WHO Raises Pandemic Threat Level of Swine Flu

Level four requires sustained human-to-human transmission able to cause what the WHO calls “community-level outbreaks.”


TORONTO, April 27 — The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert system to level four — sustained human-to-human transmission — in response to the swine flu outbreak in the U.S., Mexico, and at least two other countries.

The Geneva-based WHO made the change from level three — some human-to-human transmission — on the advice of an expert panel meeting today.

Read moreWHO Raises Pandemic Threat Level of Swine Flu

Banksters scoop huge pay increases for bonus loss

UBS salaries rise 15-20% to make up for bonus loss

City bankers and financiers are scooping bumper pay rises to compensate for losing multimillion pound bonuses in a controversial development that will trigger fresh “reward for failure” rows.

The Observer has learnt that UBS, the stricken bank that last year received a £40bn Swiss government bailout, is paying London staff increases of between 15% and 20% at a time when many workers in Britain are forced to take wage freezes.

Though it is understood some equity traders at UBS have even enjoyed a doubling of salary to over £250,000, bank sources indicate these were “exceptional cases rather than the rule”. But senior City headhunters confirmed that basic pay rises for senior bank staff were rising sharply, with US banks seeing big hikes.

The development provoked an angry response from TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. “People at the top of these banks should not be taking rewards unavailable to most staff,” he said last night. “We have to get away from a culture that says those at the top take huge salary rises while ordinary workers lose jobs and are told to accept wage freezes.”

Big pay rises for financiers will inevitably spark concern that UK banks – most of which have been bailed out by the government – will be forced to compete on basic pay or see an exodus of their brightest talent to foreign-owned banks.

Lloyds Banking Group, which took over HBOS, is awarding staff an average of 3% this year, though some senior staff are thought to be seeing higher rises.

Read moreBanksters scoop huge pay increases for bonus loss

GM to Cut 21,000 Jobs, Eliminate Pontiac


FILE–An undated file photo released by General Motors shows a 1968 Pontiac GTO. General Motors is expected to announce it’s restructuring plan Monday April 27, 2009, and it will include the discontinuation of the Pontiac brand, maker of the GTO _ one of America’s first muscle cars and so popular it inspired the Beach Boys to immortalize it in song. (AP Photo/General Motors, file) (Anonymous – AP)

The U.S. Treasury would own at least a 50 percent stake in General Motors under a plan the company released today to avoid bankruptcy.

The strategy would essentially formalize the government’s control over one of the icons of corporate America.

“I’m a believer in dealing in reality,” GM chief executive Fritz Henderson said in announcing the new plan. “We’ve gotten great support from the Treasury. It has viewed this matter from day one as a kind of private equity investment. It has pushed us in a lot of ways.”

Related articles: GM to shut plants for up to nine weeks this summer (AFP)

The announcement came as the company said it would further shrink the number of workers, dealers and types of cars in an attempt to prepare it for a United States shrunken by the recession.

Henderson said GM will eliminate 21,000 jobs by next year and phase out its Pontiac line as part of a last-ditch restructuring effort to keep the company afloat and win additional government aid.

Read moreGM to Cut 21,000 Jobs, Eliminate Pontiac

Swine flu prompts EU warning on travel to US and Mexico


A South Korean disinfection truck sprays disinfectant against a possible swine flu outbreak at a port farm in Chuncheon, South Korea, Monday, April 27, 2009. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Lee Sang-hack)

MADRID (AP) – The top EU health official urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico because of the swine flu virus, and Spanish health officials confirmed the first case outside North America.

Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said they would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus amid a surging global concern about a possible pandemic.


Europeans urged to avoid Mexico and US as swine flu death toll exceeds 100 (Guardian):

• Spain confirms first European case as pandemic fears grow
• 17 possible cases of swine flu are under watch in the UK


World stock markets fell as investors worried that the deadly outbreak could go global and derail any global economic recovery. Airlines took the brunt of the selling.

The virus was suspected in up to 103 deaths in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak with more than 1,600 cases suspected, while 40 cases – none fatal – were confirmed in the United States and six in Canada, the World Health Organization said.

“Today we’ve seen increased number of confirmed cases in several countries,” WHO spokesman Paul Garwood told The Associated Press. “WHO is very concerned about the number of cases that are appearing, and the fact that more and more cases are appearing in different countries.”

Read moreSwine flu prompts EU warning on travel to US and Mexico

U.S. set to issue travel warning to Mexico

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government plans to issue a travel warning later on Monday urging Americans to avoid all “nonessential” trips to Mexico because of an outbreak of swine flu, a U.S. official said.

