WHO Sees Zika Link Proven In weeks As U.S. India, Lead Vaccine Race

zika whoThe World Health Organization (WHO) expects suspected links between the Zika virus and two neurological disorders, microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barre syndrome, to be confirmed within weeks, a top official said on Friday.

A sharp increase in birth defects in Brazil has triggered a global health emergency over the mosquito-borne virus and spurred a race to develop a vaccine and better diagnostic tests.

“We have a few more weeks to be sure to demonstrate causality, but the link between Zika and Guillain-Barre is highly probable,” Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, told a news briefing.

Kieny said U.S. government scientists and an Indian biotechnology company were currently frontrunners in vaccine development, although it would take at least 18 months to start large-scale clinical trials of candidate shots.

“Two vaccine candidates seem to be more advanced: a DNA vaccine from the U.S. National Institutes for Health and an inactivated product from Bharat Biotech in India,” she said.

The NIH is working on a DNA-based vaccine that uses the same approach as one being developed for West Nile virus. India’s Bharat said last week that its experimental vaccine would start pre-clinical trials in animals imminently.

Overall, around 15 groups are working on Zika vaccines, including France’s Sanofi (SASY.PA), as well as researchers in Brazil, who announced a new partnership with the University of Texas on Thursday.

The road to developing a preventative shot against the disease is strewn with hurdles, however, not least because the group viewed as most at risk are pregnant women.

Improved diagnostic tests are also viewed as critical to fighting the disease, which is now sweeping through the Americas, and Kieny said new test kits were being rapidly developed and could be available in weeks.

Researchers in Brazil are scrambling to determine whether Zika has caused a major rise in microcephaly, or abnormally small heads in newborns, with more than 4,000 suspected cases of the condition reported to date. Brazil has confirmed more than 400 of those cases as microcephaly and has identified the presence of Zika in 17 babies, but a link has yet to be proven.

Still, many scientists are convinced that the link is real and new evidence of Zika in the brain of an aborted fetus, reported on Wednesday, has added to the case.

Taiwan Quake Kills At Least 12

taiwanA powerful earthquake struck Taiwan early on Saturday killing at least 12 people, most in a 17-storey apartment building that collapsed, with some people still known to be missing in the ruins of the complex as night fell, government officials said.

As rescuers searched for survivors, questions were raised about the construction of the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building in the southern city of Tainan, with its floors that pancaked down on each other when the 6.4 magnitude tremor hit at around 4 a.m. (2000 GMT), at the start of a Lunar New Year holiday.

Ten of the dead, including a 10-day-old girl, were from the apartment building. The baby was found in her dead father’s arms, media reported.

Rescuers mounted hydraulic ladders and a crane to scour the ruins, plucking survivors to safety, with hundreds taken to hospital, though many were quickly released.

An 18-year old man was found alive and conscious shortly after dark, and rescuers were working to get him free, while a 30-year-old woman, a nine-year old girl and a male toddler were pulled out alive, Taiwan television said.

Buildings in nine other locations in the city of 2 million people had collapsed and five were left tilting at alarming angles, a government emergency center said.

But a fire department official said rescue efforts were focused on the apartment block, where a child’s clothes fluttered from a first-floor laundry line and the smell of leaking gas hung in the air.

“I was watching TV and after a sudden burst of shaking, I heard a boom. I opened my metal door and saw the building opposite fall down,” said a 71-year-old neighbor who gave his name as Chang.

A plumber, he said he fetched some tools and a ladder and prised some window bars open to rescue a woman crying for help.

“She asked me to go back and rescue her husband, child, but I was afraid of a gas explosion so I didn’t go in. At the time there were more people calling for help, but my ladder wasn’t long enough so there was no way to save them.”

The quake was centered 43 km (27 miles) southeast of Tainan, at a depth of 23 km (14 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Earlier in the day, an elderly woman, wrapped in blankets, was strapped to a board and slowly slid down a ramp to the ground as the cries of those still trapped rang out. Rescuers used dogs and acoustic equipment to pick up signs of life in the rubble.

Authorities said there were 96 apartment units in the Golden Dragon Building and 256 registered residents, though more were in the building when it collapsed. Late in the day, city mayor William Lai said 5 people were missing there.

Rescuers clad in red and yellow overalls pulled over 240 survivors from the ruins and later inserted huge supports under slabs of leaning concrete to buttress the ruins as they searched for more.

Three Missing, Eighty-Seven Rescued After South Africa Mine Collapse

south african2Almost 90 miners were rescued and three were still missing after a cave-in at a gold mine in northeastern South Africa on Friday, the firm that owns the mine said.

The collapse at the mine’s main entrance trapped 87 workers underground, all of whom were rescued, Vantage Goldfields (VTGFF.PK) said in a statement. However, three others who had been working on the surface at the time of the collapse could not be accounted for.

No fatalities were reported. However, there was confusion regarding the number of workers involved.

“As we speak they might already all be out. Most have been evacuated,” Mike McChesney, chief executive of the small gold producer told Reuters by telephone from the mine in Barbeton town in Mpumalanga province about 360 kilometers (225 miles) east of Johannesburg.

McChesney and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union initially said 115 workers had been trapped.

South Africa’s mines are the deepest and among the most dangerous in the world. Fatalities in the industry have been falling due to both improved safety practices and a reduction in the labor force as production declines.

Vantage Goldfields is an Australia-based company mining gold at Barberton, a town that traces its origin in the country’s 19th century gold rush. Vantage was delisted from the Australian bourse in January 2015.

The mine workers union later said 78 workers had been rescued and three workers were missing. The reason for the discrepancy between the union’s figures and the company’s was not immediately clear.

