October 23rd, 2009

The flu revisited

Here are the latest numbers for my country (Oct 23 / Oct 30 / Nov 6 / Nov 13th / Nov 20th / Nov 27th / Dec 4th)

  • Inhabitants: 17 mln
  • Total number of people admitted to hospital because of H1N1: 205 / 335 / 611 / 909 / 1270 / 1587 / 1969
  • Total deceased: 6 / 10 / 17 / 22 / 28 / 36 / 42
  • Of those 205 / 335 / 611 / 909 / 1270 / 1587 / 1969, people with other serious diseases: 61 / 195 / 382 / 605 / 828 / 1162
  • People with other serious diseases deceased: 5 / 8 / 14 / 17 / 23 / 31 / 36

Peaking now (Oct 30) is age group 0-4 years old, which is normal for any flu.

Earlier on the nest: The flu

Update Dec 6th: This will be my last update. If a totally different pattern emerges, I’ll start a new post.

Update Nov 27: Got my second shot the day before yesterday. As you can see the numbers per week are going down now, with the exception of the deceased: all though now have a serious other condition, so the H1N1 is (excuse my wording) tipping them over the edge. On the same note: My country bought 34 million shots, enough to have every citizen vaccinated twice. It has been decided now to sell 19 million shots to countries with shortages. It’s over.

Well, kinda sorta. It is over in most of Europe and Northern America according to the WHO, but the there was a steep increase in the death toll worldwide.

Update Nov 23rd: Sorry for the delayed update. See numbers abobe. Nothing to add really.

Update Nov 13th: Incidents are stabilizing and this is still considered a mild flu epidemic. Note that H1N1 vaccination started a week ago, and should not have influenced these numbers yet. Given immunity buildup will start next week, I unscientifically predict the top of the curve will be next week. This week is breaking the “doubling per week” trend already.

Update Nov 9th: Based on advice given by the relevant medical committee (“gezondheidsraad”), the administration decided to also start vaccinating age group 6 months – 4 years old. Furthermore all staff in medical profession is strongly advised to be vaccinated as well. Other than that, it’s the normal target group: 60+, diabetes-, heart- and lung patients, people with reduced immunity systems.

Update Nov 7th: I found this interesting statistic: In my country (see numbers above), average yearly fatalities on influenza, in almost all cases caused by either a lung infection or cardiac arrest, is a whopping 800, mind you with a regular vaccination regime. Given the fatalities so far and and the prediction that H1N1 will peak here in about 2 weeks, and that all numbers are doubling each week, I dare to unscientifically predict the total number of fatalities will be on the lower end of the 100-150 range.

Update Nov 3rd: Things are moving fast now. There is no seasonal influenza here (yet), but 9  out of patients visiting a doctor with flu like symptoms do have H1N1. Seasonal flu shots were to start start this week, with H1N1 2 later and a secondary again 2 weeks later. Today I found a letter from the health center that plans have changed. THIS week I will get my H1N1 shot one one more 3 weeks later. Seasonal flu shot is pushed back to early December.

October 11th, 2009

The brain tumor

This is not a very nest-like post I guess. Last Thursday, a guy I worked with quite a bit at a client of mine passed away at age 36. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor about a year ago. As far as understand, if inoperable, it is next to impossible to eradicate those and the prognosis is almost always not good.

Understandably, he let them throw everything at him that was possible, to see if something would stick, up to the point his body was so bloated I did not recognize him on a picture he blogged (he did blog until a couple of weeks ago sharing what was happening to him, until he couldn’t anymore and his wife took over, occasionally). When there was no hope of recovery, something that dawned a few months ago, treatments like that were stopped and for the short time he had left, he looked pretty OK again. I was very, very impressed how he and maybe even more his wife was handling this.

J. is leaving behind his wife and young child, I think the kid is 3 years old. It is very, very sad.

September 23rd, 2009

The pilot

Argentina, 30 years ago, the Dirty War. The military junta has depending on who you believe between 9.000 and 30.000 people arrested, questioned, tortured and “disappear”. The preferred method of killing is to load these poor bastards, mostly trade-unionists, students and activists  in a plane or helicopter, fly out to sea a few hundreds and simply toss them overboard with some extra cement blocks attached. After a civilian administration took over, these crimes have been brought to trial, with mixed success.

