EnviroWatch: Fires, climate, toads, fuels


We begin in the Golden State, and the latest disaster from a very dry state with the Los Angeles Times:

California wildfires: Thousands evacuated, fires explode in size

Thousands of residents who live near the American River in the Eldorado National Forest in Northern California remained evacuated Wednesday as a fast-moving wildfire exploded by 6,000 acres overnight.

The King fire continues to threaten thousands of homes and structures as winds drive it east, west and north over mountain and ridges and through deep canyon troughs.

The fire has become one of the largest and most unruly of 11 major wildfires burning across California, mainly in the central and northern parts of the state.

Much smaller fires, however, have proved to be extremely destructive.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Climate change may add billions to wildfire costs, study says

As wildfires burned in California, a study by several major environmental groups estimated that climate change could mean that future blazes will be much larger and add billions of dollars to already costly losses.

The 46-page study released Tuesday, titled “Flammable Planet: Wildfires and the Social Cost of Carbon,” is part of an ongoing project by three groups to examine what it calls the missing risks, such as wildfires, that climate change can make more expensive. The groups are the Environmental Defense Fund, the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

U.S. wildfires cost as much as $125 billion annually, but climate change could add as much as $60 billion to the bill by 2050, the study said. The projected cost increase is attributed to an expanding area in which wildfires burn — estimated to be 50% to 100% larger by 2050. California “could experience a 36% to 74% increase in area burned by 2085 under a high emissions path,” the study said.

From the New York Times, water woes inside the Beltway:

Climate Report Details Flood Risk to Sites in Washington

The nation’s capital is likely to see record flooding by 2050, putting about $7 billion worth of property, three military bases and parts of the National Mall at risk as a result of climate change that is raising sea levels all over the world, according to a report released Tuesday by the research group Climate Central.

That is one of the group’s more conservative estimates in a report titled “Washington, D.C., and the Surging Sea.”

In the worst case, the group draws an end-of-the-century picture of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials as islands in a flooded Potomac River, and Fort McNair, the Washington Navy Yard and parts of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling completely under water.

From the Guardian, similar woes Down Under:

Rising sea levels a ‘sleeping giant’ that could cost $226bn, report says

  • Analysis by the Climate Council finds Australia is likely to experience rises of 0.4m to 1m, putting infrastructure at risk

Rising sea levels are a “sleeping giant” issue that will put at risk coastal infrastructure worth up to $226bn, a new report has found.

Analysis by the Climate Council found Australia was likely to experience a sea level rise of 0.4m to 1m by the end of the century, with a “high end” scenario of 1.1m possible if the world warmed by about 4C compared with pre-industrial temperatures.

In this worst-case scenario, $226bn in property, including houses, schools, hospitals and ports, would be exposed to flooding and erosion, making much of it unviable.

BBC News covers climate change on a loftier plane:

Austria’s Alps hit by climate change

Austria, with its sensitive Alpine regions, has been particularly hard hit by climate change, a major survey says.

The Austrian Climate Change Assessment Report 2014 says average temperatures in Austria have risen by almost 2C since 1880. This is compared with a global rise of 0.85C in the same period.

The document says that the changes in temperature are mainly man-made and caused by “emissions of greenhouse gases”.

The report was put together by more than 200 scientists and presented in Vienna by Austrian Environment Minister Andrae Rupprechter.

From the Guardian, poles apart in more senses than one:

Antarctic sea ice set for record high as Arctic heads for sixth lowest extent

  • Antarctica poised for record high as figures show Arctic sea ice was millions of square kilometres below long-term average

The extent of sea ice in Antarctica is set to reach a record high, scientists said on Tuesday, as they announced that Arctic sea ice appeared to have shrunk to its sixth lowest level ever.

The NSIDC said that satellite data was expected to shortly confirm whether the maximum extent of sea ice at the opposite pole, in Antarctica, had set a new record.

