BP profits plummet 21% as Russia sanctions bite

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Oil giant BP (British Petroleum) has suffered a fall in profits from July to September amid lower oil prices and the decreasing value of the ruble.

Europe’s third-largest company said it made $3bn (£1.86bn) in the third quarter, down from $3.7bn (£2.29bn) in the same period last year – a fall of 21 percent.

BP has invested heavily in Russia and owns a nearly 20 percent stake in Rosneft, the Russian state-run oil company. It is now feeling the impact of Western economic sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

The company’s net income from the Rosneft stake dropped considerably – down to $110m from $808m in the same period last year.

BP said the depreciation of the ruble against the dollar was the reason for the drop in profits. Lower Urals oil prices also hurt profits, the London-based company said in a statement.

Crude oil prices dropped over the past four months by 25 percent to a four-year low of around $85 a barrel, due to slowing global demand, especially in China, and ample supplies.

However, it said the latest sanctions imposed on Russia in July “have had no material adverse impact on BP.”

British energy giant BP CEO Bob Dudley (AFP hoto / Vasily Maximov)British energy giant BP CEO Bob Dudley (AFP hoto / Vasily Maximov)

In turn, BP’s underlying oil and gas production, which excludes Russia, rose 4.1 percent.

Despite the drop in oil prices and profits, BP raised its dividend to 10 cents per share.

BP’s chief executive, Bob Dudley, remains positive: “Growing underlying production of oil and gas and a good downstream [refining oil] performance generated strong cash flow in the third quarter, despite lower oil prices. This keeps us well on track to hit our targets for 2014,” he said in a statement.

Rosneft delayed the publication of its own third quarter profit results without giving an explanation.

During the third quarter, BP paid out $314 million over the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the massive oil spillage that followed in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. BP has now paid out $20 billion in charges for the disaster.

STUDY: Ebola Can Survive on Surfaces for 50 Days

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(Daily Mail) – The number of confirmed Ebola cases passed the 10,000 mark over the weekend, despite efforts to curb its spread.

And while the disease typically dies on surfaces within hours, research has discovered it can survive for more than seven weeks under certain conditions.

During tests, the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) found that the Zaire strain will live on samples stored on glass at low temperatures for as long as 50 days.

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The tests were initially carried out by researchers from DSTL before the current outbreak, in 2010, but the strain investigated is one of five that is still infecting people globally.

The findings are also quoted in advice from the Public Agency of Health in Canada.

Ebola was discovered in 1976 and is a member of the Filoviridae family.

This family includes the Zaire ebolavirus (Zebov), which was first identified in 1976 and is the most virulent; Sudan ebolavirus, (Sebov); Tai Forest ebolavirus; Ebola-Reston (Rebov), and Bundibugyo ebolavirus (Bebov) – the most recent species, discovered in 2008.

For their 2010 paper, ‘The survival of filoviruses in liquids, on solid substrates and in a dynamic aerosol’, Sophie Smither and her colleagues tested two particular filoviruses on a variety of surfaces.

These were the Lake Victoria marburgvirus (Marv), and Zebov.

Each was placed into guinea pig tissue samples and tested for their ability to survive in different liquids, and on different surfaces at different temperatures, over a 50-day period.

When stored at 4° (39°F), by day 26, viruses from three of the samples were successfully extracted; Zebov on the glass sample, and Marv on both glass and plastic.

By day 50, the only sample from which the virus could be recovered was the Zebov from tissue on glass.

‘This study has demonstrated that filoviruses are able to survive and remain infectious, for extended periods when suspended within liquid and dried onto surfaces,’ explained the researchers.

‘Data from this study extend the knowledge on the survival of filoviruses under different conditions and provide a basis with which to inform risk assessments and manage exposure.’

The researchers do stress that these tests were carried out in a controlled lab environment, and not in the real world, but published their findings to highlight the survival rates.

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Ebola guidelines following the rise in infections.

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The centre explained that Ebola is not spread through the air, water, or food and a person infected with Ebola can’t spread the disease until symptoms appear.

The time from exposure to when signs or symptoms of the disease appear, known as the incubation period, is two to 21 days, but the average time is eight to 10 days.

Ebola is spread through direct contact, through broken skin or through eyes, nose, or mouth, via blood and body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, or objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola.

Signs of Ebola include fever and symptoms like severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Dr Tom Fletcher of the Royal Army Medical Corps, who has treated victims in Guinea and Sierra Leone, says: ‘The initial symptoms are quite non-specific and similar to a flu-like illness.

‘They include fever, headache and lethargy. This progresses to severe diarrhoea and vomiting.’

Officials have emphasised there is no risk of transmission from people who have been exposed to the virus, but are not yet showing symptoms.

But, specialists at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta found that the virus is present on a patient’s skin after symptoms develop, underlining how contagious the disease is once symptoms set in.

