Risk assessment ‘tolerable’ for tree that killed woman

Risk assessments are fraught with value judgements scientists make when choosing the upper and lower boundaries of numerical ranges and the assumptions made, especially those involving human behavior.

Conrad Brunk (right) and co-authors explored this in the 1991 book, Value Judgements in Risk Assessment.

For the many food safety risk assessors and analysts out there, a New Zealand tree may offer a lesson.

A tree in Rotorua, known as Spencer’s Oak, was deemed to be of a “tolerable” level of risk when it came down in a Jan. 2018 storm and killed a woman.

The 150-year-old oak, believed to be around 23m tall, blocked Amohia St, trapped 56-year-old Trish Butterworth in her car. She died at the scene.

The risk assessment of the tree has been revealed in documents released by Rotorua Lakes Council to Stuff under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

Benn Bathgate reports that in a tree assessment report from an arboricultural contractor dated February 28, 2017, Spencer’s Oak and a second tree were assessed.

“The assessed risk levels for these trees all fall the tolerable level,” the report said. 

“There is some decay evident in some of the buttress roots and in some old pruning wounds. Sounding the trunk and buttress roots with a plastic mallet did not indicate any major areas of concern.”

The report also found several old wire rope cables installed in the tree which were described as “under a lot of tension”, with one frayed and unravelling.

“Although the cables appear to be under tension there are no signs that these cables are required by the tree.”

The tree was also described as showing signs of decline.

The report also outlines three bands of risk level; broadly acceptable, tolerable and unacceptable.

“This inspection and report will give the three a risk rating and options for mitigation,” the report said.

“It is up to the tree owners to decide what if any action is to be taken depending on their tolerance of tisk.”

The report’s conclusion said if the examined trees had major deadwood removed, their risk level would be considered as low as reasonably practible.

Will the world get a sad poop emoji? Or just a shithole?

Vomit.

Poop.

Shit.

It’s everywhere.

And biological.

In Christchurch, New Zealand, vomit and fecal contamination has forced the closure of Christchurch’s public pools 178 times during 2017.

The Christchurch City Council has taken steps to reduce closures across its three indoor facilities. This has led to a 20 per cent drop in closures this year compared to 2016 when the pools were closed 224 times.

Pioneer pool in Spreydon was the hardest hit, experiencing 79 closures, including 50 “code browns” and 26 vomiting incidents. Pioneer pool was closed 93 times in 2016.

Most incidents happened in the leisure pool, which was closed 52 times, followed by the teach pool with 20 closures.

With those kind of numbers, should there be a sad poop emoji to go with the smiling pile of poop emoji?

Barbara Ortutay of USA Today reports that the Unicode Consortium is tasked with setting the global standard for the icons. It’s a heady responsibility and it can take years from inspiration — Hey, why isn’t there a dumpling? — to a new symbol being added to our phones.

That’s because deciding whether a googly-eyed turd should express a wider range of emotions is not the frivolous undertaking it might appear to be. Picking the newest additions to our roster of cartoonish glyphs, from deciding on their appearance to negotiating rules that allow vampires but bar Robert Pattinson’s or Dracula’s likeness, actually has consequences for modern communication.

Not since the printing press has something changed written language as much as emojis have, says Lauren Collister, a scholarly communications librarian at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Emoji is one way language is growing,” she says. “When it stops growing and adapting, that’s when a language dies.”

So full congrats to the New York Daily Post, whose front-page this morning slammed the immigration comments of so-called U.S. President Donald Trump with an appropriate emoji of its own.

According to the Washington Post, which first reported the story, President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting. 

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt they help the United States economically.

In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.” 

George Washington said in 1783, “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights & privileges” (except for colored people which was sorta dumb).

Maybe Jimmy Buffett got it.

Buffet’s 1978 album, Son of a Son of a Sailor, was one of the first 8-tracks I bought while on vacation in Florida when I was 15-years-old, and it included the track Manana, which weirdly applies to Trump.