“Antarctic sea ice is poised to set a record maximum this year, now at 19.7 million sq km (7.6m sq m) and continuing to increase,” the centre, considered one of the world’s top authorities on sea ice data, said in a statement.

Another cost of cleaner air continents apart via the Guardian:

China’s ban on ‘dirty’ coal could cost Australian mining almost $1.5bn

  • Australia exports about 50m tonnes of thermal coal each year to China and the ban is expected to reduce exports by 40%

China’s ban on “dirty” coal could cost Australia’s mining industry almost $1.5bn and force companies to find other markets or face prohibitively high processing costs, according to a leading resources economist.

Under new Chinese regulations, the use of coal with ash content higher than 16% and sulphur content above 1% will be restricted in the main population centres of the country from 1 January, 2015.

There will be a ban on mining, sale, transportation and imports of coal with ash and sulfur content exceeding 40% and 3% respectively. For coal that will be transported for more than 600 km from production site or receiving port, the ash content limit will be 20%.

The move, aimed at helping lift the smog that envelops Chinese cities such as Beijing, is likely to hurt Australian producers, who typically export coal with ash content above 20%. Australia exports around 50m tonnes of thermal coal each year to China and the ban is expected to reduce exports by 40%, a cost of $1.46bn at the current price of $73 a tonne.

BBC Worldwide covers another Australian woe:

Invasion Of The Deadly Cane Toads – Australia with Simon Reeve

Program note:

Simon is on a mission to find Australia’s most destructive creature, but it’s not be quite what he was expecting.

From the Guardian, anthropocentric arrogance at work:

Whaling opponents and pro-whaling nations, led by Japan, remain at odds

  • Diplomats at International Whaling Commission try to find compromise as New Zealand pushes to curb “scientific whaling”

Diplomats were preparing for one last push to find a compromise capable of bridging the divide between whaling nations and their opponents at the biennial International Whaling Commission summit in Slovenia.

A narrow majority of delegates have lined up behind a proposal from New Zealand to curb Japan’s “scientific whaling” ambitions by enforcing strict oversight on the number of whales that it may cull, and the scientific justifications for this, particularly the availability of non-lethal means for conducting research.

As a voluntary body, the IWC cannot compel Japan to stop whaling, but stepping outside its aegis would be undesirable for Tokyo and frantic last-minute attempts are being made to find a consensus deal that could pass without a divisive vote.

And from the Japan Times, consummation:

Japan tells IWC it will resume whaling despite international court’s halt order

Japan told an International Whaling Commission meeting Wednesday that it will resume its so-called research whaling in the Antarctic next fiscal year, while vowing to improve the transparency of the activities over which it lost an international court case earlier this year.

After the International Court of Justice ordered in March that the whaling be halted, ruling it was not for scientific research purposes as claimed by Tokyo, Japan canceled its annual Antarctic whaling voyage for fiscal 2014.

During the meeting in Slovenia, a Japanese official said the ICJ ruling did not deny research whaling in itself and Japan will propose a new whaling plan by taking heed of what the ICJ said in the ruling. Japan also said it will continue its “research whaling” in the Northwestern Pacific, which is not covered by the ICJ order, on a reduced scale.

For our final item, the latest in Fukushimapocalypse Now! from NHK WORLD:

Further step for frozen soil walls approved

Japan’s nuclear regulator has approved a further step in creating frozen soil walls around the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The underground walls are aimed at preventing groundwater from entering reactor and other buildings, and reducing the amount of radioactive water generated there.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company began building parts of the walls in June. But the work has been limited due to difficulty in dealing with contaminated water in tunnels and pipes around the plant.

The firm later compiled measures to prevent radioactive water leaks from the tunnels and pipes on a side of the plant facing a hill.

For a Disunited Kingdom, a flagging enthusiasm


From Businessweek, which asked leading design firms for concepts of a new flag should Scotland fly the coop, comes this proposal from Base Design:

BLOG Flagging

EbolaWatch: Politics, woes, and warnings


We begin with high politics from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

U.S. submits Ebola draft to UNSC

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations has presented to U.N. Security Council members a draft of a Security Council resolution on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, calling for a coordinated international response to the deadly virus.

