Notes and Comment Blog

Her wings are intact

Oct 10th, 2014 2:32 pm | By

Malala was in chemistry class, learning about electrolysis, when she got the news that she’d won the Peace Prize.

Yousafazi, who received a standing ovation when she made a powerful address to the United Nations on her 16th birthday, express hope that the leaders of Pakistan and India would come together on education and asked for them to jointly attend the award presentation in December.

“I’m proud that I am the first Pakistani and I am honored that I am the first young woman or the first young person to be receive this award,” she said in a press conference from Britain, where she is still receiving treatment for her injuries. “I’m thankful to my father for not clipping my wings and for letting me to fly.”

Fathers who don’t clip their daughters’ wings may get to see them fly very far.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

To seriously reconsider the concept of scriptural inerrancy

Oct 10th, 2014 11:58 am | By

Ali Rizvi asks an important question in his open letter to moderate Muslims in the Huffington Post:

What would you do if this situation was reversed? What are non-Muslims supposed to think when even moderate Muslims like yourselves defend the very same words and book that these fundamentalists effortlessly quote as justification for killing them — as perfect and infallible?

What indeed?

There are murderous passages in the bible, too, to put it mildly. They should not be defended either.

This is the danger in holy books – the refusal or inability to reject parts.

If any kind of literature is to be interpreted “metaphorically,” it has to at least represent the original idea. Metaphors are meant to illustrate and clarify ideas, not twist and obscure them. When the literal words speak of blatant violence but are claimed to really mean peace and unity, we’re not in interpretation/metaphor zone anymore; we’re heading into distortion/misrepresentation territory.

And there are always people who do – reasonably enough, from one point of view – read the literal words literally. There are some of them who act on those words.

Having grown up as part of a Muslim family in several Muslim-majority countries, I’ve been hearing discussions about an Islamic reformation for as long as I can remember. Ultimately, I came to believe that the first step to any kind of substantive reformation is to seriously reconsider the concept of scriptural inerrancy.

And I’m not the only one. Maajid Nawaz, a committed Muslim, speaks openly about acknowledging problems in the Quran. Recently, in a brave article here right here on The Huffington Post, Imra Nazeer also asked Muslims to reconsider treating the Quran as infallible.

Is she right? At first glance, this may be a shocking thought. But it’s possible, and it actually has precedent.

What’s needed, he sums up at the end, is not moderation but reform.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The role that some artists play

Oct 10th, 2014 10:51 am | By

Another video. It seems to be video day. I didn’t plan it that way, but I keep turning them up while looking around.

This one is Deeyah at the UN, talking about the role of artists in human rights.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

What about the strip club?

Oct 10th, 2014 10:33 am | By

From last October – Maajid Nawaz explains to Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Michael Moore, Valerie Plame and Al Sharpton the ideological narrative behind the rise of Islamism. He says it’s a peculiar mix of fascism and religion.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

People who are making the lives of vulnerable human beings safer and better

Oct 10th, 2014 9:38 am | By

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen responds to the Nobel awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai. (Sen is a bit of a hero of mine. Yes, I do still have a-bit heroes. Or maybe not hero, since from there it’s a short step to thought leaders, and we know where that goes. But someone I admire.)

A Nobel prize “messes up one’s life a bit, because it comes with so many commitments—but it also gives you greater opportunity to pursue those things that are valuable to you,” said Amartya Sen, reacting to the news that Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi have been named Nobel peace laureates.

Sen, a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University, received the 1998 Nobel in economic sciences.

Speaking to Quartz from Geneva, Sen said he was “very happy that the award has gone to people who are making the lives of vulnerable human beings safer and better.” Of Yousafzai and Satyarthi, he added, “They are both admirable people, and the Nobel marks them out as leaders of thought in this very important area [children's rights].”

“The fact that they are sub-continentals is a matter of celebration for me,” Sen said.

Ok, Nobel committee, next year? How about another sub-continental? Give the lit prize to Taslima Nasreen.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Kailash Satyarthi’s Anthem

Oct 10th, 2014 9:28 am | By

Kailash Satyarthi composed an Anthem Against Child Labour.

From the YouTube introduction:

Anthem Against Child Labour is not merely a song, but the musical spark to liberate shackled innocence and robbed off childhood. It is the loudest chorus to unite all voices, minds and souls for emancipation from child slavery. My feelings and emotions along with the children’s quest for freedom have been brought alive by noted singer Jassi’s magical voice and reverberating music.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Nobel Peace Prize announcement

Oct 10th, 2014 9:21 am | By

For two people who work to end the exploitation and oppression of children.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The pope? No. Putin? No.

