Category Archives: Africa

Map of the day: Ebola’s continued African spread


BLOG Ebola map

From the World Health Organization’s latest Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Report [[PDF], which covers that latest available data as of today:

A total of 9936 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) have been reported in five affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America) and two previously affected countries (Nigeria and Senegal) up to the end of 19 October. A total of 4877 deaths have been reported.

EbolaWatch: Panic, pols, Africa, fear & drugs


And much, much more.

We begin on the lighter side, given what follows.

From Reuters Plus:

Cuddly Ebola toy almost wiped out

Program note:

It’s probably the only time you’ll find Ebola associated with “Add to Wishlist”. Giantmicrobes.com’s fluffy rendition of the deadly virus is completely sold out.

A more serious note — much more serious — from Agência Angola Press:

World must stop Ebola in West Africa or face ‘pandemic’ – Cuba’s Castro

The world must confront Ebola in West Africa to prevent what could become one of the worst pandemics in human history, Cuban President Raul Castro said on Monday.

“I am convinced that if this threat is not stopped in West Africa with an immediate international response … it could become one of the gravest pandemics in human history,” Castro told a summit of the leftist ALBA bloc of Latin American and Caribbean countries in Havana.

Cuba is sending 461 doctors and nurses to West Africa, the largest medical contingent of any single country to fight the worst Ebola outbreak on record.

Another warning from the Independent:

Ebola outbreak: Nowhere is safe until virus is contained in Africa, claims the top doctor who beat it in Nigeria

Dr Faisal Shuaib, the incident manager for Nigeria’s Ebola response, told The Independent that Nigeria was still under threat, and that no state could afford to be complacent.

“Yes we have contained an outbreak, but there’s always a threat that we could be infected again by individuals travelling from affected states,” he said. “The outbreak in West Africa is two different stories, a success story in Nigeria, and a story of human tragedy [in the worst-affected states].

“There are still lot of resources required in Sierra Leone and Liberia to contain the outbreak. We need international clarity that as long as the outbreak continues in West Africa, then no country, no individual in the world is safe from contracting the disease. We need to mobilise resources – human, material and financial – to these countries to contain the outbreak there,” he said.

“Then and only then can we say we have dealt with this as a global community as one human race.”

From Shanghai Daily, a key reason for the win:

Nigeria declared Ebola-free thanks to doctor who died from the virus

The first case in Nigeria was imported from Liberia when Liberian-American diplomat Patrick Sawyer collapsed at the main international airport in Lagos on July 20.

Authorities were caught unawares, airport staff were not prepared and no hospitals had an isolation unit, so he was able to infect several people, including health workers at the hospital where he was taken.

But they acted fast after the doctor on duty, who later herself died of the disease, quarantined him against his will and contacted officials.

Ameyo Adadevoh, the doctor at the First Consultants hospital in Lagos, kept him in the hospital despite his protests and those of the Liberian government, preventing the dying man spreading it further, said Benjamin Ohiaeri, a doctor there who survived the disease.

“We agreed that the thing to do was not to let him out of the hospital,” Ohiaeri said, even after he became aggressive and demanded to be set free. “If we had let him out, within 24 hours of being here, he would have contacted and infected a lot more people … The lesson there is: stand your ground.”

From South China Morning Post, a promise:

WHO chief pledges ‘transparent’ review of its handling of Ebola crisis

  • WHO chief Margaret Chan says agency will be upfront about how it handled disease, after damning internal report details its initial failings

The head of the World Health Organisation said the agency would be upfront about its handling of the Ebola outbreak after an internal report detailed failures in containing the virus – while a senior WHO official praised the precautions China has taken.

In a draft document, the WHO says “nearly everyone” involved in the Ebola response failed to notice factors that turned the outbreak into the biggest on record.

It blames incompetent staff, bureaucracy and a lack of reliable information.

WHO director general and former Hong Kong director of health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said on Monday that the report was a “work in progress”. Chan, who was attending a conference in Tunisia, said: “I have promised WHO will be fully transparent and accountable.”

The Wire covers the political:

Democrats Defy Obama in Favor of an Ebola Travel Ban

  • The question of restricting flights to insulate the U.S. has become a classic campaign litmus test

Worried about the political fallout from the Ebola outbreak, vulnerable Senate Democrats are declaring their support for a U.S. travel ban from the afflicted countries in west Africa.

In multiple cases, the Democrats are shifting from their earlier positions on the question, despite arguments from senior U.S. medical officials and the White House that stiff restrictions would only make it harder to prevent an infected person from entering the country. Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire joined the crowd on Monday night, saying through a spokesman that she “strongly supports any and all effective measures to keep Americans safe including travel bans if they would work.” Shaheen said last week she didn’t think a travel ban makes sense, but she is facing heavy criticism from her Republican opponent, former Senator Scott Brown, on the issue. Under pressure from Republicans, Senator Kay Hagan came out in support of a ban late last week, and Senators Mark Pryor and Mark Udall have also called for travel restrictions.

More from BuzzFeed:

Democratic Congressional Candidate: Ebola Is Coming To Nevada, Ban Travel From Africa

  • “I wasn’t sure why they didn’t stop tourists visas a week ago from Africa. I wasn’t sure about that, why that hasn’t happened?”

A Democratic congressional candidate says Ebola is coming to southern Nevada and wants to ban travel from Africa.

In a video from last Thursday, Erin Bilbray, the Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Joe Heck in Nevada’s 3rd District

Bilbray said hospitals need to be equipped to handle Ebola saying, “I think it is gonna happen here in southern Nevada, god forbid.”

Next, from Gallup, the trend line revealing declining confidence in the ability of America’s government to handle an Ebola outbreak on this side of the Atlantic:

BLOG Ebola

Now that white folks are getting sick. . .from Homeland Security News Wire:

Congress ready to allocate additional funds to agencies working on Ebola

Some members of Congress are preparing to offer additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies, but according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, the Obama administration has not decided how much additional funding it will request from Congress to combat the epidemic.

Efforts to contain and eliminate Ebola in affected countries need more U.S. government funding, according to aid organizations and public health agencies involved in the matter. Some members of Congress are preparing to offer additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies, but according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, the Obama administration has not decided how much additional funding it will request from Congress to combat the epidemic.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who heads the Labor and Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, has asked his staff to work with the administration to figure out what resources will be needed to fight Ebola in the United States and West Africa. “Areas of focus in these discussions on funding for the U.S. Ebola response include the need for resources to expand quarantine stations, train and equip health workers, test potential treatments and vaccines, and expand our response in West Africa,” an aide to Harkin said.

From the Associated Press, and why aren’t we surprised?:

Insurer considers Ebola exclusion in some policies

Global property and casualty insurer Ace Ltd. says it may exclude Ebola coverage from some of its general liability policies.

The Swiss company said Tuesday that it is making the decision on a “case by case” basis for new and renewal policies under its global casualty unit, which offers coverage for U.S.-based companies and organizations that travel or have operations outside the U.S.