The draft of the resolution obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun on Tuesday calls on nations to provide urgent aid and lift travel restrictions that could isolate the Ebola-infected region.

The United States seeks to hold an emergency Security Council session on the Ebola outbreak on Thursday and have the resolution adopted at the meeting.

It is unusual for the Security Council to adopt a resolution on public health.

A video report covers some of the reasons for the finally aroused anxieties of the North, via CCTV America:

WHO assessing which countries can deal with Ebola virus

Program notes:

There are worrying reports for Ebola–Free African nations. The World Health Organisation has been assessing which African countries could handle in case there’s an outbreak. As CCTV America’s Jane Kiyo reports, apparently only two countries are up to the challenge.

Star Africa News has one nation’s death toll:

Liberia Ebola-related deaths at 1,424 – Report

Liberia’s Ebola-related deaths since the epidemic began in the country in March has reached 1, 424, according to a report by the Ministry of Health.

The report released on Wednesday showing the latest update on the situation of the epidemic in the country, said the figure concerns deaths in confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola.

The report entitled the Ebola Situation Report covers March 22 through September 13, 2014.

And from France 24, we get the all-too-usual emphasis on non-Acfrican sufferers:

French MSF volunteer contracts Ebola in Liberia

A French volunteer working for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in Liberia has contracted the Ebola virus, the medical charity said in a statement on Wednesday.

This is the first confirmed case of a French national catching the disease in the current outbreak. The volunteer was put in quarantine on Sept.16 when the first symptoms of the illness appeared.

She will be evacuated to a specialised treatment centre in France.

From Joel Pett, editorial cartoonist of the Lexington Herald-Leader, anxieties expressed:

BLOG Cartoon pett

Reuters covers preventative efforts:

West African powerhouse Ivory Coast battles to keep out Ebola

The worst recorded outbreak of the virus has killed over 2,400 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, wreaking havoc on their fragile economies, and has also spread to Nigeria and Senegal.

If it reaches Ivory Coast, the powerhouse of French-speaking West Africa, the economic consequences could be yet worse. The country of 20 million people exports 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, the raw material for chocolate, and supplies its landlocked neighbors with everything from rice to fuel.

Ivory Coast is taking the kind of aggressive anti-infection measures that its poorer, smaller western neighbors were slow to adopt. Hand washing stations have appeared at the entrances of government buildings and office towers in Abidjan, the bustling economic capital. People have abandoned the traditional three-kiss greeting.

The Guardian covers a radical measure:

Ebola lockdown in Sierra Leone: nationwide three-day curfew

  • Unprecented national shutdown, with health workers going house-to-house to identify Ebola cases; MSF raises concerns about capacity to cope

Residents across Sierra Leone, one of three countries at the centre of the biggest ever Ebola outbreak, scrambled on Wednesday to prepare for a three-day, unprecedented nationwide “lockdown” in a radical step intended to curb the spread of the killer virus, but which some health experts believe could worsen the epidemic.

Citizens will not be allowed to leave their homes from Thursday until Sunday. Known as “ose to ose” in the widely-used local Krio, health workers will also go house-to-house identifying cases and raising awareness. More than 2,300 have died across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the nine-month epidemic that the World Bank warned this week could lead to deaths in the “tens of thousands” if unchecked by the end of the year.

Some 21,000 people have been recruited to enforce the lockdown, bulking up thousands of police and soldiers already deployed to quarantine districts in the worst-hit regions near the border with Guinea. But some international health experts have advised against the move, citing both practical concerns and disastrous attempts at the mass quarantine of the biggest slum in neighbouring Liberia.