Oct 10th, 2014 8:56 am | By

As I’m sure you already know, because we are THE LAST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD TO WAKE UP over here on the West Coast of the US, Malala Yousafzai has won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist.

This is good news. It’s good news for one thing because it means the pope and Vladimir Putin did not win the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a statement, the Nobel committee said: “Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations.

“This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.”

Satyarthi, the Nobel committee said, had maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests.

We already know a fair bit about Malala, so let’s focus on Satyarthi.

“Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the committee said. “He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.”

The Nobel committee said it “regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism”.

Satyarthi, 60, dedicated his prize to children in slavery, telling CNN-IBN: “It’s an honour to all those children who are still suffering in slavery, bonded labour and trafficking.”

He founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan – or the Save the Childhood Movement – in 1980 and has acted to protect the rights of 80,000 children.

The more prizes that go to people like that, the better.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Oct 9th, 2014 5:38 pm | By

Update 2: People kept pointing out that “my bad” isn’t an apology, which is true, but honestly I didn’t and don’t see much point in apologizing here. It would be crass and revolting to do it on Twitter. I don’t know Sommers personally so I don’t have her email address. But then a way of finding one occurred to me, and I did find it, so I apologized to her directly.

Update: Oops. I didn’t realize Sommers’s husband just died, so these are notes and flowers sent to the bereaved.

My bad.

Although…honestly…it’s a little sickening that she uses #Gamergate to thank her new pals. More than a little. But still, if I’d known that’s what the flowers were for I wouldn’t have posted.

Christina Hoff Sommers is congratulating herself on playing a part in #GamerGate.


Christina H. Sommers @CHSommers · Oct 8
.@Nero & others from #GamerGate sent me wonderful notes, tweets,and exquisite flowers. All deeply appreciated.xoxoMom

@Nero is an associate editor at Breitbart. Here’s what Anita Sarkeesian thinks of #GamerGate:

Feminist Frequency ‏@femfreq 18 hours ago
#GamerGate is best described as a sexist temper-tantrum targeting women, feminists, and allies working for change in the games industry.

RationalWiki has more:

A number of op-ed pieces critical of gaming culture were published in the wake of the new wave of harassment against Quinn. These pieces heralded the “end” of the “gamer” identity, in the sense that video games have become mainstream in recent years, and their audience expanded, trying to move on from and distance themselves from the gaming enthusiast (and primarily male) audience that gaming media traditionally catered to.[8][9][10][11] Many gamers aware of the controversy reacted negatively to these articles, accusing the gaming journalists of perpetuating harmful stereotypes of gamers as misogynistic white males or even going as far as seeing it as another example of “corruption” in video game journalism. Some of them expressed disappointment at the gaming journalists and other people surrounding the controversy for othering and distancing themselves from gaming enthusiasts instead of being pro-consumer and fostering progressive dialogue.[12] Either way these articles only ended up feeding the Gamergate movement and the controversy surrounding it.

Several commentators of conservative and libertarian persuasions chose to throw their support behind the Gamergate controversy. Christina Hoff Sommers of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institutereleased a video on YouTube which dismissed the existence of sexism in games and gaming culture.[13]Milo Yiannopoulos wrote a piece for Breitbart decrying the “feminist bullies” he alleges are “tearing the video game industry apart.”[14] The piece is arguably an example of cynical opportunism, as he tweeted “If you’re a grown man with hands clamped to an Xbox controller instead of a pair of tits you need a good slap” just days before its publication,[15] and bemoaned the level of “sex, drugs and violence” in video games in a piece in The Kernel in 2013.[16]

Various largely interchangeable conspiracy theories are in circulation within the blogosphere about what Gamergate is really about and what the media don’t want you to know about it, most of them involving terms like “corruption and collusion” and clichés about “social justice warriors“, along with dog whistle nonsense about “cultural Marxism“, “social engineering” and “mind control”.[17]

I keep saying…Sommers used to be an academic, a philosopher. Now she’s down in the muck with Breitbart hacks. It’s pathetic.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

That’s between a girl and her…judge?

Oct 9th, 2014 1:08 pm | By

Then there’s the parental notification requirement. Mother Jones looks at the problems.