According to the CDC, the virus can survive for a few hours on dry surfaces like doorknobs and countertops and can survive for several days in puddles or other collections of body fluid.

However, bleach solutions, including household bleach, can kill it.

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EBOLA RIOTS HIT SIERRA LEONE AS AUTHORITIES OVERWHELMED

Police resort to tear gas after body of Ebola victim left in street for two days

Health officials in the West African country continue to be overwhelmed by the spread of the epidemic which has stretched health care facilities to breaking point.

Footage shot by BBC News shows residents staging irate impromptu protests over the failure to remove an Ebola victim’s corpse, with police resorting to tear gas to restore order.

This is not the first time that the Ebola crisis has sparked unrest. Animal rights activists in Spain staged a “mini-riot” last week after they attempted to prevent the removal of a dog that had to be put down having been in contact with a nurse who contracted Ebola and was quarantined in Madrid.

Last month, seven people were killed during rioting in Guinea after members of a delegation sent to educate residents about the Ebola virus were attacked by an angry crowd.

The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola cases could rise to 10,000 a week by December, ten times the current ratio. Only 4,300 treatment beds will be available by that time.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned that the Ebola virus is “winning the race” against efforts to halt its spread.

“Ebola got a head start on us,” Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, told the United Nations Security Council.

“It is far ahead of us, it is running faster than us, and it is winning the race,” he said. “We either stop Ebola now or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan.”

VIDEO: Watch Obama Say Something 16 Times, and Then Deny Ever Saying It

Obama has been getting slammed for prematurely ending the war in Iraq, for no other reason than to score political points, only to see all of the work that our troops have done there collapse and for terrorists to move in. Now he’s desperately trying to convince everyone that he never said he ended the war in Iraq. Uh, OK, Barack. You sure about that?

In 2008, then candidate Obama promised to end the war in Iraq. In 2010, President Obama did just that, precipitously pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq, despite warnings against such action, and despite the Iraqi Army being far from ready to stand on their own.

During the 2012 election, Obama repeatedly, ad nauseam, reminded everyone who would listen that he personally had ended the war in Iraq, proud that he had fulfilled his campaign promise.

Of course, now that the Islamic State has arisen to fill the vacuum left when our troops pulled out, and the country has descended into a brutally violent mess, Obama is attempting to rewrite history, claiming leaving Iraq was “not my decision,” and blaming the entire mess on Bush, as he has a tendency to do.

Everything is always Bush’s fault with Obama, even a decision that Obama made long after Bush was out of office. 2016 just can’t get here fast enough.

Washington concealed US troops exposure to chemical weapons in Iraq – intel docs

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American soldiers discovered more than 4,990 chemical munitions in Iraq, according to Iraqi and US officials and previously classified intelligence documents, which may now be in the hands of Islamic State militants.

For much of the duration of the Iraq War, which saw US soldiers open a military invasion against the Ba’athist country in March 2003 amid tremendous international outcry, US forces “repeatedly encountered, and on six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons” leftover from the Iraq-Iran War, reported the New York Times.

The hefty eight-part report, largely based on interviews and highly redacted intelligence documents, said “17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers…were exposed to nerve or mustard agents” between 2004 and 2011.

The article detailed the harrowing chemical encounters of several servicemen, including Sergeant Duling, who in August 2008 unwittingly led his unit into a munitions pit outside Baghdad.

“This is mustard agent,” he said, after carrying out an examination of the contents of the rusting artillery. “We’ve all been exposed.”

At first blush, it may seem inconceivable that the United States, which had argued for an invasion of Iraq on the grounds that it was harboring weapons of mass destruction (an accusation that the UN weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq prior to the American invasion/occupation had proven to be incorrect), would want to keep the discovery of WMDs in Iraq under wraps.

One reason for the hush-up, the report suggests, is that the United States was largely responsible for Iraq having chemical weapons in the first place.

“In five of six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been designed in the United States, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies,” it said.

Many of the casings were M110s, which the United States military had developed decades ago to disperse white phosphorous or mustard gas.

“The United States also exported the shells and the technology behind them,” the Times reported. “When Iraq went arms shopping in the 1980s, it found manufacturers in Italy and Spain willing to deal their copies. By 1988, these two countries alone had sold Iraq 85,000 empty M110-type shells, according to confidential United Nations documents.”

This is where the story begins to get very disturbing.

During the Iraq-Iran War (1980-1988), Baghdad actively sought the development of chemical weapons with the help of a number of Western countries, including the United States, West Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France, according to internal Iraqi documents.

It is has already been widely documented that at least 50,000 Iranian civilians and soldiers were killed by Iraqi chemical weapons in the course of the war.

As the Times report detailed, many of the chemical weapons incidents were centered around the now largely destroyed Muthanna State Establishment, which was “the center of Iraqi chemical agent production in the 1980s.”

This is especially worrying because since June, that sensitive area has been in the possession of the Islamic State, which recently appeared on the scene in northern Iraq and Syria with public displays of extreme savagery that included the alleged beheading of American and British journalists and aid workers, not to mention Christian babies.

