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Rio Olympics Near Cancellation

There is a rapidly increasing chance that this years Summer Olympics in Rio will be cancelled.  The banning of the Russian Track and Field Team for doping is a side issue, and were that the only problem the Olympics would go on quite happily. The massive pollution, disease, crime, and bacterial infection issues are quite another story,

Sponsoring the Olympics was supposed to force the city to clean up the polluted waterways. Waterways filled with raw sewage, hospital waste, and trash. That, quite simply hasn’t happened.

‘Super Bacteria’ Found At Brazil Olympic Venues, Beaches

The diseases can cause infections, meningitis and lead to death.

Scientists have found dangerous drug-resistant “super bacteria” off beaches in Rio de Janeiro that will host Olympic swimming events and in a lagoon where rowing and canoe athletes will compete when the Games start on Aug. 5.

The findings from two unpublished academic studies seen by Reuters concern Rio’s most popular spots for tourists and greatly increase the areas known to be infected by the microbes normally found only in hospitals.

They also heighten concerns that Rio’s sewage-infested waterways are unsafe.

A study published in late 2014 had shown the presence of the super bacteria – classified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an urgent public health threat – off one of the beaches in Guanabara Bay, where sailing and wind-surfing events will be held during the Games.

The first of the two new studies, reviewed in September by scientists at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Diego, showed the presence of the microbes at five of Rio’s showcase beaches, including the ocean-front Copacabana, where open-water and triathlon swimming will take place.

The other four were Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo and Flamengo.

The super bacteria can cause hard-to-treat urinary, gastrointestinal, pulmonary and bloodstream infections, along with meningitis. The CDC says studies show that these bacteria contribute to death in up to half of patients infected.

The second new study, by the Brazilian federal government’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation lab, which will be published next month by the American Society for Microbiology, found the genes of super bacteria in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in the heart of Rio and in a river that empties into Guanabara Bay.

Waste from countless hospitals, in addition to hundreds of thousands of households, pours into storm drains, rivers and streams crisscrossing Rio, allowing the super bacteria to spread outside the city’s hospitals in recent years.

Renata Picao, a professor at Rio’s federal university and lead researcher of the first study, said the contamination of Rio’s famous beaches was the result of a lack of basic sanitation in the metropolitan area of 12 million people.

“These bacteria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea,” said Picao from her lab in northern Rio, itself enveloped by stench from Guanabara Bay.

Cleaning the city’s waterways was meant to be one of the Games’ greatest legacies and a high-profile promise in the official 2009 bid document Rio used to win the right to host South America’s first Olympics.

That goal has instead transformed into an embarrassing failure, with athletes lamenting the stench of sewage and complaining about debris that bangs into and clings to boats in Guanabara Bay, potential hazards for a fair competition.

Cancel the Olympics

The potential threat Zika virus poses is just too great to take the risk.

…If you ask me, I say cancel the Olympics. Here are five reasons why:

1. The numbers don’t lie. The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee on Zika convened June 14 to consider new data and review previous recommendations, including those regarding the Rio Olympics. By August 5, more than 10,500 athletes, coaches and trainers will have descended on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In addition, more than 500,000 foreign spectators are expected to fly into the city. In doing so, they will be exposing themselves to the Zika-carrying mosquitos before returning to their home country. If you were a bioterrorist trying to expose as many of the world’s population as possible, I doubt you could come up with a better plan than this.

In a paper to be published shortly, the probable number of Zika cases during the Olympics was calculated using dengue transmission during the 2008 outbreak as a model. It found that, on the low end, there would be 1.8 cases per one million tourists, and on the high end, 3.2 cases per 100,000 tourists.

2. Brazil is not equipped to handle this crisis. The concern is not that tourists will fall ill while they’re at the games – though everyone seems to agree that pregnant women, at least, should stay away. The fear is that travelers will bring the virus home, either in their bodies or in the bodies of mosquito stowaways, and it will spread further. And there can be little doubt that holding the Olympics in Brazil as scheduled will greatly accelerate the spread of Zika.

