The Ebola Nightmare

I don’t want to sound alarmist but there is a contagion happening in West Africa that should worry the heck out of all of us.

It’s called Ebola. Here’s a bit of useful background.This disease is highly contagious. Victims haemorrhage from just about every orifice. It’s spread through coming into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. There’s a three week incubation period and no known cure. Health workers wear full biohazard suits which mean they look like they are preparing for a walk in outer space when dealing with its victims.

The United States is starting to take Ebola very seriously. Some say they dragged their heels in getting to this point. I say who cares I’m just glad they did.

President Obama pledged 3000 US military personnel to go to West Africa. Their job will include erecting new treatment and isolation facilities, training health care workers to minimize disease spread and support in communications and transport. The United Nations called it a billion dollar problem.

But it’s not the cost that we should be worried about. It’s Ebola’s capacity to kill people. Twenty-four hundred people have already died since the start of this year. Now health authorities are predicting more than 20 thousand people could be infected by the end of the year. That is not a disease. It is an out of control wildfire. As one doctor described it an out of control wildfire from the pit of hell. They’re talking it up to be a major humanitarian crisis in the countries affected. It is already. The biggest problem they’ve got apart from the rate that it kills people is how to contain it. Right at this moment they’re losing the battle. It’s crippled public health systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. They didn’t have much of a public health system to begin with and that’s probably why this disease took hold.

The U.S has already spent $100 million with plans to spend even more. Critics are saying the international community’s delayed response is to blame for allowing Ebola to spread exponentially and in a fashion unparalleled in modern times.

Think runaway freight train destroying everything in its path. And because it’s such a new disease and one we know so little about it’s almost impossible to predict what it might do next. For example could it mutate? Become airborne and start infecting victims when they breathe in the virus? This of course hasn’t happened yet. I pray it doesn’t.

N-I-M-B-Y is how you would sum up the response to this crisis so far. By that I mean Not In My Backyard. The Director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Minnesota believes public officials are too afraid to discuss it. He says they don’t want to be accused of the equivalent of shouting fire in a public theatre. But the risk is real and unless and until we take the risk seriously the world won’t be prepared to do what is necessary to end the epidemic. Ebola doesn’t discriminate. The people treating the victims are as much at risk as the people who already have the disease. A drug called ZMapp, claims to have successfully treated Ebola patients but it’s yet to go through all the proper clinical trials. Such is the desperation it was given to people with the disease anyway.

Ignoring Ebola or pretending it could never reach where we live in our big, modern 21st Century cities, would be a big mistake. Borders and geography mean nothing. And unless something is done smartly there is every chance Ebola will reach us given the global nature of how we live. Forget about the threat of the Islamic State to life and civilisation as we know it. We’re staring at the apocalypse. It’s in West Africa.

 

 

 

WTF

This is a story you are not going to believe.

It concerns an 86 year old retired senior American corporate executive called James Prigoff.

Mr Prigoff is a with it sort of guy with impressive credentials. He was the former president of a division of Levi Strauss the jeans manufacturer and previously the senior vice president of the Sara Lee Corporation in Chicago. Mr Prigoff also happens to be a professional photographer. In fact, he has been a photographer for most of his life. His speciality is photographing murals, graffiti art, and other pieces of community public art. He’s also co-authored three books based on the many photographs he has taken, one of which, Spraycan Art, sold more than 200,000 copies. His photographs have appeared in many other publications and his photography has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and in many other galleries. Mr Prigoff has also given lectures on photography and public art in museums, universities, and venues worldwide. He knows his stuff.

It’s a lifestyle he clearly loves but it’s one that got him into serious trouble.

Trouble that started when he attempted to photograph the “Rainbow Swash” outside Boston in 2004.

For those of you who may not know, the Rainbow Swash is an iconic piece of public art painted in 1971 on the circumference of a 140-foot or 45 metre high liquefied natural gas storage tank and repainted in 1992. It is actually one of the largest copyrighted pieces of art in the world. The original artist was Korita Kent.

Now how could doing that get Mr Prigoff into so much trouble you might ask?

Here’s how.

Mr Prigoff went to Dorchester, Massachusetts., to photograph the storage tank. But before he could take his photograph, he was confronted by two security guards who came through their gate and told him he couldn’t take pictures because the tank was on private property.

When he pointed out that he was taking his photographs in a public place well outside the fenced area, and was not on private property – they insisted he leave.

Mr Prigoff not wanting to cause offence or confrontation did what he was asked. That should have been the end of the matter.But it wasn’t.

A few months later, Mr Prigoff discovered a business card on the front door of his home in Sacramento from someone called Agent A. Ayaz of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, asking Mr Prigoff to call him.

In fact one of Mr Prigoff’s neighbours, an elderly woman, later told him that two men wearing suits had come to her door to ask her about her neighbour.

Armed with this information, James Prigoff did what most curious people might do if they found themselves in that situation.

He called Agent Ayaz.

What followed was a very strange conversation. Agent Ayaz asked Mr Prigoff if he had been in Boston recently. It was at that moment that it suddenly dawned on him why they might be asking those kinds of questions.

Mr Prigoff realized that the security guards at the Rainbow Swash site must have taken down the car license plate number of his rental and reported him to a law enforcement agency.

There could be no other possible explanation.Mr Prigoff never gave the security guards any information about himself, so clearly he must have been traced across country through his rental car record.

But why would they bother? Well the answer is frighteningly simple even if it makes no sense.

Even though James Prigoff might have been a professional photographer taking a photo of a well-known Boston landmark according to the Joint Terrorism Task force what he was doing was considered to be engaging in suspicious terrorist activity.

Mr Prigoff said : ” I lived through the McCarthy era, so I know how false accusations, surveillance, and keeping files on innocent people can destroy their careers and lives. I am deeply troubled that the Government may be recreating that same climate of false accusation and fear today.”

James Prigoff aged 86 says photography is an important part of his life, and what’s more he plans to keep photographing public art and public places – like he has been doing for the past 69 years.

He can’t understand why his legitimate artistic pursuits landed him on a national database potentially linking him to “terrorist” activities”

He says there is no reason for it. He is absolutely right about that.