Ace said in a statement that it is evaluating the risk for clients that might travel to or operate in select African countries with higher exposure to the Ebola virus. It did not specify how many policies this might affect and declined to say if it has put an exclusions of this sort in place yet.

The company appears to be one of the first insurers to disclose that it is making modifications specific to Ebola, but that doesn’t mean it is the only one.

Laying down the rules with the Guardian:

Ebola health workers must be covered head to toe, say new US guidelines

  • Nurses’ groups and others had called for revised advice
  • Stricter CDC guidance provides ‘extra margin of safety

Federal health officials issued new guidelines to promote head-to-toe protection for health workers treating Ebola patients.

Officials have been scrambling to come up with new advice since two Dallas nurses became infected while caring for the first person diagnosed with the virus in the United States.

The new guidelines issued on Monday set a firmer standard, calling for full-body garb and hoods that protect workers’ necks; setting rigorous rules for removal of equipment and disinfection of gloved hands; and calling for a “site manager” to supervise the putting on and taking off of equipment.

Nurses’ groups and other hospital workers had pressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the new guidance, saying the old advice was confusing and inadequate, and workers felt unprepared.

From the New York Times, preparations:

New York Health Care Workers Gather for Ebola Training

Thousands of health care workers, including janitors and security guards, doctors and nurses, gathered at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan on Tuesday for a combination training session and pep rally to prepare them in the event that the Ebola virus is found in New York.

The workers are being taught how to recognize Ebola and prevent it from spreading. Though many said they had already received training at their hospitals, the session was intended to address concerns that existing practices were inadequate, after two nurses in Dallas contracted the virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died on Oct. 8. The session’s organizers planned to communicate the latest protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had been updated as recently as Monday.

Though several New York hospitals have taken in patients with symptoms signaling Ebola, like high fever, none have tested positive for the virus. To date the only three people to be diagnosed with it in the United States are the three in Dallas.

From CCTV America, another impact of the Ebola crisis in the U.S.:

Liberians in the US facing stigma of the virus

Program notes:

Liberians in the United States say they are facing social isolation as a result of fears that they will pass on the Ebola virus. CCTV America’s Daniel Ryntjes reports.

From TheLocal.de, a call form Germany:

Steinmeier wants epidemic task force

At the World Health Summit in Berlin, the Ebola crisis took centre stage at talks meant to create plans for how to handle future outbreaks.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the conference on Sunday with his own ideas.

“One could possibly conceive of something like the White Helmets. Not an organisation that is always there, but a pool of experts, of doctors, of nursing staff, that one can call upon in these kind of crisis situations,” he said at his key note speech.

At a press conference, Steinmeier added that a coordinated effort is most important to stem the spread of the Ebola outbreak.

Consultation from Agência Angola Press:

WHO’s emergency committee on Ebola to meet Wednesday

The World Health Organization’s emergency committee on Ebola will meet on Wednesday to review the scope of the outbreak and whether additional measures are needed, a WHO spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

“This is the third time this committee will meet since August to evaluate the situation. Much has happened, there have been cases in Spain and the United States, while Senegal and Nigeria have been removed from the list of countries affected by Ebola,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a news briefing.

The 20 independent experts, who declared that the outbreak in West Africa constituted an international public health emergency on Aug. 8, can recommend travel and trade restrictions. The committee has already recommended exit screening of passengers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

From The Hill, case closed:

American journalist declared free of Ebola

An American freelance journalist has been cleared of the Ebola virus after he fell ill while working as a cameraman for NBC News and Vice News in Liberia, according to reports.

Ashoka Mukpo tweeted Tuesday night that he’s had three consecutive days of negative Ebola tests and called the discovery “a profound relief.”

Another Northerner cured, from TheLocal.no:

Norwegian Ebola victim free of virus

A Norwegian woman who contracted the Ebola virus while working for Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leoneis now free of the virus and was released from an isolation unit on Monday.

“Today I am in good health and am no longer contagious,” Silje Lehne Michalsen told reporters just minutes after Oslo University Hospital announced she had recovered.

Profits aplenty, via the Associated Press:

Ebola causing spike in demand for hospital gear

Manufacturers and distributors of impermeable gowns and full-body suits meant to protect medical workers from Ebola are scrambling to keep up with a surge of new orders from U.S. hospitals, with at least one doubling its staff and still facing a weekslong backlog. Many hospitals say they already have the proper equipment in place but are ordering more supplies to prepare for a possible new case of Ebola.

This gear is made of material that does not absorb fluids and is crucial to preventing the spread of the virus, which has infected thousands across West Africa, many of whom caught the disease while caring for those infected. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact, through cuts or mucous membranes, with bodily fluids such as blood, vomit and feces, and proper protective equipment helps prevent doctors and nurses from accidentally getting any fluids in their eyes, nose or mouth.

Hospitals are paying close attention to the type of protective gear they stock after two nurses contracted Ebola earlier this month while caring for a Liberian man dying of the disease at a Dallas hospital. The nurses were exposed to the disease during what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called a “breach in protocol” at the hospital. But some medical professionals criticized the CDC for distributing guidelines that do not require medical staff caring for infected patients to don full-body suits or wear multiple layers of gloves.

Likewise, from Deutsche Welle:

Disinfection a growing market

  • Demand for disinfection and disease protection gear is booming amidst concern about the Ebola epidemic

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers amelioration:

Ebola panic may be subsiding in Dallas

Panic over Ebola appears to be waning across much of the Dallas-Fort Worth region as residents drop off the quarantine list and more is learned about how the virus spreads.

Numbers of note from the Washington Post:

U.S. influx of travelers from Ebola-stricken nations slows

During the first five days of screening, there were an average of about 80 travelers a day from the three countries, down from the average of 150 that had been expected.

Enhanced screening at JFK — where about 43 percent of the passengers enter — began on Oct. 11, and was implemented five days later at Dulles and airports in Atlanta, Chicago and Newark.

The number of West Africans arriving in the United States has been closely held by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Passengers from Ebola-stricken countries to use five U.S. airports

Passengers flying to the U.S. from three Ebola-stricken countries will have to fly into one of five designated American airports for additional screening, including having their temperature taken, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Tuesday.

The restriction was immediately criticized by House Republicans who want a complete ban on travelers coming from West African countries with high Ebola infection rates.

Starting Wednesday, airline passengers coming from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea must fly into New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Johnson said.

More screening from the Japan Times:

India to step up travel surveillance to stop any Ebola outbreak

India stepped up its efforts on Tuesday to prevent an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, conducting mock drills at its airports and installing surveillance systems.

Global health authorities are struggling to contain the world’s worst Ebola epidemic since the disease was identified in 1976. The virus has killed more than 4,500 people across the three most-affected countries, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

All international airports and seaports in India will soon be equipped with thermal scanners — similar to Nigeria, which has been declared Ebola-free — and other detection equipment, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Japan screens, and more from Jiji Press:

Fears Grows over Possible Ebola Outbreak in Japan

Japan has become concerned about a possible Ebola outbreak in the country, prompting the health ministry to take precautions such as training doctors and implementing preventive measures at airports.