Fast forward to yesterday. A Transavia Boeing 737 is about to leave the airport of Valencia (Spain) back home to Amsterdam. The long time Transavia pilot who has both a Dutch and an Argentinean passport is to carry out his last flight before pension. On request of the Argentinean justice department though he  is arrested. He is suspected of having carried out one or more of these flights of death. Sometimes you can run, but you can’t hide.

Nice detail: The Dutch secret service screens every individual who works at Amsterdam airport, including pilots.

Update: The news is all over the place now. Julio P. was already put on an international arrest order by Argentina on March of this year. The Netherlands did not arrest him as he is a Dutch citizen. The fact he was arrested by the Spanish police on his last flight fuels speculation the Dutch tipped off Spanish authorities, but also raises some eyebrows why this was not done earlier. Julio reportedly always defended the “war against left terrorists”, more or less bragged about him being one of these pilots to his colleagues and told them “the crazy mothers should not worry, these people were all drugged before they were dropped into the sea”.

Update: The pilots detention has been extended.

Update: Above mentioned screening by the secret service normally results in a so called “statement of no objection”. Such statements can and sometimes are withdrawn. Transavia has stated Julio P.’s statement of no objection has not been withdrawn.

Update Oct 31: Julio P will be sent to Argentina according to Argentinan newspaper ‘La Nacion’. Innocent until proven guilty, but this does not look good for him. The Spanish government OK-ed his extradition last Friday, but a judge is still to approve it. To avoid being sent to Argentina, his Dutch lawyer asked the Dutch government to also ask P’s extradition to the Netherlands. Interesting legal move, but I doubt if it’ll work.

September 20th, 2009

The little error

I have blogged about my country being the most wiretapped in the world before. Now often when I discuss privacy issues, the response is: “I don’t care, I have no secrets, and I rather have a government keep an eye on the bad boys”. Erm, right. History will tell a different story, as well as actuality.

There was a fatal stabbing. The police could not crack the case, but was pretty convinced Mrs X was a witness to the crime. Therefor a wiretap was requested and granted. Later on she decides, on her own account, to cough up what she saw and heard to a recently introduced governmental agency called M, that guarantees anonymity. You can call their number, report crime and through a series of rather well publicized measures they ensure it is forwarded anonymously to the crime fighting authorities. And here, oopsie, things went wrong. As she was wiretapped, the conversation was transcribed and put in the file of the prosecutors against the suspect. And that file is now public, including her identity. Nice, really nice.

The prosecutors office is hardly sorry and even stated Mrs X should have been more careful than to call M (WTF?!?!?!?). The director of M is furious, but the damage is done. Nothing to hide eh?

Next in line: other than all other countries in the EU, my country decided to not only put fingerprints in the new passport (required by European legislation), but also store those fingerprints in a centralized database. Court filings by a Dutch privacy organisation were dismissed by the European courts, as that is only an appeal court. Big brother isn’t coming. It’s already here. TBC.

August 15th, 2009

The isotopes

About 80% of the world production of medical isotopes (used for diagnostic purposes and cancer treatment) comes from two specialized nuclear reactors. One, called Chalk River in Canada, is good for close to 50%, the other one is Petten, located in the North-Western part of the Netherlands. Chalk River closed operations for repairs and maintenance last May, but it seems things are not going well. Latest is that the reactor will be rebooted March 1st 2010.

Petten was build about 40 years ago and is running on its last legs. It is scheduled to be closed for repairs March 1st 2010 because of problems in the cooling system (leaks and bubbles). That issue has it already running on what we call here a “brook-permit”. It’s out of spec, but they can use it for the time being. Only one tiny issue in Canada and the world supply will fall from just over 50% of capacity now to about 20%. That will seriously hurt treatment options, so there is pressure to keep Petten open a little bit longer.

Your next diagnose or treatment might come from this tiny country.