Ghana lends a hand, via the Liberian Observer:

Accra to Serve as Transit Point for Flights

  • President Mahama Discloses; Frowns on Isolation of Ebola-affected Countries

The President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, has been in consultation with the United Nations secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, to allow Accra to serve as a transit center for international flights that might be bringing in logistics, medicines and other relief items for the affected countries.

Accra is the capital of Ghana, but President Mahama said his consultation is in his capacity as chair of the regional body, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This is a  demonstration of how Ghana is prepared to help affected the countries.

He spoke on Monday September 15, when he paid a one-day solidarity visit with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia.

The New York Times covers financial alarms:

Ebola Could Devastate West African Economies, World Bank Says

The three West African countries most affected by Ebola could experience a “potentially catastrophic blow” to their economies because of the epidemic, the World Bank Group warned Wednesday.

The outbreak could cut gross domestic product by nearly 12 percent in Liberia and nearly 9 percent in Sierra Leone in 2015 if it is not curbed, according to the report. The impact to Guinea would be less severe, at around 2 percent.

A fear of contagion and what the bank referred to as “aversion behavior” is driving most of the economic losses. Places of employment are being closed, transportation is being disrupted, and vital links with other nations by air and sea are being cut, the analysis found.

Reuters hints at purse strings loosening:

IMF proposes $127 million for three Ebola-hit countries in West Africa

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could receive an additional $127 million from the International Monetary Fund to help them deal with the worst-ever outbreak of the Ebola virus, the IMF said on Wednesday.

The funds, which must still be approved by the IMF’s executive board, would help cover an estimated $300 million financing gap in the West African countries over the next six to nine months, when the IMF expects the impact of the outbreak to be most acute.

“The Ebola outbreak is a severe human, social and economic crisis that requires a resolute response from the international community,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a statement. “The governments of the three countries have requested additional IMF support to help cover the acute financing needs they are facing as a result of the outbreak.”

The IMF on Wednesday proposed a $40 million loan for Guinea, $48 million for Liberia and $39 million for Sierra Leone. It has said economic growth in Liberia and Sierra Leone has been hurt in particular by the epidemic’s impact on agriculture, mining and the services sectors.

Punch Nigeria precludes:

World Bank excludes Nigeria from $105m W’African fund

The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a $105m grant to finance Ebola-containment efforts in West African countries infected with the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease.

A statement issued by the bank in Washington on Wednesday to announce the development, however, excluded Nigeria as a beneficiary of the fund.

The bank said the fund would help families and communities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to cope with the economic impact of the Ebola crisis as well as rebuild and strengthen essential public health systems in the three worst-affected countries to guard against future disease outbreaks.

The Hill covers cash-inducing anxiety:

Congress worries Ebola could hit US, become more contagious

Lawmakers are increasingly concerned about the spread of Ebola and worry that it could jump to the United States and become more contagious.

President Obama on Tuesday unveiled new plans to surge U.S. support to West Africa that includes sending thousands of U.S. military personnel to the region and establishing a command-and-control center, and new hospitals to aid in the fight.

But lawmakers worry the president’s efforts might not be enough to contain the outbreak. Already, an estimated 2,400 have died from the disease, and the United Nations estimates $1 billion could be necessary to limit the epidemic.

And from Sky News, another vaccine trial, held in the North:

Former Nurse Tests Experimental Ebola Vaccine

  • A former NHS nurse has become the first person to be injected with an experimental ebola vaccine.

Ruth Atkins was given the jab in her arm and then carefully monitored by doctors for any side effects.

She is the first of 60 healthy volunteers to take part in a clinical trial at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute.

She was paid just £380 – not for the risk, but for any loss of earnings.

A video report from the London Telegraph:

British woman first to test Ebola vaccine

Program notes:

Ruth Atkins becomes the first volunteer to be injected with a potentially life-saving new vaccine that scientists hope will tackle Ebola

Another wake-up call received, via TheLocal.de:

Merkel promises help for Liberia in Ebola fight

Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised that Germany will send help to Liberia to tackle the Ebola crisis in response to a personal appeal by the country’s president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

“We will act quickly and stand ready with everything we have available,” Merkel told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday. “The situation in Liberia is in fact very dramatic.”

