Pandora Report 4.11.14

Ebola is still raging in West Africa and experts are planning for a long battle, however, every week can’t be about Ebola. So let’s jump into it!

Highlights include The START treaty, Chemical Weapons in Syria, H1N1 in otters and public outcry over Chilis (but not their baby back ribs.) Have a great weekend!

New START Data Show Russian Increase, US Decrease Of Deployed Warheads

With many Russia watchers nervously waiting to see if moves are made towards Ukraine, new data this week shows that Russia has actually increased their counted deployed strategic nuclear forces since September 2013 under the START treaty. Under the new treaty, by 2018, both Russia and the U.S. agree to no more than 1,550 strategic warheads on 700 deployed launchers. Russia has been under this limit since 2012—before the treaty was even signed—while the U.S. has yet to reduce below the treaty limits.

Federation of American Scientists– “Since the treaty was signed in 2010, the United States has reduced its counted strategic forces by 104 deployed launchers and 215 warheads; Russia has reduced its counted force by 23 launchers and  25 warheads. The reductions are modest compared with the two countries total inventories of nuclear warheads: Approximately 4,650 stockpiled warheads for the United States (with another 2,700 awaiting dismantlement) and 4,300 stockpiled warheads for Russia (with another 3,500 awaiting dismantlement).”

Another Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria?

 After Syria signed a chemical weapons dismantlement agreement in September 2013 (brokered by Russia, the U.S. and the UN), it appears they have reneged on their word. Reports from “credible” sources say that there have been chemical weapons attacks in the cities of Harasta and Jobar over the past couple weeks. With the eyes of the world on Russia and Ukraine, and U.S. naval destroyers loaded with tomahawk missiles departed from the Mediterranean, Assad may be benefitting from a lack of international oversight.

The Wall Street Journal-“There is no credible evidence to suggest that rebel groups in the Damascus area have acquired the materials or know-how to mount chemical weapons on conventional artillery pieces in their possession. It can therefore be concluded that unless the rebels theatrically fabricated the effects of a chemical attack, the Assad regime was likely responsible for carrying them out. Notably, on March 25, Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari distributed a letter specifically warning that rebels would use chemical weapons in Jobar in order to blame the government. But if any party in the conflict would be prone to such conspiracy, it would be the Assad regime, whose decades of tutelage under the Russian KGB made their Mukhabarat (secret service) frighteningly efficient at false-flag tactics meant to smear the opposition.”

Swine Flu From 2009 Pandemic Also Struck Sea Otters

Turns out, the H1N1 pandemic from 2009 didn’t only affect humans…it affected otters! New research shows that otters off the Western coast of the United States were also infected with H1N1 as it affected people throughout the U.S. Seventy percent of the otters tested in 2011 showed antibodies (demonstrating previous infection) for H1N1. Previous research also showed that elephant seals living off the coast of California had been infected with H1N1 too.

U.S. News and World Report-“‘Our study shows that sea otters may be a newly identified animal host of influenza viruses,” study-co-author and USGS scientist Hon Ip said in a government news release. “We are unsure how these animals became infected,” lead author and CDC scientist Zhunan Li said in the news release. “This population of sea otters lives in a relatively remote environment and rarely comes into contact with humans.” The study was published in the May issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.”

Chili’s cancels fundraiser with National Autism Association

Last weekend, my favorite mid-range American restaurant, Chili’s announced that they would be partnering with the National Autism Association for a benefit on Monday, April 7. However, outcry over the NAA—and its anti-vaccination stance—forced Chili’s to change its mind (and continue to keep my business.) It is a striking demonstration of the power of consumers and social media and strikes a victory for those in favor of vaccinations and the good they bring to communities and herd immunity.

CNN-“The Chili’s spokeswoman said that the NAA was originally selected for the fundraiser “based on the percentage of donations that would go directly to providing financial assistance to families and supporting programs that aid the development and safety of children with autism.”

Chili’s, which is owned by Brinker International (EAT), went on to say, “While we remain committed to supporting the children and families affected by autism, we canceled Monday’s Give Back Event based on the feedback we heard from our guests.”’


(image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/ Dave Bezaire & Susi Havens-Bezaire)

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