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June 15, 2011

China has a massive lead poisoning problem

Lead Poisoning in China - The Hidden Scourge - NYTimes.com
In the past two and a half years, thousands of workers, villagers and children in at least 9 of mainland China’s 31 province-level regions have been found to be suffering from toxic levels of lead exposure, mostly caused by pollution from battery factories and metal smelters. The cases underscore a pattern of government neglect seen in industry after industry as China strives for headlong growth with only embryonic safeguards. Chasing the political dividends of economic development, local officials regularly overlook environmental contamination, worker safety and dangers to public health until forced to confront them by episodes like the Haijiu factory riot. A report by Human Rights Watch released Wednesday states that some local officials have reacted to mass poisonings by arbitrarily limiting lead testing, withholding and possibly manipulating test results, denying proper treatment to children and adults and trying to silence parents and activists. “What we are trying to underscore is how little has been done to address the massive impact of lead pollution in China,” Joe Amon, the organization’s health and human rights director, said in an interview. “It really has affected a whole generation of kids.” . . . The few published studies point to a huge problem. One 2001 research paper called lead poisoning one of the most common pediatric health problems in China. A 2006 review of existing data suggested that one-third of Chinese children suffer from elevated blood lead levels.

June 14, 2011

Deadly European E.coli outbreak traced to bean sprouts

Below is a story about one of the people--a kid--who was severely sickened by the outbreak. (No, I will not call it a "sproutbreak.") More on the outbreak here. Hamburg Father Tells of Family's Recovery From E. Coli as Death Toll Rises - Bloomberg
“Dad, I can move my right arm,” said Radloff’s son, who is also in the hospital after partly losing his sight and hearing and becoming paralyzed in parts of his body when he, too, developed the complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. “That was like a wonder,” Radloff said yesterday. The father and son are among victims of Germany’s worst- ever E. coli outbreak, which has killed 25 people and sickened at least 2,742 throughout Europe since May 2, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. German officials, who first blamed Spanish cucumbers and then local sprouts without finding definitive evidence those vegetables caused the outbreak, are still struggling to find the source. The German strain, known as O104, is unusual because it produces a shigella-like toxin that attacks red blood cells, causing them to coagulate. The kidneys fail in 55 percent to 70 percent of E. coli patients with hemolytic uremic syndrome, according to Malvinder S. Parmar, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

June 12, 2011

Shelby Foote is a monster

Shelby Foote is a historian who appeared in Ken Burns' Civil War documentary. He sees no problems at all with fighting to protect slavery. Shelby Foote: Of the Devil's Party, and Knowing It - Grasping Reality with Both Hands
INTERVIEWER: Had you been alive during the Civil War, would you have fought for the Confederates? FOOTE: No doubt about it. What’s more, I would fight for the Confederacy today if the circumstances were similar. There’s a great deal of misunderstanding about the Confederacy, the Confederate flag, slavery, the whole thing. The political correctness of today is no way to look at the middle of the nineteenth century. The Confederates fought for some substantially good things. States rights is not just a theoretical excuse for oppressing people. You have to understand that the raggedy Confederate soldier who owned no slaves and probably couldn’t even read the Constitution, let alone understand it, when he was captured by Union soldiers and asked, What are you fighting for? replied, I’m fighting because you’re down here. So I certainly would have fought to keep people from invading my native state. There’s another good reason for fighting for the Confederacy. Life would have been intolerable if you hadn’t. The women of the South just would not allow somebody to stay home and sulk while the war was going on. It didn’t take conscription to grab him. The women made him go.