Wednesday, October 22, 2014

African Union Congratulates Mozambique
African Union Commission Chair Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
October 22, 2014

ADDIS ABABA. — The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has congratulated the governments and peoples of Sao Tome and Principe and Mozambique for successfully holding peaceful elections on October 12 and 15 2014, respectively. The chairperson noted that the regular conduct of elections in African Union member-states is a clear demonstration of their commitment to upholding the principles enshrined in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

She called on political stakeholders in Sao Tome and Principe and Mozambique to continue to maintain a climate of peace and thus contribute to the nurturing, deepening and consolidation of democratic and participatory governance.

Dr Dlamini Zuma further noted that increasingly, elections in Africa are becoming more peaceful, orderly and less conflict-ridden: “This is yet another indicator of the maturation of the democratisation process on the continent as exemplified in efforts being made by most Members States in undertaking electoral reforms to improve the transparency and credibility of electoral processes in Africa,” she said.

In light of the on-going preparations for elections in Botswana, Comoros, Namibia and Tunisia before the end of the year, the AU chairperson urged stakeholders in the respective countries to ensure that a level playing field exists for all political contenders, and called on all concerned to ensure that the elections will be free and credible in order to sustain the conduct of peaceful elections on the continent.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma urged countries and development partners to make good their pledges and commitments to support the electoral process in Comoros in order to ensure that the election is held as scheduled. — AU Commission/HR.
Cuba Hosts Regional Summit on Ebola
Cuban Foreign Minister at the United Nations.
October 22, 2014

HAVANA. — Heads of state and government and representatives of countries that make up the regional integration bloc Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas-Treaty of Commerce for the Peoples (ALBA-TCP), gathered in the Cuban capital Havana on October 20 to address a joint contribution to the prevention and fight against Ebola, an epidemic currently affecting West Africa.

The summit, according to the official daily Granma, was held to co-ordinate Ebola-fighting activities in West Africa and prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean.

ALBA includes Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Saint Lucia. Grenada and St Christopher and Nevis agreed to join the bloc; Suriname is an observer.

Venezualan president Nicolas Maduro said, “We ALBA countries have the most protected and powerful healthcare systems in Latin America,” Maduro said during a local healthcare event at the Teatro Nacional in Caracas. “We will have a special meeting to co-ordinate all knowledge and work protocols.”

Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the UN for Ebola, David Nabarro who was among the participants pointed out that it was an honour for him to attend the ALBA-TCP, while he thanked Cuba for its extraordinary contribution of sending health professionals to West Africa.

He hoped that other nations would provide support to address this epidemic and emphasised the willingness of Cuba to work and collaborate with other countries in the region.

The meeting was also attended by the director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Carissa Etienne. PAHO discussed how to strengthen regional efforts in order to prevent the disease from spreading throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Etienne believes that Latin American countries are ready to address Ebola, although she assured that the probability of Ebola reaching Latin America was very low.

“Our objective in this area is to assure ourselves that we can detect the first case as quickly as possible. We need to take the necessary measures to prevent the transmission of the disease,” stressed Etienne.

Etienne also celebrated the Cuban government’s decision to send 400 medical brigades to Sierra Leone stating that, “this is an example of what a small country can do to help other nations.”

In Haiti, the PAHO issued a joint statement with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to address rumours that Ebola had reached the island nation.

“It is worrying to see the growing number of unfounded rumours, which suggests that the virus of the disease Ebola is in Haiti. These rumours are likely to make taking bad decisions, or even cause panic movements without cause in the population,” read the statement.

“PAHO/WHO urge the press and population to exercise caution, including health workers, noting that the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) and partners are mobilised to prepare for all eventualities.”

The meeting comes ahead of the 10th anniversary summit of ALBA, to be held on December 14 in Havana.

The meeting agreed in part to:

1. Co-ordinate efforts to prevent and deal with the Ebola epidemic, including rapidly providing and using assistance among our countries, with healthcare workers and relevant supplies and materials.

2. Look after, as a priority, the special needs of sister countries in the Caribbean that would allow them to benefit from the co-operation for preventing and confronting Ebola that are agreed to by the ALBA-TCP countries.

3. Decisively support the voluntary medical brigades specialised in dealing with disasters and major epidemics, the Henry Reeve Contingent of the Republic of Cuba, working in the countries of Africa.

5. Establish national mechanisms to rapidly diagnose and isolate suspected cases of Ebola, taking into account the initial clinical manifestations of the disease, the travel and/or exposure history reported by the patient or obtained by the epidemiological investigation.

6. Design and carry out public education campaigns about the prevention of and response to Ebola, directed to increase the preparedness of the population and to promote their trust. — Cuban Embassy/Herald Reporter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Zuma Criticizes Pistorius’ Defense
Republic of South Africa President Jacob Zuma.
October 22, 2014

PRETORIA/JOHANNESBURG — Oscar Pistorius’ disability was no basis for him to escape prison time President Jacob Zuma said, according to reports. The Guardian reported that Zuma criticised the Paralympian’s defence team, who had argued that he should be spared prison because he is disabled and has money.

Pistorius was sentenced to five years behind bars yesterday for culpable homicide after a seven-month trial in the North Gauteng High Court for the death of Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria home in February 2013. Zuma told The Guardian in Pretoria that there were physically challenged people in prison and that Pistorius’ disability and the fact that he had money was not an issue to debate.

Judge Thokozile Masipa handed down her sentence shortly after 10:30am yesterday.

“Count 1, culpable homicide, sentence imposed is maximum of five years.”

He was also sentenced to three years in jail, suspended for five years, for discharging a firearm in a Johannesburg restaurant.

Both sentences will run concurrently.

Pistorius will be eligible for his sentence to be commuted to correctional supervision after 10 months. In terms of Section 276 of the Criminal Procedure Act, the accused may serve one-sixth of the sentence. For a five-year sentence, this would amount to 10 months.

“I have taken into account the seriousness of the offence, which led to the death of the deceased, the personal circumstances of the accused, and the interests of society,” Judge Masipa said during sentencing.

“I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message. A long sentence would also not be appropriate either as it would lack the element of mercy. If sentences are too lenient, the administration of justice will fall into disrepute and people will take law into their own hands.

“A suspended sentence would not be appropriate in my view,” Masipa said.

“The loss of life can’t be reversed. Hopefully judgment on sentence will provide some sort of closure for all concerned.”

During the closing arguments Pistorius’ defence lawyer Barry Roux, said: “We have a vulnerable person that used excessive force . . . He never ever entertained the thought that the deceased was in the toilet . . . he thought she was in the bedroom.”

He said when people saw the athlete they did not realise the impact the disability had on him and the difficulties he faced. “There is pain and treatment needed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the five years imposed on Pistorius was significant, because a longer sentence would not have given him a chance of house arrest, a law expert said yesterday.

“The number ‘five years’ was not an ordinary number, it was carefully selected,” Wits School of Law Professor Stephen Tuson said.

According to Section 276 of the Criminal Procedure Act, one-sixth of a jail sentence can be converted to house arrest, if the sentence is not more than five years.

This meant Pistorius could spend only 10 months in prison.

“That is why it was carefully chosen,” Tuson said. Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of culpable homicide. For discharging a firearm at Tasha’s restaurant in January 2013, he was sentenced to three years in jail, suspended for five years.

Both sentences would run concurrently, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled.

Tuson said both the State and the defence would now have 14 days to apply for leave to appeal. The State could only appeal if there was a question of law or the sentence, while the defence could appeal the conviction and the sentence.