German help to the stricken West African nation could include air transport, secure return flights for doctors and other workers from international organizations, help building hospital wards and support for the World Health Organization (WHO).

A Merkel spokeswoman said earlier that the German army was also examining what kind of help it might be able to offer Liberia.

African boots on the ground from the Liberian Observer:

AU to Deploys 200 Health Workers in Ebola Affeted Countries

The African Union (AU) is expected to deployed 200 health workers and other professionals,including nurses and doctors to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to help combat the deadly Ebola virus in the sub-region.

Africa Union’s Special Representative to Liberia, Amb. Toyin Solaja,said the deployment is a part of a joint AU-led military and civilian humanitarian mission code named African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA).

He puts the cost of the operation to more than 25 million United States Dollars. The Ambassador said a total of two hundred (200) professionals are expected to be deployed in the three countries.

More from Star Africa News:

Namibia gives $1m to Ebola countries

The Namibia government says it is contributing $1 million as a solidarity support to the West African countries currently battling the Ebola outbreak, the permanent secretary in the ministry of information Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana announced on Tuesday.

Ua-Ndjarakana told journalists that the contribution will be channeled through the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the African Public Health Emergency Fund for the containment of Ebola in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Namibia is heeding the call made by the African Union to its member states and the international community to make contributions in cash or kind to assist its fight against the Ebola outbreak in some West African countries,” Ua-Ndjarakana said.

WHO needs an estimated $I billion to bring the epidemic under control, its officials said in Geneva earlier on Tuesday.

Updating a patient from the North with the Associated Press:

Doctors expect Nebraska Ebola patient to recover

An American aid worker infected with Ebola who’s being treated in Nebraska is now expected to make a full recovery, his doctors said Wednesday.

The medical team treating Rick Sacra also said it’s optimistic that the 51-year-old from Worcester, Massachusetts, will soon be able to leave the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

“However, we are still somewhat cautious because of the severity and unknown factors of this disease,” said Dr. Angela Hewlett, associate medical director of the isolation unit housing Sacra, who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia. “We know from experience how other patients look as their condition improves, but since we have so little experience treating patients with Ebola, that tempers our optimism a little bit.”

The Independent covers another extraordinary measure up North:

Ebola outbreak: Survivor William Pooley flown to US to give doctor with virus emergency blood transfusion

William Pooley, the British nurse who was cured of the Ebola, has been flown to America on a life-saving mission to give blood to a new victim of the deadly virus.

Mr Pooley has travelled to Atlanta for an emergency blood transfusion which could save the life of a doctor who contracted the disease while working in Sierra Leone.

The 29-year-old, who became the first Briton to contract Ebola, could help the US victim fight off the virus because his blood carries antibodies for the disease, the Evening Standard reports.

Mr Pooley was put on a flight on Friday night, paid for by the World Health Organisation, to Atlanta where the doctor is being treated in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital.

Evangelicals ignoring border bans, with Star Africa News:

Batswana disregard travel ban to Ebola nations

Botswana citizens are defying a ban imposed by the Ministry of Health on travel to countries affected by Ebola, an official said Wednesday.Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Diadi Mmualefe told private radio station Gabz FM that some Batswana continued to visit West Africa despite warnings by the Ministry of Health against travelling to Ebola-affected countries.

He revealed that two Batswana travelled on Tuesday night to Nigeria where they want to attend a church service at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) led by televangelist TB Joshua.

Botswana is one of southern African countries that have banned travel to Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia that are at the epicentre of an Ebola outbreak that has so far killed more than 2,000 people in the region since March.