Fears have grown since medical workers in the United States and Spain suffered secondary infections from sufferers who entered the countries from Africa.

In Japan, Ebola hemorrhagic fever is in the Type 1 category of most dangerous infectious diseases. Only 45 designated medical institutions nationwide are allowed to accept those believed to have the virus.    Each institution can admit between one and four patients.

More from the Japan Times:

Japan orders travelers from Ebola nations to report twice daily

Health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Tuesday travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are now required to report their health condition to officials twice daily for three weeks, regardless of whether they have had known contact with Ebola patients.

The move comes amid growing fears of a global Ebola pandemic. Japan’s response so far includes the introduction of a bill in the Diet that would give local governments greater power to require patients with an infectious disease to submit samples for testing for Ebola.

Shiozaki said the quarantine requirement for travelers will last 21 days.

Still more from Nikkei Asian Review:

Japan getting the lowdown on Ebola from US military

Japan sent five officials, including members of the Self-Defense Forces, to the headquarters of the United States Africa Command in Germany on Tuesday to collect information about the Ebola outbreak and help prevent the spread of the disease.

One of the five, an Air Self-Defense Force major, will remain at the facility in Stuttgart to gather information on the status of regions affected by Ebola and related activities by the armed forces of other countries. The officer is also expected to support the American military in coordinating transportation of personnel and supplies in affected areas.

Some in the U.S. government reportedly want the SDF to participate in activities in affected areas, including constructing medical facilities and transporting supplies. But Japan intends to stay put for now.

And tuurnabout’s fair play, from the Washington Post:

Now an African country is screening incoming Americans and Spaniards for Ebola

According to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda, the tiny land-locked East African nation has begun screening passengers from the United States and Spain for the deadly virus.

From a note on the embassy’s Web site:

Visitors who have been in the United States or Spain during the last 22 days are now required to report their medical condition — regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of Ebola — by telephone by dialing 114 between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for the duration of their visit to Rwanda (if less than 21 days), or for the first 21 days of their visit to Rwanda. Rwandan authorities continue to deny entry to visitors who traveled to Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, or Sierra Leone within the past 22 days.

The screening measures have been in place for two days, and images apparently showing the screening forms have been posted on Twitter.

After the jump, another Carribean travel ban, sparse preparations in Pakistan, British Columbia gets ready, scares and readiness in China, Europe boosts its donations, a new high-speed diagnostic tests as new treatments are rushed into production and vaccine trials commence, Cuba sends more medical teams with thousands of volunteers waiting in the wings, food woes intensify and care gaps wide, the Sierra Leone death tool continues to rise and dubious treatments flourish, retired soldiers are pressed into service, and recovered patients faces growing stigmatization, on to Liberia and a call for border monitors and Kenyans in Monrovia hankering for home, a call for blood, lost survivors, memories of civil war, and tightened controls on the press, Kenya orders border scanners, and the safari business in decline. . .    Continue reading

EbolaWatch: More alarms, profit, pols, Africa


Always Africa. . .

We begin with the crassly commercial, via the Guardian:

Ebola: you’ve read about the disease, now buy the merchandise!

  • Everyone knows about Ebola – which makes it a dream marketing possibility for  companies unhindered by sensitivity. Here’s a selection of their varied wares

Perhaps compulsively buying Ebola products is itself a disease? If so, an epidemic of that too is brewing. Some people think the virus is all part of a conspiracy that must be exposed. Others believe it is the dawn of an apocalypse and are planning their survival. Then there are the people who just need to laugh in the face of so much sombre news (thankfully, we don’t see many of the faces of the people dying). Where there is this kind of demand, there will be supply.

One example of what’s on offer:

BLOG E-thong

Ebolaphobia, via the New York Times:

In U.S., Fear of Ebola Closes Schools and Shapes

A crowd of parents last week pulled their children out of a Mississippi middle school after learning that its principal had traveled to Zambia, an African nation untouched by the disease.

On the eve of midterm elections with control of the United States Senate at stake, politicians from both parties are calling for the end of commercial air traffic between the United States and some African countries, even though most public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a shutdown would compound rather than alleviate the risks.

Carolyn Smith of Louisville, Ky., last week took a rare break from sequestering herself at home to take her fiancé to a doctor’s appointment. She said she was reluctant to leave her house after hearing that a nurse from the Dallas hospital had flown to Cleveland, over 300 miles from her home. “We’re not really going anywhere if we can help it,” Ms. Smith, 50, said.

More from the Guardian:

Panic: the dangerous epidemic sweeping an Ebola-fearing US

  • The fact that a school principal has been to Zambia (2,000 miles from west Africa) is not a good reason to keep your children home

Panic is less a side-effect of Ebola than its own sort of infectious disease, spread by misinformation and fear, a sickness that frays and tears the ways people usually get along. Hysteria shuts down schools and airports, paranoia undermines health workers and law enforcement, and fear encourages some of people’s worst instincts. As of Monday, there’s a lot more panic in the US than Ebola.

In Strong, Maine, an elementary school put a teacher on leave because she travelled to Dallas for a conference and stayed in the Hilton Anatole – “exactly 9.5 miles away” from the hospital where two nurses contracted the virus. The school board said parents feared the teacher could have contacted someone who contacted the nurses, or maybe someone who contacted someone who contacted one of the nurses – a rationale that would have fenced Maine off from Dallas, even though dozens have been declared healthy there.

In Georgia, a school district barred enrolment for students from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea unless they can present a doctor’s clean bill of health. In Hazelhurst, Mississippi, parents pulled children from a middle school after learning that the principal had been to Zambia for his brother’s funeral. Zambia, just a country away from South Africa, is well over 2,000 miles away from the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

Nor is the mania limited to parents. Syracuse University “disinvited” a Pulitzer-winning journalist from speaking because he recently went to Liberia for work. Curiously, the dean who made the call said that while “this is not what you want to do as the dean of a premier journalism school,” she was “unwilling to take any risk”. The journalist, Michel du Cille, who has shown no symptoms and even been to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for work since his return, said he is “completely weirded out that a journalism institution that should be seeking out facts and details is basically pandering to hysteria”.

The Hill poses a question:

Ebola fears: Blame Hollywood?

Losing sleep over Ebola? Blame “The Walking Dead.”

Scholars say the outpouring of public angst about the virus is partly rooted in Hollywood, where film studios have for years cranked out TV shows and movies such as “Outbreak” and “Contagion” that show the world ravaged by an unstoppable virus.

The silver screen portrayals have added to the challenges for public health officials as they try to maintain public calm about a virus that is killing an estimated 7 out of every 10 people it infects in West Africa.

“They’re fictional. They’re meant to entertain,” said Nancy Tomes, a historian who has studied the causes of  “germ panics.”