Brazil is already having historic turbulence in their governance, economy and society. This is one developing country that is ill prepared to solve this problem, let alone do it in less than two months. While some have suggested concerns about Zika spreading are overwrought, let’s consider Brazil’s history with this virus. Nuno Faria of Oxford University suggested that a single individual carried Zika to Brazil in late 2013. By early 2016, as many as 1.5 million Brazilians are estimated to have been infected.

3. The WHO may have a conflict of interest here. Concerns have been raised about the WHO’s impartiality in this dialogue. It has been previously reported that the WHO entered into an official partnership with the International Olympic Committee, in a memorandum of understanding that remains secret to this day. There is no good reason for the WHO not to disclose this memorandum of understanding. It is standard scientific practice for potential conflicts of interest to be revealed – look at any scientific publication.

4. Clearly Brazil has a conflict of interest as well. Brazil has an obvious political and financial interest that the Rio Olympics going ahead as scheduled. It is doubtful that if the games would ever return to Brazil in the future if they don’t go on as scheduled. But changing the venue or postponing the games isn’t practical either. It has taken years for Brazil, like any other host, to gear up for these Olympics. If they don’t start as planned, they won’t proceed at all this year.

5. The stakes are just too high to risk it. There is no longer any doubt that Zika causes infants to be born with abnormally small heads and damaged brains. But there are still many key questions left to be answered. What is the degree of risk Zika infections might pose to pregnant women? That is, after an infection, how often will a fetus develop birth defects? Current studies suggest that somewhere between 1 percent and 29 percent of babies born to infected mothers have microcephaly. That is a pretty wide range. Researchers would also like to know when a developing infant is most vulnerable to the virus, and whether Zika may cause a spectrum of related problems, ranging from stillbirth and miscarriages on the severe end to learning disabilities on the milder end. They just don’t know at this time.

Bottom line – there is much we don’t know about the Zika risk. While expects can legitimately argue about the magnitude of the risk, nobody denies risk exists. David Hackworth once said, “It is human nature to start taking things for granted when danger isn’t banging loudly on the door.” The risk is potentially catastrophic – the Rio Olympics should be cancelled now.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2016 in News, You Know It's Bad When...

 

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Republikcans Kill Babies Stalling Zika Funds

There are now over 300 cases of pregnant women who have the Zika virus in the United States. The Senate and President Obama have approved and requested emergency funding to stem the fast growing epidemic.

House Republicans have stalled funding for over 3 months now, as more and more Americans contract the virus.

Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly in infants, a condition that causes unusually small skulls and brains, and could lead to death or disability.

How a deadly tropical virus became another Washington mess

Democrats say Republicans are risking an outbreak of Zika, a disease that threatens the developing brains of fetuses.

Even pregnant women have become fodder for partisan Washington funding fights.

With nearly 300 pregnant women in the United States already infected with the Zika virus and the summer mosquito season looming after a soggy spring, Congress has yet to approve the Obama administration’s three-month old, $1.9 billion request for emergency funding.

The bipartisan response to previous public health crises, such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, is not evident in the months-long congressional debates about Zika, despite its huge human costs. The virus in pregnant women has been closely linked to severe brain abnormalities in fetuses.

“A disease that destroys babies’ brains in utero is everyone’s worst nightmare — I’m not sure what could be much worse than that,” said Cindy Pellegrini, a senior vice president at March of Dimes, which is lobbying for the Zika funding. “But there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency on Capitol Hill.”

The Zika debate is caught up in election year politics and general GOP opposition to emergency spending. But there is another huge factor at play with Zika. Many congressional Republicans say they feel burned by the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014. In hindsight, the emergency response to that crisis was overfunded, they say, and now the White House is reluctant to reallocate all of the leftover money. Congress doesn’t want to give another blank check on Zika.

“Looked at what happened with Ebola — it looks like they asked for more than they needed,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who backed the Senate’s $1.1 billion deal on Zika and is perhaps the most prominent Republican defender of public health and emergency preparedness.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats say that by refusing to put up the money, Republicans are recklessly playing with fire on a health crisis that threatens the developing brains of fetuses.