However, he said this would not be advisable for the defence because Pistorius’ sentence could be made heavier than the present one.

“It is inadvisable (for the defence) to appeal the conviction because they got off lightly with culpable homicide,” Tuson said. Social media tags around the Pistorius trial were still trending globally as viewers took to social networks to voice their opinions.

While Pistorius’ supporters have been vocal in the past, social media largely showed disdain for the five year sentence.

— Sapa/news24.
Sudan’s Ruling Party Selects Bashir as Candidate for 2015 Election
Republic of Sudan President Omer Hassan al-Bashir.
October 21, 2014 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party’s (NCP) Shura Council has selected president, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, as party candidate for the 2015 election.

The incumbent president won 265 votes out of 495 which represent 73% of the total percentage. His official nomination will be approved at the NCP General Convention.

The NCP Leadership Council on Monday besides Bashir selected four other leading members and referred them to the Shura Council to pick one of them as the party’s nominee for 2015 presidential election.

The 70-year old president previously said he would not seek a new mandate saying the country needs “fresh bold”. The appointment of a military, Bakri Hassan Saleh, as first vice-president was also perceived as a step towards his departure.

During the past weeks, Bashir received different delegations from the NCP dignitaries requesting him to accept their nomination for the presidential race.

The other four nominees chosen by the Leadership Council and submitted to the Shura Council included the first vice-president Bakri Hassan Saleh, former presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie, former first vice-president Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour.

Meanwhile, the former presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that he does not seek to run for the presidency despite being selected among the NCP’s five possible candidates.

“The party members will not select me [as presidential candidate] and I do not want it and it is better for them not to select me”, he said.

The NCP leading figure, Amin Hassan Omer, said in press statements that Bashir and his deputy Salih are not serving army officers, pointing they had retired and became members of the NCP.

The head of the NCP organisational sector, Hamid Siddiq, for his part, scoffed at reports that Bashir will easily won the upcoming election because he wouldn’t run against strong competitors, saying what is wrong if Bashir wins by consensus.

He downplayed voices saying that Sudan needs a president who could break the barrier of the the international isolation and build strong relation with the United States, saying the NCP needs someone who is close to Allah [God] not the US.

Siddiq pointed the NCP leaders were unwilling to accept party nomination for presidency, saying that 7 members withdrew their nomination and the technical committee conducted the nomination process twice for lack of a quorum.


Bashir, who addressed the Shura Council meeting on Tuesday, acknowledged that the NCP committed several mistakes and violations, announcing intention to form a committee to look into these violations in order to overcome the flaws.

He directed the NCP members to implement the recommendations of the Shura conferences, pointing to the political mobility his party made ahead of the General Convention.

The NCP chairman said his address in the opening session of the General Convention on Thursday will tackle NCP achievements during the past five years, pointing he will also deal with the failures.

Sudan’s Ruling Party Selects Major Nominees for President
National Congress Party Chairman Ibrahim Ghandour at press
conference in Khartoum on Oct. 14, 2014. 
October 20 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Leadership Council of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) selected five nominees to compete for the presidency of the party and next year’s presidential elections in a secret ballot on Monday.

President Omer al-Bashir is the first of the party’s nominees despite his absence from the meeting. The other four nominees are first vice-president Bakri Hassan Saleh, former presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie, former first vice-president Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour.

The initial list of 10 people submitted to the NCP Leadership Council included vice-president Hassabo Abdel-Rahman, Mustafa Osman Ismail, Mehdi Ibrahim, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir and former vice-president al-Haj Adam.

The five nominees selected by the Leadership Council will be referred to the Shura Council which chooses and ranks three of the five in terms of preference. Afterwards only one name is picked and tabled at the General Convention for endorsement.

Observers in the capital say there is a little doubt now that the NCP nominates a candidate other than Bashir. Earlier this year, some analysts went to say that the president was preparing to hand over the presidency to his friend and first-vice president Bakri Hassan Saleh.

In remarks after the vote, Ghandour said 84 of the 91 Council’s members attended the meeting.

He praised the consultative approach followed in the selection of party nominee, and attributed the absence of incumbent president form the meeting to the need to allow greater freedom for the participants to make their choice.

The NCP’s convention will kick off on 23 October.

Fuel Supplies Topped Up in Juba Amid Severe Shortages
Lines in South Sudan to buy petrol.
October 20, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s ministry of petroleum and mining over the weekend provided fuel to 18 stations in Juba, which it says would supply the capital for a week.

“The ministry of petroleum and mining assures the public that there is now enough [fuel] to last for a week,” the ministry said in a press statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday.

The fuel was imported by the state-owned National Oil and Gas Corporation (Nile Pet), which also distributed diesel and petrol to stations, although the company did not specify the volumes supplied.

Acute fuel shortages hit Juba last Thursday and Friday, paralysing transport and resulting in long queues at fuel stations across the capital.

Although South Sudan produces crude oil, it lacks refinery facilities and thus relies on imports of fuel from neighbouring countries.

The closure of the South Sudan-Uganda border on Tuesday day following a dispute over clearing and forwarding agents in Nimule is thought to have led to fuel stations drying up.

A litre of diesel or petrol is fixed at six South Sudanese pounds (SSP), with sellers prohibited from increasing prices.

However, there is an emerging trend in Juba of so-called ‘black market fuel’, sold at higher prices, with officials describing the practice as unacceptable.

“We would like to tell the public not to buy fuel in bulk and keep it in their houses,” said Ajak Bior, the press secretary in the office of petroleum minister, Stephen Dhieu.

“We expect other independent fuel agents that have been allocated letters of credit (LC) by Nile Pet to import fuel into the country and bridge the remaining gap before the end of this week,” he added.

An LC authorises commercial banks to provide the stated amount of US dollars to particular businesses intending to import items abroad.

United Nations Demands Safe Release of Abducted Personnel in South Sudan
SPLM negotiating groups in Ethiopia.
October 20, 2014 (JUBA) – The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has strongly condemned the recent abductions of its personnel in Upper Nile state, demanding their safe release.

An unidentified armed group of men reportedly seized three contractors employed by the UN working at Malakal airfield on 10 October and drove them away in a truck.

Two of abductees were released on 11 October while the other remains in detention.

Another staff of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) was on 16 October reportedly seized by another group of armed men in Malakal as he boarded a UN flight and remains at large.

“UNMISS strongly condemns these abductions and demands the safe release of the missing individuals,” UNMISS said in a statement.

There is still a lack of clarity on the identity of the abductors, and various authorities and commanders have assured the mission and WFP of all efforts to track down the abductors and secure the release of the two abducted individuals.

It is the responsibility of the Government of South Sudan under the Status of Forces Agreement with the organisation to protect UN personnel “irrespective of the identity of the abductors,” the UN said.

South Sudanese Rival Factions Sign Framework Agreement in Tanzania
SPLM factions sign framework agreement in Arusha.
October 20, 2014 (ARUSHA) – Factions of the ruling party in South Sudan, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM), have signed a framework agreement which aims to address the root causes of the conflict that erupted in mid-December and plunged the country into violent crisis.

The document was signed on Monday in the Tanzanian northern town of Arusha and witnessed by the two principal rival leaders, namely president Salva Kiir, who chairs the SPLM in government and Riek Machar, former vice president and leader of the SPLM-in-Opposition.

SPLM of former detainees also participated in the talks and inked the document as well.