So the question as to how the United States kept the exposure of its troops to chemical weapons contamination in Iraq secret for so long has taken a back seat to the more immediate question as to whether or not the Islamic State has also gained possession of chemical weapons.

On Sunday, former Vice President Dick Cheney predicted that the next attack on the United States would be “far deadlier” than the last one.

“We’re in a very dangerous period,” Cheney, who regularly appears on the US talkshow circuit despite the dismal record of the Bush administration, told the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol in a video interview. “I think it’s more threatening than the period before 9/11.

“I think 9/11 will turn out to be not nearly as bad as the next mass casualty attack against the United States, which, if and when it comes, will be with something far deadlier than airline tickets and box cutters.”

Does Mr. Cheney know something that the American public – much as it has been clueless about the chemical weapons in Iraq – does not yet know about?

That would be a far more disturbing revelation.

10,000 NEW EBOLA CASES PER WEEK COULD BE SEEN, WHO SAYS

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“It would be horrifically unethical to say that we’re just going to isolate people”

LONDON – West Africa could face up to 10,000 new Ebola cases a week within two months, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday, adding that the death rate in the current outbreak has risen to 70 percent.

WHO assistant director-general Dr. Bruce Aylward gave the grim figures during a news conference in Geneva. Previously, the agency had estimated the Ebola mortality rate at around 50 percent overall. In contrast, in events such as flu pandemics, the death rate is typically under 2 percent.

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Acknowledging that Ebola was “a high mortality disease,” Aylward said the U.N. health agency was still focused on trying to get sick people isolated and provide treatment as early as possible.

He told reporters if the world’s response to the Ebola crisis isn’t stepped up within 60 days, “a lot more people will die” and health workers will be stretched even further. Experts say the epidemic is doubling in size about every three weeks.

WHO raised its Ebola death toll tally Tuesday to 4,447 people, nearly all of them in West Africa, out of more than 8,900 believed to be infected. Aylward said calculating the death rate means tracking the outcomes of all possible patients — a complicated process since the numbers of cases are substantially underreported and much patient data is missing.

Health workers have been hit hard by the virus, which is spread by contact with bodily fluids like blood, vomit and diarrhea. Doctors Without Borders said 16 of its employees had been infected with Ebola and nine of them have died.

Speaking Tuesday in Johannesburg, the head of the charity’s South Africa unit, Sharon Ekambaram, said medical workers have received woefully inadequate assistance from the international community.

“Where is WHO Africa? Where is the African Union?” said Ekambaram. “We’ve all heard their promises in the media but have seen very little on the ground.”

For the last month, there’s been about 1,000 new Ebola cases per week — including suspected, confirmed and probable cases, Aylward said. The U.N. agency was aiming to get 70 percent of Ebola cases isolated and 70 percent of victims safely buried by December to reverse the outbreak.

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have been the hardest-hit nations in the current epidemic, and Aylward said WHO was very concerned about the spread of Ebola in their capital cities — Freetown, Conakry and Monrovia — where people move freely across borders.

While some regions have seen the number of Ebola cases stabilize or fall, Aylward said “that doesn’t mean they will get down to zero.”

He said WHO was still focused on trying to treat Ebola patients, despite West Africa’s often-broken health care systems.

“It would be horrifically unethical to say that we’re just going to isolate people,” he said, noting that new strategies like handing out protective equipment to families and setting up very basic clinics — without much treatment — was a priority.

Aylward said there was no evidence that any countries were hiding Ebola cases, but said countries bordering the affected area, including Ivory Coast, Mali and Guinea-Bissau, were at high risk of importing the disease.

“This is not a virus that’s easy to suppress or hide,” he said, noting that Ebola has not spread very much internationally. “I don’t expect this virus to just go anywhere. There is exit screening in place and sick people won’t be moving.”

In other Ebola news:

– A U.N. medical worker infected with Ebola in Liberia died in Germany despite “intensive medical procedures.” The St. Georg hospital in Leipzig said Tuesday the 56-year-old man, whose name has not been released, died overnight. He had tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 6, prompting Liberia’s U.N. peacekeeping mission to put 41 other staff members under “close medical observation.”

– In Dallas, a U.S. nurse who caught Ebola while treating a Liberian patient received a plasma transfusion donated by a doctor who beat the virus. Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse, was among 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, according to medical records. The plasma came from Dr. Kent Brantly, the first American to return to the U.S. from Liberia to be treated for Ebola. Brantly received an experimental treatment and fought off the virus.

– In Spain, the government’s Ebola committee said the assistant nurse infected with the virus has improved slightly but was still in serious condition. Fifteen contacts of hers were being monitored.

– Starting Thursday, customs and health officials at airports in Washington, Chicago, Atlanta and Newark plan to take the temperatures of passengers arriving from three West African countries.