Category Archives: Africa

EbolaWatch: Politics, drugs, warnings, grief


We begin with a notable absence, via the Associated Press:

At 1 month, US Ebola monitors finding no cases

For three weeks, Dr. John Fankhauser and his family lived in two RVs in a meadow in North Carolina, watching movies, playing cards and huddling around a fire pit — with no other campers around.

But their isolation was interrupted each morning by a visit from a public health nurse, who came to ask Fankhauser how he was feeling and to watch him take his temperature.

The doctor is one of the more than 2,600 people who have undergone the 21-day ritual ordered by the federal government to guard against cases of Ebola from entering the country from West Africa. Now, anyone who has traveled from four West African nations is monitored for three weeks for fever and other signs of the disease.

The program reaches the one-month mark on Thursday, and so far, it hasn’t found any cases of Ebola.

On to the medical front with Punch Nigeria:

China approves new Ebola prevention drugs

China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) has approved three home-grown Ebola test reagents to be used in prevention of the spread of the virus.

The three test reagent products are made by Daan Gene Co., Ltd of Sun Yat-Sen University, Shenzhen Puruikang and Shanghai ZJ Bio-Tech Co., Ltd respectively. The products will be reserved for contingency situations, said CFDA.

The statement did not detail how fast the reagent can diagnose the Ebola virus infection but according to a Friday report from China News Service, the product from Puruikang has high sensitivity and accuracy.

From Agence France-Presse, an etiological approach:

Research on bats could help develop drugs against Ebola

Program notes:

In Africa’s only biosafety level 4 laboratory, scientists have been carrying out experiments on bats to understand how virus like Ebola are being transmitted, and how some of them resist to it.

From the Associated Press, a beneficiary of tragedy:

Ebola scare boosts business for Ala company

The Ebola scare has subsided in the United States, at least temporarily, but an Alabama manufacturer is still trying to catch up with a glut of orders for gear to protect against the disease.

Located in north Alabama, the family-owned Kappler Inc. of Guntersville typically gets only a few orders annually for the type of suit needed by health workers who are in contact with Ebola patients.

That changed once the disease showed up in Texas, Kappler vice president of marketing Dennis Sanders said. Quickly, orders were flooding in for thousands of the company’s Provent 10,000 coverall.

“It happened, literally, overnight,” he said. “We took orders in a couple of days that exceeded the orders we’ve had on that particular product in two or three years.”

And from the Japan Times, more of the same:

ASDF on mission to deliver Ebola suits to West Africa

The government decided on Friday to deliver 20,000 protective suits to West Africa via the Air Self-Defense Force next week, part of a donation of 700,000 suits to help Ebola-hit countries in the region.

The delivery will mark the first time an SDF plane has been dispatched as part of the international effort to combat the deadly disease, which is ravaging the region.

“We will supply about 700,000 sets of protective gear, based on requests from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Mali,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Friday at his regular news conference.

A clarion call from the U.N. Press Center:

‘The world is on the side of those who are involved in this fight’ against Ebola – UN envoy

The top United Nations officials leading the fight against Ebola have made an appeal for people who possess skills that are “quite rare” to join the global effort, such as those who can provide patient care, undertake contact tracing and analyze how the outbreak is evolving in remote areas of the virus-affected countries, saying that “deploying more people to the districts is our highest priority.”

“These skills are quite rare in our world today because there are not thousands and thousands of people who are really experienced in Ebola and its management,” Dr. David Nabarro, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy on Ebola, said in an interview with the Department of Public Information at the headquarters of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) in Accra, Ghana.

“And so what we’re doing is looking very hard for the best people in the world and encouraging them to come and work with the governments of the affected countries,” Dr. Nabarro said.

Dr. Nabarro gave the interview together with UNMEER chief Anthony Banbury, in the lead-up to the 1 December target set by the mission, which aims to try to get 70 per cent of the cases isolated and treated, and 70 per cent of the deceased safely buried within 60 days from the beginning of October to 1 December.

And the ghost at the banquet, via RFI:

Ebola Casts Shadow Over French-Speaking Countries’ Summit in Dakar

The Ebola epidemic is casting a shadow over the 15th summit of French-speaking nations in the Dakar this weekend. The Senegalese capital has been a hive of activity in the runup to the event.

The 15th Sommet de la Francophonie was planned to mark a turning point in the life of the organisation with the election of a new secretary general and the definition of a new agenda for women’s and youth empowerment.

But the Ebola epidemic in west Africa is set to change the dynamics of the summit. Senegal has nothing in common with some of the spendthrift leaders it will be hosting.

On to Guinea, first with a notable visit, via the Associated Press:

French president cheered in Ebola-stricken Guinea

French President Francois Hollande brought a message of hope to Guinea on Friday, where thousands of residents lined the roads while clapping, drumming and dancing to catch a glimpse of the first Western leader to visit a country hard hit by Ebola.

Guinean President Alpha Conde greeted his French counterpart at the airport and said that if Hollande could visit the country, then anybody could.

“There is hope,” said Hollande, “The hope of those who have been cured. The hope that we can control this epidemic … The very fact that hope exists.”

From the Associated Press again, problems on the ground:

Ebola aid dogged by coordination lags in Guinea

Eight months into West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, aid efforts in Guinea still suffer from poor coordination, hampering deployments of international support to help quell a virus that has killed more than 1,200 people in the former French colony, officials and medical aid providers say.

With such a deadly and panic-inspiring health emergency, any aid project was bound to face hurdles. Millions of dollars in aid from the U.S., Europe, China, the U.N. and elsewhere have poured into a relatively poor West African region known for instability and poor governance. A frenzied public reaction— widened by fears of infection following the evacuation of patients to the U.S. and Europe — has increased international pressure for quick action.

