5 percentage points in prior downturns, Powell said, “We don’t have that kind of room.” He added, “Fed policy will also be important, though,” if the nation enters a recession. Fed officials have said they still have ammunition to fight a slump, including lowering rates and resuming bond purchases.

Meanwhile, the federal budget deficit hit $984 billion in fiscal 2019, the highest in seven years, and it’s expected to top $1 trillion in fiscal 2020. The federal tax cuts and spending increases spearheaded by Trump have added to the red ink and are set to add at least $2 trillion to the federal debt over a decade. The national debt recently surpassed $23 trillion.

“The debt is growing faster than the economy and that is unsustainable,” Powell said.

He added that a high and rising federal debt also can “restrain private investment and, thereby, reduce productivity and overall economic growth.” That’s because swollen debt can push interest rates higher.

“Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path would aid in the long-term vigor of the U.S. economy and help ensure that policymakers have the space to use fiscal policy to assist in stabilizing the economy if it weakens,” Powell said.

He added, “How you do that and when you do that is up to you.”

Many economists are forecasting a recession next year, though the risks have eased now that the U.S. and China appear close to a partial settlement of their trade fight and the odds of a Brexit that doesn’t include a trade agreement between Britain and Europe have fallen.

Powell also said the Fed is unlikely to reduce interest rates further unless the economy weakens significantly – a message he delivered after the central bank trimmed its key rate for a third time late last month.

“We see the current stance of monetary policy as likely to remain appropriate” as long as the economy, labor market and inflation remain consistent with the Fed’s outlook, Powell said.

Since last month’s Fed meeting, the government has reported that employers added 128,000 jobs in October – a surprisingly strong showing in light of a General Motors strike and the layoffs of temporary 2020 census workers.

“There’s a lot to like about today’s labor market,” Powell said. He noted the 3.6% unemployment rate, near a 50-year low, is drawing Americans on the sidelines back into the workforce. And while average yearly wage growth has picked up to 3%, it’s lower than anticipated in light of the low jobless rate. Inflation, he said, remains below the Fed’s 2% target.

“Of course, if developments emerge that cause a material reassessment of our outlook, we would respond accordingly,” Powell said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tried to coax the Fed chief into weighing in on the potential economic impact of “a massive tax increase,” which some analysts say could be required by several Democratic presidential candidates’ proposals for universal health care or free college tuition.

“I’m particularly reluctant to be pulled into the 2020 election,” said Powell, a Republican and Trump appointee who has been repeatedly attacked by the president for not cutting interest rates more sharply.

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Planned Parenthood’s political arm to spend $45 million on electing candidates backing reproductive rights

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(CNN)Planned Parenthood‘s super PAC kicked off a $45 million electoral program targeted toward battleground states for the 2020 election, the reproductive rights giant announced on Wednesday.

The group’s self-identified largest program to date will go toward “large-scale grassroots organizing programs and targeted canvass, digital, television, radio and mail programs,” according to a press release. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will all be focuses of the initiative, per the release.
“Who we elect will determine our access to birth control, cancer screenings, sex education, abortion access and more,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, in a statement.
“That’s why Planned Parenthood Votes will use every tool at our disposal to hit the pavement, flood the airwaves, and elect reproductive rights champions up and down the ballot,” she added. “We know this is a fight we can win.”
The super PAC pledged to back reproductive rights candidates “from the White House to the Senate to statehouses and ballot initiatives across the country,” indicating a state-level focus after a year that saw a slew of pre-viability abortion restrictions coming out of conservative state legislatures. Planned Parenthood is among the plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging such laws in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio.
Anti-abortion leaders decried Planned Parenthood’s election efforts, accusing the group of looking to protect its own finances and lamenting its federal subsidies. Planned Parenthood received $563.8 million in government funding in 2018, according to its annual report.
Lila Rose, president of anti-abortion group Live Action, slammed the funding effort as a display of “ruthless prioritization of politics and their bottom line over women’s health care.”
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement that the funding effort was unsurprising “because this Administration has implemented a pro-life agenda in many areas, including the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy and new Title X regulations, both of which impacted Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.”
“It is unfair to force Americans to subsidize through their tax dollars this partisan political organization bent on electing pro-abortion politicians,” she added.
This year, Planned Parenthood rejected some federal funding. The group decided to drop Title X funding in August after the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Trump administration rule blocking recipient providers from discussing abortion services with patients. HHS told recipients in July that the rule would go into effect despite several pending challenges.