“I listen to all of the really well-meaning people talking about the rights of the unborn and here we have a health crisis that dramatically impacts the unborn,” said Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. “It seems to me we should be doing a much more aggressive job of making sure the resources that our health experts say that we need are in place.”

Already, there are 157 pregnant women in the continental United States and 122 in the U.S. territories — mostly Puerto Rico — with a confirmed Zika diagnosis who risk giving birth to babies with microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is unusually small and the brain is underdeveloped, according to a CDC report issued Friday.

President Barack Obama was briefed on Zika developments Friday and warned the crisis is “something we need to take seriously.”

“This is not something where you can build a wall to prevent,”he said. “Congress needs to get me a bill. It needs to get me a bill that has sufficient funds to do the job.”

So far, all the cases in pregnant women in the continental United States involve women who traveled abroad or more rarely, who were infected by men who traveled to Zika hot spots. The virus is being transmitted locally by mosquitoes in the territories.

But public health experts expect that local transmission of the virus through mosquitoes will spread to the continental United States — mostly the southern states — this summer.

 

 

 

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The Less Than Spartan Olympics

Summer Olympics is supposed to happen in Rio this year. It may not.

Issues include an unstable and volatile political situation, with the current President having been impeached, pollution issues making the events dangerous for competitors, the Zika virus running rampant, and whether the event facilities will actually be ready. In other words, it’s a rolling disaster.

Add to that as significant portion of the Russian Olympic team will be banned for use of steroids, and at least 31 athletes have been banned for illegal substance use so far…

And things are looking a lot less than “Golden”.

Olympics now digging into past winners, issuing bans

The IOC issued a stern statement on Tuesday promising to step up the fight against sports doping after a series of damning reports exposed systematic and mass cheating by Russian athletes.

The Olympics organizers said 31 athletes in six sports have tested positive inreanalysis of their doping samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee said it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the unidentified athletes from 12 countries.

The samples had been stored at the IOC laboratory in Lausanne. They were retested using enhanced methods on athletes who were expecting to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

The IOC said “all those athletes infringing anti-doping rules will be banned from competing” in Rio.

The committee said the results of 250 retests from the 2012 London Olympics will “come shortly.” There will also undertake a “wider retesting” of medalists from Beijing and London.

“The re-tests from Beijing and London and the measures we are taking following the worrying allegations against the Laboratory in Sochi are another major step to protect the clean athletes irrespective of any sport or any nation. We keep samples for ten years so that the cheats know that they can never rest,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in the statement.

Over the weekend, Russia’s sports minister said his country has a “problem” with doping and is “very sorry” that its cheating athletes were not caught sooner.

“Serious mistakes have been made by the federation management, along with athletes and coaches who have broken anti-doping rules and neglected the principle of fair play,” said Vitaly Mutko, writing in British newspaper The Sunday Times. “Let us be clear. We are ashamed of them.”

Russia will discover on June 17 whether its athletics federation has met the reform criteria to return to competition in time for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Russia was plunged into another doping scandal last week after a series of exposes by “60 Minutes,” The New York Times, and others.

A former Russian anti-doping official allowed “60 Minutes” to listen to 15 hours of conversations he secretly recorded with a prominent doctor involved in the country’s testing regime.

Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov shared details of a systematic cover-up in Sochi during Skype conversations with Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping official turned key whistleblower. The doping program reportedly involved at least 15 Russian medal winners.

“He had the ability to help to get the necessary results,” Stepanov told CBS News — referring to gold medals.

In the recordings, Rodchenkov named Russian gold medalists in three sports — bobsled, skeleton and cross country skiing — whose dirty drugs tests he helped cover up.

It was all part, he said, of an elaborate scheme to protect Russia’s Olympic medal winners, with the help of his country’s intelligence service, known as the FSB.

“FSB tried to control every single step of the anti-doping process in Sochi,” Stepanov said Rodchenkov told him.

The FSB figured out a way to open bottles considered to be tamper-proof containing urine from drug-tainted athletes. Then they filled the bottles with clean urine collected from athletes before they started doping.

Former Olympic Cycling Champion Tammy Thomas before and after stopping steroid use

 

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2016 in News

 

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