The often discombobulated effort hasn’t only been seen in Guinea. The region-wide response has been criticized as slow and organizationally complicated. But Guinea’s outbreak has attracted less attention because its cases have come in smaller, unpredictable waves in contrast to explosive surges in nearby Liberia and Sierra Leone.

And the Guardian covers a trial run:

15-minute Ebola test trialled in Guinea

  • Device can diagnose infection six times faster than methods currently used in west Africa

Trials of a device that can diagnose an Ebola infection within 15 minutes are about to start in Guinea.

The test, which can analyse blood or saliva samples, is six times faster than those being used in west Africa at the moment. Faster results mean those infected can be isolated more quickly and can receive earlier treatment, which may improve their chances of survival.

Dr Val Snewin, of the Wellcome Trust, which is funding the development and trials of the device, said: “A reliable 15-minute test that can confirm cases of Ebola would be a key tool for effective management of the Ebola outbreak, allowing patients to be identified, isolated and cared for as soon as possible. It not only gives patients a better chance of survival, but it prevents transmission of the virus to other people.

“This pilot study is particularly promising because researchers have considered how to make the test suitable for use in remote field hospitals, where resources – such as electricity and cold storage – are often in short supply.”

On to Sierra Leone with grim news from the New York Times:

Despite Aid Push, Ebola Is Raging in Sierra Leone

While health officials say they are making headway against the Ebola epidemic in neighboring Liberia, the disease is still raging in Sierra Leone, despite the big international push. In November alone, the World Health Organization has reported more than 1,800 new cases in this country, about three times as many as in Liberia, which until recently had been the center of the outbreak.

More than six weeks ago, international health officials conceded that they were overwhelmed in Sierra Leone and reluctantly announced a Plan B. Until enough hospital beds could be built here, they pledged to at least help families tend to their sick loved ones at home.

The health officials admitted Plan B was a major defeat, but said the approach would only be temporary and promised to supply basics like protective gloves, painkillers and rehydration salts.

A call provoked from the Guardian:

Boost Ebola aid to Sierra Leone, Justine Greening told

  • Open letter calls on international development secretary to increase response to outbreak to avoid ‘catastrophic loss of life’

Justine Greening, the international development secretary, has been warned by senior medical professionals that Sierra Leone risks “a public health disaster” worse than Ebola unless UK efforts to contain the virus are significantly stepped up.

In an open letter signed by 53 doctors, charity representatives and a former British diplomat, Greening is told the government needs to quickly review operations in Sierra Leone to avert further crisis.

The signatories warn that, unless a comprehensive response to the crisis is adopted, “health services will collapse entirely”, resulting in a “public health disaster that will eclipse the Ebola outbreak itself and provide the perfect incubator for further outbreaks”.

The Guardian has posted the full text and signatories here.

From StarAfrica, professional anxiety:

S/Leone: Junior doctors express concern over high deaths among colleagues

An umbrella body representing junior doctors in Sierra Leone has expressed concern over frequent cases of doctors getting infected with the Ebola virus and demanded action from the government to limit, if not stop it.The junior Doctors Association of Sierra Leone (JUDASIL) says the number of health care workers getting infected and dying of the disease has become “very alarming”, especially among their colleague doctors.

As at Friday, a total of nine local doctors have been infected with seven of them dead. The latest two are struggling for their lives.

Dr Geraldine George, President of JUDASIL, said Friday that while they have resigned to what they had signed for – treating the sick “they want to see the government also play its part in limiting the risk in getting medics infected.”

After the jump, Australian medics dispatched, a break for street vendors, a mayor’s plea for diligence, and a study launched on the outbreak’s gender-specific impacts, then on to Liberia and a medical warning, government sets a deadline for the outbreak’s end, school reopening pondered, a warning and praise from the African Union, a market shutdown over Ebola worries, long overdue pay of healthcare workers provokes a sit-down, Then onto Nigeria for the troubled plight of a fatality’s family. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: The African Ebola curves


Just released by the Centers for Disease Control showing cumulative cases in the three hardest hit countries between 25 March and 26 November.

Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Ebola

InSecurityWatch: Protest, war, drones, hacks


Plus the showdown in Hong Kong and lots more. . .

We begin with the Los Angeles Times:

Protests over Ferguson shooting enter third day; arrests in St. Louis

Activists rushed into St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday to protest a grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in nearby Ferguson as the region moved into its third day of demonstrations.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the municipal building, shouting “Shame, Shame.” Some then entered the building and police, carrying riot shields, quickly responded.

As many as five people were arrested, officials said.

The Los Angeles Times again, with some numbers:

183 Ferguson protesters arrested in L.A., many more than in other cities

Los Angeles police arrested 183 protesters overnight Tuesday — a much larger number than in other major cities in the nation on the second night of protests over the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting case.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, at a news conference Wednesday morning, said he could not speak to what had occurred in other parts of the country but that the LAPD and CHP had been “extremely generous in allowing the expression of 1st Amendment activities.”

A bulk of the arrests occurred Tuesday night. Of the 183 held, 167 were arrested for disturbing the peace, 15 juveniles for violating curfew, and one person was taken into custody for alleged felony battery after throwing a frozen water bottle at a police officer’s head, Beck said.

And closer to Casa esnl, via the Oakland Tribune:

Ferguson protest: 92 arrests in Oakland during 2nd night of looting, vandalism

Merchants on Wednesday were mopping up after a second night of vandalism and looting in the wake of a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the shooting death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown.

Tuesday night saw 300 march through downtown and North Oakland — vastly reduced from Monday’s estimated crowd of 2,000 — with protesters taking to the freeways two different times to block lanes.