President Jakaya Kikwete chairs the Tanzanian ruling party, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which facilitated the intra-SPLM dialogue.

Delegates of the three rival groups of the South Sudanese ruling party met in Arusha from 12th to 18th of this month to try to come up with the framework in the process hosted by the Tanzanian ruling party.

The framework agreement highlighted preamble, principles, objectives and agenda that will be discussed in the intra-party dialogue. It also included rules of engagement and role of CCM.

However, it said the process is distinct from the peace talks which takes place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“The parties recognize that the Arusha process is essentially an intra-SPLM dialogue and is separate and distinct from the IGAD mediated peace talks among South Sudanese stakeholders. Yet the parties are fully aware that the two processes, although separate, are mutually interdependent and reinforcing,” partly reads a communiqué.

The document recommits the parties to the principles of democracy, internal democracy especially on matters of decision making, elections, succession and peaceful transfer of power.

It further calls for “unity of SPLM as a safeguard against fragmentation of the country along ethnic and regional fault lines.”

“Initiate measures to stop the war, lead the government and the people of South Sudan towards peace, stability and prosperity,” it further urges.

Both leaders expressed their commitment to the intra-party dialogue that would reunite the divided historical party.

The document was signed by senior officials of the rival factions, namely Daniel Awet Akot, Peter Adwok Nyaba and Pagan Amum Okech, representing SPLM in government, SPLM-in-Opposition and SPLM former detainees, respectively.

When contacted for some clarity on the meaning of the document inked by the three SPLM rival parties, Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak, said the agreement served as a roadmap for further negotiations in trying to reunite the ruling party and end the war.

“It is a roadmap agreement with guiding principles and objectives for further discussions and possible resolutions,” Dak told Sudan Tribune when contacted on Monday.

“The governance crisis within the SPLM gave birth to the 15 December violence which has unfortunately plunged the country into the current national crisis or civil war. The intra-party dialogue provides a supplement to the peace talks in Addis Ababa to try and address the root causes of this conflict within the ruling party,” he added.

Also, Dak added that the framework agreement has recognised the need to “revitalise, reorganise, strengthen and restore the SPLM to its vision, principles, political direction and core values.”

Analysts, however, say the dialogue, could provide an avenue for progress on key issues, including deep divisions between South Sudanese party leaders, if respected.

"Progress on party politics in Arusha is likely good news for the peace process. The fear is that it might come at a high price for civil society and other stakeholders that have been struggling for months for meaningful engagement at the IGAD-led peace talks," said Justine Fleischner, a Sudan and South Sudan policy consultant at Enough Project.

Akshaya Kumar, a Sudan and South Sudan policy analyst at Enough Project said the new Arusha forum on party politics must tackle issues beyond elite power sharing so as to fulfil its promise of being mutually reinforcing of the peace talks in Addis Ababa.

"South Sudan’s ruling SPLM is facing much more than a leadership schism; after 10 months of internecine war, its very legitimacy is at stake," said Kumar.

Somalia Aims to Get Oil Flowing by 2020

OCTOBER 20, 2014

Somalia aims to produce oil within six years, Petroleum Minister Daud Mohamed Omar said on Monday, as he announced plans to reassert control over a sector which has foundered since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.

Hopes that the impoverished East African nation could emulate neighbouring Kenya by discovering and bringing to market offshore resources have been kept on ice by long-running territorial disputes between regional authorities.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources has drafted bills for revenue sharing and downstream development, and submitted them to state governments for approval, Omar said in a statement read by an interpreter at the second annual Somalia Oil and Gas summit in London.

He added that the ministry, created less than a year ago, was the only legitimate authority in the sector and that deals signed with regional governments were illegal.

The federal government is in talks with international oil companies, including Shell, to revive contracts which were put under force majeure in 1991, Omar said.

He said the government would protect the rights of concession holders, but warned companies not to “sit on the nation’s assets” by keeping the force majeure clauses in place.

Force majeure clauses temporarily absolve a company of its contractual obligations due to events beyond its control, including armed conflict.

Omar said that offshore production should begin in six years, and onshore production in nine years.

Alirio Parra, former energy minister of Venezuela who was involved in organising the conference, said Somalia faced many challenges associated with building a sector from the ground up, including developing a workforce, installing infrastructure and accessing finance.


The ministry aims to bring in new investors to achieve these goals, including small oil companies which Omar praised for their flexibility and quick start-up times.

“Somalia does not have time to waste,” he added.

Soma Oil & Gas, a British company working exclusively in Somalia, is conducting offshore seismic exploration which it expects to complete by early 2015.

Chief executive Robert Sheppard said that if the results were promising, the company would begin shooting 3D seismic and drilling exploration wells under a production sharing agreement with the government.

He added that the seismic teams had not suffered any security incidents during several months of offshore activities.

Somalia’s coastline is a hotspot for piracy, though a NATO task force and a growing private security industry have partially offset the risk.

Much will depend on whether the ministry can push through a deal with regional governments to jointly administer the oil sector. Omar said that the ministry was awaiting responses from these governments on the draft revenue sharing bill.

The federal government signed an agreement last week with the state of Puntland to resume relations, a United Nations statement said.

But another break-away territory, Somaliland, remains effectively independent and last month extended an oil deal with Norway’s DNO until late 2017.

The ministry recently criticised companies which had struck deals with regional governments, accusing them of destabilising the country.

“Somalia is a sovereign nation,” Omar said. “The days of impunity are over.”

Source: Reuters
Somalia Plans to Start Producing Oil Offshore in Six Years

By Jillian Ward - Oct 21, 2014

Somalia plans to begin producing oil and gas offshore for the first time within six years and is in talks with state governments about how revenue will be shared, Petroleum Minister Daud Mohamed Omar said.

The Horn of Africa country, which has been immersed in conflict for more than two decades, is proceeding tentatively on exploration to avoid creating new tensions, Omar said at the Somalia Oil & Gas Summit yesterday in London. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud said in August the government expects to complete an assessment of its oil and gas potential this year.

“The Somali government, even though it wishes to move forward quickly in these areas, will also move forward cautiously,” an interpreter for Omar said at the conference. “We do not intend to have the quest for oil and gas to re-ignite divisions and violence.”

Somalia is considering its first bidding round for oil blocks since 2009 as increasing stability begins to attract more foreign investors. African Union-backed government forces have regained control of about 70 percent of the country that had fallen under the control of al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked militant group seeking to create an Islamic state in Somalia.

The government is in talks with companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., BP Plc and Chevron Corp. about reactivating dormant contracts in the country, said J. Jay Park, managing director of Petroleum Regimes Advisory, who provides legal advice to the government. Oil companies haven’t operated in the country since civil war erupted in 1991 and they were forced to declare force majeure.

Yemen Geology

“It is in Somalia’s interest that these companies are given every opportunity to return,” Omar said.

While Somalia has no proven oil reserves, drillers are betting the country has a geology similar to that of Yemen, which lies across the Gulf of Aden and has 2.7 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

Somalia’s oil deposits may amount to as much as 110 billion barrels, according to a June report published by the Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute for Policy Studies. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has 266 billion barrels of proven reserves, BP data shows.

The results of seismic surveys carried out by Soma Oil & Gas Holdings Ltd., a London-based exploration company funded by Russian billionaire Alexander Djaparidze, are expected to be submitted to the government by the beginning of next year, Chief Executive Officer Robert Sheppard said in an interview at the conference. The survey, completed at a cost of $37 million, was finished without any security issues, he said.