“They have no obligation to virology. They’re for entertainment. But they do shape the ideas that people have available to make sense of something like this.”

But UN Daily News offers a different, more serious take:

Ebola no longer ‘localized emergency,’ UN health officials tell regional summit in Cuba

Ebola is no longer a localized public health emergency, top UN officials said in Havana today as they commended Cuba for sending doctors and nurses to the affected countries in West Africa, and addressed regional leaders gathering to discuss ways to resolve the emergency and halt spread of the virus to regional States.

Speaking at the Summit of Heads of State of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our Americas (ALBA) on Ebola, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, said cooperation and solidarity are essential, and Cuba and Venezuela, with their contributions, have already demonstrated this.

“I urge countries in the region and around the world to follow the lead of Cuba and Venezuela, who have set a commendable example with their rapid response in support of efforts to contain Ebola,” he said.

Saying that Cuba’s solidarity with other developing countries is well established, Dr. Nabarro commended the Government of the Caribbean island for dispatching a team of 165 medical aid workers to West Africa in early October.

“Cuba’s proud tradition of training doctors from developing countries has also helped improve medical care around the world,” Dr. Nabarro said.

Washington ramps up on the domestic front, via Reuters:

Using military and new protocols, U.S. ramps up Ebola response

The United States is issuing new protocols for health workers treating Ebola patients and a rapid-response military medical team will start training even as Americans’ anxiety about the spread of the virus abates with 43 people declared risk free.

The government’s new guidelines, which were set to come out at 7 p.m. EDT on Monday, were expected to tell health workers to cover skin, eyes and hair completely when dealing with patients who have the virus that has killed more than 4,500 in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

There have been just three cases diagnosed inside the United States, a Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died in Dallas, Texas, on Oct. 8 and two nurses who treated him and are now themselves patients. Among those released from monitoring were four people who shared an apartment with Duncan and had been in quarantine.

And RT raises questions:

US Army withheld promise from Germany that Ebola virus wouldn’t be weaponized

The United States has withheld assurances from Germany that the Ebola virus – among other related diseases – would not be weaponized in the event of Germany exporting it to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.

German MFA Deputy Head of Division for Export Control Markus Klinger provided a paper to the US consulate’s Economics Office (Econoff), “seeking additional assurances related to a proposed export of extremely dangerous pathogens.”

Germany subsequently made two follow-up requests and clarifications to the Army, according to the unclassified Wikileaks cable.

And a refusal from The Hill:

Obama’s Ebola czar declines to testify

The White House’s new Ebola czar will not testify before lawmakers Friday on the U.S. response to the epidemic.

Ron Klain, a Democratic operative, was named as the Obama administration’s point man on Ebola last Friday and will assume the job Wednesday.

Two days after that, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the government’s Ebola response, with Klain among those invited to testify.

The White House declined the invitation on Monday, according to a source close to the back-and-forth.

Clearances from the Los Angeles Times:

Cautious optimism in Dallas as 43 people declared ‘Ebola free’

Dallas County officials on Monday expressed relief with the end of Ebola monitoring for most of the first group of 48 people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of the virus on Oct. 8.

“Today is a milestone day, it’s a hurdle that we need to get over,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a morning briefing.

Duncan, 42, was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Sept. 28, and the group began their 21-day monitoring soon after, including daily visits from public health workers who took their temperatures daily and checked for other symptoms of the deadly virus.

From the Los Angeles Times again, litigation looming:

Ebola patient Amber Vinson’s family disputes CDC story, gets a lawyer

Health officials gave Texas nurse Amber Vinson permission to fly to Ohio and back even though she voiced concern about Ebola, her relatives said Sunday, adding that they have retained a high-profile attorney.

Their statement contradicted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention account of what took place before the nurse was diagnosed with the virus.

CDC officials said last week that Vinson had been told to avoid public transportation, including commercial airlines, while monitoring herself for symptoms. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said her trip to Ohio, which began before fellow nurse Nina Pham had been diagnosed with Ebola, violated that restriction. The agency has acknowledged approving Vinson’s return flight.

The Associated Press points to the deficient:

Urgent-care clinics ill-equipped to treat Ebola

A new concern over the spread of Ebola surfaced recently when a Dallas County sheriff’s deputy who searched the apartment of the first patient to die from the virus in the U.S. started feeling ill and went to an urgent-care center.

The clinics popping up rapidly across the nation aren’t designed to treat serious illnesses and are ill-equipped to deal with suspected Ebola cases.

Doctors are urging patients to avoid smaller medical facilities and head to emergency rooms if they think they’ve been exposed to the virus that has put a focus on weak spots in the U.S. health care system.

The Christian Science Monitor covers political divisions:

Sharp divide in how key voters view US government’s Ebola response

  • Republican voters in electoral battleground states have far less confidence in US efforts to fight Ebola than do Democrats, a new poll shows

Anxiety is the dominant emotion among voters in battleground states and districts heading into Election Day, according to a poll released Monday by Politico.

From Ebola and the Islamic State to health care and the economy, voters are feeling shaky about the nation’s ability to cope with a variety of challenges. Overall, this sense of skepticism has not given either party a strong advantage in the midterms. Forty-four percent of battleground voters plan to vote Democratic, versus 41 percent for Republicans.

But on the federal government’s response to the Ebola virus, Republican voters in battleground races are much more skeptical than their Democratic counterparts, the poll found. Among the voters in that sample who plan to vote Republican on Nov. 4, only 43 percent said they have “a lot” or “some” confidence that the federal government is doing “everything possible to contain the spread of Ebola,” the poll found. Among Democratic voters, the number was 81 percent.

The Los Angeles Times covers absent impacts:

Ebola scare has had minimal effect on business travel, survey finds

The Ebola scare that has prompted calls for a travel ban and a quarantine of visitors from West Africa has done little to dampen business travel from the U.S.

Nearly 80% of corporate travel managers surveyed said the Ebola outbreak had either no or little effect on scheduled international travel, and more than 90% said the disease had no or little effect on domestic travel.

The survey of 421 corporate travel managers by the Global Business Travel Assn. was taken Oct. 13 to 15, about the time of news that a Dallas nurse flew on two Frontier Airlines flights before testing positive for the deadly disease. Amber Vinson, 29, contracted Ebola while treating a Liberian man who died of the disease.

Troubles unresolved from  Homeland Security News Wire:

States’ waste disposal laws limit hospitals’ Ebola-related disposal options

As U.S. hospitals prepare their staff for the possibility of admitting Ebola patients, many are concerned with the laws governing the disposal of Ebola-contaminated medical waste. Protective gloves, gowns, masks, medical instruments, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, and even pillowcases used on a single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate roughly eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day. The CDC recommends autoclaving or incinerating the waste as a way to destroy the microbes, but California and at least seven other states prohibit burning infected waste.