Officials said officers arrested 92 people on Tuesday night, mostly on charges of obstruction and failure to disperse. Police had arrested 43 people the night before.

From BuzzFeed, across the Atlantic:

Ferguson Protest Brings Parts Of Central London To A Standstill

  • Hundreds of people marched through central London in solidarity with Michael Brown, who was shot dead by police in Ferguson

Hundreds of protestors congregated outside London’s US embassy in the early evening to protest about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown was shot dead by a police officer earlier this year. On Monday a grand jury decided that no charges would be brought against the officer involved.

Over 500 people were on the protest, which brought one of the capital’s main streets to a standstill.

A video report from RT:

London to Ferguson: Crowd protesting police racism tears down Parliament Square barriers

The McClatchy Washington Bureau makes connections:

Social media help take Ferguson protests national

“When you see people kneeling down on the highway, they’re trained to do that . . . it is just straight-up tactics from the civil rights movement,” James Peterson, director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., said in an interview Wednesday. “But social media certainly has been a great tool.”

Twitter, the popular micro-blogging service, has been engorged with Ferguson-related postings. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 580,000 Tweets citing Ferguson were counted by the analytical service Topsy. One targeted hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, was included in 72,000 Tweets in just one day.

Underscoring the reach of social media, prisoners at Boston’s South Bay Detention Facility held up signs reading “#BlackLivesMatter” to high-security windows. Other social media venues, such as Facebook, have likewise been aflame with Ferguson news and commentary. One page alone, called Justice for Mike Brown, had accumulated 43,934 “Likes” as of Wednesday.

Rounding out our Ferguson items, a graphic take from Jack Ohman, editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee:

BLOG America

On to the war zones, now with Warthogs, via United Press International:

Air Force to deploy A-10s to combat Islamic State

  • “They’re going over there because there’s a need,” says the Air Force

A group of A-10 Thunderbolt fighter jets has arrived in the Middle East where they will be used to halt the spread of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The A-10s, or Warthogs, are currently the center of Washington debate — senior defense officials want to retire the 283 remaining A-10s to save nearly $4 billion, while many feel such a move would cut off one of the military’s more powerful tools.

“They’re going over there because there’s a need … to be postured for a combat rescue mission,” Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy explained to Stars and Stripes.

Although slow and low flying, A-10s can transport and deploy massive amounts of fire power to support combat troops on the ground. The planes have armored bellies to protect pilots from ground fire, and can be armed with a 30mm Gatling cannon and a variety of bombs, missiles and other explosives.

The Christian Science Monitor has the hush-hush:

Why US is mum on special ops raid that rescued hostages in Yemen

  • Eight hostages were brought to safety Tuesday after an intense firefight at the cave in remote eastern Yemen where the hostages were being held by Al Qaeda

There are two good reasons the cover-of-night, US-led commando raid that rescued eight Al Qaeda hostages in Yemen Tuesday received none of the fanfare and public back-slapping of previous successful counterterror operations.

One is obvious: No Americans were among the hostages – six Yemenis, one Saudi, and one Ethiopian – brought to safety after an intense firefight at the cave in remote eastern Yemen where the hostages were being held.

But the other explanation is that the Obama administration is very much interested in seeing the successful operation, which included both US and Yemeni forces, reinforce Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. He is a stalwart US ally in the fight against Al Qaeda in the region, but his grasp on power has been repeatedly shaken over recent months.

Al Jazeera America covers the latest drone attacks:

US drone strike in Pakistan kills five suspected Taliban fighters

  • Strike follows critical report on number of innocent civilians killed in US drone strikes

A U.S. drone strike on Wednesday killed five suspected militants in northwest Pakistan, a government official said, as an anti-Taliban offensive by the Pakistani military grew in intensity. The deadly strike comes one day after a human rights group issued a report drawing international attention to the number of innocent lives claimed by U.S. drone strikes.

The drone strike on Wednesday targeted a house in Datta Khel near the Afghan border. Pakistani fighters in the area allegedly used the residence as a safe house.

“The Government of Pakistan condemns the drone strike that took place in the early hours of Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at Garga, north of Shawal in North Waziristan Agency,” the government said in a statement.

An update from the Express Tribune in Karachi:

Eight suspected militants killed in North Waziristan drone strike

Eight suspected militants were killed in latest US drone attack in border area of North Waziristan on Wednesday, security officials said.

“The drone fired two missiles, killing at least eight people and injuring two others,” a security official in the area told AFP via phone on condition of anonymity.

“There may be more dead bodies under the rubble,” he said.

The identity of those killed could not be determined immediately, however, few of them are believed to be foreign militants.

The same story as seen by Iran’s PressTV:

US drone attacks kill 11 people in Pakistan, Afghanistan

Program notes:

US assassination drone strikes in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan have killed nearly a dozen people.

A drone attack killed eight people in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border. The unmanned aircraft fired two missiles at a compound in the town of Dattakhel in North Waziristan. Three Afghans lost their lives in a similar attack in Afghanistan’s Laghman province. The US military conducts deadly drone strikes in several Muslim countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Washington says the air raids target militants, but a large number of civilians have been killed in the attacks.

Drone coverage from the domestic front from the Washington Post:

Near-collisions between drones, airliners surge, new FAA reports show

Pilots around the United States have reported a surge in near-collisions and other dangerous encounters with small drones in the past six months at a time when the Federal Aviation Administration is gradually opening the nation’s skies to remotely controlled aircraft, according to FAA records.

Since June 1, commercial airlines, private pilots and air-traffic controllers have alerted the FAA about at least 25 episodes in which small drones came within a few seconds or a few feet of crashing into much larger aircraft, the records show. Many of the close calls occurred during takeoffs and landings at the nation’s busiest airports, presenting a new threat to aviation safety after decades of steady improvement in air travel.