She said I can’t go back to America soon

It’s so goddamn cold it’s gonna snow until June

Yeah, they’re freezin’ up in Buffalo stuck in their cars

And I’m lyin’ here ‘neath the sun and the stars.

Customs man tell her that she’s gotta leave

She’s got a plan hidden up her shrewd sleeve

Wants to find her a captain, a man of strong mind

And any direction he blows will be fine.

Please don’t say manana if you don’t mean it

I have heard those words for so very long

Don’t try to describe the ocean if you’ve never seen it

Don’t ever forget that you just may wind up being wrong.

Tried and I tried but I don’t understand

Never seems to work out the way I had it planned

Hanging out at a marina when Steve Martin called

Singin’ anybody there really want to get small.

But women and water are in short supply

There’s not enough dope for us all to get high

I hear it gets better, that’s what they say

As soon as we sail on to Cane Garden Bay.

Please don’t say manana if you don’t mean it

I have heard your lines for so very long

Don’t try to describe the scenery if you’ve never seen it

Don’t ever forget that you just may wind up in my song.

Called all my friends on those cheap nightly rates

Sure was good to talk to the old United States

While the lights of St. Thomas lie twenty miles west

I see General Electric’s still doing their best.

I’ve got to head this boat south pretty soon

New album’s old and I’m fresh out of tunes

But I know that I’ll get ’em, I know that they’ll come

Through the people and places and Caldwood’s Rum

So please don’t say manana if you don’t mean it

I have done your lines for so very long

Don’t try to describe a Kiss concert if you’ve never seen it

Don’t ever forget that you just may wind up being gonged

And I hope Anita Bryant never does one of my songs.

 

Noro suspected: 15 concert-goers in NZ hospitalized

Fifteen people are in Gisborne Hospital with severe vomiting and diarrhoea, after attending Rhythm and Vines.

Local health authorities warn the symptoms look like norovirus, and some festival-goers may need to be isolated to stop a full outbreak.

Medical officer of health Dr Bruce Duncan said they needed to stop any further contamination.

“Fifteen young people were transported [this morning] to Gisborne Hospital, where an isolation ward has been set up.

“The priority is avoiding an outbreak. Norovirus has not been confirmed, but it remains a possibility.

“With thousands of people in close proximity, it was a priority to do all we can to prevent a mass outbreak.

“At this stage, this appears to have been successful.”

Food fraud: Illegal fish via Facebook in NZ

Michael Daly of Stuff reports the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says it has been alerted to more than 250 cases this year where people have tried to sell recreationally caught seafood on Facebook.

The issue attracted attention in Southland just before Christmas, with at least three posts on local group buy and sell sites offering seafood for sale. One was for fresh pāua said “trades or swaps 2kgs left”. Another was for 1kg of fresh pāua and 700g of frozen, while the third advertised nine “Fiordland lobster” tails “snap frozen straight off boat”.

An MPI spokesperson said the ministry was investigating several reported illegal fish sales on social media in the Southland area.

“For good reason, we cannot disclose the stage at which our inquiries are or what methods we use to acquire best evidence.”

The three posts advertising the pāua and crayfish angered members of the Spearfishing Southland group Facebook page. In a discussion on the site about the online advertising of seafood, one spearfishing group member said he had reported three incidents to MPI.

Another spearfishing group member, Andy Smith, who also runs an open community page with the same name, said after he had replied to the post for the crayfish tails after spotting it. 

“I put a message up myself saying, ‘Do you realise, it’s illegal what you’re doing?’ Fifteen minutes later, the post was gone,” he said.

He wasn’t aware of many cases where seafood was advertised in Facebook posts. “I see it happen sometimes, but it usually gets taken down pretty quick.” 

Sounds like Walkerton: More than 750,000 in NZ exposed to potentially unsafe drinking water

Same old, same old.

