Category Archives: Agriculture

EnviroWatch: Ills, toxins, climate, & GMOs


And nukes. . .

First up, this from BBC News:

Kenya Catholic Church tetanus vaccine fears ‘unfounded’

Kenya’s government has dismissed allegations made by the country’s Catholic Church that a tetanus vaccine can cause sterility in women. “It’s a safe certified vaccine,” Health Minister James Macharia told the BBC.

Catholic priests have been telling their congregations to boycott a campaign that begins on Monday to vaccinate women against tetanus.

Tetanus is regarded as a big threat to babies in Kenya, with a new-born child dying every day of the infection. According to Kenya’s health ministry, about 550 babies died of tetanus in Kenya last year.

Our pills, drugging the fish, via the Guardian:

Drugs flushed into the environment could be cause of wildlife decline

  • New studies show antidepressants causing starlings to feed less and contraceptive drugs reducing fish populations in lakes

Potent pharmaceuticals flushed into the environment via human and animal sewage could be a hidden cause of the global wildlife crisis, according to new research. The scientists warn that worldwide use of the drugs, which are designed to be biologically active at low concentrations, is rising rapidly but that too little is currently known about their effect on the natural world.

Studies of the effect of pharmaceutical contamination on wildlife are rare but new work published on Monday reveals that an anti-depressant reduces feeding in starlings and that a contraceptive drug slashes fish populations in lakes.

“With thousands of pharmaceuticals in use globally, they have the potential to have potent effects on wildlife and ecosystems,” said Kathryn Arnold, at the University of York, who edited a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. “Given the many benefits of pharmaceuticals, there is a need for science to deliver better estimates of the environmental risks they pose.”

From the Independent, an aquatic conquest dreaded:

Alien species in UK could cause an ‘environmental catastrophe’ for British rivers

Five of Europe’s deadliest freshwater species are now in UK waters wreaking havoc on the environment, a Cambridge University study has warned. At least 10 more are expected in the next half-decade.

Invasive species impact on the biodiversity of Britain by eating native species as well as affecting human health and the economy. Many originate from the Black, Asov and Caspian seas around Turkey and Ukraine. Scientists worry that some may already be in Britain, but as yet undiscovered.

Fears have now been raised by the discovery of the quagga mussel in a reservoir near Heathrow. The molluscs, originally from Ukraine, were identified as the single greatest potential threat to the UK’s wildlife of any alien species in 2013. They have now arrived.

The Ecologist covers other kinds of invasive species:

Big Biotech’s African seed takeover

Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Limagrain are among the companies to buy into Africa’s indigenous seed companies. It’s all part of the corporate takeover of the continent’s agriculture at the expense of the small farmers who feed most of Africa’s people.

French seed giant Groupe Limagrain, the largest seed and plant breeding company in the European Union, has invested up to US$60 million for a 28% stake in SeedCo, one of Africa’s largest home-grown seed companies.

In another transaction, SeedCo has agreed to sell 49% of its shares in Africa’s only cottonseed company, Quton, to Mahyco of India – which is 26% owned by Monsanto.

Mahyco specialises in hybrid cotton varieties, and has a 50:50 joint venture with Monsanto to license its genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton throughout India. By contrast Quton produces unpatented , non-GMO ‘open-pollinated varieties’ (OPVs) of cottonseed.

From the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, organized resistance mounts as a nation’s legislators prepare to pass corporate-backed pro-GMO legislation:

Do not pass the “Plants Breeders Bill”

From the Jakarta Globe, lax ecocidal punishment lamented:

Riau Police Lament ‘Light’ Sentences for Those Burning Forests

As thick haze continues to cover large parts of Sumatra, police in Riau say that those responsible for the problem are getting away with sentences so lenient that there is hardly any deterrent effect.

“It has come to our attention that the sentences are around three months in prison on average, which is very light, and the toughest sentence is only five months,” Brig. Gen. Dolly Bambang Hermawan, the chief of Riau Police, was quoted as saying by state-run Antara news agency on Monday.

Dolly said that the courts are ignoring the fact that the raging forest and bush fires are a major problem. “Many people get sick, flights are disturbed,” he said.