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Bernie Sanders Undergoes Procedure for Artery Blockage, Cancels Campaign Events

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) campaign announced Wednesday that the presidential candidate had two stents inserted after the discovery of a blocked artery and that he will cancel his upcoming events for now.

During a campaign event yesterday evening, Sen. Sanders experienced some chest discomfort. Following medical evaluation and testing he was found to have a blockage in one artery and two stents were successfully inserted, Senior Advisor Jeff Weaver said in a statement.

Sen. Sanders is conversing and in good spirits. He will be resting up over the next few days. We are canceling his events and appearances until further notice, and we will continue to provide appropriate updates, he continued.

Sanders, 78, has maintained an extraordinarily busy schedule for years, tracing from his first presidential run to the midterms and now his second bid for the presidency.

The senator was among the ten presidential candidates set to appear Wednesday in Las Vegas for an MSNBC-hosted gun-control forum, and had events scheduled in California in the days after.

After announcing a massive fundraising haul of $25.3 million on Tuesday, the Sanders campaign had also purchased its first television ad buy in Iowa, a key early primary-voting state.

Those ads began to get canceled on Wednesday, though an aide to Sanders said that it was simply a postponement.

A heart stent is a non-surgical procedure that places a metal device into the arteries, propping them open to increase blood flow to the heart. The routine procedure is often carried out as a preemptive measure when a patient experiences chest pain and there is a potential risk for heart attack, Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist and health care researcher at Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, told The Daily Beast.

The timing of Sanders chest pain is key, according to Krumholz. If the pain occurred while at rest, it is likely something known as unstable angina, which is often caused by a reduced blood flow to the heart. Basically, there wasn't enough blood flow to the heart, so something that is potentially very dangerous has now been managed, Krumholz said of the stent.

According to Krumholz, the procedure can be outpatient, but doctors typically observe a patient for 24 hours in case of complications. Most people have a rapid recovery and can resume their activities shortly, he said.

After the news broke, Sanders 2020 Democratic competitors issued statements hoping for his well being.

Among them, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted, Bruce, Team Warren, and I are sending all our best wishes for a speedy recovery to @BernieSanders. I hope to see my friend back on the campaign trail very soon.

And former Vice President Joe Biden wrote: @DrBiden and I are sending our best wishes to @BernieSanders, Jane, and the whole Sanders family. Anyone who knows Bernie understands what a force he is. We are confident that he will have a full and speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him on the trail soon.

Sanders later tweeted that he was feeling good and used the moment to advocate for Medicare for All.

With additional reporting from Audrey McNamara.

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Democratic candidates unite in rage at Trump following latest mass shootings

Democratic candidates unite in rage at Trump following latest mass shootings - CNNPolitics

(CNN)The mass shootings in Texas and Ohio have turned the 2020 presidential campaign into an increasingly visceral referendum on the nature of Donald Trump’s presidency and the message that delivered him to the White House.

The strategies and tactics adopted by the candidates have provided new insight and clues into how they would govern if elected, and the ways — over the coming months — they will seek to defeat not only Trump, but the principles underlying Trumpism. Their reactions have also signaled an a new willingness to draw a straight line between the President’s words and racist violence.

