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Archive for February 11th, 2011

Obama names Ranneberger successor

Posted by Administrator on February 11, 2011

US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration has been nominated by President Obama as the ambassador to Kenya February 10, 2011. FILE

US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration has been nominated by President Obama as the ambassador to Kenya February 10, 2011. FILE

A statement from the White House Thursday indicated that the US President had nominated Scott Gration – his special envoy to Sudan as his new ambassador in Nairobi.

His elevation to the rank of ambassador now requires Senate confirmation.

Major General Scott Gration is credited with overseeing a smooth and peaceful referendum vote in which the people of Southern Sudan voted in favour of independence from the North.

The vote was considered an accomplishment for the US administration and its special envoy, who initially came under heavy criticism for the perception that he is too soft on Khartoum.

“We would like to stress that his departure in no way indicates that this administration is walking away from the many challenges we still face in Sudan, particularly in Darfur,” the White House statement said.

No replacement for Major General Gration has been named but the Obama administration has in recent months added to its team in Sudan, naming veteran diplomat Princeton Lyman to help the north and the south work out key remaining issues including the division of oil profits and Dane Smith, another long-time US envoy, to work on the Darfur issue.

He has previously served as Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel and had a stint in the United States Air Force from 1974 to 2006.

Mr Ranneberger has been US representative to Kenya since July 31, 2006. Before his appointment, he was previously the Senior Representative

His tenure has not been without controversy. He has rubbed the government the wrong way on more than one occasion the most recent being revelations that he described Kenya as “a flourishing swamp of corruption”. (Read: US envoys see Kenya as a ‘swamp’ of corruption.)

The claims were contained in leaked cables released by whistle-blowing website Wikileaks in November.

He accused President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga of doing nothing to end impunity.

The two principals hit back at the US envoy during their respective speeches on Jamhuri Day.

The President dared the schemers to try and topple his leadership, promising they would face the full force of his administration.

Mr Odinga said Kenya would not entertain people masquerading as friends during the day, but who turn into into enemies at night.

Only this month, Imenti North MP Silas Ruteere withdrew his motion to censure Mr Ranneberger after he realized that a majority of his colleagues would not back it.(Read: Kenya MP withdraws motion to censure US envoy.)

He wanted Parliament to censure the US envoy for allegedly meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/Obama%20nominates%20Ranneberger%20successor/-/1064/1105580/-/5404scz/-/index.html

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Baby’s negative HIV test results shock doctors

Posted by Administrator on February 11, 2011

Doctors say that two HIV tests done on a six-month-old’s blood samples using the Polymerase Chain Rectors (PCR) have returned negative results. Photo/FILE

Doctors say that two HIV tests done on a six-month-old’s blood samples using the Polymerase Chain Rectors (PCR) have returned negative results. Photo/FILE

An HIV positive woman has delivered an HIV negative baby without any medical intervention.

The baby has tested negative for the virus on the most advanced machine used in diagnosing HIV.

This is despite her mother not having used any anti-retroviral drugs or other forms of interventions key in preventing the virus from passing to the child during pregnancy.

Doctors say that two HIV tests done on the six-month-old’s blood samples using the Polymerase Chain Rectors (PCR) have returned negative results.

“Before delivery, we followed her for several months to ensure her viral load was below detectable levels and the CD4 count was in the permitted range for a healthy person,” says Dr Surendra Patel, a researcher and an expert in infectious diseases.

By the time the woman was giving birth to her 2.6-kilogramme baby, the doctor says, her viral load (the amount of the active HIV in a person’s blood) was below 20 copies or an undetectable level, and the CD4 count (immune cells that fight infections) was over 600.

The normal CD4 range for a healthy functioning immune system is between 600 and 1,500 cells per cubic millimetre.

“Our fingers were crossed as she went into labour and gave birth. But the negative HIV results from the tests we have done so far on the baby are very encouraging and telling,” says Dr Patel, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of Nairobi’s College of Biological and Physical Sciences.

The baby born at Nairobi’s MP Shah Hospital last August, he adds, will be followed for a year to ensure everything is fine.

“The tests we have done so far are sufficient to convince us that the baby is indeed HIV negative. The follow-up is critical to inform the observations we are making on the mother,” he says.

The mother, who is in her 30s, was reluctant to be interviewed, saying she was afraid of the attention the media might accord her if she goes public.

Besides this, some of her family members and workmates do not know her HIV status.

Nevertheless, the story of her HIV negative baby has far-reaching implications on policy and research in regard to the management of HIV and handling of HIV positive mothers whose CD4 count are above 600 and viral load at undetectable levels.

The current practice requires HIV positive pregnant women to be put on ARVs, breastfeed exclusively for six months, and use other interventions such as birth by Caesarean section to significantly reduce the chances of passing the virus to the baby.

The use of exclusive breastfeeding to reduce the HIV transmission rate is informed by studies.

Findings of a recent study conducted by scientists at the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, South Africa, and published last year in the Lancet medical journal, found the risk of HIV infection for infants aged between six weeks and six months who were breastfed exclusively was four per cent.

The risk for those who received formula milk was about twice this, while those babies getting breast milk together with solid foods were 11 times more likely to get HIV.

Breast milk is known to strengthen the mucous membrane within the intestines, providing an effective barrier to HIV infection.

On the other hand, past research has indicated that proteins found in solid foods may result in greater damage to the linings of the stomach, making it easy for the virus to penetrate.

Increased efficacy of drugs

Use of ARVs reduces the mother’s viral load to very low levels, cutting down the chances of transmission. When combined with Caesarean section, the efficacy of the methods is even higher.