July 15th, 2009

The love, the death

And while not trying to hijacking the subject, I couldn’t be helped but being moved by this news. Fair use excerpt:

LONDON — He spent his life conducting world-renowned orchestras, but was almost blind and growing deaf – the music he loved increasingly out of reach. His wife of 54 years had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. So Edward and Joan Downes decided to die together.

Downes – Sir Edward since he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 – and his wife ended their lives last week at a Zurich clinic run by the assisted suicide group Dignitas. They drank a small amount of clear liquid and died hand-in-hand, their two adult children by their side. He was 85 and she was 74.

It is a story with mixed sides. A love story, the horrific notion of body and mind fading; ones own or, or in this case, and of your beloved ones, government deciding what’s best for you (not). In my country, things are reasonably well arranged but under pressure of the Christian right. Actually, the father of one of my oldest friends passed away like this. I remember the friend telling me how weird it was to have a future entry in his calendar “Dad dies”.

Anyway, I feel sorry for people needing to go to Switzerland to die. I wouldn’t mind dying in that beautiful environment, but I would hate needing to do so because some idiots determined there was no other way.

February 9th, 2009

Live and let live

Tonight, around 8:10 PM CET, Eluana Anglaro passed away.

May she rest in eternal peace.


Previously: It’s 1992. Then 22 year Italian young woman Eluana Anglaro is caught in a deadly car crash. Her body refused to die, but she was deeply comatose, and in essence, well, dead. Her father decided she had to be let go. Sad detail is that a friend of Eluana also had gone into a deep coma and according to her father, she had told him that that wasn’t life, and she would never want to live live like that. Fast forward 2009. The now 38 year old Eluana’s body is still alive, and her father is still fighting to give her a respectful, caring, compassionate death. Last 10 years of the fight was before the highest justice body of Italy.

All that time, Rome, as in, the Catholic Church, has kept up a venomous and intense campaign to deny this woman her right to die. This of course stalled any lawmaking in unstable Italian politics. Finally, in November 2008 a few days ago, the highest court greenlighted her to be taken off artificial nutrition. Next hurdle was to find a clinic that would actually dared to do that. I think it would be fair to compare this situation with the abortion doctors in the US. A private clinic was found, and as far as I have understood, its doctors have now protection. She is off support as of yesterday morning and it should take another 3 to 4 days from now for her body to give up. But the craziness didn’t stop here.

The Italian administration (or cabinet as it’s called) yesterday met in a special meeting, to file a decree to forbid this to go through. Prime minister, now the right winged, 72 year old (remember, calling Obama “nicely suntanned” ?) womanizer and media moloch Silvio Berlusconi, had the insane, insulting and indecent brutality to state in public: “as a father, I will NOT take the responsibility for Eluana’s death”. He also stated the woman can still bear children “as she is still having her periods”, suggesting she can be cured. The Vatican immediately marked the decree as “a very courageous decision”. Now the president has to sign every law and decree, but you have to understand, a president in Italy is not a president of say the US: he has no executive powers. In this sense, the president is more like a head of state, a king. President Georgio Napolitano an hour and a half later refused to sign the decree, stating it is against the Italian constitution to file a decree that is going against the judgement of the highest court.

Don’t cheer yet, it’s not over. My prayers (in a non-religious sense) are with poor mr. Englaro. And mr. Napolitano has my deepest respect.

Latest (7-2): Italian parliament will gather Monday to debate. Not a good sign.

Latest (8-2): As expected: inspectors were sent to the clinic and they found “administrative irregularities”, and are trying to prove the clinic is not a sanatorium as spoken of in the last verdict. Pope Benedictus made strong hint in a Sunday speach. And one of the cardinals phoned Napolitano. And the church cheered parliament’s effort to ratify the decree on Monday. Told ya. In a response, Eluana’s father has publicly invited both Berlusconi and Napolitano to the clinic.

Latest (9-2): Police filed a request at the justice department to seize the room where Eluana is dying.

Latest (9-2): She passed away. I will refrain from posting, as well as commenting on the Vatican’s declaration.

Side note one: of course, dozens of people are “let go” of each year in Italy, but that is simply under the surface. One of my siblings is a chief anesthesiologist, say no more. It’s just a private, silence thing.