From Agence France-Presse, a graphic look inside an Ebola treatment center, based on a plan from Medicine sans Frontieres:

BLOG Ebola center

From the Guardian, a protest from Down Under:

$7m Ebola contribution is not enough, says Australian Medical Association

  • Brian Owler says additional $7m in Ebola aid should be bolstered by deployment of Australian health workers

Australia’s contribution to fighting the Ebola virus is still inadequate despite the promise of another $7m, the head of the Australian Medical Association has warned.

Brian Owler said last week that the government’s commitment of $1m to the World Health Organisation to control the outbreak in west Africa was inadequate, and on Wednesday the government pledged an extra $7m.

WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières will each receive $2.5m, while $2m will be given to Britain to help combat the disease in Sierra Leone, the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said.

Punch Nigeria covers classroom concerns:

Ebola: Senate urges schools to take precautionary measures

The Senate on Wednesday urged all schools in Nigeria to take precautionary measures to contain the spread of the Ebola virus.

The Senate also appealed to the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States to create regional and continent wide containment programmes to avoid further spread of the deadly virus.

The Senate made this appeal as part of resolutions reached after a debate on a motion, entitled, “The Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria,” sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and 106 others.

Punch Nigeria again, with more classroom concerns:

Ebola outbreak: Parents still worry about possible outbreak

All appears set for the September 22 resumption date as directed by the Federal Government. But, in spite of the dramatic change of mind exhibited by the Nigerian Medical Association, parents and guardians are still apprehensive of a possible outbreak and the devastating effects it would have on children and teenagers.

While the NMA said its latest decision that pupils could go back to schools was based on the fact that no confirmed case of EVD in the country again, the Nigerian Union of Teachers has directed its members not to report to work unless safety gadgets are provided for them though it remained to be seen how far the union could go in view of the fact that the government in some states have asked the schools to reopen on Sept 22.

Parents who spoke with our correspondent on Wednesday expressed diverse opinions on the resumption date.

Punch Nigeria again, with still more:

Niger to reopen schools October

THE Niger State Government has decided that all schools in the state will reopen for the new academic year in October, contrary to the Sept 22 date declared by the Federal Government.

The Federal Government had shifted the resumption dates for all private and public schools in the country to next Monday as a result of the recent outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

However, in announcing the new resumption date for public schools in the state on Wednesday, the Niger State Government said it had taken into account the forthcoming Eid-el Kabir Muslim festival expected to hold worldwide in the first week of October.

And for our final Nigerian school item, again from Punch Nigeria, a union call:

Sept 22: Ekiti NUT tells teachers to stay away

The Nigeria Union of Teachers in Ekiti State has asked its members to comply with the directive of its national body to shun the September 22 resumption date for the 2014/2015 academic session.

Chairman of the union in Ekiti, Samuel Akosile, on Wednesday, said his members would not resume work until certain preventive measures capable of curtailing the Ebola Virus Disease had been put in place .

He urged government to organise seminars and workshops on Ebola for teachers in the state, saying “This will broaden their horizons on what the virus is all about and precautions to be taken to engender safety.”

The NUT chairman urged the state government to procure Infra-red thermometers and provide pipe-borne water and sanitisers in all the state-owned primary and secondary schools in order to give the assurances that government was committed to safety in school environments.

Next, from the Liberian Observer, a growing phenomenon:

Orphaned by Ebola

September 15, 2014, an unidentified toddler is seen standing unaware of the commotion going on around her. She and her gravely sick mother had just disembarked few minutes ago, from a taxi cab. Her mother struggled to take few steps, she collapsed and died. The innocent child was pulled away from her. The woman’s “lifeless body” was immediately dumped over other dead bodies already in a pickup truck waiting to transport the dead either for burial or to the crematorium.

She’s still unidentified.

According to witnesses standing in front of Redemption Hospital, which has quite recently become an Ebola holding center, the little girl and her said mother came to the hospital for treatment.

“Just how they arrived, the mother died in the car and her body was added to the bodies that were being taken out of the hospital today,” stated an LNP officer, who asked not to be named.