Many of the previously unreported incident reports — released Wednesday by the FAA in response to long-standing public-records requests from The Washington Post and other news organizations — occurred near New York and Washington.

The Hill clicks Undelete:

National Archives backs off plan to destroy CIA emails

The National Archives and Records Administration is taking a second look at the CIA’s proposal to delete its employees’ emails after they leave the agency.

The record-keeping agency “intends to reassess” the proposal to destroy old emails of all but 22 top officials at the spy agency, chief records officer Paul Wester wrote to the agency last week.
Citing concerns from top congressional overseers and transparency advocates, “we are concerned about the scope of the proposed schedule and the proposed retention periods,” Wester wrote in the letter, which was unearthed by the Federation of American Scientists’s project on government secrecy on Wednesday.

The National Archives had tentatively backed the agency’s proposal to destroy “non-senior” staffers’ emails three years after they leave the agency “or when no longer needed.” At the time, the records agency said that any important communications will likely exist in other formats, which will be catalogued for a permanent record.

The Intercept spins the spin:

The US/UK Campaign to Demonize Social Media Companies as Terrorist Allies

In May, 2013, a British Army soldier, Lee Rigby, was killed on a suburban London street by two Muslim British citizens, who said they were acting to avenge years of killings of innocent Muslims by the British military in, among other places, Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the attackers, Michael Adebolajo, had also been detained and tortured in 2010 in Kenya with the likely complicity of Her Majesty’s Government. The brutal attack on Rigby was instantly branded “terrorism” (despite its targeting of a soldier of a nation at war) and caused intense and virtually universal indignation in the UK.

In response, the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee resolved to investigate why the attack happened and whether it could have been prevented. Ensuring that nothing undesirable would occur, the investigation was led by the Committee’s chair, the long-time conservative government functionary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Yesterday, Sir Malcolm’s Committee issued its findings in a 191-page report. It contains some highly predictable conclusions, but also some quite remarkable ones.

Predictably, the report, while offering some criticisms, completely cleared the British intelligence agencies of any responsibility for the attack. It concluded: “we do not consider that any of the Agencies’ errors, when taken individually, were significant enough to have affected the outcome,” and “we do not consider that, given what the Agencies knew at the time, they were in the position to prevent the murder.”

After the jump, the U.N. calls for releasing the CIA torture report, draconian new state security legislation in Old Blighty, France deprivatizes the phone tap, Google European breaking legal questions pondered, ap-tracking Twitter, Hookers in your cell phone, you annual cyberscam warning, China corporateers win disclosure in a U.S. court, Egypt sends children to prison for protesting, the death rattle of the Arab Spring in Cairo, Turkey clamps down on the Fourth Estate, the wrong song sends a Pakistani actress to price for decades, brutality allegations probed in Australian military academies,  Hong Kong police mass to block re-Occupation while some of the colleagues are busted for brutality, and tycoons seek their own Hong Kong asylum. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Disease, GMOs, fracking, & nukes


And more. . .

We begin with a tragedy within a continuing tragedy via the Los Angeles Times:

Four health workers slain in attack on Pakistan vaccination team

Gunmen shot and killed four health workers carrying out a polio vaccination drive Wednesday in the capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province, police officials said.

The deadly shooting was the latest to target polio workers — whom Islamist militants accuse of conducting espionage in the guise of vaccination campaigns — in Pakistan, one of three countries where the disease has not been eradicated.

Police said that two armed men on a motorcycle opened fire on the workers as they waited for a security escort in the southwestern city of Quetta. Three women and one man were killed while three others were wounded, authorities said.

More from Deutsche Welle:

Pakistani polio workers demand safeguards

Polio workers in Pakistan have demanded greater security before returning to work after gunmen murdered four vaccination team members. Pakistan is one of three countries where polio remains endemic.

The president of the Pakistani state’s polio workers union, Haleem Shah, said thousands of his colleagues were refusing to finish the campaign to vaccinate 300,000 children in eight districts, including Quetta.

“We are in contact with the government and we have demanded that we won’t participate in the campaign until we are provided with security,” Shah told the news agency AFP.

“The government provides security for one day and if nothing bad happens then they take the security back,” he added.

Since December 2012, more than 30 polio vaccinators have been killed in Pakistan, along with nearly 30 police and security personnel guarding them.

And a small miracle within a larger catastrophe, via the Washington Post:

Guinea, hit by Ebola, reports only 1 cholera case

The health workers rode on canoes and rickety boats to deliver cholera vaccines to remote islands in Guinea. Months later, the country has recorded only one confirmed cholera case this year, down from thousands.

The rare success, overshadowed by the Ebola outbreak that has ravaged Guinea and two other West African countries, is being cautiously attributed to the vaccinations and to hand-washing in the campaign against Ebola.

Helen Matzger of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Guinea’s experience is encouraging other countries to accept the cholera vaccine and has led the GAVI Alliance — which works to deliver vaccines to the world’s poor — to invest in a global stockpile and the U.N. World Health Organization to increase that stockpile to about 2 million doses.

Another African outbreak from the Associated Press:

Benin says Lassa fever kills 9, no Ebola found

Nine people have died in Benin from Lassa fever, a viral disease common in West Africa with symptoms similar to Ebola, the country’s health minister said.

An outbreak of Ebola is pummeling the three West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and some cases have turned up elsewhere. But so far no Ebola cases have been confirmed in Benin, Health Minister Dorothee Kinde Gazard told reporters late Tuesday.

Authorities will double-check those results with more tests, said Youssouf Gamatie, the representative for the World Health Organization in the country.

AllAfrica covers another continuing African public health woe:

Nigeria: WHO Expresses Concern Over Rising TB Cases in Nigeria

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern over the rising cases of Tuberculosis (TB) in Nigeria, which has risen to three times what was initially estimated.

