Daily Archives: August 30, 2015

Enemy reconnaissance planes circle over the…

NNA – “An Israeli enemy reconnaissance plane breached the Lebanese airspace at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday over the town of Alma el-Shaeb, circled over various Southern areas, and then left at 11:25 a.m. flying above the town of Rmeish,” indicated a communiqué by the Lebanese Army Command – Orientation Directorate.

“Also at 10:35 a.m., another enemy reconnaissance aircraft violated the national skies over the town of Alma el-Shaeb, circled over the South region, and then left at 1:15 p.m. above the aforementioned town,” the communiqué added.

================ R.Sh.

New research aims to slow the spread of infectious diseases

Infectious diseaseNew research aims to slow the spread of infectious diseases

Published 30 August 2015

Emerging pandemic disease outbreaks such as Ebola increasingly threaten global public health and world economies, scientists say. We can expect five such new diseases to emerge each year — and spread. The tropical disease dengue fever, for example, has made its way to Florida and Texas, seemingly to stay. The NSF’s Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program supports research aiming to help understanding of the underlying ecological and biological mechanisms behind human-induced environmental changes and the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases. This year, the program has awarded eight new grants totaling $18 million.

Emerging pandemic disease outbreaks such as Ebola increasingly threaten global public health and world economies, scientists say. We can expect five such new diseases to emerge each year — and spread. The tropical disease dengue fever, for example, has made its way to Florida and Texas, seemingly to stay.

Is our interaction with the environment somehow responsible for the increase in incidence of these diseases? A joint program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking answers.

The NSF says that the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program supports efforts to understand the underlying ecological and biological mechanisms behind human-induced environmental changes and the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases.

A complex process
The EEID program is also co-funded by the U.K.’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

This year, the program has awarded eight new grants totaling $18 million.

Disease transmission is a complex process that involves disease organisms, disease vectors, disease hosts, and the predators that consume those hosts. It links relatively pristine areas with human habitations and human-dominated areas.

Projects supported through the EEID program allow scientists to study how large-scale environmental events — such as habitat destruction, invasions of non-native species, and pollution — alter the risks of emergence of viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases in humans and other animals.

Researchers supported through the EEID program are advancing basic theory related to infectious diseases, and applying that knowledge to improve our understanding of how pathogens spread through populations at a time of increasing global change.

EEID research benefits
The benefits of research on the ecology of infectious diseases include development of theories of how diseases are transmitted; improved understanding of unintended health effects of development projects; increased capacity to forecast disease outbreaks; and knowledge of how infectious diseases emerge and reemerge.

As demonstrated by the Ebola crisis, infectious diseases are an ongoing threat,” says Sam Scheiner of NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences and EEID program officer at NSF. “The fundamental research from these projects will help prepare us for the next outbreak, wherever it might come from.”

Adds Christine Jessup of NIH’s Fogarty International Center, “Infectious diseases are an ongoing global health challenge, often with devastating consequences. Environmental change, population mobility, and complex socio-ecological systems underlie many infectious disease threats. Our ability to prevent and control emerging and re-emerging diseases hinges on enhanced understanding of these diseases in their ecological and evolutionary contexts.”

New awards to address current and future threats
This year’s EEID awardees will conduct research on such topics as: group living as a possible explanation for infectious disease vulnerability in social species; vector behavior in transmission ecology; effects of agricultural expansion and intensification on infections; long-distance dispersal and disease outbreaks; and effects of temperature on vector-borne disease transmission.

As we learn more about the ecology of pathogens that cause infectious diseases, we see clear links among public health, animal health, plant health, and the environment, with agriculture playing a significant role,” says Sonny Ramaswamy, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture director. “Through our partnership with the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program, we are able to support agriculturally-relevant research on topics of global concern, and help ensure the safety and security of our food supply.”

Melanie Welham, BBSRC’s science director, adds, “Global uncertainties can present new challenges, and scientific research helps us to prepare for our future. The health of our livestock, plants and crops is dependent on improved knowledge of infectious diseases. This new funding will help us respond more rapidly and effectively to emerging threats, and to safeguard health and food security.”

2015 EEID awards

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South Sudan ceasefire takes effect after eleventh hour clashes

NNA – A ceasefire aimed at ending a brutal civil war in South Sudan came into effect Saturday evening hours after fresh clashes between government forces and rebels, which sparked concern for a hard-won peace deal.

The truce brokered by the regional eight-nation IGAD bloc, along with the United Nations, African Union, China, Britain, Norway and the United States, came into effect at 2100 GMT (midnight in South Sudan’s capital Juba).

But it was unclear whether it would hold.

Earlier Saturday, South Sudan’s army and rebels accused each other of sparking fresh fighting in the past 24 hours in the north-east.

“Riek Machar’s rebels attacked Malakal yesterday (Friday),” army spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer told a press conference, referring to the capital of Upper Nile state, at the gateway to the country’s last major oil fields.

Aguer said the rebels used mortars and machineguns and that one government soldier was wounded.

The “assault on Malakal resumed this (Saturday) morning,” he said, insisting the army had a right to respond in self-defence.

Rebel spokesman James Gatdet Dak denied his camp had fired first.

“That’s untrue, their forces attacked us near Malakal,” he told AFP.

“They wanted to seize the area before the ceasefire comes into effect,” he added.

“This is a serious violation of the terms of the peace agreement,” a rebel statement charged — an accusation echoed on the government side by information minister and government spokesman Michael Makuei.

A peace deal signed by rebel leader Machar on August 17, but only signed by President Salva Kiir on Wednesday, gave a 72-hour deadline for a permanent cessation of 20 months of hostilities.

Aguer, the army spokesman, called on IGAD to establish a ceasefire monitoring mechanism “in all the counties”.

But IGAD spokesman Hailemichael Gebreselassie denied any knowledge of the latest clashes, saying: “We haven’t heard anything related to any incidents.”

– Peace deal a ‘humiliation’ –

South Sudan broke away from Sudan four years ago to become the world’s newest nation.

The civil war began in December 2013 when President Kiir accused Machar, his former deputy, of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that has split the impoverished country along ethnic lines.

Faced with the threat of international sanctions, Kiir finally signed the peace deal this week but annexed a list of reservations that he said would have to be addressed for the deal to take hold.

Machar said the reservations cast “doubts” on the government’s commitment to peace.

The UN Security Council on Friday threatened sanctions against anyone who undermined the accord.

The agreement gives the rebels the post of first vice president, which means that Machar would likely return to the job from which he was sacked, an event that put the country on the path to war.

The 12-page list of government reservations on the peace deal says his return would spell “humiliation” and a “reward for rebellion”.

At least seven ceasefires have already been agreed and then shattered within days or even hours.

Over two million people have fled their homes in a conflict marked by ethnic killings, gang rapes and the use of child soldiers. Some 200,000 civilians are sheltering inside UN bases.–AFP

===================R.Z.