The Ebola Contagion Epidemic of 2014

Ebola-virusIn late December of 2013, children of Meliandou, Guinea in West Africa found hundreds of bats nesting in a hollowed out tree. The children had no way of knowing that bats are the suspected carriers of the ebola virus. The children lit a fire and the bats scattered from the tree, allowing the children to catch and consume these bats as a source of protein. It is suspected that this is what triggered the ebola epidemic of 2014. Villagers originally thought that the illness spreading was due to witchcraft but authorities quickly identified the outbreak as ebola in an attempt to quarantine and curb the spread of the infection. Illness rapidly spread across the forest region of Guinea as those who were ill came into contact with healthcare workers whilst seeking medical attention which lead to surrounding areas becoming impacted. For 3 months, the symptoms of ebola were mistaken for cholera and malaria, which is why the contagion was unable to be controlled and halted. The problem quickly spiraled out of control with thousands becoming ill and a total of 11,315 deaths across 6 countries including Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Mali, and the U.S., however the U.S. faired best with only 49 of the total deaths. The government of Guinea had no idea how to respond as all previous ebola outbreaks had occurred over 1600 kilometers away, however the relief group Doctors Without Borders had decades of experience and were able to be flown in in and effort to curb the spread of the pathogen. Within 48 hours of arrival, Doctors Without Borders had setup a field hospital in the village of Guéckédou, Guinea, the epicenter of the ebola outbreak. Past outbreaks have taught physicians that the best counter attack is to isolate the ill, monitor those who have had contact with the sick, and safely bury the dead. Due to the scale of the problem and the fact that it was not isolated to a single group or village, Doctors Without Borders did not have the resources to contain this potential global threat which is why the World Health Organization became involved, a group which is part of the United Nations and has access to the best and most expensive resources in the world, with a mandate to help governments coordinate responses to outbreaks. The main problem facing the World Health Organization is that the organization itself does not take precedent nor command of any medical situation as it is the country which is dealing with a contagion that must take this lead. Due to the fact that Guinea is a poor nation with few resources, grabbing hold of the ebola outbreak was exceedingly difficult as physicians did not have proper oversight by those in power with ebola experience, the governments of affected nations were some of the poorest in the world, and the World Health Organization was in the process of downsizing, causing the entire process to become more complicated and convoluted as decision making was scattered and often conflicted. This created the perfect storm for ebola to quickly spread across the African continent and into the western world. The government of Guinea accused Doctors Without Borders of sowing panic among the public which further elevated tensions between the 3 organizations involved. Guinea’s Ministry of Health demanded that only laboratory confirmed cases be counted towards the total ebola death count which tied the hands of physicians and their governing organizations as this act downplayed the importance and severity of just how severe the ebola outbreak truly was which lead to further contamination as the public did not treat the disease with the full gravitas of what it demanded. It is believed that this single political act is what allowed ebola to jump across borders, starting with the neighboring country of Sierra Leone as residents of both states are permitted to freely cross the borderline of either nation as often as they wish, a political policy which should have been suspended during a period of mass outbreak. Rumors of foreign physicians killing impoverished residents with syringes helped inflame already growing tensions between healthcare professionals and the general public which made working with infected or potentially infected individuals exceedingly difficult for healthcare practitioners. The corpse of an ebola victim is highly infectious but in West Africa, it is customary for friends and family to spend hours with a person after death, washing and preparing them for their burial (e.g. cutting nails and braiding hair etc.). The sudden cessation of the ability to perform this ritualistic act deeply embedded within West African culture fueled even more resent from the public which caused mass rioting and chaos to ensue, endangering the lives of those who were there to help, made worse by the lack of education, language barriers, and cultural barriers already present. It is theorized that this cultural convention played a major and definitive role in the spread of the ebola virus, as mourners often touch the body during the funerary procession. It is believed by the inhabitants of West Africa that if a body is not laid to rest properly, the ghost of that person will return to haunt the people of the village which is why this ritualistic process is so deeply embedded and revered in this region of the world. The government of Guinea had no method of contact tracing, that is to say, there was no method in place to monitor those who had come in contact with ebola victims which allowed for hundreds of cases to go undetected. The World Health Organization debated whether or not to declare an international health emergency which would have acted as a global distress signal, enacting the aid and preparation for a counter attack from many of the worlds most industrialized nations (e.g. the U.S., Canada, Japan etc.). Officials worried that declaring a global emergency would create panic which would only help exacerbate the issue as many countries, particularly in Europe and the Middle East, could potentially close their borders in an effort to ensure the ebola virus remained exclusively in Africa, the worlds most impoverished continent. To exacerbate the already fevered tensions between government officials, healthcare workers, and the public