As U.S. hospitals prepare their staff for the possibility of admitting Ebola patients, many are concerned with the laws governing the disposal of Ebola-contaminated medical waste. “We fully expect that it’s coming our way,” Jennifer Bayer, spokeswoman for the Hospital Association of Southern California, said of the virus. “Not to create any sort of scare, but just given the makeup of our population and the hub that we are, it’s very likely.”

Protective gloves, gowns, masks, medical instruments, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, and even pillowcases used on a single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate roughly eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends autoclaving or incinerating the waste as a way to destroy the microbes, but California and at least seven other states prohibit burning infected waste. “These are some pretty big issues and they need some quick attention,” said Bayer.

A costly discharge, from the London Daily Mail:

German clinic forced to scrap two machines worth £1m because Ebola patient vomited on them

  • Patient was infected while treating Ebola victims in Sierra Leone
  • Was airlifted to hospital in Hamburg for specialist care
  • He recovered after five weeks of intense treatment
  • Not before vomiting on two expensive machines that now must be replaced

A German hospital is counting the cost of treating a single Ebola patient after being forced to write off £1million worth of equipment after a man infected with the virus vomited on it.

The University Clinic Eppendorf in Hamburg, a specialist centre for contagious diseases, gave the man intensive treatment for five weeks after he became infected while working for the World Health Organisation in Sierra Leone in August.

The treatment worked and the patient was declared Ebola-free and released earlier this month.

And from the Toronto Globe and Mail, capitalism at its finest:

As Ebola raged, Ottawa sold masks and gowns to highest bidder

Ottawa continued to auction off stockpiled medical supplies to the public, even after the World Health Organization requested the protective gear amid an Ebola outbreak raging in West Africa.

Sales of so-called Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which includes surgical masks and isolation gowns, also apparently took place despite requests that are said to have been made this summer via both Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the U.S. and a Canadian aid organization for donations to equip front-line health-care workers. And some of the low-priced auctioned gear landed in the hands of entrepreneurs who then tried to hawk the items for a profit.

An estimated $1.5-million worth of stockpiled Public Health Agency of Canada medical supplies were auctioned for just a fraction of that figure, raising questions about the true value of Canada’s contribution to the global fight against Ebola – and Ottawa’s own handling of it.

Drug news from News On Japan:

Fujifilm says to make Avigan anti-flu drug for more Ebola patients

Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp said on Monday it was expanding the production of its Avigan anti-influenza drug to reach an additional number of Ebola patients.

France and Guinea plan to conduct clinical trials of Avigan 200 mg tablets, made by Fujifilm group company Toyama Chemical Co, in Guinea to treat Ebola in mid-November, Fujifilm said in a statement.

“Some research papers report that Avigan also shows efficacy against the Ebola virus in animal testing with mice, and Avigan has already been administered as an emergency treatment to several (Ebola) patients evacuated from West Africa to Europe,” the company said.

After the jump, screening in Hong Kong, quantifying the likelihood of air transport infections, Chinese aid contributions lag [but so do America’s], one group at the forefront, on to Africa and another fatality on the U.N. staff, Nigeria gets a clean bill of health and sets the bar for other African nations plus the secret of their success, Britain ups Sierra Leone aid, on to Liberia and a case of tragic superstition, a ravaged village, connecting the dots, a presidential son’s arrogance, and death in the military barracks, plus the challenge of journalism in the hot zone. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Phobia, pols, meds, & Africa


Always Africa, though news from the continent is slow today.

First from the London Daily Mail, which gets it about right:

Ebola hysteria sweeps US schools: Teacher who visited Dallas told not to come to work as hundreds of Mississippi parents pull kids school because principal visited Zambia… 3,000 miles from countries hit by the disease

  • Maine elementary teacher stayed 9.5 miles from Ebola hospital in Texas
  • She has been ordered into isolation for 21 days amid ‘parents’ concerns’
  • In Mississippi, hundreds of parents pulled kids from middle school after principal visited Zambia – a country 3,000 miles from Ebola-hit nations
  • Parents at nearby high school also removed children to ‘avoid risk’

CNN reports on the growing American Ebolaphobia:

U.S. public ‘very worried’ about Ebola

Program notes:

The fear of Ebola is fraying nerves and ringing false alarms across the country. Ted Rowlands reports.

From AllAfrica, the silver lining in the Ebolaphobia cloud:

How Ebola Could Save Thousands of U.S. Lives

If media coverage of the three Ebola cases in the United States – some of it calling attention to the far greater danger of influenza – causes more people to ask their doctors about a flu shot, Ebola could end up saving many lives

Have you had your flu shot this year?

The highly contagious respiratory infection is linked to as many as 50,000 annual deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 20,000 children under five are hospitalized.

If media coverage of the three Ebola cases in the United States – some of it calling attention to the far greater danger of influenza – causes more people to ask their doctors about a flu shot, Ebola could end up saving many lives. Strong statements by Fox news anchor Scott Shepherd and New York Times columnist Frank Bruni (Scarier Than Ebola) are examples of what could prove to be life-saving reporting.

The Pentagon gets busy, via the Los Angeles Times:

Pentagon announces Ebola rapid-response team for U.S. cases of virus

The Pentagon announced Sunday it is putting together a 30-person rapid-response team that could provide quick medical support to civilian healthcare workers if additional cases of the Ebola virus are diagnosed in the United States.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered U.S. Northern Command Commander Gen. Chuck Jacoby to assemble the team, which was requested by the Department of Health and Human Services, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.

The team will consist of 20 critical-care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease, and five trainers in infectious-disease protocols.

CBC News covers measures to the north:

Canada’s Ebola response gets fresh test in Nova Scotia

  • One of 5 rapid response teams ready to aid local health authorities

Nova Scotia has been chosen for a second test of Canada’s response to Ebola.

On Sunday, a team from the federal Public Health Agency arrived to brief health-care providers on the techniques they will be reportedly practising on Monday should a confirmed case of Ebola arrive in Canada.

“Drills, dry runs, and practising are important to ensuring that our teams are able to respond without hesitation in the event of a case of Ebola,” Health Minister Rona Ambrose said in a news release.

The agency says if a case of Ebola is ever confirmed in Canada, one of the five Ebola rapid response teams would work with local health authorities to prevent its spread.

Each team comprises a field epidemiologist, an infection control expert, a bio-safety expert, a laboratory expert, a communications expert and a logistics expert. Aircraft are stationed in Winnipeg and Ottawa.

And a video report from the Public Health Agency of Canada:

PHAC Rapid Response Team

Program note:

Ebola Rapid Response Team practices deploying to a simulated case of Ebola

From The Hill, czarist politics:

Praise, criticism for Obama’s Ebola czar pick

President Obama’s selection to lead the administration’s Ebola response drew both praise and criticism from guests on the Sunday morning political shows.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pushed back at GOP opposition to Obama’s new czar, Ron Klain, calling him an “excellent manager.”

Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore and later Vice President Joe Biden, will take the reins of the administration’s Ebola strategy next week. He was named to the position on Friday.

When asked if a healthcare professional would be a better choice, Fauci said “not necessarily.”

From the Washington Post, surprise, surprise:

Why Democrats are sounding like Republicans on Ebola and the GOP is moving into overdrive

Democrats are beginning to sound more like Republicans when they talk about Ebola. And Republicans are moving into overdrive with their criticism of the government’s handling of the deadly virus.

The sharpened rhetoric, strategists say, suggests Democrats fear President Obama’s response to Ebola in the United States could become a political liability in the midterm election and Republicans see an opportunity to tie increasing concerns about the disease to the public’s broader worries about Obama’s leadership.

“This is feeding into the Republican narrative that Democrats don’t know how to govern and government is too large,” said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). Democrats, Manley said, “are desperate to try to demonstrate that they have tough ideas to respond to the crisis.”

Failure acknowledged, via the Los Angeles Times:

Fauci acknowledges that Ebola guidelines failed to protect caregivers

A top federal health official conceded Sunday that the government-recommended protective gear worn by nurses and doctors caring for patients sickened by Ebola has been inadequate to protect caregivers from infection.

The official, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that medical professionals need gear that would provide complete, head-to-toe coverage, shielding their skin from contact with an Ebola patient’s body or its fluids.

Serving as the Obama administration’s sole spokesman for Ebola on five national television talk shows Sunday, Fauci indicated that new guidelines for “personal-protective’‘ gear were about to be issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He acknowledged that two nurses in Dallas may have been infected by their exposure to an Ebola-infected patient that they cared for who ultimately died, Thomas E. Duncan.

The original guidelines, Fauci said, “did have some exposure of skin in the sense you had a mask—but there was some skin that was exposed and some hair that was exposed.’‘ Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,’‘ Fauci added, “we want to make sure that’s no longer the case.’‘

More failure acknowledged, via the New York Times:

C.E.O. of Texas Hospital Group Apologizes for Mistakes in Ebola Cases

The head of the group that runs the Texas hospital under scrutiny for mishandling Ebola cases apologized Sunday in full-page ads in local Dallas newspapers, saying the hospital “made mistakes in handling this very difficult challenge.”

Barclay E. Berdan, chief executive of the Texas Health Resources, which operates a network of 25 hospitals here, said in an open letter that hospital officials were deeply sorry for having misdiagnosed symptoms shown by Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was sent home after his first visit to the emergency room of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, but was later readmitted and then died of the virus two weeks later.

“The fact that Mr. Duncan had traveled to Africa was not communicated effectively among the care team, though it was in his medical chart,” Mr. Berdan wrote. “On that visit to the Emergency Department, we did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. For this we are deeply sorry.”

And a diagnosis from the Progressive:

Top Doc Says Ebola Shows Skewed Priorities

The Ebola crisis has revealed severe deficiencies in how the American health care system works, experts say.

Dr. Walter Tsou, past president of the American Public Health Association and the former health commissioner for Philadelphia, says that the Ebola crisis shows the skewed priorities of the U.S. health care system.

“Our chronic disease-oriented health care system is ill-equipped to address an acute infectious disease outbreak,” Dr. Tsou, a board adviser to Physicians for a National Health Program, tells The Progressive. “We don’t have enough biocontainment units, sufficiently trained experts on how to control for highly infectious disease agents, trained sanitation crews who can clean up and properly handle waste disposal.”

Tsou says that the Ebola epidemic has uncovered big flaws in the global health system, too.

The Los Angeles Times covers Golden State preparations:

Gov. Brown to meet with nursing groups to discuss Ebola preparations

Leaders of two nursing organizations say they plan to meet Tuesday with Gov. Jerry Brown to call on the state to upgrade Ebola training and safety precautions for California health professionals.

The California Nurses Assn. and National Nurses United are asking state regulators to formally adopt what they called “optimal safety standards,” including requirements for Hazmat suits and accelerated hands-on training programs.

“California hospitals have been appallingly slow in moving to enact any effective protocols, much less the highest standards, in response to this virulent Ebola threat that has already infected two nurses in Dallas,” NNU and CNA Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said in a statement.

And from the New York Times, their ship just came in:

Ebola Watch Lists in U.S. to Shrink, Cruise Passenger Cleared

Some of the dozens of people who are being watched for possible exposure to Ebola in the United States are expected to be cleared on Sunday and Monday, potentially easing concerns about the spread of the disease after two nurses were infected.

A Dallas lab worker who spent much of a Caribbean holiday cruise in isolation tested negative for the deadly virus and left the Carnival Magic liner with other passengers after it docked at Galveston, Texas, early on Sunday morning.

The precautions taken for the cruise passenger reflected widespread anxiety over Ebola in the United States, including calls from some lawmakers for a travel ban on West Africa.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the post-quarantine question:

As 21-day Ebola quarantine ends, what’s to fear?

The first wave of people, including the fiance of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, will emerge from a state-ordered, 21-day Ebola quarantine Monday, which should probably spark relief in a region that desperately wants to escape the shadow of the epidemic.

But church officials are considering extra security for Louise Troh and her children amid ongoing fears about Ebola across Dallas-Fort Worth _ and throughout the United States.

Experts who study psychology say the release of 48 people from the Ebola watchlist back into society, and the expected onslaught of news coverage about them shopping at local grocery stores and returning to schools, could fuel another wave of irrational fears.

From the London Daily Mail, doubly devastated:

‘They are left with nothing’: Devastated girlfriend of Ebola patient zero Thomas Eric Duncan to be released from quarantine after Hazmat teams destroyed almost all their belongings

  • The fiancée of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan will be released from quarantine at midnight tonight – but will emerged with hardly any possession after they were destroyed by hazmat teams.
  • Louise Troh, 54, missed her boyfriend’s funeral while she was locked away for the duration of the deadly virus’s 21-day incubation period, which expires tonight.
  • During the frantic operation to seal off Duncan’s apartment in Dallas and eliminate all traces of the disease, she also lost the majority of her belongings.
  • Only a few personal documents, some photographs, and a single Bible escaped the cleansing operation.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the latest form of prejudice:

In Texas, Liberian Americans weary of Ebola stigma

When Otto Williams opened his mouth last week to say that he’d be happy to work a new job installing home heating and air conditioning units, the contractor listened to Williams’s accent and asked where he was he from.

“Liberia,” said Williams, 42, an HVAC technician. Knowing the concerns some people have about the Ebola virus, he made sure to smile.

But soon, the contractor mentioned he was in a hurry, excused himself and promised to call Williams back. He didn’t.

“It’s gotten to the point where you don’t want to mention you’re Liberian,” Williams said.

More from the Washington Post:

West Africans in Washington say they are being stigmatized because of Ebola fear

Alphonso Toweh was riding a bus when a man sitting next to him politely asked where he was from.

“Liberia,” said Toweh, a writer from Monrovia who is visiting the Washington area, home to the nation’s second-largest population of African immigrants.