$100 Million

“This Soma activity has demonstrated that seismic can be done in offshore Somalia,” Shell Vice President for Exploration in Sub-Saharan Africa Alastair Milne said at the conference. “But it will take more detailed technical work before we can pinpoint that place to drill, and that will likely require investment well in excess of $100 million.”

An oil and gas revenue-sharing bill has been drafted and is moving through consultations with the emerging federal member states, Omar said. Somali officials at the summit were unable to provide a timeframe for when the law might be passed.

For now, the provisional federal constitution allows the federal government to award blocks and make deals with international oil companies after consultations with the states, Omar said.

A UN monitoring group report on Somalia published last week flagged increased onshore commercial activity as a risk that may trigger conflict, recommending that no contracts with oil and gas companies be signed until “appropriate constitutional, legislative, fiscal and regulatory provisions had been clarified and agreed to by the federal government and its regional authorities.”

(An earlier version of this story corrected the title of the conference in the second paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jillian Ward in London at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at Paul Richardson, Karl Maier
Immunovaccine Moving Forward With Ebola Vaccine

Published October 20, 2014 - 6:44pm

As the race to find an effective vaccine to treat the Ebola virus heats up, a Halifax clinical-stage vaccine company is attracting international attention.

“We have a potential solution to provide a single-dose (vaccine),” said Marc Mansour, chief executive officer with Immunovaccine Inc., in an interview Monday from Stanford University in California.

The first supplies of an Ebola vaccine developed at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg were shipped Monday to the World Health Organization.

The vaccine has proved effective in animal trials and was recently cleared by the federal government for human trials to determine proper dosage levels and side effects.

Meanwhile, global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is accelerating the development of an Ebola vaccine currently in Phase 1 trials, with results expected by the end of the year.

Mansour said recent events demonstrating the virus’s ability to cross borders have heightened awareness about its potential global threat.

He said single doses of the Glaxo vaccine have proved effective in fighting Ebola in monkeys.

“It might work,” Mansour said.

The vaccine developed in Winnipeg also looks promising in animal tests but has to be kept at very cold temperatures, Mansour said.

“There needs to be a rapid single dose,” he said.

Immunovaccine recently reported positive results from an Ebola vaccine formulated in the company’s DepoVax delivery system, DPX-Ebola. The results were achieved in an animal vaccination trial organized by the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

All vaccinated animals survived exposure to a lethal dose of the wild Zaire strain of the virus, while all unvaccinated animals died from the disease.

Immunovaccine is working with the United States National Institutes of Health, which Mansour said is motivated to get Ebola vaccines in trials, to plan additional DPX-Ebola studies, with data expected in 2015. The data is expected to support advancing DPX-Ebola into human studies.
Canadian-made Experimental Ebola Vaccine to Begin Clinical Trials, Could Be Shipped to West Africa If Successful

The Canadian government said it will ship 800 vials of VSV-EBOV to the World Health Organization in Geneva. The trials will begin later this month in Europe and East and Central Africa.

If those go well, a second wave of trials in West Africa — the Ebola outbreak epicenter where 4,555 people have died — will begin after December.

Canada's VSV-EBOV, an experimental Ebola vaccine, will begin human clinical trials later this month.

Canada's set to send its experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization, marking the first step toward clinically testing and possibly approving the drug.

The country will ship about 800 vials of the untested vaccine VSV-EBOV to Geneva Monday, the government said in a Saturday statement. WHO is set to start clinical trials with the drug in Europe and parts of Africa later this month.

The drug has never been tested on humans, but has shown promising results in animals, the government said.

The trials couldn't come fast enough: 4,555 people have died from Ebola during the 2014 outbreak, the U.N. said Friday.

The clinical trials for the Canadian drug will run from late October until December in Switzerland, Germany, Gabon and Kenya, CBC News reported.

If the early trials show no significant side-effects, health officials will begin a second round of trials in West Africa, the epicenter of the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Since the March onset, 8,997 people have contracted the virus. Nearly all the cases have been reported in three West African countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A handful of cases have been confirmed in Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the U.S.

There is no cure for Ebola, but several countries have been experimenting with treatments and vaccines for the deadly virus.

U.S.-made ZMapp has shown some success in treating patients with the disease.

American aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who developed the disease in Liberia, both recovered after receiving the drug. However a 75-year-old Ebola-stricken Spanish priest died even with the medication.

With News Wire Services
Ebola Vaccine Trials Carry Risks for Companies in Chase
Nigeria has been declared Ebola-free.
By Robert Langreth, Shannon Pettypiece and Caroline Chen
Oct 20, 2014 9:48 PM ET

Each of the Ebola vaccines being lined up for testing carries potential downsides, researchers say, ranging from efficacy that faded in less than a year to the chance it will give healthy people flu-like symptoms.

Human trials, just starting on some vaccines, could also unveil unknown side effects, an unwelcome possibility for shots designed to be taken by people who may never be infected with Ebola. That’s why it’s imperative to cast a wide net in seeking a solution, said Matthias Schnell, a microbiologist at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

“We really should test as many vaccines as we can,” Schnell, who is working on a vaccine that targets Ebola and rabies, said in a telephone interview. “We need way more clinical data for each vaccine before we go ahead with mass vaccination.”

Safety testing has already begun on vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK), which is working with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and NewLink Genetics Corp. (NLNK), which is testing a product developed by government researchers in Canada. The next step, efficacy trials in humans, could start next year for Glaxo’s product in affected regions in Africa.

Meanwhile, clinical trials could begin later next year for as many as three other vaccines. While the vaccines have shown some levels of effectiveness in animals, that’s no guarantee they’ll work as well when they are tested in humans, said Thomas Geisbert, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.

Arsenal of Alternatives

“That’s why it’s good to have an arsenal,” Geisbert said by telephone. “So that if one doesn’t work, you will have plenty of alternatives.”

Vaccines work by stimulating the body to generate antibodies with the ability to remember the virus. That allows them to recognize Ebola once an infection takes place, and mount a rapid counterattack. They differ from ZMapp and other experimental medicines given to Ebola patients primarily because the vaccines are designed for healthy people as a way to keep them from becoming infected.

The Glaxo and NewLink vaccines “have both been shown to be effective in monkeys, so there’s every reason to think they’ll be effective,” said Kartik Chandran, a microbiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “But you can’t assume the same thing will hold true in humans. There have been nasty surprises before.”

Modified Viruses

The vaccines from Glaxo and NewLink are based on modified viruses that are changed so they express an Ebola protein that’s strong enough to stimulate an immune response, but doesn’t carry the part of the Ebola virus that makes people sick. Glaxo’s vaccine is based on a chimpanzee cold virus, while the NewLink vaccine is based on vesicular stomatitis virus, which is found in cows.

For London-based Glaxo’s vaccine, there are unanswered questions about whether it will be able to protect against Ebola for an extended length of time, Schnell said.

A study in monkeys, published last month in the journal Nature Medicine, showed efficacy of the single-dose version of the vaccine waning over several months. While one dose of the vaccine protected all of the monkeys given the vaccine from a lethal dose of Ebola after five weeks, it only protects about half of the animals after 10 months.

Giving the monkeys a booster shot of a different vaccine construct provided longer-lasting protection, but Glaxo isn’t using that version in its initial studies in humans.