“At this point, it’s unclear what caused the disaster,” Manzini Zungu, a spokesman for the union said.

Last year, 77 workers were killed in mining accidents, the lowest number on record, compared with 84 in 2014.

FMC Owo Doctors Demand Release Of Kidnapped Pharmacist

Resident-doctorsMedical doctors at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo in Ondo State have called for the immediate release of a staff of the hospital, Mrs Queen Adeyeye, who was kidnapped last Saturday by unknown gunmen.

Mrs Adeyeye, who is the Deputy Director of Pharmaceutical Services at the hospital, was kidnapped while returning home from a church programme.

Addressing a press conference at the centre, the Chairman of Body of Medical Doctors, which consists of resident doctors and consultants, Dr. Opeyemi Komolafe, urged the state and federal governments to ensure the woman is rescued from her abductors.

They charged President Muhammudu Buhari to tackle the high level of insecurity in the country, lamenting that the lives of the staff of the hospital were no longer safe.

He urged all security agencies to deploy necessary machinery and intelligence to ensure that the kidnapped pharmacist is freed by her captors.

Transparency And Accountability Is Needed To Curb Oil Theft

MD/CEO, Financial Derivatives Campany Ltd, Mr. Bismack Riwane,  on Tuesday said transparency and accountability are the only ways of curbing oil theft and pipeline leakage to stop the damage it is doing to the Nigerian economy.

He said this on Channels television’s business programme, Business Morning.

He added that Nigeria loses about 400,000 barrels of oil per day and the financial impact is that the country is losing more than $11 billion a year which can be used to build two yearly.

“Every barrel of oil equals 350litres, so oil theft is not a hidden business and it cannot be done without connival from government officials, “he said. There’s official leakage and criminal leakage.

Mr Rewane said “if we don’t talk about it then we can’t deal with it as a country. “There has to be greater accountability and people have to be held responsible, national security issues should be at the fore front of the country’s plans”.

As regards Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), he said they have a counter claim on the government and so does Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), he directed that the finance minister has to improve the level of accountability and transparency in their dealings.  To correct the situation he said that the government can guarantee international companies that will gain profit within five years, if they set up refineries in Nigeria.

He described the oil theft situation in Nigeria as a crisis that needs to be arrested and earnings should be invested in making the lives of people better.

He said there’s a need for the oil producing areas to be compensated.” We can’t avoid a downtime, the price of oil will go down within the next three years and there will be inequality between the rich and poor,” he concluded.

MD/CEO Derivates Campany LTD

Expect increased power supply between now and December-Petroleum Minister

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke has announced major milestones in the Gas Supply Emergency Plan which has helped power generation to reach an unprecedented 4.200MW.

This comes four months after the declaration of the project with a 12 month timeline to address the misalignment in the nation’s gas to power aspirations.

Allison-Madueke was speaking at a news conference in Abuja where she attributed the increase in power generation to the improvement in gas supply.

She listed the items completed in the critical pipeline segments to include a Permanent Gas Supply Pipeline from Itoki to Olorunshogo in Ogun state, the 56km by 24inch escravos-warri gas pipeline – doubling the pipeline capacity and enhancing gas evacuation from escravos as well as the 130km by 36inch Oben to Geregu pipeline.

She explained that the net impact of all these is the addition of 120million cubic feet of gas per day to the grid and the permanent elimination of the challenges of low gas pressure that has plagued the Olorunshogo PHCN and NIPP power plants.

The minister assured Nigerians to expect continued growth over the current all-time peak recorded by the power ministry between now and December.

Justice Minister grants Lagos State permission to prosecute tax offenders

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, has granted the Lagos State government the executive fiat to prosecute tax offenders in the state under the Personal Income Tax Act.

Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola on Justice, Mr Lanre Akinsola, disclosed this yesterday at a briefing on tax compliance in the state.

“Last week Thursday, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice granted approval to the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice of Lagos State, Mr Ade Ipaye, to prosecute tax defaulters or evaders. This means that if you don’t pay your tax, you will go to jail and will not be liable to hold any public office position,” he said.

He said any person or cor-porate organisation that fails to submit tax returns for last year by the end of this month has committed an offence.

Earlier, while justifying why Lagos needs to increase its internally generated revenue that was N16billion monthly last year, the Special Assistant to the Lagos state Governor on Taxation and Revenue, Mr Abimbola Sodipo, said the challenge was funding the 106 new projects to be executed by the state.

He said available data show that out of the 20million population of the state, eight million are workers but only 2 .7million pay tax, while 5.3million do not.

Noting that Lagos has adopted advocacy, enlightenment, awards and recognition, among others, to encourage payment of tax, he said: “Now we are moving to a vigorous enforcement level. We will prosecute and refuse to listen to any concessions or waivers.”

Chairman, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), Tunde Fowler, said the days the state relied on Abuja for much of its revenue are over.

He said funds from the Federation Account accounted for only 51.14 per cent of the state revenue for 2007 while it decreased to 37 per cent last year.

He said if every taxable person pays his tax in the state monthly internally generated revenue would increase to N20billion and this would help to build more infrastructure.

He explained that in the government’s proactive effort to ensure compliance with the taxation policy, a total of 610 companies were sealed up between 2010 and 2011 with N1,334,519,040.73 billion recovered.

Fowler enumerated the various punishments for failure to pay the Personal Income Tax. He said failure by a banker to render returns, books, documents and information on demand within seven days attracts a fine of N500, 000 for a corporate body and N50,000 for an individual, while failure by banker to render information about new customer within 7 days attracts N500, 000 for corporate body and N50, 000 for an individual. For an employer of labour, the PITA states that failure to deduct or remit tax will attract 10 per cent of tax not deducted, plus interest at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Monetary Policy Rate.