Biden and Booker lash Trump in speeches

    Former Vice President Joe Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker laced their calls for unity on Wednesday with lacerating attacks on Trump in specially scheduled speeches, Biden’s in Iowa and Booker from the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, where nine black parishioners were killed by a white supremacist gunman in 2015.
    From the beginning of his campaign, Biden has cast the 2020 election as a “battle for the soul of this nation.” But in the video announcing his candidacy, and in subsequent talks, he also suggested that Americans might look back at a one-term Trump presidency as “an aberrant moment in time.”
    Biden’s words on Wednesday in Iowa suggested he is moving toward a more historically complete message — reminiscent of the view that has been advocated most often by more progressive candidates, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
    “I wish I could say that this all began with Donald Trump and will end with him. But it didn’t — and I won’t,” Biden said. “American history is not a fairytale. The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push-and-pull for 243 years between the American ideal, that says we’re all created equal, and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.”
    The former vice president also offered a taunting dismissal of Trump’s recent, scripted remarks condemning the violence in Texas and Ohio.
    “In both clear language and in code, this President has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” Biden said, before baiting Trump — successfully — by describing the comments as a “low-energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him.”
    Trump, who was traveling between stops in the Ohio and Texas during Biden’s speech, obviously caught wind of Biden’s remarks and responded on Twitter.
    “Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring!,” he wrote, before suggesting a Biden presidency would please the Chinese government. Before setting out on his trip, Trump outside the White House drew an equivalence between white supremacist and antifascist groups.
    “I have concerns about the rise of any group of hate,” Trump said. “Whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy, whether it’s Antifa, whether it’s any group of hate I’m very concerned about it and I’ll do something about it.”
    Hours before Biden’s speech and almost a thousand miles away, Booker in South Carolina also cast the violence of the past days in a more sweeping context. Like Biden would, the New Jersey senator referenced the similarities between the language used by Trump to describe immigration and immigrants and the words found in the manifesto of the alleged Texas killer.
    “The act of anti-Latino, anti-immigrant hatred we witnessed this past weekend did not start with the hand that pulled the trigger,” Booker said. “It did not begin when a single white supremacist got into his car to travel 10 hours to kill as many human beings as he could.”
    Though he did not address Trump by name, Booker accused the President and his allies of emboldening racists and inciting the El Paso attack.
    The alleged killer’s dark fervor, he said, had been “planted in fertile soil, because the contradictions that have shadowed this country since its founding remain a part of our body politic. It was sowed by those who spoke the same words the El Paso murderer did: warning of an ‘invasion.’ It was sowed by those who spoke of an ‘infestation,’ and ‘disgusting cities,’ ‘rats and rodents,’ talking about majority-minority communities.”