‘Effective Response’

Even with the one-dose version “we are hoping this vaccine will effectively prime the immune system so that when it does see a small amount of virus” the body will be able to mount an effective response, said Ripley Ballou, a Glaxo vice president.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), meanwhile, plans to test a vaccine it developed with a planned booster shot. The company’s human trial is set to begin in March 2015. While giving everyone two shots rather than one adds a logistical challenge, J&J thinks it could be the best way to provide long-term protection.

It “has the potential to provide the durability needed to ensure complete protection against the disease, particularly when we don’t how long an Ebola outbreak will continue,” said Seema Kumar, a J&J spokeswoman.

Durability, though, remains a key question for Ebola vaccines, according to Geisbert. In Africa, if patients have to keep coming in for booster shots, “it could be a very big problem,” he said. “You are lucky to get someone to come in one time, not multiple times.”

Vaccines based on weakened, live viruses that can still replicate “tend to have more durability,” said Geisbert. But they may also cause flu-like symptoms in some cases, he said.

“If you get high fever after you get vaccinated, that would be the end of the vaccine,” Schnell said.

NewLink Vaccine

NewLink’s vaccine is one with a weakened live virus that can still replicate. The Ames, Iowa-based company has started or will soon begin first-stage clinical trials in the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, Germany, and two African nations, Chief Executive Officer Charles Link said in an Oct. 14 interview.

Healthy volunteers in the trial will receive the vaccine, and then be tracked to see how their body responds, Link said. The first participants will get a very low dose of the vaccine to make sure it is safe before the dosage is gradually escalated for later subjects, Link said by telephone.

“We’re doing everything in our power to get the vaccine moving forward and get it into the hot zone,” he said. NewLink’s Chief Financial Officer John Henneman declined to comment on potential side effects.

While researchers often look at how well vaccines do in stimulating the production of antibodies, that isn’t always the best predictor, said Ben Neuman, a virologist at the University of Reading in the U.K. For example, he said, vaccines for HIV have triggered a good antibody response yet failed in human testing.

“Ebola is good at hiding,” Neuman said in a telephone interview. Making a vaccine “is hard,” he added. “If it was easy we would have one by now.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Langreth in New York at; Shannon Pettypiece in New York at; Caroline Chen in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reg Gale at Andrew Pollack
Ebola Virus Disease: A Potential Global Catastrophe
Illustration of the Ebola virus.

Once again the World Health Organization is seriously under-funded as it strives to fight against the worst outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in the history of the planet, one which threatens to develop into a nightmare scenario in West Africa before Christmas, and one which could become a global catastrophe. Time to pull together.

Once again in a world which spends one point seven trillion USD on weapons to murder people, we see the World Health Organization (WHO) seriously under-funded as it struggles to control the worst Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in history. However this is not the time for political in-fighting: it is a serious global threat which could easily turn into a catastrophe, especially if the virus attains sustained infection rates outside West Africa - imagine this disease in South-East Asia, or crowded cities in Latin America. Or anywhere else.

Worst outbreak in history

This outbreak of EVD has a mortality rate of around 50 per cent. 4,447 people (including 236 healthcare workers) out of the 8,914 infected, have died and the WHO predicts the number will rise to over 9,000 by the end of the week, and potentially could reach 10,000 new infections weekly by the end of the year, the infection rate being 1.7, meaning each infected person infects 1.7 others. Beginning in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa, in February, the outbreak has since spread to neighboring countries Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal, and also to Nigeria, there have been human-to-human transmission cases in Spain (1) and the USA (2) and other cases treated in Germany (5 successfully, one death), France (1), Norway (1) and the UK (1 case). There is now a suspected case in Poland, in the city of Lodz. There are currently 6 cases in quarantine in Spain, awaiting confirmation and one in France.

Inadequate preparation

The potential to spread is massive, especially because of the lackadaisical attitude of Institutions across the globe and even healthcare facilities in some cases, for instance the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Patient Zero, Thomas Eric Duncan, had reported ill after travelling from Liberia, and was sent home with a prescription for antibiotics, being diagnosed with a "low-grade common viral disease". Two of the nurses who treated him after he was finally re-admitted, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, contracted the disease -Union officials allegedly claimed they were dealing with the patient in a terminal phase either with inadequate equipment or were not clearly informed about which protective gear to use.

It has been reported that nurses treating the patient were given the option to use the N95 masks, but some were told full protective gear was not necessary.

In Vinson's case, the hospital isolated her within two hours of reporting the virus. However, before this she had informed the Center for Disease Control about having a temperature and that she had treated a patient with EVD before taking her Frontier Airlines flight to Ohio, and was not prevented from doing so. The fact that she already showed symptoms means she was infectious and some of the 132 passengers on board that aircraft are at risk of infection.

One would expect higher control procedures at such a time, especially from healthcare professionals. Yet the situation is no different elsewhere: how many public Institutions (education ministries, health ministries, hospitals, clinics) have issued protocol procedures beyond a hastily-written flyer copying and pasting data from the WHO website?

Need for clear and concise information

It is this void in clear and concise information that gives rise to scare stories and panic attacks, apparently responsible for the lion's share of the expenses in such outbreaks. In just a week we have witnessed the Turkish Airlines' emergency landing in Rome because of two Bangladeshi passengers with temperatures, the five patients with flu-like symptoms evacuated from an Emirates aircraft at Boston Airport, the Nigerian passenger pulled off the aircraft in Madrid, the scare with the 132 passengers on the Frontier Airlines. This, the same week in which a more serious story came from the Middle East with the hospitalization of a patient in the United Arab Emirates and the news that EVD is spreading to new areas in the Republic of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.


While as yet there are claims that effective treatment does not exist, there is the experimental drug Brincidofovir, administered to Thomas Eric Duncan unsuccessfully, there is the plasma treatment in which a patient receives a transfusion from an EVD survivor with the same blood type (as was the case of Nina Pham receiving plasma from Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the first two American citizens infected), and there is Z-Mapp, which was successfully administered to these two patients, Dr. Brantly and aid worker Nancy Writebol.

What is ZMapp?

ZMapp is a treatment composed of the use of cultures of cells which make monoclonal antibodies, mAbs. The experimentation began with MB-003, a cocktail of three human/human-mouse mAbs, namely c13C6, h13F6 and c6D8, which showed promising results when administered to rhesus monkeys infected with EVD. The process evolved to the creation of ZMab, a cocktail of three mouse mAbs, namely m1H3, m2G4 and m4G7. These also proved very promising in trials on Ebola-infected macaque monkeys. ZMapp humanized the three ZMab antibodies and tested these with combinations of MB-003 first in guinea pigs and then in monkeys. The best and most successful therapeutic combinations were the c13C6 from MB-003 and the humanized mAbs c2G4 and c4G7, from ZMab, and the result is what is known today as ZMapp.

Contagion and symptoms

EVD is not yet an airborne virus like the Influenza viruses, although it is transmitted by contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, faeces and vomit, milk, urine and semen, possibly also saliva and tears, more especially in the later stages of the illness, and from sweat, studies are inconclusive, according to the WHO. However, the information is unclear because the same source, the WHO, states that EVD can be caught from touching contaminated surfaces. Some say that the virus then needs to be passed to mucous membrane through touching the mouth, nose or eyes, others say it can be transmitted through lesions in the skin, while others state that it can be absorbed directly through the skin, in which case it is enough to touch an infected and contagious person.