Out of the estimated 3,700 TB cases per year in Nigeria, only about 500 have been placed on treatment

The WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, Rui Gama Vaz, disclosed this at the formal launch of the National Strategic Plan for TB Control (2015-2020) and Dissemination of the First National TB Prevalence Survey Report in Abuja.

An outbreak in the Mideast from the Mainichi:

Saudi Arabia: Deaths from MERS virus reach 348

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry says that a total of 348 people have died in the kingdom after contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.

The ministry’s latest figures, released late Tuesday, include two recent deaths recorded in the capital Riyadh. It brings to 810 the number of confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia since the virus was first identified in 2012.

The virus has since spread to other parts of the world, though it has mostly remained centered in Saudi Arabia. MERS belongs to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses that include both the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

CBC News covers another epidemic:

Half-million cancers worldwide linked to obesity

  • Majority of cases occur in North America and Europe, according to study

Excess body weight caused about 481,000 new cancer cases in 2012, according to a new study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization.

That works out to about 3.6 per cent of all cancers worldwide, the majority of which occur in North America and Europe, according to the study published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology on Wednesday.

The study estimates that a quarter of all obesity-related cancers in 2012 are directly linked to rising average body mass index (BMI), especially in developed parts of the world where BMI has been increasing since the 1980s.

While Science looks for the predictive:

Better wildlife monitoring could prevent human disease outbreaks

In the new study, a team lead by Isabelle-Anne Bisson, a conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C., set out to assess whether information on wildlife health could be used to predict the emergence of disease in humans. The team looked at historical records of nearly 150 pathogens known to jump from wildlife to humans. They searched through 60 years of scientific and newspaper reports to determine two things: first, whether the pathogens cause visible disease symptoms or death in wildlife, and second, whether human outbreaks were preceded or accompanied by evidence of the disease in animals.

“These pathogens are invisible to the human eye,” Bisson says. “You can’t see them moving through a landscape, but you can certainly detect them through sick and dead animals.”

The team found that out of the nearly 150 pathogens studied, 75 caused visible symptoms in animals, such as seizures, lethargy, unprovoked aggression, or death, meaning signs of the disease could be easily detected. In reality, however, only 13 of the disease outbreaks in humans were preceded by reports in wildlife. This suggests that early warning signs for 64 of the zoonotic pathogens—45% of the total—may have been missed, the team reports online this month in EcoHealth.

The Associated Press covers prosecution on behalf of a corporation:

Chinese woman denied own trial in seed-theft case

A woman accused of conspiring to steal trade secrets from U.S. seed companies and send them to China, where she’s married to the CEO of a large biotechnology firm, will be tried with another suspect despite her claims that she left the firm long before most of the alleged crimes, a federal judge ruled.

Mo Yun, 42, and her brother are among seven people facing charges for allegedly plotting to steal patented seeds from corn fields in Iowa and Illinois, and send them to China to be reproduced. Prosecutors say more than $500 million worth of intellectual property was stolen from Pioneer Hi-Bred, Monsanto, and LG Seeds.

Mo and her brother were arrested this year in the U.S and are scheduled to be tried together in Iowa. The other five suspects are believed to be in China, which has no extradition agreements with the U.S.

Her attorneys recently argued that most of the evidence alleges crimes committed after she left the company in 2008, including allegations of digging in cornfields to find seeds and shipping them out of the country in 2011 and 2012. Trying them together would allow jurors to hear evidence unrelated to Mo and could sway jurors, defense attorney Terry Bird argued.

From Grist, another GMO story:

In Oregon, GMO labeling lost by 800 votes. Now it’s getting a recount

On Nov. 6, Oregon’s initiative to label genetically engineered foods ended up only a few thousand votes away from success. Now it is down by just 812 votes — which means there will be an automatic recount.

What happened? Labeling advocates have scrambled to fix some of the 13,000 contested ballots — the ones voters forgot to sign, for instance. Oregon gives voters the chance to correct these mistakes.

We’ll let you know when we find out what happens! In the meantime: Just 800 votes out of 1.5 million — that’s a butterfly fart away from winning. What if Jurassic World — which features genetically modified dinosaurs this time around — had come out this year?

Climatic bad bee news from the Guardian:

Bee parasite will flourish under global warming, study warns

  • Gut parasite will increase in prevalence across northern Europe as temperatures rises, leading to honey bee losses

An exotic parasite which targets the insects is set to flourish in northern Europe if the Earth continues to warm, scientists at Queen’s University, Belfast found.

The study assessed the future threat posed by the gut parasite Nosema ceranae, which originates in Asia but can now be found worldwide.

New evidence of the parasite’s superior competitive ability and the link between its population size and climate change has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Co-author of the study and adjunct reader at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, Professor Robert Paxton said: “This emerging parasite is more susceptible to cold than its original close relative, possibly reflecting its presumed origin in east Asia.

“In the face of rising global temperatures, our findings suggest that it will increase in prevalence and potentially lead to increased honey bee colony losses in Britain.”

EcoWatch covers the incipient frack:

Maryland Governor O’Malley Is Ready to Allow Fracking in His State

Outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has frequently been mentioned as a top-of-the-list contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, should Hillary Clinton’s bid fail to materialize. But he just made himself more controversial within the party—and raised the ire of environmentalists—with his announcement that he is ready to allow fracking in the state, where it has so far been banned.

Natural gas companies have been casting a longing eye at Maryland since the fracking boom started. The state’s western panhandle sits on the natural gas-rich Marcellus shale formation, which has proved such a money-maker in Pennsylvania just to its north.