“At that point, the man went far from me,” he said. “He did not want to come close to me. People, once they know you are Liberian — people assume you have the virus in your body, which is not the case.”

The Japan Times covers a patient recovered:

Spain: Nursing assistant clear of Ebola virus

An initial test shows that a nursing assistant who became infected with Ebola in Spain is now clear of all traces of the virus nearly two weeks after she was hospitalized, authorities said Sunday.

Teresa Romero, 44, is the first person known to have contracted the disease outside West Africa in the current outbreak when she tested positive for the virus Oct. 6. She has been in quarantine at Carlos III hospital in Madrid since then.

A statement Sunday said a blood test revealed that Romero’s immune system had eliminated the virus from her body. The statement came from the Spanish government committee in charge of the nation’s Ebola crisis. A second test in the coming hours is needed to absolutely confirm Romero’s recovery, said Manuel Cuenca, microbiology director at Madrid’s Carlos III health care complex.

From the Associated Press, another screening program launched:

Belgium’s main airport to begin Ebola screening

Brussels Airport says it will begin screening passengers arriving from Ebola-stricken countries Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The airport operator says passengers arriving from these three countries will have their temperatures taken starting Monday.

Four flights a week from the area concerned arrive weekly at Brussels Airport. Similar measures were begun Saturday at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, where one daily flight arrives from Conakry, Guinea.

And from the Guardian, a renewed push for Aussie medical aid:

Ebola: Labor renews calls for health workers to be sent to west Africa

  • Tanya Plibersek says Australia would be in ‘big trouble’ if it waited for virus to spread to Asia Pacific before offering help

Australia would be in “big trouble” if it waited for the Ebola virus to spread to the Asia-Pacific region before acting, the opposition has said, as the government called for bipartisanship on the serious health issue.

The health minister, Peter Dutton, said on Sunday the government continued to talk with other countries about what support could be provided if Australian medical teams were dispatched to west Africa and later needed to be evacuated.

Dutton accused Labor of “playing politics with a very important issue” and indicated that Australia was “ready to rapidly deploy support” if an outbreak occurred in near neighbours such as Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands.

Questions from the Associated Press:

Effectiveness of Ebola travel ban questioned

A ban on travel from West Africa might seem like a simple and smart response to the frightening Ebola outbreak there. It’s become a central demand of Republicans on Capitol Hill and some Democrats, and is popular with the public. But health experts are nearly unanimous in saying it’s a bad idea that could backfire.

The experts’ key objection is that a travel ban could prevent needed medical supplies, food and health care workers from reaching Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the nations where the epidemic is at its worst. Without that aid, the deadly virus might spread to wider areas of Africa, making it even more of a threat to the U.S. and the world, experts say.

In addition, preventing people from the affected countries from traveling to the U.S. could be difficult to enforce and might generate counterproductive results, such as people lying about their travel history or attempting to evade screening.

After the jump, China and Japan mull partnerships with Washington, front line nurses speak out, the problem with bushmeat, the sorrows of surviving, a continent’s image tarnished, Washington’s military point man hails progress, the WHO plans an African meet, Nigeria to get an all-clear, troubling news for a British survivor, defenses bolstered in the Gambia, a troubling sign in Zimbabwe, and the African Union sends help, on to Liberia and a presidential cry for help, a hopeful sign, and survivors mask a plea for help — plus a suggestion we really like. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: A matter of perspective


Time for another reminder, via the Los Angeles Times, that Ebola is just the highest-profile killer stalking Africa:

BLOG African deaths

EnviroWatch: Struggles, species, and fuels


We begin today’s report on the relationship between people and world with two  videos on struggles to save some of the world’s truly wonderful places from the ravages of development.

First, via Mother Jones:

Fight for Areng Valley

Background from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting:

Fight for Areng Valley

A revolution is awakening in Cambodia—with protests led by a monk who is speaking out against the environmental destruction of his country.

The Cambodian government intends to build a network of 17 dams across Cambodia, hoping this will generate enough electricity to meet domestic demand, reduce energy costs, and export surplus energy abroad. While the goal of transforming Cambodia into the power plant of Southeast Asia may promise economic gain, it also entails significant costs.

For this project, filmmaker Kalyanee Mam travels to Areng Valley, a remote area in southwest Cambodia at the foot of the Central Cardamom Protected Forests. She follows a group of young dissident monks who traveled over 150 miles from Phnom Penh, the capital, to join the Chong people in their fight to protect their forests, livelihood, and heritage from the looming construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Mam looks at how the Chong people of Areng Valley and the monks of Cambodia are striving to protect not only the forests, but also the very essence of the Cambodian people’s livelihood and spiritual well-being, rooted and grounded in nature.

Born in Cambodia, Mam fled her home country in 1979, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, which claimed nearly two million lives. When she returned to Cambodia for the first time in 1998, Cambodia was rebuilding from the rubble of civil war. Now, 16 years later, the country must balance its need to feed the energy demands of a burgeoning society with the necessity of conserving and protecting its natural resources.

Next, via Yale Environment 360:

Indonesia – Dayaks and Drones- How technology can promote sustainable forests and communities

Program notes:

The villagers of Setulang in Indonesian Borneo have enlisted a new ally in their fight against the illegal clearing of their forests for oil palm plantations: aerial drones.

Setulang lies within a forest conservation area managed by the indigenous Dayak people, who have fostered a thriving tourism industry based on the rainforest’s rich biodiversity and their own cultural heritage. After successfully ousting an oil palm company operating illegally in their territory, the Dayaks are now hoping the drones can help them protect their land.

“Dayaks and Drones,” a video produced by Handcrafted Films, chronicles how the villagers teamed up with an Indonesian nonprofit to learn how to program and operate drones. Equipped with GPS technology, the small drones photograph the forest and monitor the area for illegal activities, especially plantations and mines. The villagers will use information gathered by the drones to create a detailed map of their land, which will help in future conservation efforts.

“The international community must help Indonesia accelerate the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples,” Abdon Nababan, an Indonesian indigenous rights leader, tells the filmmakers.

From the Observer, a magnificent species draws closer to extinction:

Death of white rhino in Kenya leaves only six animals alive in the world

  • Fears grow for future of northern white rhino species after loss of 34-year-old Suni, one of last two breeding males in the world

An endangered northern white rhino has died in Kenya, a wildlife conservancy has said, meaning only six of the animals are left alive in the world.

Suni, a 34-year-old northern white, and the first of his species to be born in captivity, was found dead on Friday by rangers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy near Nairobi. While there are thousands of southern white rhinos in the plains of sub-Saharan Africa, decades of rampant poaching has meant the northern white rhino is close to extinction.

Suni was one of the last two breeding males in the world as no northern white rhinos are believed to have survived in the wild. Though the conservancy said Suni was not poached, the cause of his death is currently unclear.