Swine flu has killed 103 people in Mexico and has spread to the United States. Spain has reported one case of the virus, the first to be confirmed in Europe.

“There will be a travel warning urging Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico because of the swine flu,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition he not be named as the warning has not yet been officially announced.

Read moreU.S. set to issue travel warning to Mexico

Swine Flu Pandemic Would Cost Trillions

This afternoon, the WHO declaredthat the swine flu outbreak in Mexico and the U.S. is a health emergency of international concern.

Reuters has put together a list of estimates of the economics costs that may be incurred if swine flu becomes a full out pandemic.

  • The World Bank estimated in 2008 that a flu pandemic could cost $3 trillion and result in a nearly 5 percent drop in world gross domestic product. The World Bank has estimated that more than 70 million people could die worldwide in a severe pandemic.
  • Australian independent think-tank Lowy Institute for International Policy estimated in 2006 that in the worst-case scenario, a flu pandemic could wipe $4.4 trillion off global economic output.
  • Two reports in the United States in 2005 estimated that a flu pandemic could cause a serious recession of the U.S. economy, with immediate costs of between $500 billion and $675 billion.
  • One report, from the Congressional Budget Office, said hospitals would have difficulty controlling infection and might become sources for spreading the illness.
  • A second report by New Jersey-based WBB Securities LLC predicted a one-year economic loss of $488 billion and a permanent economic loss of $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy.
  • SARS in 2003 disrupted travel, trade and the workplace and cost the Asia Pacific region $40 billion. It lasted for six months, killing 775 of the 8,000 people it infected in 25 countri
  • Between the autumn of 1918 and the spring of 1919, 548,452 people died of swine flu in the US.

John Carney
Apr. 25, 2009

Source: The Business Insider

CDC: New flu cannot be contained

WASHINGTON, April 25 (Reuters) – An unusual new flu virus has spread widely and cannot be contained, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Saturday.

“It is clear that this is widespread. And that is why we have let you know that we cannot contain the spread of this virus,” the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters on a conference call.

The strain of swine flu is suspected of killing as many as 68 people in Mexico and infecting more than 1,000 more, including eight in the United States.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Patricia Zengerle)
25 Apr 2009 17:45:00 GMT

Source: Reuters

Monsanto sues Germany over GM corn ban


Monsanto has taken action against the German ban

US biotech giant Monsanto is suing Germany over its decision to ban genetically modified corn, saying it is arbitrary and goes against EU regulations.

On Wednesday, Monsanto confirmed a report in the Handelsblatt newspaper that it had filed a suit in a court in the northern German city of Braunschweig, aiming to overturn the ban on GM corn.

Monsanto is hoping for a decision by mid May, which would allow it to plant GM seed this spring, according to Handelsblatt.

Last Tuesday, German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced a ban on planting genetically modified Monsanto corn type MON 810.


Some butterflies are thought to be harmed by the GM corn

She cited studies which, she said, show the corn is dangerous for the environment, specifically Monarch butterflies and other insects. The seeds contain a gene, which protects the corn against a pest, the European corn borer butterfly.

Read moreMonsanto sues Germany over GM corn ban

UK car production fell 51.3% last month!

UK car production fell by 51.3 per cent last month, according to industry figures disclosed today.

Cars produced for export comprised about 75 per cent of the vehicles made in the UK in March, figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) indicated, and production fell by 51.3 per cent in March as manufacturers reduced production to cope with falling demand.

Cars made for the domestic market fell by 47.2 per cent in March.

The latest chapter in the decline of the car industry comes just after the Budget confirmed details of a scrappage plan, whereby people will receive £2,000 to swap a car more than a decade old for a new model.

Read moreUK car production fell 51.3% last month!

Scientists reverse symtoms of multiple sclerosis

Scientists have been able to reverse the symptoms of multiple sclerosis using stem cells from patients’ own body fat.


The preliminary findings add to the growing evidence that stem cells could be used to treat multiple sclerosis Photo: AP

Some have been left free from seizures and better able to walk after the treatment.

Researchers said that the results suggest that the “very simple” injection of their own cells can stimulate the regrowth of tissue damaged by the progression of the disease.

The preliminary findings add to the growing evidence that stem cells could be used to treat the crippling neurological disease, which affects about 85,000 people in Britain.

Last year experts suggested that stem cell therapy could be a “cure” for MS within the next 15 years.

Patients’ symptoms were still improving up to a year after the treatment, the new study shows.

One, a 50-year-old man, who had suffered more than 600 painful seizures in the three years before treatment has not had a single one since the infusion of his own cells.

Another patient’s ability to walk, run and even cycle are still improving 10 months after the therapy.

Read moreScientists reverse symtoms of multiple sclerosis