at large, an event transpired which threw much of the West African population into a panic. In Kenema, Sierra Leone, a woman purporting herself as a nurse, began shouting in the center of the cities most populated marketplace, “there is no ebola! I say to everyone it’s not real. Ebola is not real. It’s cannibalism”. The crowd started to cry for others to come over, to hear the supposed confessions of a nurse stating that physicians are killing innocent people for the consumption of their bodies as meat. The tide quickly changed and the crowd began turning upon the healthcare staff present, throwing stones, giving chase, and threatening their lives, forcing the evacuation of virtually all physicians, nurses, and other interdisciplinary healthcare personnel. This woman was not a nurse, rather she was a person afflicted with mental illness, but her impact greatly exacerbated an already uneasy hoard of people, so much in fact that law enforcement were forced to attend and disperse tear gas to control the ire of the group. By this point, the ebola outbreak had claimed more than 800 people across 3 countries. Physicians urged the World Health Organization to declare an international emergency however organization officials refused to do so because it was believed that this act would only add fuel to an already raging and seemingly out of control inferno of illness and chaotic unrest. It was at this point that the ebola outbreak rose to a new level when an infected Liberian traveled to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, and the U.S., forcing the World Health Organization to declare an international emergency, by holding a press conference given by Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the organization itself. A high ranking team was assembled and deployed to Geneva, Switzerland in response, devising and enacting a plan to employ thousands of western medical professionals in an attempt to curb an infectious outbreak which was growing by this point at an exponential rate. The outbreak was so beyond the reach of control by this time that it had spread across a broad geographical area, unlike anything ever witnessed in modern memory. The main caveat to the curated plan was that the World Health Organization did not have a standing force of physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other various healthcare practitioners, ready and willing to help serve in the fight to combat such a prevalent contagion, nor did they have the budget to build one. The only option available was to appeal to the worlds wealthiest nations, persuading and to an extent pleading with trained and qualified healthcare workers who were willing and able to travel abroad and join the collective effort. This endeavor would take time as acquiring a team en mass is an extraordinarily ambitious goal to accomplish. Rioting continued to occur with some hospitals being overrun by disillusioned citizens who were angry, frightened, and frustrated enough to allow every patient under quarantine to run back into the village, allowing for the proliferation of the disease to spread even further. Governments attempted to respond by sending in military squadrons to guard sanctioned quarantined buildings in an effort to help contain an outbreak which for all intents and purposes was completely out of control and continuing to spiral into calamity. Citizens were killed both by soldiers with firearms as well as infection as those who were infected were in the streets, amongst the general populous. Doctors Without Borders began constructing ELWA 3 (pronounced “ell-wah-three”), the largest Ebola treatment center ever built, but despite their best efforts, the facility was not large enough to contain the sheer volume of people who needed medical aide. It was at this point that Doctors Without Borders made an urgent plea directed solely towards the U.S to provide thousands of soldiers immediately in order to help isolate and treat patients. Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Center of Disease Control, traveled to the ELWA 3 clinic in Monrovia, Liberia to see first hand, just how bad the epidemic was. Frieden recounted his experience by stating that he witnessed a “level of devastation that I have never seen” and that he was “seeing a country essentially in free fall and knowing, knowing with certainty that no matter what we did, it was going to get a lot worse before it got better”. Frieden called then President Barack Obama stating that the outbreak was expanding at an exponential pace, doubling every 3 weeks, resulting in a tripling of results with every month of delay instituted. Obama responded by implementing emergency U.S. aide, sending thousands of soldiers and medics, 10 months after the outbreak had initially begun, in an attempt to quell and eradicate the spread of this viral disease. Other industrialized nations soon followed suit and the United Nations created a new emergency mission for the World Health Organization and other related agencies to coordinate the response. Work began on the ground with the building of new treatment centers and training to teach those deployed how to properly bury affected victims. Despite these monumentous efforts, the ebola virus was still ahead of the response and threatened to spread beyond African borders. Shortly after this humanitarian response, cases in Monrovia began to sharply decline, but experts believed that the downward trajectory would bounce back in an even more dramatic resurgence as people were now staying home due to the events which had recently transpired across the African continent, allowing them to infect more people than if they had been under isolation. Fortunately, the drop in reported cases remained steadfast in its declination as Liberians stopped trying to nurse their sick and started burying the dead in an appropriate and safe manner. Liberians began to understand that the ebola virus was so drastically deadly that previous cultural customs had to be shelved for the time being so that the disease could be expunged and life could return to normal for those who had survived. Thousands more continued to die across West Africa, but the changed behavior of West Africans and the massive international response gradually turned the tide of the war

