Czech ambassador clarifies that Czech Republic is not Chechnya

You've probably noticed that the Russian republic of Chechnya has dominated the news today, as we learn more about the suspects implicated in the Boston Marathon bombing. For some, though, this has led to more confusion than clarity. On Friday, the Czech Republic began trending on Twitter as people mixed up the two locations -- located 1,600 miles apart.

In addition to prompting a host of angry responses, the mix-up has now even elicited a response from the Czech ambassador to the United States, Petr Gandalovic, who seemed rather offended and posted the following statement on the embassy's website:

As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities - the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.

As the President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman noted in his message to President Obama, the Czech Republic is an active and reliable partner of the United States in the fight against terrorism. We are determined to stand side by side with our allies in this respect, there is no doubt about that.

Unfortunately, this isn't the only diplomatic kerfuffle to arise from the search for suspects. On Thursday, the Yemeni embassy sent out a press release demanding that MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews apologize for inquiring about whether federal investigators could determine from photo and video footage whether the suspects were of Yemeni origin:

The Embassy of Yemen was concerned and appalled this evening when MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews indirectly branded the people of Yemen as terrorists. This was an unfair comment, which the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Washington, D.C. strongly condemns. 

The U.S. media and Twittersphere haven't exactly done a spectacular job getting the facts straight this week. We can only hope that as the story plays out, it doesn't spark any additional international standoffs.


Are there lessons for Baghdad in the Boston bombings?

Amid the bleak news of the Boston Marathon bombing and its dramatic aftermath, one silver lining has been the success of the first responders in preventing a far more horrific outcome after the explosions. And people are citing an unlikely reason why: the war in Iraq.

In recent days, several articles have pointed to just how instrumental the lessons learned on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan were to mitigating the damage in Boston. Scientific American notes that experiences with IEDs taught medics the importance of responding quickly, since bleeding out was identified as the most common cause of death in these explosions. In an article in Mother Jones, Tim Murphy echoes this idea, explaining the importance in Boston of applying tourniquets -- a lesson learned in Baghdad.

But the spate of deadly bombings from Somalia to Iraq in the days since the Boston bombings made us wonder if the reverse could be true: Could the lessons of Boston apply to bombings in Iraq?

In fact, this debate took place in the pages of the Lancet in 2011. After the medical journal published a statistical analysis of suicide bombings in Iraq that highlighted their disproportionate effect on civilians, Pierre Pasquier and two fellow French scientists wrote the authors a letter suggesting the application of basic care techniques could mitigate these effects, substantially decreasing fatalities.

They pointed to studies showing that in the early years of the war, "around 90% of military combat-related deaths occurred before the casualty reached a medical treatment facility," and went on to say that medics in the military subsequently focused on preventing exsanguination, or blood loss, through the applications of tourniquets in pre-surgical settings, which drastically reduced casualties -- the very lesson that was applied in Boston. They conclude:

Hence, focusing on civilians after bombing, we wonder whether simple tools such as the tourniquet, applied by the man in the street, could be a more efficient approach to improving survival than the hypothetical deployment of "high-quality treatment" facilities.

The study's authors, however, issued an obvious but important reply -- one that offers insight into why the lessons of Boston unfortunately may not be entirely applicable to Iraq:

It is essential to point out that, to whatever degree civilian-administered tourniquets might improve immediate rates of survival from extremity wounds caused by suicide bombs, a tourniquet is a temporary measure that does not replace the adequate health care required by victims for their continued survival. If a civilian-applied tourniquet is required temporarily to stanch severe bleeding from an extremity, to survive in the long term, that civilian will require effective emergency and surgical treatment to the limb once arriving at hospital.

They went on to cite studies about Israeli bombings to explain the complexity of injuries sustained in suicide attacks, pointing out that research shows the "substantial proportions of victims arrive not only with extremity injuries (44%), but also with internal injuries (32%), head injuries (22%), chest injuries (21%), abdominal injuries (16%), and burns (17%). Survival of these wounds would not be affected by tourniquets." Many of these injuries would require surgical and intense post-operation therapy, for which the Iraqi healthcare system does not have adequate capacity.

It's a frustrating reminder of the public health and infrastructural problems that need to be addressed if pre-surgical care in Iraq is to make a significant difference in saving civilian lives, as it did in Boston.

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