Side note two: it might seem I am on an anti-religion roll, just after yesterday’s post. I am not. Old men telling others what to live and die for is what gets me. Together with the Richardson drama, this is the fast lane to my disrespect.

September 10th, 2008

The execution of minors

Human right watch:

Human Rights Watch documents failures in law and practice that since January 2005 have resulted in 32 executions of juvenile offenders in five countries:  Iran (26),  Saudi Arabia (2),  Sudan (2),  Pakistan (1), and  Yemen (1). The report also highlights cases of individuals recently executed or facing execution in the five countries, where well over 100 juvenile offenders are currently on death row, awaiting the outcome of a judicial appeal, or in some murder cases, the outcome of negotiations for pardons in exchange for financial compensation. (…)

Every state in the world has ratified or acceded to treaties obligating them to ensure that juvenile offenders – persons under 18 at the time of the crime – are never sentenced to death. The overwhelming majority of states complies with this obligation, with several states – including the United States and China – in recent years moving to ban the juvenile death penalty and strengthen juvenile justice protections.

My emphasis. It is truly good news that China, being the worst “kill your own citizens” offender, is mentioned here, and interestingly enough in one breath with the United States. But then, the talent to be optimistic:

“We are only five states away from a complete ban on the juvenile death penalty,” said Clarisa Bencomo, Middle East children’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch. “These few holdouts should abandon this barbaric practice so that no one ever again is executed for a crime committed as a child.”

Earlier on the nest: Life and Death, Execution.

May 24th, 2008

The arrest

This is what can happen to war criminals, how the process works. The MLC, was a violent guerilla movement, operating in Congo. It is now a political party. In 2002-2003 it is said to have committed serious crimes against humanity: rape, torture and some say even cannibalism. Multi-Millionaire Bemba is the leader of the gang.

Pre-Trial Chamber III found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that in the context of a protracted armed conflict in the Central African Republic from about 25 October 2002 to 15 March 2003, MLC forces led by Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo carried out a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population during which rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity and pillaging were committed in, but not limited to, the localities of PK 12, Bossongoa and Mongoumba.

Pre-Trial Chamber III also found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, as President and Commander in Chief of the MLC, was vested with de facto and de jure authority by the members of the MLC to take all political and military decisions.

Two days ago, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued a secret arrest warrant for Bemba. A day later he was arrested in Belgium and after a hearing at a Belgium court, he is expected to be transferred to The Hague in the next few weeks.

The Pre-Trial Chamber issued a warrant of arrest on 23 May 2008. This arrest warrant remained under seal until his arrest on 24 May 2008.

Mr. Bemba’s arrest is a warning to all those who commit, who encourage, or who tolerate sexual crimes.  There is a new law called the Rome Statute. Under this new law, they will be prosecuted” said the Prosecutor.

There are no excuses for hundreds of rapes. There are no excuse for the rape of a little girl, with her parents watching. There are no excuses for commanders ordering, authorizing or acquiescing to the commission of rapes and looting by their forces. We have evidence that Mr Bemba committed crimes.. With the Rome Statute, nobody is beyond the reach of international criminal justice. Nobody can side with the criminals and against the victims.  Bosco Ntaganda, who committed crimes in Ituri and continues to commit crimes today in the Kivus, Joseph Kony of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, Ahmed Harun, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs for the Sudan, will also end up in jail.”

I went to CAR, I met the victims, those who survived the violence, those who survived AIDS.  We cannot erase the scars. But we can give them justice. Their testimonies will be strong evidence for the Prosecution. The victims will tell their stories in Court, this power will be theirs.”

Yes, I can see the rationale behind the Jesse Helms masterpiece act. Ruth will love this.

April 18th, 2008

The bringing of democracy

According to Amnesty international, 28 people were trialled and executed last week in Iraq, often after being arrested in combat only weeks earlier.

Twenty-eight people have been executed in Iraq this week following what appear to have been hasty and unfair trials. Those executed were arrested in clashes that took place in the past three weeks.

Amnesty International has said that, for them to be arrested, sentenced and executed within such a short period raises serious concerns about the trial process. The organization has called on the Iraqi authorities to disclose all relevant information about these trials, including whether those executed had access to legal representation or not.