Susan Hays, a Texas attorney who represents minors through a group called Jane’s Due Process, says about a third of the girls she works with don’t have the option of asking their parents for permission—they’re undocumented immigrants whose parents are not in the country, orphans, or what Hays calls “de facto orphans”: “Mom’s dead, Dad’s in prison, they never liked me much anyway.”

She once represented a minor whose parents ran a meth ring: “She had split because she had the distinct impression they were going to start pimping her out.” Legal guardians may grant permission for an abortion in most states. But this is no help to girls who live with family members who never established guardianship.

It isn’t supposed to be this way. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that a girl’s parents can’t exercise an absolute veto over her right to an abortion: States requiring parental notification or consent had to provide an escape hatch. The court did not mandate what form this escape hatch should take. Maine, for example, allows a physician to decide whether the minor is competent enough to make her own decision. But that’s not good enough for anti-abortion activists. Led by Americans United for Life, the legislative wing of the pro-life movement, they’ve advanced laws to put the decision in the hands of judges instead.

Why stop there? Why not just let parents and judges decide that underage girls must get pregnant?

…in practice, girls are at the mercy of whichever judge they happen to draw, says Anne Dellinger, a retired University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor who has studied the bypass system. “If a girl wanders into the wrong [court], she doesn’t have a chance,” Dellinger says. With few checks on the system, Hays adds, judges are free to impose their beliefs on the girls who appear before them: “It’s the law of bullies.”

Bullies who get to ruin the lives of teenage girls by forcing them to stay pregnant against their wills.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Only unapproachable

Oct 9th, 2014 12:38 pm | By

Oh gosh, a helpful guy in Chicago wrote an open letter to the available single ladies of Chicago on how to make themselves more what he wants them to be, and he’s so helpful that he underlines the very point I was just making. The very same one!

I’m dying to stop you on the street and pay you the occasional compliment (“You’re really rocking that tweed dress today – I love your style.”). But I can’t – because you’re always walking around with your damn earbuds in (“Don’t talk to me!”) and your sunglasses on, even when they’re not necessary (which incidentally doesn’t make you look cool or sexy, only unapproachable).

See there? Unapproachable. Women are supposed to be, and to look, approachable. Either that, or like a bundle of dirty laundry.

Kara Brown at Jezebel points out that it’s no accident, this unapproachable look.

Little does this idiot know that he’s confirming to women around the globe that the tactics we’ve developed to avoid street harassment are working. They’re wearing the earbuds to ward off men exactly like you, genius. You ever notice how women don’t wear earbuds when they’re out to brunch with friends? Or when they’re with someone they actually like? Maybe there’s something to that.

Chicago guy ends with the old classic.

P.S.: Oh, and by the way, it’d be nice if your default expression was a smile – or, at worst, a merely neutral expression – instead of a scowl that says, “I’ll cut you off at the knees if you try to talk to me.” C’mon, is life really that bad? Just sayin’.

No it isn’t life that’s that bad.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Likability obligation

Oct 9th, 2014 11:14 am | By

One thing about being a woman is that there’s more expectation of having an approachable personality. A woman who seems less approachable than the norm is off-putting. I’m pretty sure I have that feeling myself, which is sad and embarrassing, especially since I’m about as approachable as a rock. But that doesn’t make any difference, does it – we have these feelings of discomfort or ease, wrongness or rightness, independent of how well we conform to them ourselves.

Laura Bates wrote about this discrepancy in expectations in the Guardian last week.

A study by linguist and tech entrepreneur Kieran Snyder was published by in August, under the headline: “The abrasiveness trap: High-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews”.

“Described differently” was an enormous understatement.

Snyder’s study, which involved comparing 248 workplace performance reviews from 180 people at 28 different companies, revealed startling results.

Only 58.9% of the reviews submitted by men contained critical feedback, compared to 87.9% of those submitted by women. For male employees, the feedback tended to take the form of constructive suggestions for improvement, but for women it got a lot more personal. Snyder pulled out any reviews that contained what she described as “negative personality criticism”, including words such as “bossy”, “abrasive”, “strident”, “emotional” and “irrational”. Out of the 83 critical reviews received by men, just two contained such personality criticism. But it showed up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women.

There’s a kind of Personality Duty that women seem to have, that men don’t so much. A chilly or irritable or forthright woman seems more so than an equivalent man. As I say, I’m pretty sure I recognize that in myself, despite being chilly and irritable and forthright (aka rude) my own self. What is that? A permanent mommy-image, or what? I don’t know, but it’s discouraging.

Bates goes on to give examples of women being belittled and reduced to their hairdos – a cosmonaut, a fighter pilot, a human rights lawyer.