    O’Rourke stays at home to fight

    While Booker and Biden purposed their remarks to specifically address the recent violence, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native whose life and campaign is still based in the city, has clung tight to his frightened community, effectively leaving the stump to lead the way back home.
    O’Rourke, whose 2018 Senate campaign became a national cause for Democrats following his viral defense of activist professional athletes, has spoken over the past few days with a moral vigor and clarity that seemed to have eluded him during a stagnant to-date presidential bid.
    Asked by a reporter after a Sunday in El Paso if there was anything Trump could do “to make this any better,” O’Rourke — emotional after a vigil for the victims and their families — shot back in frustration.
    “What do you think? You know the s–t he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know, like, members of the press, what the f–k?,” he said. “You know, I — it’s these questions that you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country. He’s not tolerating racism, he’s promoting racism. He’s not tolerating violence, he’s inciting racism and violence in this country.”
    O’Rourke’s profanity might have drawn the initial attention, but his message to the public echoed the indignation of voters who argue that the time for speculating over or trying to predict Trump’s behavior — when it has become so plain to see — should be over.
    The Texan will not go to Iowa this weekend, as previously planned, and has not yet decided when he will return to the campaign trail. But like the other candidates, he has been firm in connecting the President’s words to the bloody attack launched against his city.
    “(Trump) is trying to intimidate this community, to make us afraid of the border, of immigrants,” O’Rourke told reporters in El Paso on Wednesday morning.
    Like Biden, O’Rourke during a morning memorial at El Dorado High School, looked back to the founding of the country — pointing to its aspirations and how, despite great strides, “we have never fully lived up to that promise” — before turning to a defense of El Paso and similar places.
    “We are one of the safest cities, if not the safest, cities in the United States of America,” O’Rourke said. “We must remind ourselves and tell the rest of the country that we are safe not despite the fact that we are city of immigrants and asylum-seekers and refugees, people who came from the planet over to find a home here in El Paso, Texas, but that very fact is what makes us strong and successful and safe and secure in the first place.”
    Later on, as Trump made his way from Dayton, Ohio, where he visited shooting victims in the hospital, to El Paso, O’Rourke joined protests against the presidential visit, which local leaders like Rep. Veronica Escobar had advised against. In Trump’s last appearance in the city, for a political rally, a supporter attacked a BBC reporter and the President spread misleading claims about the city’s safety.
    After speaking at a demonstration, O’Rourke told CNN he planned to attend victims’ funerals and make a trip to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where seven of the 22 victims lived, before continuing on with his national campaign. Later on, he gave a young, tearful man who said he was at the Walmart during the shooting his personal phone number, and a promise to help him in any way he could.

    A week after fierce debates, Dems unite

    Only a couple weeks ago, Booker and Biden were engaged in a heated debate over the former vice president’s record on race. And during the debates last week in Detroit, Democrats were at one another’s throats, sometimes warning the country that their rivals were unelectable, while sparring over health care, foreign policy and, in the case of immigration, former President Barack Obama’s record.
    But those arguments have largely evaporated from sight since the Saturday shooting in El Paso. Trump, who has mostly stuck to his inflammatory rhetoric on Twitter, did for the Democrats what he could not for the country: inspired solidarity.
    Candidates other than Biden, Booker and O’Rourke have mostly kept to their previous commitments, while flooding television and social media with increasingly pointed denunciations of Trump and notes of solidarity with the victims — and one another. California Sen. Kamala Harris’ campaign bought lunch for the O’Rourke staff in El Paso and Harris spokesman Ian Sams told CNN the campaign has raised nearly $100,000 for gun violence prevention organizations since the shootings.
    They also roundly condemned the White House over a CNN report, published Wednesday afternoon, that the White House had rebuffed a push by the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize domestic terror threats, like those posed by white supremacists.
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    “Homeland Security officials battled the White House for more than a year to get them to focus more on domestic terrorism,” one senior source close to the Trump administration told CNN. “The White House wanted to focus only on the jihadist threat which, while serious, ignored the reality that racial supremacist violence was rising fast here at home. They had major ideological blinders on.”
    Harris linked to the story on Twitter and said, “People are getting killed, and this President is turning a blind eye to America’s national security threats.”
    The former prosecutor has, in the aftermath of the shootings, repeated her promise to use the power of the presidency to implement strict new gun control measures within the first few months of her term.
    “Whether at a festival, place of worship, school, movie theater, or Walmart, you should always be able to feel safe,” Harris tweeted. “As president, I’ll give Congress 100 days to send gun safety legislation to my desk. If they refuse to act, I’ll take executive action to protect our communities.”
    The killings in El Paso have also brought added attention to former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, the only Latino in the primary.
    Speaking to NBC, Castro underscored the heightened intensity of the campaign and painted a stark image of Trump’s political maneuvering.
    “For a President now to base his entire political strategy on turning the Latino community, and especially recent immigrants, into ‘the other,’ into the danger toward America — it doesn’t belong in this country, he doesn’t belong as President,” Castro said. “And that’s one of the reasons I know that I’m running to replace him and I bet that a lot of other people who are in this race feel the same way.”
    Outside of Texas, the gravity of the El Paso killings has emboldened Democrats to be more direct, and in the case of Sanders, more personal in how they describe their reasons for running.
    Sanders, who has repeatedly denounced Trump as a “racist” and “xenophobe” on the campaign trail this year, also kept to his planned campaign stops — though he, like others, will now attend a forum on gun control in Iowa this weekend. But in a Medium post on Sunday, he took the unusual step of tying the current situation to his own, painful family history.
    “I am personally all too familiar with the barbarity that comes from hateful ideology,” Sanders wrote. “Most of my own father’s family was brutally murdered at the hands of Hitler’s white supremacist regime. That regime came to power on a wave of violence and hatred against racial and religious minorities. We cannot allow that cancer to grow here.”
      His fellow progressive, Warren, issued a similar warning against what the campaigns have almost uniformly described now as a wave of hate drawing strength underfoot from the White House.
      “White supremacy is a domestic terrorism threat in the same way that foreign terrorism threatens our people. And it is the responsibility of the President of the United States to help fight back against that,” Warren told CNN. “Not to wink and nod and smile at it and let it get stronger in this country.”