Tracy Watkins of Stuff writes complacency, inept officials – a Government inquiry paints a frightening picture of the state of New Zealand’s drinking water, with at least 750,000 of New Zealanders drinking from supplies that are “not demonstrably safe” – a figure described as likely to be a “significant underestimate.”

The inquiry was sparked by the 2016 Havelock North gastro outbreak, which has now been linked to four deaths, and calls for a major overhaul of water supplies, including mandatory treatment.

The Government has now written urgently to all mayors and district health boards asking to check the water they are supplying meets current standards after the inquiry revealed 20 per cent of water supplies were not up to standard.

That 20 per cent affects 759,000 people, of which 92,000 are at risk of bacterial infection, 681,000 of protozoal infection and 59,000 at risk from the long term effects of exposure to chemicals through their water supply.

But that figure was likely to understate the problem, as it did not include more than 600,000 people who drink water from self-suppliers or temporary suppliers, or tourists to places like Punakaiki on the West Coast, which is under a permanent “boil water” notice.

The inquiry found that complacency about the state of New Zealand’s drinking water was common, yet the evidence showed that in many cases it was safer to drink tap water overseas than here.

But its most damning findings related to the Ministry of Health, which it described as inept and negligent in its oversight of a system in which non-compliance with safe standards was high.

The risks for contamination of the water supplies were detailed by the inquiry including damaged pipes, a huge number of private and unknown bores, and the close proximity of sewerage to drinking water assets, a factor that caused surprise among overseas experts.

The second part of the inquiry looked at broader water quality issues.

It found that lessons from Havelock North appeared not to have been learned – compliance figures in the 2016-17 period were still “alarmingly low” and “do not appear to reflect any increased vigilance by suppliers in the aftermath of [that] outbreak”.

“The inquiry found the falling compliance levels with the bacteriological and chemical standards particularly concerning. The decrease in compliance with the bacteriological standards results from an increased number of transgressions, an increased number of supplies with ineffective, delayed or unknown remedial action following transgressions, and an increased number of supplies with inadequate monitoring.

“Twenty-seven supplies failed entirely to take any remedial action after a transgression. In the aftermath of the bacteriological outbreak in Havelock North, these failures to respond effectively to transgressions or to monitor adequately are surprising and unacceptable.”

Fonterra fined $183m over contamination scandal

New Zealand’s Fonterra has been ordered to pay 105 million euros (NZ$183 million) in damages to French food giant Danone as a result of the Fonterra food safety failures of 2013.

Danone had sued Fonterra as a result of the whey protein concentrate contamination scandal in 2013, when Fonterra quarantined several batches over fears it was contaminated with clostridium bacteria. It later turned out to be a false alarm.

Danone launched a legal suit in New Zealand and arbitration proceedings in Singapore, seeking restoration for the costs of recalling the whey protein concentrate.

At the time, Fonterra said it expected any court action would show the Kiwi firm didn’t have any liability in the contract, and it recognised a contingent liability of just $14m over the recall.

In 2014, New Zealand’s Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision that the Singapore arbitration proceedings should be the first avenue, as provided for in the contract, but refused to permanently stay the legal suit.

The result of the Singapore proceedings was released on Friday, and Danone says it “welcomes” the decision.

3 members of NZ family stricken with botulism from wild boar: 1 has begun to ‘mouth words’

The oldest member of a South Waikato family struck down by suspected botulism poisoning has begun to mouth words, a spokesman says.

Shibu Kochummen, 35, his wife Subi Babu, 33, and his mother Alekutty Daniel, 62, ate a wild boar curry for dinner two weeks ago at their Putaruru home.

Within minutes of eating, Babu and Daniel collapsed, vomiting. Kochummen called an ambulance but collapsed while on the phone.

The trio have been in a serious but stable condition in Waikato Hospital for the past two weeks and at the weekend Daniel became “slightly responsive”, having co-ordinated eye movement and the ability to focus.