More species in decline via the Hindu:

Over one-fifth of India’s frogs under threat

More than 20 per cent of frogs and toads — 78 of the 340 species — found in India are under threat, according recent findings of the Zoological Survey of India.

In a publication titled ‘Threatened Amphibians of India’, which catalogues these species, the ZSI pointed out that of the species under threat, 17 are ‘critically endangered; 32 are ‘endangered’, 22 are ‘vulnerable’, and the remaining seven are ‘near threatened species’.

According to ZSI scientist Kaushik Deuti, frogs and toads are very sensitive to habitat and climate change and are referred as “bio indicators.” “Their presence or absence denotes whether a habitat is in good condition or is undergoing change and is under threat,” he said. One of the main reasons behind the diminishing numbers of the amphibians, ZSI director K. Venkataraman said, was climate change, widespread deforestation and destruction of the frogs’ natural habitat. Frogs are also captured to be sold off in the global market.

According to the ZSI, of the 17 critically-endangered species — whose total population is less than 250 — one particular species of frog, known as Resplendent Bush Frog (Raorchestes resplendens), can only be found in a 3 sq km area atop the Anamudi Peak in Kerala’s Idukki district.

Still more species in decline from the Ecologist:

African habitat loss driving migrating birds’ decline

A new report reveals huge declines in the UK’s migratory birds that winter deep in Africa’s rainforests. Shorter distance migrants are performing much better, with some recording big population increases.

The latest in the annual series of State of the UK’s Birds report, published today, shows alarming declines among 29 migrant species which nest in the UK in summer and spend the winter around the Mediterranean, or in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

The most dramatic declines are among species which winter in the humid zone of Africa – stretching across the continent from southern Senegal to Nigeria and beyond.

Of this group of species, which includes whinchat, nightingale, tree pipit and spotted flycatcher, 73% have declined since the late 1980s, 45% by more than half.

One of the most dramatic declines is that of the turtle dove with a decline of 88% since 1995. Heavy declines have also been recorded over the same period for wood warbler, down 66%; pied flycatcher, 53%; spotted flycatcher, 49%; cuckoo, 49%; nightingale, 43%; and yellow wagtail, 43%.

On to fuelishness with In These Times:

Building Trades Chief Lauds Fracking Boom, Shrugs Off Environmental Concerns

On Tuesday, the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee released a report by Dr. Robert Bruno and Michael Cornfield of the University of Illinois which found that from 2008 to 2014, oil and gas development created 45,000 new jobs in the Marcellus Shale region—an area that includes parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The data came from the BCTD; the National Maintenance Agreements Policy Committee, a joint labor-management committee that oversees collective bargaining agreements in the construction industry; and Industrial Info Resources, a third party specializing in “global market intelligence.”

Two days later, BCTD president Sean McGarvey, who also serves as chair of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee and whose union is a member of the committee, praised the report and defended the thriving industry.

“Oil and gas industry spending in the Marcellus Shale region has led to significant increases in construction and maintenance jobs,” McGarvey told reporters on a conference call. “At a time when the U.S. construction industry was in the midst of what was arguably a depression, … one of the few, if not only, bright spots, were the jobs that were created by virtue of domestic oil and gas development.”

And one side effect from Yale Environment 360:

With the Boom in Oil and Gas, Pipelines Proliferate in the U.S.

The rise of U.S. oil and gas production has spurred a dramatic expansion of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure. As the lines reach into new communities and affect more property owners, concerns over the environmental impacts are growing.

In the spring of 2012, about nine years after Melissa Owen and her husband purchased 640 acres of remote Arizona desert that they hoped to turn into a wildlife refuge, a representative from the energy giant Kinder Morgan knocked on their front door. The man said his company planned to

They didn’t give it, and the Kinder Morgan visit set off what Owen calls some of the most trying years of her life. Petitions to the pipeline company, local county officials, the U.S. government, and a variety of environmental groups failed to stop the pipeline from earning the necessary permits and gaining access to Owen’s land.

“I’d get up at three in the morning, write letters to the government and Kinder Morgan, and research what I could do, then do my ranch work,” she said. “Then I’d start all over again the next day.”

Next, via the Ecologist, a real gas:

NASA confirms US’s 2,500-square-mile methane cloud

When NASA researchers first saw data indicating a massive cloud of methane floating over the American Southwest, they found it so incredible that they dismissed it as an instrument error.

But as they continued analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography instrument from 2002 to 2012, the ‘atmospheric hot spot’ kept appearing.

The team at NASA was finally able to take a closer look, and have now concluded that there is in fact a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane – roughly the size of Delaware – floating over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all intersect.

This discovery follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new estimates of methane’s ‘global warming potential’ (GWP): 34 over 100 years, and 86 over 20 years. That number reflects how much more powerful methane is than CO2.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Japan Times:

Record cesium level detected in Fukushima No. 1 groundwater; Tepco blames heavy rainfall

A record 264,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per liter has been detected in groundwater at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station, Tokyo Electric Power Co. disclosed Saturday.

The sample was taken Thursday from an observation well near reactor 2 reactor of the plant, which was destroyed by the March 2011 quake and tsunami.

According to Tepco, recent heavy rains pushed up the levels of groundwater, causing it to reach soil containing highly radioactive water leaked earlier from the plant’s crippled reactors.

The per liter level of cesium-137 rose to 200,000 becquerels from 190,000 becquerels in groundwater sampled from the same well on Wednesday. The cesium-134 level was unchanged at 64,000 becquerels.

Finally, from Corriere della Sera, another nuclear woe:

Italy’s Radiation-porous Ports

  • About € 25 million spent on protecting coastline against contaminated materials but ports remain exposed

Italy spend about L.45 billion in 1999 on scanners that could detect radioactivity in cargo arriving from abroad. But even though another €1 million was paid out for acceptance inspections in 2003, the special portals installed at harbour border crossings have remained out of service.

Italy is a major importer of metals, which means that the issue is exceptionally important, not least because in the past the Bel Paese has featured in the illegal trafficking of radioactive waste. The risk of discovering that items in your home are radioactive is far from hypothetical. Here are one or two examples. At Genoa in 2011, checks carried out by a privately owned company led to the blocking of a container carrying several tonnes of cobalt 60-contaminated metal. The cargo had arrived from the United Arab Emirates and was for use at a factory in the province of Alessandria. Before reaching Liguria, the metal, which was accompanied by a waybill, had passed through the port of Gioia Tauro. No one noticed that the container was releasing radiation. Cobalt 60 has turned up in several places up and down Italy. In 2013, it was detected in kitchen utensils on sale in a number of shops. The goods had passed through the port of Taranto without the slightest difficulty. At Turin in 2012, a batch of household trays was found to be radioactive. It’s easy to imagine how many at-risk items could have crossed Italy’s borders and entered the country undetected in recent years.

Map of the day: Flights in the Ebola Hot Zone


Both commercial airlines and UN aid flights, via the UN Global Ebola Response Coalition:

BLOG Africa flights