The courts are not only lenient in cases of private individuals caught setting fire to swathes of land, but also to companies, Dolly said, citing the example of Adei Plantation and Industry.

A Bankster’s carbon bubble alert, via the Guardian:

Mark Carney: most fossil fuel reserves can’t be burned

  • Bank of England governor lends his support to ‘carbon bubble’ theory that coal, gas and oil assets are at risk, reports BusinessGreen

The governor of the Bank of England has reiterated his warning that fossil fuel companies cannot burn all of their reserves if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change, and called for investors to consider the long-term impacts of their decisions.

According to reports, Carney told a World Bank seminar on integrated reporting on Friday that the “vast majority of reserves are unburnable” if global temperature rises are to be limited to below 2C.

Carney is the latest high profile figure to lend his weight to the “carbon bubble” theory, which warns that fossil fuel assets, such as coal, oil and gas, could be significantly devalued if a global deal to tackle climate change is reached.

Pentagonal perceptions of climate change, via the Verge:

Even the Pentagon agrees: climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’

  • Climate change makes pretty much everything worse — including terrorist groups

A new report from the Pentagon says that climate change poses a threat to national security — multiplying risks from terrorism, infectious disease, and food and water shortages. The bottom line? There may be a greater need for military response to disasters, as the changing weather creates new catastrophes.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one that’s concerned. Earlier this month, the British Medical Journal called on the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency, based on a projected 250,000 additional deaths from 2030 and 2050. Today’s report from the Pentagon suggests ways for the military to respond to rising sea levels, as well as extreme weather such as violent storms or droughts. There are no specific budget recommendations in it, however.

Climate change may cause large-scale migrations of people away from areas affected by drought or heavy weather. That could give rise to more terrorist threats, Marcus King, an expert on climate change at George Washington University, told The New York Times. He suggested that climate change may have played a role in the rise of the Islamic State.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with the Mainichi:

Contracts for interim radioactive waste storage sites in Fukushima due to expire

Property leases for many interim radioactive waste storage facilities in Fukushima Prefecture are set to expire staring this month, a Mainichi Shimbun survey of local municipalities has found.

A total of 46 out of 47 municipalities in the prefecture subject to Fukushima nuclear disaster decontamination work responded to the Mainichi survey request, sent out in August this year. According to the results, as of the end of July, there were 859 temporary storage sites in 40 of the municipalities, holding some 3,194,688 cubic meters of radioactive soil and other contaminated waste from the disaster cleanup.

A government plan drawn up in October 2011 stated these sites would be closed in roughly three years. Accordingly, the central and local governments leased properties for many of the facilities for a three-year term. The leases for lands hosting 105 facilities storing 178,192 cubic meters of waste will reach their third year by the end of January 2015 — shrinking storage capacity even as the volume of waste increases as decontamination work continues.

Similar problems elsewhere, via the Japan Times:

As nuclear waste piles up, South Korea faces storage crisis

The world’s fifth-largest user of nuclear power has around 70 percent, or nearly 9,000 tons, of its used fuel stacked in temporary storage pools originally intended to hold it for five or six years, with some sites due to fill by the end of 2016.

It plans to cram those sites with more fuel than they were originally intended to hold while it looks for a permanent solution, suggesting little has been learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

In the Fukushima crisis that started in 2011, the storage of large amounts of spent nuclear fuel in elevated pools posed a threat of massive radioactive release on top of meltdowns at three reactors. Spent fuel rods heated up after a quake knocked out water-cooling pumps, underlining the dangers of holding troves of radioactive material in relatively exposed cooling ponds.

And our final item, a British nuclear challenge via the Guardian:

Ecotricity considers legal challenge over EU go-ahead for Hinkley Point C

  • Energy supplier joins growing number of firms and organisations seeking to block planned subsidy scheme for new nuclear plan

Independent energy supplier Ecotricity is among companies and organisations considering a legal challenge against the European commission decision to give approval to Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.

Austria has already promised to fight the decision in the courts but Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, said he might stand as an “interested party” in the European court of justice to block the planned subsidy scheme for the £24bn project in Somerset.

“This is a mad decision by Brussels and a patriotic issue for us. The financial support agreed for Hinkley would be an enormous burden for the country and there is the costs of decommissioning on top of that. Where is the money going to come from?” said Vince, whose company builds windfarms as well as supplying gas and electricity.