“No one has spoken but we are beginning to get focus on movement,” family spokesman Joji Varghese earlier told Belinda Feek of the New Zealand Herald.

He confirmed today that Daniel was now beginning to mouth words but she wasn’t yet talking.

Subi Babu was also making progress but not as much as her mother-in-law.

Shibu Kochummen has yet to respond.

Varghese said doctors did not know if Daniel’s ability to follow an object with her eyes meant she was comprehending yet and they were still awaiting results of tests being conducted in Brisbane to definitively diagnose botulism.

Blaming consumers: Cruise ship edition

Jim Walker of Cruise Law News writes the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there was a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Crown Princess during its recent cruise, from October 25th to November 8, 2017. The Princess cruise ship departed Quebec, Canada on October 25th for a two-week cruise to Canadian and U.S. ports. The cruise ship arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 8th and will begin its Caribbean season.

According to the CDC report, 184 passengers and 12 crew members became ill with gastro-like symptoms which included diarrhea.  

During the period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most outbreaks on its cruise ships calling on U.S. ports, according to the CDC. Princess reported twenty-one (21) cases to the CDC during this time period.

The Crown Princess alone has suffered through six (6) norovirus outbreaks since 2010 to the present. Before the current GI outbreak, the last norovirus outbreak on the Crown Princess was from January 3 – 18, 2016 and, before that, from October 18 to November 16, 2014. Earlier, there was a norovirus and e-coli outbreak from February 5 to 12, 2014. It also experienced back-to-back norovirus outbreaks from January 29 to February 4, 2012 and February 4 to February 9, 2012.

The cruise line with the second most outbreaks is Holland America Line with 18 cases of GI sicknesses reported to the CDC since 2010. HAL suffered norovirus outbreaks on the Nieuw Amsterdam, and two outbreaks each on the Voendam and the Noordam this year.  

So why is Princess Cruises far more prone to norovirus outbreaks than Carnival cruise lines, for example?

The cruise industry always blames the passengers for bringing the virus aboard, rather than its food handlers, or contaminated food or water. So are Princess Cruises customers the sickest and the least hygienic cruisers around? Are guests of HAL the second most unhygienic cruisers? Do they wash their hands the least of any cruisers? This seems like absurd arguments to make.

Whoever is to blame, the crew members, of course, always pay the price, by having to wipe and scrub and spray everything in sight for long 16+ hour days to try to disinfect a ship longer than three football fields.

Irrespective of the blame-game, don’t call us if you get sick on a cruise. Proving where the virus came from, or that the cruise line was negligent, is virtually impossible to prove, especially since the CDC conducts no epidemiological analysis and sometimes can’t even figure out whether the outbreak is due to norovirus, e-coli or something as exotic as Shigella sonnei or Cyclospora cayetanensis.

For example, The New Zealand Herald reports, a passenger on a cruise ship plagued with a vomiting and diarrhoea bug says he only learnt previous guests had been struck down with the same thing once they set sail.

Sydney man Walter Gibian and his wife Elisabeth left Sydney on October 30 on a 12-day Celebrity Solstice cruise travelling from Sydney to Auckland via the South Island so they could see New Zealand. Gibian had worked in New Zealand in 1980s and loved it so booked the cruise to see the East Coast.

The ship had left Melbourne when the captain announced to guests that passengers on an earlier cruise had norovirus and asked guests to take extra precautions including washing their hands regularly and using hand sanitiser.

any notification before they left and by this time it was too late to do anything about it as they were well on their way to New Zealand.

“It think people should be told and given the option that if you don’t like being exposed to this virus you are allowed to get off. But we found out when we were sea.”

Halfway into the 12-day cruise passengers started falling ill and Elisabeth came down with the bug on Saturday night. She was then isolated to her cabin for 48 hours.