And for our final item, Defense One covers the American national security perspective:

Africa Needs the US Military To Fight Ebola

Both civilian and military public health experts understand how to contain highly transmissible infectious diseases, such as SARS, avian influenza, the MERS Coronavirus, and other pandemic-prone diseases. These diseases are threats to global security that could lead to outbreaks with significant costs including massive loss of life, a weakened work force, geopolitical instability, and economic disruption and losses. But given the relative successes in responding to these diseases, it has been surprising and disappointing that collective international actions against Ebola have thus far proven largely unsuccessful.

As Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, rightly points out, Ebola won’t be stopped with principles of global solidarity and earnest appeals. Disjointed and erratic funding efforts, dozens of volunteer health workers, and closing national barriers in West African states is either too little, too late, or too ineffective. Like Heracles slaying the many-headed Hydra, cutting off the beast’s individual heads was not enough; only by cauterizing the stumps was he able to contain the threat. Like Heracles, we must evaluate our futile tactics and engage an asymmetric advantage to bring to a halt this unprecedented yet containable Ebola outbreak.

Changing the dynamics of the West African outbreak requires behavioral changes including adjustments to burial practices and sanitation issues that are particularly conducive to the spread of Ebola. The consumption of bushmeat—that is, animal meat from the wild rather than domestically farmed—is also a significant risk factor. On a societal level, there are more broad-based cultural factors at play including a serious mistrust of health aid workers and the national government.

Map of the day: Ebola epidemic concentration


From the World Health Organization [PDF], and click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Ebola

And now for something completely different


And that would be a delightful video combining the skills of science journalism and an art form resembling nothing so much as those delightful Indonesian shadow puppets.

The focus is an event that took place 340 years this month, revelation of the existence of a vast realm of life hitherto unsuspected by scientists and described thusly on the New York Times web page hosting the video:

In 1674, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek looked at a drop of lake water through his homemade microscope and discovered an invisible world that no one knew existed.

Here are the Dutch scientist’s own words announcing the discovery, via the University of California Museum of Paleontology’s Berkeley website:

In a letter of September 7, 1674, Leeuwenhoek described observations on lake water, including an excellent description of the green charophyte alga Spirogyra: “Passing just lately over this lake, . . . and examining this water next day, I found floating therein divers earthy particles, and some green streaks, spirally wound serpent-wise, and orderly arranged, after the manner of the copper or tin worms, which distillers use to cool their liquors as they distil over. The whole circumference of each of these streaks was about the thickness of a hair of one’s head. . . all consisted of very small green globules joined together: and there were very many small green globules as well.”

With that, on to the video, a creation of science journalist Flora Lichtman and
animator/filmmaker Sharon Shattuck, via the New York Times:

‘Animated Life: Seeing the Invisible’

From the NYT web page:

This video is the debut of a new Op-Docs series called “Animated Life,” a collaboration between Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s BioInteractive and The New York Times. Born from a previous Op-Doc, “The Animated Life of A.R. Wallace” (which features the other guy who discovered natural selection), the series will explore pivotal moments of discovery, and the characters past and present who have driven us to see the world in new ways.

Since these moments are rarely captured on film, we are recreating them — with paper. The style is not without challenges: We went through 15 different heads before poor Leeuwenhoek looked sufficiently human. Admittedly, our Vibrio harveyi bacteria still don’t look quite like sausages, which is how the microbiologist Bonnie Bassler describes them. Truly, there are limits to what can be achieved with papier-mâché.

Years ago, when esnl was knee-high to a grasshopper, we thrilled at reading about Leeuwenhoek’s discoveries, and pestered our parents until we, too, had a microscope of our own and set about replicating the discoveries made so many years before — though our water came from the aptly named Mud Creek in Abilene, Kansas, rather than a scenic Dutch pond.

David Horsey: Call it the open door policy


From the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Horsey

Chart of the day: American views on trade dim


From a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project:

Microsoft Word - Pew Research Center Trade Report FINAL Septembe