Terrorist Attacks in a Democracy

By Erik Goepner

Terrorists executed nearly 690 attacks in India last year. For the second year in a row India ranked fourth in total number of terrorist attacks, behind only Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact, in each of the past six years, over 500 attacks per year have taken place in India.

Beyond the high volume of attacks, lies another story—the interesting hodgepodge of terrorist groups within India’s borders. To the north—where the world’s highest altitude conflict continues over Kashmir—Islamic extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba operate. As noted in the graphic below, these  groups have launched successful attacks in more populous and central areas of India, as well. To the west, Socialist and/or Communist groups like the United A’chik Liberation Army conduct attacks with the goal of seceding from India. Located more in the interior of the country, Communist organizations commit their atrocities in an effort to overthrow the Indian government.

Last year, seventeen of these terrorist events killed six or more people. As the graphic below shows, the Communist terrorists caused the most high-fatality events and also committed the two most destructive attacks, killing 17 and 15 people respectively.

India Picindia index




Perhaps even more disturbing than the terrorism numbers, the Center for Systemic Peace ranks India as the nation with the highest “interstate, societal, and communal warfare magnitude score” in the world. The score reflects the “total summed magnitude” of major episodes of political violence within a country’s borders and consists of civil violence and war, ethnic violence, and international violence and war. Based on the research conducted by the Center, India has had the highest magnitude score since 2002 (see Major Episodes of Political Violence, 1946-2013 dataset and accompanying Codebook at http://www.systemicpeace.org/inscrdata. html).


Map Credit; Image Credit

Pandora Report 3.28.14

It’s been a busy week between Ebola and Ricin! Friday highlights include a Polio-free India, tuberculosis transmission from cat to human, and mandatory vaccines in Croatia. Have a great weekend!

India is Polio-Free after 3 years of no new cases

On March 27, 2014, India was declared Polio-Free by the World Health Organization after three years of no new cases. The last case of polio in India was Rukhsar Khatoon, a 4 year old girl who became ill as a baby when her parents forgot to vaccinate her.

The Huffington Post—“Being declared polio-free once was considered all but impossible in a nation hobbled by corruption, poor sanitation and profound poverty. Although the disease could return, eradicating it is a landmark public health achievement.

This is “a day that we have dreamt about,” said Poonam Khetrpal Singh, a WHO official at a ceremony in New Delhi to declare the entire Southeast Asian region free of the disease. Singh described it as ‘a day that all countries fought hard for, and a day when all stakeholders come together to celebrate the victory of mankind over a dreaded disease.’”

Pet cats infect two people with TB

Two people in England have contracted tuberculosis from a house cat infected with Mycobacterium bovis—a form of tuberculosis normally found in cattle. Nine cats in the Berkshire and Hampshire areas have tested positive for M.bovis which is extremely uncommon in cats and usually affects livestock.

BBC—“‘These are the first documented cases of cat-to-human transmission, and so although PHE has assessed the risk of people catching this infection from infected cats as being very low, we are recommending that household and close contacts of cats with confirmed M. bovis infection should be assessed and receive public health advice’ said Dr. Dilys Morgan, head of gastrointestinal, emerging and zoonotic diseases department at Public Health England.”

Thank You, Croatia: All Hail Mandatory Vaccinations

This week, the Constitutional Court of Croatia passed a law that mandates all children must receive childhood vaccinations for diphtheria, pertussis, measles, polio and others. This decision comes at a time when lively debate rages, in the U.S. and abroad, about vaccination and its importance or harm. This step by Croatia, in the words of the court, is a victory for children’s health over parents (wrong) choices.

The Daily Beast—“… public health imperatives and individual rights are often at odds: a country like the U.S. that values the rights of the individual always has trouble with laws that remind us that not everything is a choice. Kids must go to school. People must pay taxes. Children must be vaccinated. It is called living in modern society.”


Image Credit: Dwight Sipler/ Wikimedia Commons

The Pandora Report 8.16.13

Highlights this week: MERS in India, Ebola!, new swine flu, a universal flu vaccine?, and not mad cow. Happy Friday!

Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Reaches India

With a population of over 1.2 bilion people, India has understandably been on high alert for Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus. Last week a 40-year-old man who had just returned from Saudi Arabia became the country’s first case. The patient spent three day in his home in Vashi, a small town less than two hours south of Mumbai, before being admitted into the local hospital. No word yet on whether he has a family or close relatives living with him, but no new cases have been detected.