These different cases reveal a pattern – successful women make people feel uncomfortable. They are seen as somehow unfeminine or unnatural and in need of being brought down a peg or two. And the best way to wrangle them back into manageability is to remind them of the fact that, regardless of their achievements, they will be judged first and foremost as women, and found wanting. Girls, after all, are supposed to be likable, pliant, polite, quiet and gentle. Be too smart, too successful, too accomplished, and risk facing a sharp reminder that you’ve done so at the cost of your feminine “appeal”.

I think the expectation of “quiet and gentle” is a lot less universal than it once was. I think that one is relatively superficial and easy to change by writing articles like the one Bates wrote, and by talking about it, and by making movies and tv shows with women who aren’t quiet and gentle. But the “likable” one is a much tougher nut to crack.

These sentiments are still more common than you might like to think: it was only this week that Stella McCartney said: “Strength on its own in a woman is quite abrasive and not terribly attractive all the time.” Doesn’t that word “abrasive” have a funny habit of popping up?

This is not a problem that will have a quick fix. It’s deeply ingrained in our societal ideas about what it means for a woman to be attractive and how successful we are prepared to allow women to be before feeling the need to tear them down. Getting more women into prominent business roles should help, because the more of them there are, the harder it will be to stereotype them as “ballbreakers” or “harpies”. We can all play a part by examining our own unconscious bias and watching the language we use, especially while in the workplace or speaking to young people.

Just so. It’s deeply ingrained – I think perhaps even more deeply than purely “societal” ideas. Then again maybe not, maybe it’s just that I too grew up embedded in media that featured Likable women.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

You made a real difference

Oct 8th, 2014 6:10 pm | By

Paul Fidalgo shares good news from the Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity, and Accountability, in Uganda.

HALEA’s offices, located in the slums of Kamapala, were robbed, during which a security guard was severely beaten (and who is now recovering well, I’m happy to say), and the offices were stripped of everything of value: computers, cameras, phones, printers, microphones, power cords, media players, and more.

In response, we activated our SHARE program, the Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort, to help them get back on their feet.

Other freethought groups lent their support as well. You made a real difference, raising over $6000 for their rebuilding efforts.

HALEA is an active and determined group, in a city where superstition, crime, and violence are intertwined. They’re doing all they can to help unemployed, pregnant, and other at-risk teenagers in some of the most difficult and dangerous parts of the city, on top of holding intellectual discussions and debates about religion and church-state separation.

Read the message from Kato Mukasa, head of HALEA’s Youth Support Center, in Paul’s post.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

She’s serious

Oct 8th, 2014 5:42 pm | By

Eliza Sutton’s previous venture in the category of Misusing Professional Credentials to Abuse Someone.


Skep tickle says


Please get some professional psychological help. I’m serious. Paranoia seems to be consuming you.

She’s so caring and concerned.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Skip the tests of faith

Oct 8th, 2014 4:18 pm | By

I’m not sure the story of Abraham and Isaac is the best way to start a column urging condemnation of the murder of Alan Henning, unless you’re using that story as an object lesson on what can happen when you think you’re supposed to obey “God”. I don’t think that’s how Yasmin Alibhai Brown is using it, although she may be – she doesn’t really exactly say what she thinks of it.

It is Eid, the second annual Muslim festival, when we mark the end of Hajj and remember Abraham, who – when God asked him to – agreed to make the ultimate sacrifice and kill his son Isaac.

It was a test of faith; God stopped the slaughter. The story appears in the Book of Genesis. God did not stop the slaughter of Alan Henning, the taxi driver from Salford who went out to help desperate Syrians, or the British aid worker David Haines or the two American reporters James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Was it a test of faith? It looks to me more like a test of obedience, and a very sick one at that. If it’s a test of faith and Abraham passed, then faith is very evil. Also, Abraham’s murder of his child wouldn’t be “the ultimate sacrifice” for him, but rather for the child. Or for both, yes, but the point is that Abraham’s murder of Isaac wouldn’t be something that happened just to Abraham; it would first of all be something that happened to Isaac. A rape is first of all something that happens to the person who is raped, and only then something that happens to her (or his) relatives and friends. In short the story of Abraham is a very horrible story indeed, and it should be forgotten instead of remembered with a festival.