That is why many HIV positive women who use ARVs are giving birth to HIV negative children.

But with the birth of an HIV negative baby by this mother without any of these interventions, this new development is likely to indicate that women with CD4 and viral load at certain levels may not need to invest in some of these interventions.

They can also simultaneously breastfeed and feed their babies with solid foods without the risk of infecting them with HIV.

Dr Patel and other scientists are trying to understand how the “miracle” mother’s immune system suppressed the replication of the HIV, keeping it at undetectable levels.

This knowledge is likely to improve the design of Aids vaccines. The research is expected to be complete in 12 months.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Babys%20negative%20HIV%20test%20results%20shock%20doctors%20/-/1056/1105402/-/iq1o5hz/-/index.html

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How Muthaura was fixed

Posted by Administrator on February 11, 2011

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – Details have now emerged how the Head of the Civil Service Francis Muthaura was trapped into meeting masqueraders, claiming to be university student leaders who wanted to organise protests in his support.

It all started with persistent visits to the President’s office at Harambee House by a Mr Philemon Kiogora, who identified himself as the chairman of the Meru University Students Association (MUSA).

Officials at Harambee House are reported to have advised the man to write a formal letter stating the purpose of his visit for him to be allowed to meet Ambassador Muthaura, whose office on the 2nd floor is one of the most tightly guarded in the corridors of power.

He also left his mobile phone number on his letter which was duly received and stamped by Ambassador Muthaura’s personal secretary.

Sources within the Office of the President and within the political circles however told Capital News that Ambassador Muthaura had already been informed about the man’s visit by a politician from the Meru community.

The man explained in his letter that he was representing an association of university students who wanted him to assist them “print 400 T-shirts and four banners and also assist with the press.”

“I was in your office today in my capacity as the chairman of MUSA with the intention to discuss on behalf of the association a peaceful demonstration and a press conference we intend to hold in protest of appearance of your name in the Ocampo six,” the letter in our possession reads in part.

“We feel that was unfair and some conspiracy towards our community.”

They also wanted Ambassador Muthaura to “assist acquire a permit to hold a peaceful demonstration.”

They stated that they intended to carry out the demonstration on January 14 and therefore, wanted Ambassador Muthaura to get back to them as soon as possible.

Soon after receiving the letter, Ambassador Muthaura is reported to have asked his aides to contact the man and a meeting was arranged where he turned up with another man whom he introduced as the student association’s official.

It is during this meeting which lasted for about 20 minutes that, the two men held a candid conversation with the Secretary to Cabinet who was not aware that they were recording the entire conversation which ended with him giving them a “substantial amount of money.”

On Thursday, Ambassador Muthaura called a press conference and announced that he had learnt of a blackmail plot hatched by the people who had gone to see him, using “distorted recording” of the conversation.

He said: “The tape is being circulated in Parliament as well as among people with hidden interests; some MPs have a copy. And I have also listened to the material but it is edited and is being used to make me look bad.” he said.

Soon after Ambassador Muthaura’s news conference, Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo addressed the press and released the recording.

A section of Meru MPs on Friday claimed the recording was part of a wider plot to get Ambassador Muthaura removed from the Office of the President.

Led by Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, the six MPs accused an unnamed group of rival politicians whom they claimed were out to tarnish Ambassador Muthaura’s reputation through blackmail.

Some of the Meru MPs who accompanied Mr Murungi at the press conference pointed an accusing finger to some ODM MPs.

“I have been in politics for long enough… these things are planned. You even remember I was once taped (in the Anglo Leasing saga).  There are people scheming to remove Ambassador Muthaura from the Office of the President,” Mr Murungi claimed without elaborating.

“It is a conspiracy towards our community, the same people who have schemed for him to go to The Hague are the same people playing these politics,” he said and vowed that “as a community we are not going to take this lying down.”

Tigania West MP Dr Kilemi Mwiria said: “I have listened to the recording on Ambassador Muthaura, and I can tell you the whole thing is edited to portray him negatively.”

Ntoita M’Mithiaru of Igembe North said: “It is clear that some people are bent to see Amb Muthaura destroyed and are using all means and going to all ends to achieve their aim.”

Kareke Mbiuki of Nithi told journalists that he believed the blackmail on Ambassador Muthaura was planned by MPs in ODM.

“As soon as the recording was done, it was delivered to people in ODM, these are people who organised the whole thing,” Mr Mbiuki said.

In the recording provided to journalists by Mr Midiwo, Amb Muthaura can be heard talking about some of the accusations levelled against him by the ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.

He is also heard pleading with the students not to hold any demonstration in his support, saying it would cause damage to him and the government.

Ambassador Muthaura on Thursday displayed a white t-shirt printed with his photograph which he said was dropped in his office by the which intended to disrupt a political rally Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Meru on Saturday to make it appear like he had a hand in it.

On Friday, the Meru leaders announced that they were “peace loving Kenyans and welcomed the Prime Minister to their home turf.”

Ambassador Muthaura said he had asked the police and provincial administration to investigate the blackmail plot and bring those behind it to book.

Capital News reliably learnt that police were yet to contact Mr Kiogora who is the main suspect in the blackmail plot yet he had left a phone number in the letter he dropped in OP.

“We have been given his number which is still active; we want to gather all the information surrounding this issue before we get to him. He is very accessible. We will definitely get a statement from him,” a senior police officer at Police Headquarters said.

Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe told Capital News the investigation was underway but could not give any further details.

We have learnt that police investigating the case intend to question the main suspect, his associates and people including a politician said to have been working with him in the alleged blackmail plot.

Read more: http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/Kenyanews/How-Muthaura-was-fixed-11640.html#ixzz1DfuUR3Cg

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