Times of India – “In the first suspected case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the city, a Vashi resident has been quarantined at Kasturba Hospital in Chinchpokli. The 40-year-old man was admitted to the hospital’s ward 30, meant for infectious diseases, on Wednesday afternoon with complaints of fever and a progressing pneumonia (inflammation of lungs). The patient had returned to India on August 12 after spending 35 days in Saudi Arabia.”

Scientists Reveal How Deadly Ebola Virus Assembles

Just when you thought you knew Ebola, its proteins go and change shape on you. Scientists have discovered that the molecule responsible for the virus’ release of virions (VP40) is capable of changing shape to perform new functions.  This is a big deal, as up until now, proteins were generally believed to only be possible of forming one shape – one shape, one function. Researchers will be able to use this surprising piece of information to build antivirals tailored specifically to the VP40’s different shapes, enabling them to selectively target different points in the virus’ assembly. Which would be nice, because Ebola is scary.

Science Daily – “The results, five years in the making, revealed the Ebola VP40 protein exists as a dimer, not as a monomer as previously thought, and it rearranges its structure to assemble filaments to build the virus shell or “matrix” to release countless new viruses from infected cells. The study showed the protein also rearranges itself into rings in order to bind RNA and control the internal components of the virus copied inside infected cells. This “shape-shifting” or “transformer” behavior explains how the Ebola virus can control a multi-step viral lifecycle using only a very limited number of genes.”

New swine flu virus found by University of Hong Kong researchers

Scientists at the University of Hong Kong have unearthed a new influenza virus, nimbly dubbed porcine parainfluenza virus 1(PPIV-1), in 386 pig carcasses collected from slaughterhouses around Hong Kong. Despite the virus’ close similarity to existing human flu viruses, as long as meat is thoroughly cooked there is no immediate health threat to us. The stability of the virus’ genome suggested its primary host is pigs, in which it is also found to cause respiratory symptoms. However, study researchers have called for greater surveillance of imported animals – Hong Kong imports 3,000 pigs from mainland China daily – as well as a more thorough investigation into the virus’ source.

South China Morning Post – “But a top researcher behind the study, microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, warned it might mutate and jump from pigs to humans. ‘The new virus is closely related to some human influenza viruses,’ Yuen said. ‘We should watch for possible cross-species transmission from pigs to humans, just as in the case of [human] swine influenza H1N1 and the Nipah virus.'”

Universal Flu Vaccine: Pandemic Viruses May Give Clues

The best safeguard for beating the newest pandemic flu seems to be having lived through a couple already. According to new research, individuals who had been exposed to both the 1957 H2N2 and the 1977 H1NI pandemic influenza viruses had higher levels of broadly neutralizing antibodies.  These antibodies are better able to target the flu viruses’ “stalk” portion (rather than their “head”) which remains relatively conserved across strains. Before you start counting the number of times you’ve been laid up with the flu (or smartly got a flu shot), antibodies produced against seasonal flu won’t confer the same protection. For some reason, our body tends to produce antibodies against the “head” portion of regular winter flu viruses. However, researchers hope that by creating a seasonal flu shot which tricks your immune system into thinking it’s facing a pandemic virus,  a universal flu vaccine may be possible.

Live science – “Levels of broadly neutralizing antibodies increased modestly over time in the study participants, and were highest among those who’d been exposed to more than one pandemic. Levels of broadly neutralizing antibodies were 3.8-fold higher in those who had been exposed to both H2N2 and H1N1, compared with those exposed to only H1N1, the study found. The finding suggests a strategy for making a universal flu vaccine: create a vaccine that contains flu viruses with very different heads, but highly similar stalks, Miller told LiveScience.”

New virus could help rule out mad cow

We don’t spend a lot of time talking about pathogens which affect  exclusively agricultural and food security here at the Pandora Report, which isn’t to say they’re not critically important. Scientists have discovered and successfully characterized an astrovirus which produces symptoms similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly known as mad cow disease. Although the new virus is not zoonotic, researchers can use its sequenced genome to develop a quick an easy diagnostic test capable of ruling out BSE.  Currently, testing for BSE and other neurological diseases in cattle is very cost and labor intensive.

Futurity – “’Neurologic disease in cattle can be difficult to diagnose because there are a number of different causes, and pre-mortem sampling and analyses can be cumbersome and/or expensive,’ says corresponding author Patricia Pesavento, a veterinary pathologist in the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine…’Understanding the role of this virus is crucial for veterinarians as well as for the dairy and beef cattle industries,’ she says. ‘Additionally, finding new viruses helps us identify other, more remote viruses because it builds our knowledge of both the depth and breadth of viral family trees.'”

(image courtesy of Axel Drainville/Flickr)