O’Malley said that energy companies that want to frack in the state will have to abide by restrictive environmental and public health regulations, including limits on drilling locations and oversight of risks to air pollution and water contamination. He said he will unveil the final regulations in mid-December before leaving office to be succeeded by Republican Larry Hogan in January. Hogan has made it clear he’s chomping at the bit to open the state to fracking, calling it an “economic gold mine,” and saying during the campaign “States throughout the country have been developing their natural gas resources safely and efficiently for decades. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against any new energy production.”

While MercoPress gets down to the nitty gritty:

Follow the sand to the real fracking boom

  • When it takes up to four million pounds of sand to frack a single well, it’s no wonder that demand is outpacing supply and frack sand producers are becoming the biggest behind-the-scenes beneficiaries of the American oil and gas boom.

Demand is exploding for “frac-sand”–a durable, high-purity quartz sand used to help produce petroleum fluids and prop up man-made fractures in shale rock formations through which oil and gas flows—turning this segment into the top driver of value in the shale revolution.

“One of the major players in Eagle Ford is saying they’re short 6 million tons of 100 mesh alone in 2014 and they don’t know where to get it. And that’s just one player,” Rasool Mohammad, President and CEO of Select Sands Corporation told Oilprice.com.

Frack sand exponentially increases the return on investment for a well, and oil and gas companies are expected to use some 95 billion pounds of frack sand this year, up nearly 30% from 2013 and up 50% from forecasts made just last year.

Pushing demand up is the trend for wider, shorter fracs, which require twice as much sand. The practice of down-spacing —or decreasing the space between wells—means a dramatic increase in the amount of frac sand used. The industry has gone from drilling four wells per square mile to up to 16 using shorter, wider fracs. In the process, they have found that the more tightly spaced wells do not reduce production from surrounding wells.

After the jump, crude oil train safety anxieties, Japan vows to continue its war on whales and call critics bigots, hue and cry kills an Idaho wolf hunt, Kenya women victimized by water mafias, profusely polluting rickshaws in Uttar Pradesh, an Amazonian deforestation rate decline, a Chinese dam stirs Indian angst, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! and a new nuclear waste incinerator, corporations socialize decommissioning debt, geriatric reactor inspections, and another reactor restart mooted, plus Swiss who eat their cats for Christmas. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Prognoses, medicine, Africa news


We begin with a prognosis from Reuters:

Ebola discoverer Piot sees long, bumpy road to ending epidemic

West Africa’s Ebola epidemic could worsen further before abating but new infections should start to decline in all affected countries by the end of this year, a leading specialist on the disease said on Wednesday.

Peter Piot, one of the scientists who first identified the Ebola virus almost 40 years ago, said the outbreak was far from over, but said that “thanks to now massive efforts at all levels” what had been an exponential growth in numbers should soon begin to recede.

The death toll in the worst Ebola epidemic on record has risen to 5,459 out of 15,351 cases identified in eight countries by November 18, latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed. Almost all those cases are in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“By the end of the year we should start seeing a real decline everywhere,” Piot, who is now director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told a meeting of public health experts, non-governmental organisations and officials.

Taking the curative effort a step closer to the source, via Bloomberg News:

Ebola Scientists Seek Cure With Ape Remedy

Program notes:

Around the world scientists are working on a solution to help the Ebola-stricken areas of western Africa. Closer to home, some British and American virologists are taking a different approach, by seeking to eradicate the disease from the usual source of transmission — apes and chimpanzees — before they pass it on.

A belated effort bearing fruit, from CBC News:

Experimental Ebola vaccine passes 1st hurdle in U.S.

  • Vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline and U.S. NIH safely tested on 20 people

The vaccine made by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is being developed to combat the Sudan and Zaire strains of the Ebola virus, the latter the one behind the current deadly outbreak in West Africa.

The trials were conducted at the NIH in Bethesda, Md., with 20 healthy participants who received doses of the vaccine.

The participants developed antibodies to Ebola, researchers said in Wednesday’s New England Journal of Medicine. But the researchers note participants’ immune responses depended on the dose and were also associated with minor side-effects.

From SciDev.Net, more funds arriving late:

Speedy Ebola test among UK projects given grant

A portable device to test bodily fluids for Ebola in under an hour and anthropological training to help foreign health workers work more effectively with local people in West Africa are among five research programmes being funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and the Wellcome Trust.

The projects were awarded money as part of an emergency call issued in August for research on Ebola supported by the Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) fund, launched last year.

The £1.34 million (US$2.1 million) jointly handed to the projects is dwarfed by the €1 billion (more than US$1.2 billion) pledged by European leaders in October for medical care and assistance in affected countries. It is also less than US$5.7 million promised last week by philanthropic organisation the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed at increasing production of experimental Ebola treatments in these countries

From the Japan Times, a belated European contingent coming:

EU arranging to send 5,000 doctors to Africa to fight Ebola: source

The European Commission called Wednesday for 5,000 doctors to be sent from EU states to combat west Africa’s Ebola epidemic, a European source said on Wednesday.

“The situation is too serious and it needs an immediate response,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP, adding that senior EU officials were in contact with central governments to mobilize the response.

“Thousands of other medical caregivers were also being called for,” the source said.

In a tweet, EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said he had so far reached 14 EU ministers, urging them to send more medical staff to Ebola-hit countries.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a call to action:

West African artists urge French-speaking nations to act on Ebola

West African artists have urged heads of state holding a French-speaking nations’ summit in Dakar this weekend to take action to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the region.

The rare tropical disease has infected more than 15,000 people in West Africa since it was first recorded in Guinea in March. More than 5,000 people have died from the virus, which causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and internal bleeding.

The theme of this year’s biannual summit of “francophonie”, a 77-strong group whose role includes promoting peace, democracy and human rights, is women and youth.