The Sinking of the USS Thresher

uss-thresher

The USS Thresher was the first ever U.S. submarine to sink to the seafloor. It’s hypothesized by some military experts that the infamous John Walker who was acting as a mole within the U.S. Navy, tipped off the Russians as to the location of the USS Thresher and that the submarine was attacked in revenge for a Soviet submarine entitled “K-129” which was lost 10 weeks prior to the USS Thresher event. The Russians believed that a U.S. Navy Destroyer ship ran over and through the Russian submarine K-129 despite the U.S. Navy claiming no involvement whatsoever. The forensic evidence points towards implosion due to a leak of some kind, most likely near the seals of the propeller or the trash shoot, making it impossible for the USS Thresher to rise to the surface or be saved by a nearby vessel

Pablo Picasso’s Politically Charged Guernica Painting

Pablo-Picasso-Guernica

On April 26, 1937, Guernica, Spain was severely bombed due to civil conflict brought on by World War II. The Basque town of Guernica was openly hostile towards General Francisco Franco’s ideologies, and because of this, Franco unleashed a 3.5 hour bombing raid upon this defenseless city, with help from German allies. In total, 1650 people were killed, 900 injured, and most of the township was destroyed, an event which sparked international outrage. Pablo Picasso created a piece of artwork as sentiment towards anti-war and anti-violence entitled “Guernica”. Picasso understood that artwork and politics rarely go together hand in hand and so he created not a piece of aircraft and bombs but rather of horses and swords, as he was determined not to create artwork which could be used as propaganda in the future. The bull depicted within the painting is designed to represent Franco and his military powers and the suffering horses and weeping woman symbolize the people of Spain. Picasso’s Guernica work became a timeless masterpiece and a copy of it is on display at the United Nations world headquarters in New York City, United States of America. The Guernica painting was covered briefly with a veil during 2003 when U.S. General Colin Powell announced the United States’ decision to invade Iraq. The Guernica image was seen as incendiary commentary and therefore intolerable during this chaotic period. The Guernica painting has become a symbol of protest to violence, war, and military regimes, not just for every country in the world, but of the 20th century and beyond

Christmas On The Western Front During World War II

World-War-II-Christmas-Truce

During World War I, a ceasefire occurred for a single day on December 25, 1914. This temporary peace was referred to as the “Christmas Truce” in English but in German it is referred to as “Weihnachtsfrieden” and in French it is referred to as “Treve de Noël”. The Christmas truce was a widespread but unofficial ceasefire along the European Western Front. In the week leading up to the Christmas, French, German, and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange small gifts and spend time talking and drinking alcohol. While initiating the truce, Axis soldiers called out to the Allied infantry by loudly stating “you no shoot, we no shoot”. In some areas, soldiers from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle, exchange food, and give and receive small souvenirs. Joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps occurred, and many meetings ended in the singing of Christmas carols. Soldiers played games of football with one another, providing one of the most memorable images of the truce which was taken during a break out game. Peaceful behavior however was not ubiquitous as fighting continued in some areas, while in others the sides settled on no more than arrangements to recover the bodies of soldiers who had recently died in combat

The Most Basic Meaning of Hanukkah

Hanukkah

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is essentially at its most basic principle, the celebration of a military victory during the 2nd century B.C., which was fought and won by the Maccabees, a religious and nationalist rebellion militant faction. When the Maccabees triumphed against the foreign Seleucid military which was comprised of Greek and Syrian soldiers, they repatriated and rededicated the Second Temple which stood in Jerusalem, Israel. The Second Temple was the Jewish holy temple which stood upon the Temple Mount during the Second Temple period, between 516 B.C.E. – 70 C.E. The term “hanukkah” is a Hebrew and Aramaic term which means “consecration” but can also be understood as “dedication”