Imams have denounced the killers with real feeling, so has the umbrella body, the Muslim Council of Britain, which, before this, tended to equivocate and was a bit unreliable. Young Muslims have started a #notinmyname campaign; Inspire, an impressively effective counter-extremism organisation, has launched #makingastand to get Muslims to “pledge allegiance to their country and to respect human rights”. These responses are encouraging. But it isn’t enough. It absolutely isn’t enough.

Henning’s untimely death must be a watershed, a defining moment for Western Muslims. We must change. Or rather, those devout Muslims who have been taking up Wahhabi practices and others who feel only anger for the West must change.

First, do no harm.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Surprising that this book wasn’t already out there

Oct 8th, 2014 10:08 am | By

Katha Pollitt talks to Jill Filipovic about her new book on why abortion matters.

You’ve been a pro-choice writer for decades. Why this book now?

It was surprising to me that this book wasn’t already out there.

There are some books of reporting about abortion, where people go and interview a lot of people or they write about the political struggle, but there isn’t a book that actually lays out the more philosophical arguments around abortion rights. I have a friend who is a brilliant, very important social theorist who said to me at a dinner party, “I’m only telling you this because we’re friends, but I oppose abortion except for rape. The only reason I think it’s OK is because women would die if it were illegal. But for myself, the only reason I think women should have them is because of rape.” I said, “So someone should have a baby because they have sex?” And he said, “They made their bed, they should lie in it.” This man proved to me that you can be really smart, you can think you’re thinking, but you’re not — you’re repeating a lot of reactionary platitudes that have been handed down to you. I thought, what about a book where I try to talk about that, to the people in the mushy middle?

Books where we try to talk to people who haven’t really thought about [whatever it is] yet are an important and useful category of book.

At the end, the filter question comes up.

Can you be a pro-life feminist?

You can be a pro-life feminist for yourself. You can say, “I would never have an abortion,” and then when you got pregnant, you never would have an abortion — because a lot of people who say, “I would never have an abortion” actually have abortions. But I don’t think you can restrict freedom for women in such a fundamental way and be a feminist.

That’s what I think too. And I have thought about it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It does not mean that it comes with the territory

Oct 7th, 2014 5:01 pm | By

Jennifer Lawrence says what she thinks about having naked pictures of her stolen and published online.

“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this,” she says.

“It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe that we even live in that kind of world. ”

I can, but only because I’ve been paying attention to it for more than three years. And anyway I can’t, really. I’m thoroughly convinced of it by long observation but at the same time I’m permanently incredulous.

“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,” she tells Kashner. “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That’s why these Web sites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.”

“Scandal” is completely the wrong word for it. “Outrage” would be a better fit.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

As an example of a gross breach of medical ethics

Oct 7th, 2014 3:57 pm | By

Sometimes the revoltingness of the Official Opposition is surprising. Oh what am I talking about, it’s almost always surprising. But still, one contribution to the genre by “Skep tickle” is pretty damn amazing. PZ posted a screen grab, because the contribution is about him. Scroll down to the end of the post.

I’ve been pointed to the comment by Skep tickle, aka Eliza Sutton, MD, and I post it here as an example of a gross breach of medical ethics. She should be ashamed.

(click for larger image, if you can stomach it)

She’s suggesting he had a “disseminated gonococcal infection.” Tee hee.

Note that she’s diagnosing me with “septic arthritis” in the complete absence of any facts. If she had the information that my doctor had, she’d know that they tapped and cultured the synovial fluid, and found no sign of any infection at all. And then she leaps from her completely bogus diagnosis of an infection to suggest that it is a “disseminated gonococcal infection”, and then counts back from the incubation period to surmise, while denying that she was surmising, that I acquired it while associating with the Skepchicks!

To say I’m disgusted is an understatement. I think the UW hospital should know what one of their doctors does in her spare time, so I’m not going to shy away from mentioning her name.

Remember that time she came here to tell me I’m mentally ill? What a fine doctor.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

About the death of a young girl

Oct 7th, 2014 12:07 pm | By

Another BBC piece on Ebola.

There’s a summit in London to talk about how to deal with the epidemic, which has killed 3,338 people so far. A nurse, William Pooley, spoke at the summit:

Mr Pooley, who was the first Briton to contract the virus during the current outbreak, appealed to the international community to act to prevent the epidemic getting worse.

In an emotional press conference he spoke about the death of a young girl and her brother.

He said he had found her “covered in blood,” adding: “She still had a very puzzled expression on her face and she wasn’t breathing.”

“So I put her in a bag and left her next to her brother. She was a beautiful little girl,” he said.