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      The Democratic Presidential Debates

      Reality TV is meant to trick the eyes. The high drama of housewives bickering about who said what over a bottle of wine. Cast members secretly scheming to avoid elimination off the island. Contestants blatantly lying to rig the game in their favor. What unfolds before us, to quote Susan Murray and Laura Ouelette in 2008’s Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture, “is an unstable text that encourages viewers to test out their own notions of the real, the ordinary, and the intimate against the representation before them.”

      This week, inside Detroit’s Fox Theatre, Democratic presidential hopefuls participated in the second round of debates. Last night found two of the top candidates—Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Joe Biden, along with Senator Cory Booker—center stage. The whole ordeal played out like an episode of The Real Legislators of America.

      Remember: Absorbing, can’t-look-away TV is not about stability, however much we yearn for—and need, really—politics to be. The value of the unstable text is in its consistent guarantee of popcorn-worthy entertainment. Those who watch, myself included, find a perverse comfort in it because it’s entirely reliable; it gives us something to bicker about with family, friends, colleagues. It challenges us in ways for which we are unprepared, and sometimes for the better.

      The primary architecture of debates, like reality TV with its twisting plots and snaking subplots, obeys a simple formula: an adoption of disorder. Biden, who remains the frontrunner despite his moderate establishment policies and a thrashing from Harris in June during the first round of debates, was again assigned the role of villain. A textbook archetype of the genre, the former VP doesn’t quite find a kindred spirit in the diabolical savvy of Spencer Pratt (The Hills) or Jax Taylor (Vanderpump Rules), but all great TV hinges on the roles characters submit to. That’s one of the more fascinating parts about Murray and Ouelette’s theory: Although the text itself is prone to unpredictability, the characters must conform to stationary roles.

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      “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign,” Booker said to Biden, railing into him. “You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.” Later, Booker again pounced on him over the matter of criminal justice reform, and Biden found himself caught in the heat of Harris’ agitation on the topic of health care and paralyzed by former Housing Secretary Julian Castro’s criticism of his shaky immigration record.

      But before drama turned rapid-fire, there was the sly splendor of the 10 candidates on stage, standing side by side, captured with a trippy canniess by Brendan Smialowski. There’s a static, almost robotic feel to the vertical poses they take; their top halves have been severed by the camera’s frame. The linear symmetry of their lower limbs, the uniformity of their display, suggests an analogy: Not unlike reality TV, we all have a role to adhere to.

      But then, almost instantly, the photo challenges its very hypothesis by displaying the full-body reflection of the politicians on the stage floor (Jordan Peele’s tethered beings from Us sprang to mind). And so, here in the democratic upside down, a counter suggestion is proposed: that even the roles candidates were assigned—The Hero, The Antagonist, The Everyman—are not, in fact, as stable as we anticipate.


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