One to Sierra Leone and a sad landmark ahead, via the New York Times:

Sierra Leone to Eclipse Liberia in Ebola Cases

Sierra Leone will soon displace Liberia as the worst-hit of the West African countries ravaged by Ebola, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

More than 600 new cases of Ebola were reported in the three countries most affected — Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — in the week that ended Sunday, and more than half were in Sierra Leone, according to figures in an updated summary of cases and deaths on the W.H.O. website.

The W.H.O. update suggested that taken together, all three countries would miss the Dec. 1 target date for achieving important progress benchmarks — 70 percent isolation of patients and 70 percent of burials performed safely. Corpses of Ebola patients are extremely infectious and are an acute source of contagion.

A more optimistic take from the Associated Press:

Sierra Leone official: Ebola may have reached peak

The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has been surging in recent weeks, may have reached its peak and could be on the verge of slowing down, Sierra Leone’s information minister said Wednesday.

But in a reminder of how serious the situation is in Sierra Leone, a ninth doctor became infected Wednesday and the World Health Organization said the country accounted for more than half of the new cases in the hardest-hit countries in the past week. By contrast, infections appear to be either stabilizing or declining in Guinea and Liberia, where vigorous campaigning for a Senate election this week suggests the disease might be loosening its grip.

In all, 15,935 people have been sickened with Ebola in West Africa and other places it has occasionally popped up. Of those, 5,689 have died. The case total includes 600 new cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in just the past week, according to the WHO.

Another front line fighter falls ill, via the Washington Post:

9th Sierra Leonean doctor infected with Ebola

An official says a ninth Sierra Leonean doctor has been infected with Ebola, underscoring the devastating toll the disease is taking on health care workers.

Abass Kamara, a Health Ministry spokesman, said that Dr. Songo Mbriwa tested positive for Ebola on Wednesday. Mbriwa is a top military doctor and was working at the Hastings Ebola treatment center in the east end of the capital.

The disease is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids of the sick, putting health workers at particular risk and it has devastated their ranks. Nearly 600 of them have become infected in the West African outbreak, many in the hardest-hit countries.

From the Guardian, the down side of survival:

Ebola: ‘survivors are left alone to carry their pain and loneliness’

  • On the Ebola frontline: how life in rural Sierra Leone is unfolding for one community worker

Isaac Bayoh, 25, volunteers as an Ebola quarantine and awareness worker. He is part of a team that isolates the houses of those who have the disease, educates the family and neighbours, and monitors the patient’s progress. Here, in his own words sent via WhatsApp, he shares his experiences about how people and communities are affected

My story just like many has been a terrible experience, I have seen friends and loved ones taken away and never returned.

I have seen the most sorrowful reaction of people upon hearing of being positive with the Ebola virus or their family or a friend or a neighbour have tested positive. I have seen joy in a family being vanished away, I have seen things that my eyes cannot ever believe but yet they are fact, they are happening every day with people, with friends, loved ones, families and communities.

A woman tells me after being quarantined when her son died of the Ebola virus that her life has ended because her only son, who was her only support, is dead and it’s just a matter of time before her own symptoms begin to show. I can clearly see the fear in her eyes as we speak. That when I came in to give the psychological support, and because of what I told her, when her result came and it was positive, I saw that state of mind in her, that emotion. She is strong and [has] not given up. She is here today after surviving the virus, and she said one of her recovery methods was to stay positive no matter what. She never gave up.

Next, a video report from the World Health Organization:

WHO: field report from Koinadugu, Sierra Leone

Program notes:

Upon learning of the first Ebola cases reported in Koinadugu District, Sierra Leone in October 2014, the World Health Organization and partners acted swiftly to track new transmission chains, increase key resources on the ground, and establish remote community care centers where they could do the most good. With support from the government and traditional leaders, this coordinated, targeted response is beginning to show signs of bringing the localized outbreak under control.

In November 2014, WHO spokesperson Winnie Romeril joined WHO and partners on the ground and filed this video report.

After the jump, on to Liberia and the first healed patients form an American-built field hospital, a fatal forgery brings death to eight, a presidential appointee rejected, a Chinese hospital makes a good presidential impression, a warning about lethal semen, and a clean water NGO tackles a new task, plus school sanitation worries in post-Ebola Nigeria. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Some good Ebola new, finally


From the latest World Health Organization situation report on the Ebola outbreak, evidence of a dramatic decline in new cases in the hardest-hit country, Liberia [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Liberia

EnviroWatch: Health, coal, cowboys, oil, nukes


Plus endangered spies and lots more.

We begin with neglect via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

70 percent of Americans with HIV don’t have virus under control, study finds

Amid ongoing fears of an Ebola outbreak in the United States, Americans got a grim reminder on Tuesday about the ongoing public health threat posed by another deadly virus: HIV.

Seventy percent of Americans who have HIV do not have the disease in check, and many of them are no longer receiving treatment, according to a study published Tuesday.

The study found that of 1.2 million people who were living with HIV in the United States in 2011, fewer than three in 10 had the virus under control. Twenty percent had never even been diagnosed. And about 66 percent of those who had been diagnosed were no longer in care.

From TheLocal.no, an unwanted discovery:

Deadly Enterovirus D68 found in Norway

Cases of the potentially deadly enterovirus D68 has been found in Norway, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The virus, which can cause paralysis and is without cure, and there is no cure, has been found in a few cases affecting Norwegians, informed the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Nasjonalt Folkehelseinstitutt – FHI).

Senior physician of the Division of Infectious Disease Control at FHI, Trude Arnesen, said to NTB: “Enteroviruses are spread from excrement via hands to food, and also by coughing. Good hand and coughing hygiene will reduce the chance of infection.”