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, spies, borders


We begin with a warning from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Nobel Prize winner Malala told Obama U.S. drone attacks fuel terrorism

The teenager who became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize Friday told President Barack Obama at a White House meeting last year that she worried about the effect of U.S. drone strikes.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, as well as Kailash Satyarthi of India, for pushing for young people’s rights, including the right to education.

Malala, now 17, made international headlines after being shot in the head by the Taliban on a school bus two years ago for promoting education for girls in Pakistan. After recovering, she took her campaign for children’s education across the world, writing a book and even speaking at the United Nations last year.

Hysteria in Old Blighty, via the London Telegraph:

Security services monitoring ‘thousands’ of terrorism suspects in London, says Boris Johnson

  • Mayor of London discloses that threat from Isil and other terrorist groups is larger than previously known

The security services are monitoring “thousands” of terrorist suspects in London, Boris Johnson has disclosed, suggesting the threat from Islamist extremists may be far greater than has previously been admitted.

Until now, it was thought that the main danger came from around 500 jihadis who have travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK to join Isil or al-Qaeda fighters, around half of whom have returned to Britain.

But the Mayor of London suggested the threat from home-grown terrorist plots was far more widespread than the relatively small numbers of extremists who have gone abroad to fight.

More from the Independent:

UK terror threat: Police put on special terror alert for their own safety

Britain’s 130,000 police officers were urged to be “vigilant for their personal safety” after counter-terror chiefs warned the threat level against them had increased in the past 24 hours.

Mark Rowley, the national lead for counter-terrorism at the Association of Chief Police Officers, refused to discuss specific intelligence but confirmed the threat level against detectives and support staff up and down the country had been “heightened”.

Police and the intelligence agencies are working around the clock to track hundreds of suspected British jihadists as they return from fighting with Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria and Iraq.

Assistant Commissioner Rowley said: “The threat level to police officers and staff has been heightened, but we are used to confronting risk and danger; this is what we do on a daily basis, and we are well trained.

“We are informing our officers and staff of the heightened risk and reminding them to remain vigilant and alert to any possible dangers. We are asking them to follow existing policies and good practice. Measures are being put in place to increase the vigilance of officers and staff.

The Japan Times covers motivation:

Ancient prophecies of apocalypse give Islamic State jihadists hope

An infidel horde flying 80 banners meets a Muslim army at the Syrian town of Dabiq in an apocalyptic battle. The Muslims are decimated but ultimately prevail and conquer the world.

This ancient Sunni Muslim prophecy — mentioned in canonical accounts of the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings — has become a rallying cry for Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria, especially since they seized Dabiq in August.

The town itself has negligible military value compared with the strategic Islamic State-controlled cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

But as Islamic State jihadists come under a U.S.-led aerial onslaught to stop their advance, its importance as a symbol has become clear.

Reuters delivers a warning:

U.N. says thousands likely to be massacred if jihadists take Kobani

Thousands of people most likely will be massacred if Kobani falls to Islamic State fighters, a U.N. envoy said on Friday, as militants fought deeper into the besieged Syrian Kurdish town in full view of Turkish tanks that have done nothing to intervene.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said Kobani could suffer the same fate as the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims were murdered by Serbs in 1995, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two, while U.N. peacekeepers failed to protect them.

“If this falls, the 700, plus perhaps the 12,000 people, apart from the fighters, will be most likely massacred,” de Mistura said. The United Nations believes 700 mainly elderly civilians are trapped in the town itself and 12,000 have left the center but not made it across the border into Turkey.

From Deutsche Welle, a recruit on trial:

Young man confesses in Germany’s first IS terror trial

A 20-year-old on trial for involvement in a terrorist organization has confessed to fighting alongside the IS in Syria. In a statement, he said he saw it as his duty to defend Sunni Muslims from the tyranny of Assad.

A man on trial in Germany for his alleged involvement in the “Islamic State” (IS) war in Syria has confessed to having joined the militia and fighting in Syria. Twenty-year-old Kreshnik B is on trial for his alleged membership in a foreign terrorist organization.