Contagion occurs when a patient is infectious, in other words displaying the first symptoms, which is a sudden high fever, extreme fatigue, headache, sore throat, body pain and lack of appetite. This develops into nausea, then diarrhea and vomiting. As the virus takes hold and destroys the blood vessels, the central nervous system takes control from the digestive system and tells the body to expel as much fluid as it can through violent and sustained, copious projectile vomiting and diarrhea, which in the terminal stage can include blood. The patient becomes a human volcano of bodily fluids and torrents of blood.

It is for this reason that the healthcare workers need to use full protective gear at all times, while treating the patient and when cleaning a room after a patient has been accommodated in it, and to follow the protocols for removal of the gear strictly, not touching the face with infected gloves.

Russia's contribution

The Russian Federation has been present fighting this pandemic at all levels. President Vladimir Putin has met the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and has pledged full support. A medical team of Russian virologists, epidemiologists and bacteriologists is in the field in the Republic of Guinea, to date 19 million USD has been provided, alongside humanitarian aid. Russia is ready to send large numbers of doses of the anti-viral drug Triazavirin, which is effective in 70 to 90% of cases of infections with 15 strains of Influenza, including A H1N1 (Swine Flu) and H5N1 (Avian flu), at any stage of the infection.

Russia is also working on a vaccine and is ready to begin trials on primates. After this the human trials will begin and it may be ready for massive operations by Summer 2015.

A collective lesson: Pulling together

The history of the last week, which has seen success stories in Nigeria and Senegal (where EVD contagion appears to have been halted), but which has also seen social and political and economic disruption appearing in the areas where the infection is concentrated, is a history of heroic efforts by healthcare volunteers from around the globe fighting desperately, but together, against a common foe.

While there is no room for complacency, by pulling together and fighting side by side, the international community can beat this serious threat. Perhaps Ebola Virus Disease has taught us all a lesson.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey
US Looking to Boost Production of Experimental Ebola Drug
Ebola virus emerging from infected cell.
October 18, 2014 04:46

US officials have asked labs to submit plans for ramping up production of the experimental Ebola drug, Zmapp, of which supplies have run out. It successfully treated medical workers infected with the virus, but hasn't been widely tested for safety.

The US Department of Health and Human Services, through its BARDA division, issued the order for mass producing the antiviral cocktail on Thursday. Three advanced biological laboratories have until November 10 to submit detailed plans with budgets and timetables, according to Reuters.

The US government "is working with partners around the world as quickly as possible to advance the development of multiple vaccine and therapeutic candidates for clinical evaluation and future use in preventing or treating Ebola," BARDA Director Robin Robinson said in a statement.

Efforts to boost ZMapp production capacity are underway at the Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, which is composed of three separate labs: the Texas A&M Health Science Center in partnership with Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Emergent Biosolutions in Maryland, and Novartis AG lab in North Carolina.

The three advanced labs were established by the US government in 2012 with $440 million in seed money, and are required to develop flexible manufacturing capabilities to allow them to produce countermeasures against chemical, biological, and other threats.

Supplies of ZMapp, which was manufactured by San Diego-based Mapp Pharmaceuticals, ran out in August after it was given to two American medical workers who contracted the disease in Liberia – Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. Both of the workers recovered. The drug is a cocktail of antibodies engineered to recognize the virus and bind to infected cells, and is made from genetically modified tobacco plants.

“We look forward to leveraging our manufacturing capabilities to expand production of this experimental therapeutic and to find other ways to support the U.S. government’s fight against Ebola,” said Adam Havey, president of Emergent's biodefense division. He also told Reuters that the company has been in discussions with plant-based manufacturers to develop a response to the task order.

It must be noted, however, that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ZMapp has yet to be tested for safety and effectiveness in humans. Also, ZMapp can’t prevent infection, as it’s a therapeutic drug, not a vaccine for Ebola.
US Army Withheld Promise From Germany That Ebola Virus Wouldn't Be Weaponized

October 20, 2014 17:17

The United States has withheld assurances from Germany that the Ebola virus - among other related diseases - would not be weaponized in the event of Germany exporting it to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.

German MFA Deputy Head of Division for Export Control Markus Klinger provided a paper to the US consulate's Economics Office (Econoff), "seeking additional assurances related to a proposed export of extremely dangerous pathogens."

Germany subsequently made two follow-up requests and clarifications to the Army, according to the unclassified Wikileaks cable.

"This matter concerns the complete genome of viruses such as the Zaire Ebola virus, the Lake Victoria Marburg virus, the Machupo virus and the Lassa virus, which are absolutely among the most dangerous pathogens in the world," the request notes.

The Zaire Ebola virus was the same strain of Ebola virus which has been rampaging through West Africa in recent months.

"The delivery would place the recipient in the position of being able to create replicating recombinant infectious species of these viruses," the cable notes.

However, it also points out that Germany has in place an "exceptionally restrictive policy," adding that approval would not be granted to the export until US assurance was provided.

"A decision about the export has not yet been made. Given the foregoing, we would appreciate confirmation that the end use certificate really is from the Department of the Army and of the accuracy of the data contained therein," the document stated.

There is no follow-up document available to confirm whether the US Army eventually provided Germany with the necessary guarantees.

Bioweapons were outlawed in the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and was signed and ratified by 179 signatories, including Germany, the US and Russia.

It dictates that signatories, "under all circumstances the use of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons is effectively prohibited by the Convention" and "the determination of States parties to condemn any use of biological agents or toxins other than for peaceful purposes, by anyone at any time."
AU to Probe Sex Abuse by AMISOM Troops in Somalia
African Union Commission Chair Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Publish Date: Oct 19, 2014

The team is to conduct investigations into the specific allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse made against AMISOM personnel, particularly the Ugandan and Burundian contingents

By Raymond Baguma

THE African Union (AU) has established a team to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by Ugandan and Burundian troops serving under the AU Mission in Somalia.

According to AMISOM, the chairperson of the AU Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma authorized the deployment of an investigation team into the allegations against AU personnel made by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Last month, the HRW published a damning 71-page report titled, “The Power These Men Have Over Us: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia.”

The report documented the sexual exploitation and abuse of Somali women and girls at two AMISOM bases in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, since 2013.

In a statement issued on Friday by AMISOM, the team comprised of four investigators, including two women is from Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. In a statement Eloi Yao, the AMISOM spokesperson said that the investigators have the requisite training, qualifications, expertise and experience at national, regional and international levels which they would bring to bear in the discharge of this very important responsibility.”

The team is to conduct investigations into the specific allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse made against AMISOM personnel, particularly the Ugandan and Burundian contingents as well as AMISOM civilian personnel. The investigators will establish the facts with respect to the allegations so that a determination can be made on whether the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse occurred or not.

Also, the team is assigned to establish, if they occurred, the duration that such actions have been taking place and the actions taken by the AMISOM leadership that either contributed to, or deterred the alleged actions from occurring.

“The Investigation Team will conduct its assignment in an independent, professional and transparent manner. The Investigation Team will be responsive to the needs of alleged victims and potential witnesses as well as to the wishes of all concerned to find out the truth about these allegations,” said Yao in a statement.

Zuma also appointed an assessment team consisting of academics and women activists with special expertise on victim of sexual violence, protection and law enforcement and peace and security that will concurrently conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine the extent, nature, patterns and trends of sexual exploitation and abuse in AMISOM.