The Ancient Battle of Troy 

Trojan-War

The battle of Troy is suspected to have occurred in modern day Turkey as Troy is considered is by archeologists and scholars to have been a real citadel, and not just an epic iliad of the ancient Greek poet Homer. The Trojan economy was based upon trade, specifically horses and horse breeding which allowed for wealth and military prowess within the walls of Troy, as horses were rarely seen elsewhere in the ancient world. Troy had a large ditch cut around the entire city, similar to a moat but without water. Large fences were placed behind this trench and enormous city walls were erected with only 3 entry points for the entire stronghold. Food stockpiles allowed the Trojans to hold out for longer periods than what would typically have been possible and amphorae were buried all over the Troy, up to the neck of the container, with a rock placed on top to seal it off. The Trojans, as was custom with most ancient people, would not bury their dead within the perimeter of the city unless under significant stress. Militarily speaking, in order to seize a target by assault, a soldier ratio of 3:1 is required but the Greeks did not have this advantage because the Trojan’s and Greek’s were matched evenly in terms of troops. This lack of superiority on either side permitted the Trojan war to last 9 years. The Trojans built their outer walls on a 20 degree slant to protect themselves from siege towers which were essentially mobile ladders with platforms to shoot down from. Troy’s exterior stone walls were 6 meters high with an additional height of 4 meters being added by mud-brick structures which crowned the walls. The Trojan Horse which invaded Troy was most likely was 13′ tall and less than 7′ wide, holding 30 – 40 men. Once Troy was successfully invaded, it was sacked, it’s citizens were pillaged and slaughtered, and its royal family raped and murdered. Even children were not immune to the scourge of this bloody battle as Homer’s iliad speaks of children being thrown to their death from great heights

Firearm and Biological Warfare During the Medieval Period 

Medieval-warfare

Crossbows during the Medieval Age were primarily made out of yew wood as it contains both sapwood which is ideal for tension and heartwood which is ideal for compression. Crossbows were reviled by knights as it made them vulnerable to common fighters who up until that point would never have a chance to face off because of the code of chivalry and military warfare. Crossbow bolts were often dipped in animal dung to create a biological weapon which would infect the target enemy as a backup plan in case the blow did not kill or disable them immediately

Nazi German V2 Rocket Production During World War II 

Nazi-German-V2-rocket

The V2 rocket was one of the most expensive pieces of weaponry utilized during World War II. The V2 rocket was manufactured under slave labor conditions and although it was successful in its ability to kill 5000 people during its various attacks, 10,000 – 20,000 people died during its production as miscalculations and errors often occurred during the various manufacturing and testing processes. The V2 rocket was primarily built by Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and French prisoners of war. Overworking, underfeeding, and not providing sanitation caused many deaths to these slave laborers which hindered the ability to produce the unrealistic quota demands Adolf Hitler had requested of the German military. For each V2 rocket which was produced, 6 slave laborers died. Wernher von Braun performed many calculations for the German military in terms of the amount of concentration camp slave laborers required to meet demand quotas as well as how many people were expected to die during each production run. Prisoners were often hung publicly within the labor camps as punishment for resistance or sabotage of the project

Charity Within the Royal Family

Royal-Family-charity

Charity within the royal family has been documented as far back as 300 years ago, with King George visiting debtors prison and absolving those within it of their financial debts. Queen Victoria was an avid help to those living in London during the Industrial Revolution, and used both state and private funds to help those in squalor. Eventually Queen Victoria’s acts translated into legislative changes which made it illegal to provide living conditions which were unfit for human use. The United Kingdom has 180,000 charities with 10,000 of those being of a significant size. Between these charities approximately $91,000,000,000 ($91 billion) is raised per year, accounting for 4% of the total gross domestic product of the United Kingdom, which means that British charities raise approximately double what the government spends on military defense each year. The United Kingdom has been ranked the most charitable nation in Europe. The royal family sponsors approximately 3000 charities, with 1500 being Queen Elizabeth’s and Prince Phillip’s responsibility, and the remaining being taken care of by the younger members of the royal family