From the London Daily Mail, oops:

Bombshell report reveals a TYPO may have led 5,565 nuclear waste drums to be packed with wrong kitty litter that caused Los Alamos plutonium leak debacle

  • The New Mexico facility switched from a clay-based to a plant-based litter, which caused a drum to leak in February
  • A report from the Santa Fe New Mexican out last week details the bumbling–including an order for the wrong litter–predating the leak
  • The barrels containing the organic litter are also mislabled and say they contain inorganic litter
  • Sixteen of the barrels are believed to contain the other chemical elements that led Waste Drum 68660 to basically become a bomb

A tiny typographical error may have been what led to a plutonium waste barrel packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory to explode, leak through the ground and contaminate 22 workers early this year, says a new report.

An order to use the wrong type of kitty litter in the barrels is the likely culprit and thousands of other barrels were packed with it.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported last week the unbelievable bumbling that made a minor mixup into a massive problem at America’s only permanent nuclear waste dump.

From Xinhua, dam-nation:

China to accelerate water projects

China will step up work on major water conservation projects, especially in rural areas and central and western regions.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday that governments should accelerate 172 water conservation programs that have strong economic and social importance, during a visit to the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR).

Li prioritized central and western regions to address regional water issues, which included diversion projects, reservoirs and irrigation.

It will not only conserve water but attract investment, boost employment, improve incomes of rural dwellers, bolster industry and even stabilize the economic growth, Li said.

All projects, both under construction or still at the discussion stage, should be quickened in a bid to provide a sustainable driving force for growth.

An urban air airing from Global Times:

China’s haze directly linked to gaseous pollutants from traffic, industrial emissions: study

Severe air pollution in Beijing and other Chinese cities might be directly related to gaseous pollutants rather than particles emitted from urban transportation and regional industry, researchers from China and the United States said Monday.

Photochemical oxidation of gaseous pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), is primarily responsible for the formation of a large amount of fine particulate matter (PM), called secondary particles, during China’s severe haze pollution events, the researchers said.

The contribution from primary emissions and regional transport of PM, known as primary particles, is small, they reported in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Another cost of coal from Shanghai Daily:

24 killed in coal mine fire in NE China

A coal mine fire killed 24 workers and injured 52 others in northeast China’s Liaoning Province early Wednesday, the state-owned Liaoning Fuxin Coal Corporation told Xinhua.

The fire occurred in a coal mine under Hengda Coal, a subsidiary of Fuxin Coal, a major coal producer in the province.

Fuxin Coal said the rescue has been over and all the injured workers have been hospitalized.

From Homeland Security News Wire, an environmental impact assessment:

California’s transportation infrastructure ability to withstand a major earthquake questioned

A significant number of bridges and elevated roadways lie above or close to active fault lines, and Californians often wonder how the state’s towering interchanges and freeway network would perform during a major earthquake.The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has spent over $13 billion in the last forty years to reinforce vulnerable bridges and interchanges. Caltrans officials note that during a major earthquake, freeways are likely to sustain significant damage, but engineers feel confident that freeways will not collapse.

Californians often wonder how the state’s towering interchanges and freeway network would perform during a major earthquake. A significant number of bridges and elevated roadways lie above or close to active fault lines. “You see it looming, and as you get closer, it just gets taller and taller,” said Noel Vasquez of Whittier, as he eyes the Harbor Freeway before connecting with the 105 freeway. “You drive by and you think, ‘Man, I’d hate for that thing to break.’”

During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a double-decked portion of interstate 880 crumbled in Oakland, killing forty-two people. The 1971 magnitude 6.7 San Fernando temblor destroyed ramps linking the 5 and 14 freeways in the Newhall Pass interchange. After reopening two years later, the interchange collapse during the 1994 Northridge quake.

From Deutsche Welle, a much-needed preservation effort:

South Africa: Saving the Cape Parrots

Program notes:

There are only a thousand or so Cape parrots left. The species is in danger of extinction. The Cape Parrot Project wants to ensure its future.

Action at a distance, via Reuters:

In wake of China rejections, GMO seed makers limit U.S. launches

China’s barriers to imports of some U.S. genetically modified crops are disrupting seed companies’ plans for new product launches and keeping at least one variety out of the U.S. market altogether.

Two of the world’s biggest seed makers, Syngenta AG and Dow AgroSciences, are responding with tightly controlled U.S. launches of new GMO seeds, telling farmers where they can plant new corn and soybean varieties and how can the use them. Bayer CropScience told Reuters it has decided to keep a new soybean variety on hold until it receives Chinese import approval.

Beijing is taking longer than in the past to approve new GMO crops, and Chinese ports in November 2013 began rejecting U.S. imports saying they were tainted with a GMO Syngenta corn variety, called Agrisure Viptera, approved in the United States, but not in China.

The developments constrain launches of new GMO seeds by raising concerns that harvests of unapproved varieties could be accidentally shipped to the world’s fastest-growing corn market and denied entry there. It also casts doubt over the future of companies’ heavy investments in research of crop technology.

From the New York Times, Republican reaction anticipated:

Obama to Introduce Sweeping New Controls on Ozone Emissions

The Obama administration is expected to release on Wednesday a contentious and long-delayed environmental regulation to curb emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death.

The sweeping regulation, which would aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, would be the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama’s administration.

Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach.

After the jump, tar sands oil boom leads to Canadian cowboy shortage, a Canadian pipeline protest, the bill for British air pollution, banking on a coal funding cutoff Down Under, Big Coal and Big Power await the ruling of a mercurial court, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the latest measure to stop of escape of radioactive water, then on to British nuclear power woes, plus a massive Vietnamese haul of dead endangered turtles. . . Continue reading