This is intended to inform and guide the AU in its policy and response mechanisms not only for AMISOM but for all its Peace Support Operations in Somalia. The two teams are expected to complete their assignments by next month (November 30), after which they will submit their reports to the AU Chairperson.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Somalia: Residents Protest Against AU Peacekeepers

OCTOBER 19, 2014

Hundreds of residents on Sunday staged a protest in the town of Beled-weyne district, Central Somalia, against the Djibouti Peacekeepers who are part of the African Union mission.

The angry protesters accused AMISOM soldiers of killing innocent civilians during operations in an area close to the district.

But AMISOM said in a Press release that its forces came under attack by armed militia as they were en route to another district where a heavy clan fighting had occurred.

Several people were injured during the protests that caused the closure of many shops.

African Union special envoy to Somalia ambassador Mamadou Sidikou called for the residents to calm down.

“I am deeply saddened to hear of this clash in the Hiiran region. I wish to request for calm and restraint and hereby plead with the people of Hiiraan to choose peace and avoid any further conflict in Deefow and elsewhere. I wish to clarify to the people of Hiiraan – and indeed the whole of Somalia – that AMISOM is non-partisan and does not support any particular group or clan. We are in Somalia to serve all Somali people and support their government to achieve lasting peace,” he said in a Press statement.

Djibouti is one of the countries that have contributed troops to the African Union mission in Somalia with more than 800 troops.

Horseed Media
Somalia: UN Envoy Condemns Attack on African Union Troops in Hiiraan Region
Ugandan troops in Somalia on behalf of the AU and UN.
20 October 2014 – The UN envoy for Somalia condemned today an attack on African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in Hiiraan region and called for calm as rival clans caused insecurity in the area, which is near the centre of the East African country.

“I condemn yesterday’s attack on AMISOM troops near the village of Deefow in Hiiraan region. They were in the area to calm the situation and promote reconciliation,” declared Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, in a press statement.

According to the UN, armed men and rioters blocked and attacked AMISOM troops yesterday morning while they were on a mission to help restore peace near the village of Deefow.

“The situation will not be resolved by further violence. Local leaders and traditional elders must work together to de-escalate the situation and resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue in full co-operation with the federal and regional governments,” said Mr. Kay.

The envoy also underscored that the Somali people have suffered enough and know that no good can come from further violence and insecurity.

“We remain committed to supporting the Somali people, the Federal Government and AMISOM, as they work together to restore peace.” said Mr. Kay, also extending his sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed or injured as a result of the conflict in Hiiraan region.
Kenyan Military Kill Five People, Seize TNT Explosives

4:16pm EDT
By Joseph Akwiri

MOMBASA (Reuters) - Kenyan soldiers have killed five suspected al Shabaab militants near the border with Ethiopia and recovered a vehicle packed with explosives, preventing a potentially huge attack, a defense spokesman said on Monday.

Kenyan forces intercepted the five men in their car on Saturday in the northern frontier town of Moyale, and ordered them to stop, spokesman Bongita Ongeri said. The militants opened fire and were killed in the shootout.

Soldiers found 100 kg of highly explosive TNT in their vehicle along with six suicide vests.

"Those were chemicals that would be used to make dangerous explosives capable of mass destruction," Ongeri told Reuters.

Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group has repeatedly taken aim at Kenya and other African states that are part of a U.N.-mandated African Union force in Somalia.

Militants belonging to the al Qaeda-allied group stormed Nairobi's upmarket Westgate shopping mall in September last year, killing at least 67 people.

That massacre was followed by a string of gun and grenade attacks on the Kenyan coast and in the capital that prompted some Western nations to warn citizens against travel to parts of the country, hitting the tourist industry.

Ongeri said the men had originally tried to cross into Kenya directly from Somalia but had failed.

"Security officers trailed them using intelligence information and tracked them to Moyale," he said.

The incident came just days after the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia warned of a possible attack by al Shabaab there, and urged its nationals to avoid large crowds and hotels and restaurants in an upscale district of the Ethiopian capital.

It was not clear if the militants had precise plans for an attack in Kenya, but the shootout came as Kenyans were preparing to celebrate a holiday on Monday in honor of those who fought for its independence.

(Editing by Edith Honan and Crispian Balmer)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

RNs at St. Joseph Hospital Decry Management’s Response for Highest Standards of Ebola Preparation
California nurses protests lack of Ebola protocol, safeguards.
California Nurses Association Press Release, 10/17/14

Today, Registered Nurses at St Joseph Hospital in Orange, a hospital where RNs are not yet represented by a union, took the bold step of publicly calling on management to take immediate measures to ensure the health and safety of RNs and patients alike regarding Ebola.  The RNs pointed out that the hospital, like most hospitals in America, has failed to enact adequate measures to protect against Ebola. They requested the hospital immediately implement the following:

These same standards are being requested in hundreds of hospitals across the country represented by NNU and CNA, including the four St Joseph hospitals in California where RNs are already represented by CNA.

St Joseph RNs were appalled at management’s reaction to their petition.  First, the hospital allowed supervisors, and other RNs who don’t do direct patient care, to stage a protest on hospital property with signs saying “shame on CNA for preying on fear.”  Second, the hospital administration issued a statement to the press—without responding to employees’ concerns—claiming they are “prepared to deal with infectious diseases” and attacking the nurses’ union for using “scare tactics” to “address labor issues.”

Contrary to management’s assertion, St Joseph’s RNs recognize the hospital is not prepared to deal with Ebola, which is why these requests are so urgently necessary.  RNs and other healthcare workers are truly frightened, with good reason after the disastrous situation in Dallas at another hospital that was also “prepared” to deal with Ebola.  RNs are not looking for platitudes or future plans, but immediate action now to protect the lives of RNs and patients.  After all, RNs’ right not to have their lives placed in danger by doing their jobs may be ultimate “labor issue.”

“We are extremely disappointed that hospital administrators seek to undermine our legal and moral responsibility to advocate for our patients during this Ebola crisis.  We believe management should listen to the caregivers and enact these standards now, for the good of RNs, other healthcare workers and the patients in our community.” –Marlene Tucay, RN, Medical Tele Unit, St. Joseph Hospital.
Spanish Health Worker Declared Ebola-free
Spanish nurse Teresa Romero Ramos has been declared
By Al Goodman, CNN
6:45 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Source: CNN

Teresa Romero Ramos, a Spanish nurse's aide, is considered free of Ebola virus
Two previous tests showed only a "background" level of Ebola
She will still remain hospitalized for days or weeks

Madrid (CNN) -- Teresa Romero Ramos, a Spanish nurse's aide who had contracted Ebola after caring for a patient with the deadly disease, is now free of the virus, Spain's Special Ebola Committee said Sunday.

"Today I'm very happy, because it can be said that Teresa has overcome this illness," Romero's husband, Javier Limon, said in a video statement released by a family spokeswoman.

Two earlier tests showed that Ebola levels in the health worker were almost nil, and a third test came back negative.

"The last two measurements were in 'background' levels, and there is no significant statistical difference with negative results," Luis Enjuanes, an expert on viruses, said in a phone interview, in English, with CNN. "If for three times, throughout one week, you are background, background, background, in practical terms it means you don't have the virus."

Officials have previously said that the amount of the Ebola virus in Romero's blood had decreased dramatically from the time she was rushed to the hospital two weeks ago, but Enjuanes explained just how close to negative she has already come, even before the latest test sample on Sunday.
Romero has recovered enough to produce antibodies, he said.

"It means she's making her own protection, so any virus fooling around probably will be destroyed or neutralized," said Enjuanes, who's been attending the near-daily meetings of the government's special committee on Ebola, a panel of medical and scientific experts convened to deal with the crisis.