“They (passengers) are sick all right. But of course the ship won’t tell us how many are sick, but my wife got sick on Saturday night. They are taking all sorts of precautions but it is still happening. They keep telling me, they are doing their utmost and they are doing their best but the fact is it is not effective.”

NZ school’s removal of soap from children’s toilets labeled ‘appalling’

Whenever someone tells me of an outbreak at a school, day care, university residence, whatever, the first place I go, or someone more geographically-centered should go, is check out the bathrooms.

It’s easy to preach proper handwashing as a way to reduce the spread of infectious disease.

But proper handwashing requires access to proper tools.

So I check out the bathroom and usually find the tools, uh, missing.

Proper handwashing requires vigorous water flow (temperature doesn’t matter), a vigorous rub with soap, and drying with paper towel.

Garth Bray of TVNZ reports an Auckland primary school has dumped a policy that saw soap and hand towels removed from all children’s toilets.

The school felt the children were wasting those basic items, but failed to follow some of the most basic health advice with its policy.

“I think it’s appalling”, said Dr Michael Baker, who is the University of Otago Professor of Public Health.

“We’ve got good evidence in big trials showing that having handwashing can actually reduce risk of gut infections by about 30 per cent and respiratory infections by about 20 per cent so I think all of our schools need to be part of this,” Dr Baker told Fair Go.

Fair Go was contacted by four parents of children at the school who objected to the school withdrawing soap but had been told by teachers this was the policy.

Some had simply accepted this and started sending their children to school with little bottles of liquid hand soap to use.

However, one took her concerns to the principal and to a school board member.

Fair Go has seen written messages between the board member and the parent which say: “There are no legal requirements from the Ministry of Health and the students were wasting the soap and hand towels so they were taken out but every class has hand sanitiser that they encourage their kids to use regularly.”

That’ll work until the kids start drinking the stuff.

Fair Go spoke with the principal, who disclosed that classrooms were sometimes locked at lunchtimes, meaning children had no access to anything but water for washing before meals and after using toilets.

The principal told Fair Go that the same week our programme had made contact, the school board had decided to reverse the policy and will now stock toilets with soap and hand towels again.

On that basis, Fair Go has decided for now not to name the school publicly as it takes steps to make good its commitment to provide hygienic hand washing facilities for children.

“New Zealand’s got an appalling record of having very high rates of a lot of major childhood diseases – respiratory infections, skin infections and gut infections and these are exactly the things that hand washing can protect our children against,” Dr Baker said.

Fair Go’s advice is for parents to take a look at their own school’s facilities and reassure themselves their children have the essentials on hand at school.

I do.

And the school knows I check.

NZ campy outbreak cost $21m

In Aug. 2016, some 5,500 people in a New Zealand town of 14,000 were sickened with Campylobacter linked to the water supply and three died.

Didn’t chlorinate.

Eric Frykberg of RadioNZ reports the NZ Ministry of Health has found Havelock North’s water contamination cost about $21 million – with residents the worst affected.

The campylobacter infection hit the town last August and afflicted more than 5,000 people with illness, filling the hospital and potentially contributing to three deaths.

The investigators measured the next best thing that people could have been doing if they had not been sick. That and the value of direct costs added up to the total figure of $21,029,288.

A report commissioned by the ministry said some 5088 households were affected by the crisis, and the cost to each household was about $2440.

Those costs included the cost of people getting sick and being unable to go to work or school or carry out other tasks.

Some were unable to look after their children, while others had to drive all over town to visit doctors or to get fresh water or other supplies.

They also had to do far more laundry and cleaning.

This left the households to foot a bill of more than $12,420,000 making up the majority of all costs from the crisis.

The report also said not all consequences of the outbreak could be quantified in monetary terms, with personal stress, loss of public faith in the water supply, and “scarring” of the community adding to the societal bill.

The report said about 25 percent of the population of Havelock North was aged over 65 based on the 2013 Census, and the town also had a large number of school aged children.