“So, my specific fear is that the horror and the misery of these deaths, really fill a well of my despair.

“And I just don’t know what happens if that’s repeated a million times. And so I say, at all costs, we can’t let that happen.”

He caught Ebola, and was flown back to the UK and given an experimental drug, and he recovered. He’s going back. He says it was an easy decision.

Among the pledges made at the London conference was $70m (£43m) from Save the Children, of which $40m had been earmarked for Sierra Leone.

Comic Relief has pledged £1m, while more than 160 NHS staff are due to travel to Sierra Leone after answering a call for volunteers to help fight the disease earlier this month.

Mr Pooley said pledges need to be delivered “really quickly”, saying: “We need beds and we need people looking after the patients in the beds.”

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Mr Pooley, who recently returned from the US where he gave blood to try to help a victim of the virus, was an example of the “courage” and resilience needed to tackle the crisis.

I should say so. I would say it’s not “courage” but COURAGE.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Francis’ bloodshot eyes

Oct 7th, 2014 11:05 am | By

BBC reporter Tulip Mazumdar has a heart-wrenching detailed story on Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The trip from London takes 20 hours instead of 6, because most airlines have stopped flying to Sierra Leone; she has to go via Paris and Casablanca.

At the airport there is bleach, and temperature-checking, and warning information on the walls. The handshake has been replaced by patting one’s own chest.

Today we are filming at the country’s main referral hospital – Connaught Hospital in central Freetown. As we enter, I see a woman in a purple and pink shirt lying on a bench, with her head in her hands. She looks extremely unwell. This area is where patients showing symptoms of Ebola come for help, but the help is limited.

This isn’t a treatment centre; it’s an isolation ward within the hospital. People have to travel many miles from here by ambulance to get proper supportive treatment. There are just 18 beds in this hospital, and they are all full.

The latest patient to arrive is a one-month-old baby. Ebola killed both his parents overnight. The chances are he is also infected and will die within days. All medics can do is feed him and hold him through protective suits.

In the cemetery there is a section for Ebola victims; it is full of fresh graves.

The burial team is efficient and almost jovial. I imagine it’s the only way they can keep performing this grim task day in, day out. The cemetery supervisor, Abdul Rahman Parker, tells me he’s been ostracised by his community – people are scared of him now because he handles the bodies of Ebola victims. But he says he doesn’t care, and that Sierra Leone needs him to continue doing this job, even if its people don’t realise it.

The day ends with the burial teams throwing their protective clothing – gloves, masks and body suits – into the last grave. It’s starting to rain again. We remove our protective suits and put them in a yellow biohazard bag, which the burial team disposes of. We spray ourselves with disinfectant, and silently head back to our hotel.

The next day she visits a small treatment center run by an Italian NGO. What she sees when she gets there is a suspected Ebola patient turned away because the center is full.

I peer into the car. Francis is sitting in the passenger seat staring into space. His eyes are red, and he has the hiccups – both are clear symptoms of Ebola. After almost an hour of pleading, the family eventually give up. The five of them pile back into their car and drive away. Everyone in that vehicle is now potentially at risk of catching Ebola.

When we enter the treatment centre, I feel the helplessness and frustration of that family and I demand to know why they didn’t allow that potentially dying man inside. Surely they can do something for him. The centre’s co-ordinator, Luca Rolla, tells me their priority has to be their staff and the patients they are already treating. He tells me that they cannot go over capacity or they risk everyone else inside the centre. One of their doctors has already contracted the virus and is now being treated in Germany.

More centers and more doctors are desperately needed.

While the BBC is filming, though, Luca gets a phone call: another center has a bed available, so he calls Francis’s family and tells them to go straight there.

The next day Tulip films another report.

Then soon after 18:00, just as one of the BBC World presenters is about to introduce me live, my producer, Mark, runs over and tells me some terrible news. Francis Samuka, whom we watched being turned away from a treatment centre yesterday, has died. His family has called and told us he passed away at an isolation centre a few hours ago. His sister could barely speak when she was delivering the news, she was wailing with sorrow. My heart sinks… and then I hear the presenter in my earpiece saying: “Tulip, what’s the latest?”

I explain what’s happened, all the time thinking of Francis’ bloodshot eyes and the look of despair I saw in him just the day before.

I am glad we were able to tell Francis Samuka’s story. It’s important people know this is happening on a daily basis across West Africa. It underlines why governments here and global aid agencies continue to plead for more international help, so patients like Francis can be treated, instead of being turned away.

The BBC does good work.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)