Even though Romero received the negative result for the Ebola virus on this third key test in a week, she will surely remain in hospital for days, possibly a few weeks, in order to recover, Enjuanes said.

She has received two main treatments in her battle against Ebola, for which there is still no vaccine.

The first was an IV drip with the antibodies of an Ebola survivor -- a Catholic nun who survived the disease in West Africa. And Romero also received an experimental anti-viral drug, favipiravir, Enjuanes said.

Spain imported another experimental drug, ZMab, but could only get an older version -- not the newest version, whose stocks have run low globally -- and Romero's doctors decided not to use it on her, Enjuanes said.

To fight her lung problems while also battling Ebola, the doctors administered anti-inflammatory drugs to ease her respiratory problems, even while unsure how that treatment might affect the anti-Ebola measures, Enjuanes said.

Other patients test negative

Two other patients being monitored at Carlos III hospital also tested negative for the virus on Sunday, according to the Special Ebola Committee.

The National Microbiology Institute received tests of Romero and the two other individuals under observation at Carlos III hospital, said the institute's director, Manuel Cuenca.

The tests from a man under observation in Tenerife will be received on Monday, Cuenca told CNN.
As of Sunday morning, Ramos was the only confirmed Ebola patient, according to a statement from the committee.

CNN's Laura Perez Maestro, Nic Robertson and Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report
Dallas Ebola Victims' Families Speak Out
Officials at apartment of Ebola victims in Dallas.  
By Alana Horowitz
Posted: 10/19/2014 5:08 pm EDT

The families of the Liberian man who died of Ebola earlier this month in Dallas, and one of the two nurses who contracted the virus after treating him, spoke out on Sunday.

In a statement, the family of Amber Vinson, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, responded to critics who have blamed her illness on a possible failure to follow safety guidelines.

"In no way was Amber careless prior to or after her exposure to Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan," the family said. "Suggestions that she ignored any of the physician and government-provided protocols recommended to her are patently untrue and hurtful."

Last week, Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Freiden said that, because she was at risk, Vinson should not have flown. However, Vinson's family reiterated on Sunday that the CDC had cleared her for travel multiple times.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the CDC was planning to update its guidelines for Ebola treatment in light of the crisis in Dallas. The current protocol doesn't mandate that health workers cover all of their skin, which he said creates an added "vulnerability."

In a statement provided to WFAA, Louise Troh, the longtime partner of Thomas Eric Duncan, said that "our hearts go out to the two brave women who have been infected by this terrible disease as they were trying to help him."

Vinson was the second person to have contracted Ebola in the United States after Nina Pham, another nurse at the Texas hospital. Both women have been moved from Dallas to hospitals that specialize in Ebola treatment.

Troh, whose fiance Duncan was the first person to have been diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., also thanked the Dallas community for their support.

"We have lost so much but we have our lives and we have our faith in God, which always gives us hope," she said. "Even though the quarantine is over, our time of mourning is not over."
CDC Updates Ebola Protocol as Anxiety Rises
Officials from the CDC and other centers testify before Congress.
Associated Press

Four dozen people who had contact with the original Ebola patient in Dallas will complete a three-week watch period on Monday with no sign any of them has contracted the virus — a watershed in the fight to contain the disease in the United States.

“We are looking forward to Monday morning, when (the) first wave of 48 contacts and potential contacts will no longer be monitored for Ebola,” the city of Dallas said online.

It has been a tense three weeks since the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, became the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. Duncan, who had flown to Dallas from Liberia, was turned away from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on a first visit and admitted later.

Duncan died Oct. 8. Within days, two nurses who cared for him were diagnosed with Ebola themselves.

The virus has a 21-day incubation period. When a case is confirmed, health officials monitor anyone who had contact with that person for three weeks. If they don’t develop symptoms, they are cleared.

“We are so happy this is coming to an end, and we are so grateful that none of us has shown any sign of illness,” Louise Troh, Duncan’s fiancée and mother to the couple’s son, said late Sunday in a statement. Troh and three other people have been under quarantine — ordered by the government not to go out in public.

“Our happiness is mixed with sadness at the same time,” she said. “We continue to mourn his (Duncan) loss and grieve the circumstances that led to his death, just at the time we thought we were facing a happy future together.”

After the isolation window closes, Troh and her children will spend a few more days at a temporary residence, then move to a new rental home in the Dallas area, said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who is heading the local Ebola response. Donors are paying for the family’s new home and hope to replace belongings that had to be destroyed in the cleanup process.

Troh’s daughter, Youngor Jallah, is among the group whose three-week watch period will end Sunday. Jallah, a nurse’s assistant who took Duncan’s vital signs, has stayed in an apartment she shares with her partner and their children, according to The Associated Press.

“I'm telling you, just to step outside will be so great,” she told The AP. “To hug my mom and grieve for Eric, not over the phone like we’ve been doing, but in the flesh.”

Troh’s family is among the first wave of people who had contact with an Ebola-infected person to finish the three weeks. Others, such as those who had contact with the two nurses, won't finish their quarantine for days.

More than 9,000 people in West Africa have been infected with Ebola, and half have died, sparking fears in the U.S. and elsewhere that the virus could spread.

Ebola spreads by close physical contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is infected and symptomatic. But despite the threat of the Ebola crisis growing exponentially in West Africa, Americans have little reason to fear the disease spreading here, experts told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

The Pentagon is fielding a 30-person expeditionary medical support team to provide immediate assistance to civilian health professionals in the U.S. if additional Ebola cases arise. The team will include 20 critical care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease and five trainers in infectious disease protocols, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Urges World Help on Ebola
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the whole world has a stake in the fight against Ebola.

In a "letter to the world" broadcast on the BBC, she said the disease "respects no borders", and that every country had to do all it could to help fight it.

President Johnson Sirleaf added that a generation of Africans were at risk of "being lost to economic catastrophe".

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people across West Africa, including 2,200 in Liberia.
International donations have so far fallen well short of the amounts requested by UN agencies and aid organisations.

In the worst-affected countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - about 9,000 people have been found to have the Ebola virus, which kills an estimated 70% of those infected.

Fragile states

The letter, commissioned by the BBC and read out on the World Service's Newshour programme, starts with the words "Dear World".

She goes on to say that the fight against Ebola "requires a commitment from every nation that has the capacity to help - whether that is with emergency funds, medical supplies or clinical expertise".

"We all have a stake in the battle against Ebola," she says. "It is the duty of all of us, as global citizens, to send a message that we will not leave millions of West Africans to fend for themselves."

She said it was not a coincidence that Ebola had taken hold in "three fragile states... all battling to overcome the effects of interconnected wars".

Liberia, she noted, had about 3,000 qualified doctors at the start of the civil war in the late 1980s - and by its end in 2003 it had just three dozen.

"Ebola is not just a health crisis," she added. "Across West Africa a generation of young people risk being lost to an economic catastrophe."

Donation shortfall

The latest crisis in West Africa is the worst-ever Ebola outbreak.

The virus spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

Donors have given almost $400m (£250m) to UN agencies and aid organisations, short of the $988m requested.

Separately, the UN has also appealed for donations to a $1bn Ebola trust fund, intended to act as a flexible source of back-up money to contain the disease.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that the fund, which was launched in September, had received just $100,000 (£62,000) in donations so far.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC he was "bitterly disappointed" with the international community's response.

"If the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently," he said in a BBC interview.