Born in Hesse to a family from Kosovo, Kreshnik B admitted to going to Syria in 2013 to fight against the Assad regime in his third day of court on Friday, October 10.

In a written confession read out by his lawyer in Frankfurt on Friday, he said, “The inconceivable violence used by the Alawite Assad regime against the Sunni majority was enraging and bewildering. No one wanted to help the people there.”

On to the world of spies and hacks, first with SecurityWeek:

Hackers Show the NSA’s Capabilities Are Not Magic

A group of security researchers, hardware hackers, hardware developers and hobbyists have set out to demonstrate that many of the tools similar to those used by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) for surveillance operations can be reproduced on a low budget with open source software and hardware components.

The project, called the “NSA Playset,” came out of a collaboration between security researcher Dean Pierce and Michael Ossmann, founder of Great Scott Gadgets. Shortly after the NSA’s ANT catalog was leaked online, they recruited several others who had already implemented or were working on implementing capabilities that were similar to the ANT tools.

The ANT catalog is a 48-page classified document containing information on the technologies used by the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit for cyber surveillance. The document is one of the many files obtained by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

On to the pros, via The Intercept:

Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China and Germany

The National Security Agency has had agents in China, Germany, and South Korea working on programs that use “physical subversion” to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, also indicate that the agency has used “under cover” operatives to gain access to sensitive data and systems in the global communications industry, and that these secret agents may have even dealt with American firms. The documents describe a range of clandestine field activities that are among the agency’s “core secrets” when it comes to computer network attacks, details of which are apparently shared with only a small number of officials outside the NSA.

“It’s something that many people have been wondering about for a long time,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, after reviewing the documents. “I’ve had conversations with executives at tech companies about this precise thing. How do you know the NSA is not sending people into your data centers?”

Here’s one of those delightful NSA grahpics accompanying the report:

BLOG NSA

From the Guardian, reunited:

Edward Snowden’s girlfriend living with him in Moscow, film reveals

  • Lindsay Mills, thought to have been deserted by Snowden before NSA revelations, appears beside whistleblower in Citizenfour

The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.

The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.

Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.

From the London Telegraph, sadly, partly true:

Big companies snoop on public more than GCHQ, says spy chief

  • Sir Iain Lobban, Director of GCHQ, says private firms are the ones who know everything about you and share data

Private firms snoop far more on the public than the spy agencies, the head of GCHQ has said.

Sir Iain Lobban, Director of the intelligence agency, said it was the “commercial companies” who know everything about people and share the data with each other.

There is an ongoing row over the level of snooping powers the police and intelligence agencies should have.

But Sir Iain’s comments came as it emerged three of the UK’s main mobile phone companies automatically provided data on customers to the police if asked.

The Los Angeles Times covers cops misbehavin’:

LAPD ghost cars: Cops lied about officers on patrol, report finds

Los Angeles police deliberately deceived senior officials by artificially inflating the number of officers on patrol, according to an investigation by the LAPD’s independent watchdog.

In a report released Friday, the inspector general for the Police Commission found evidence that officers in at least five of the department’s 21 patrol divisions were said to be patrolling city streets in cars when, in fact, they were at station desks.

The report’s findings bolstered allegations made by union officials that patrol commanders around the city were using the so-called ghost cars to mask the fact that they did not have enough officers on patrol to meet mandatory staffing levels.

And yet more hacking, via United Press International:

Massive Snapchat nude photo leak targeting everyday people underway, Snapchat blames users

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks,” Snapchat said.

Hackers posting in the online forum 4Chan are actively leaking at least 100,000 nude or compromising photographs obtained from users of mobile picture message app Snapchat.

Initially suspected to be an elaborate hoax by trolls posting on 4Chan, Snapchat confirmed the leak on its official Twitter account and denied any responsibility for security breach, saying the pictures were lifted from third-party apps that allow users to save photos sent via the history-less mobile app.

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks,” the company tweeted.

Network World covers another hack attack:

Dairy Queen stores hit by ‘Backoff’ malware, payment card data stolen

Dairy Queen said Thursday the “Backoff” point-of-sale malware infected systems at 395 of its stores, stealing payment card data.

The company, which has 4,500 independently owned franchises in the U.S., said in a statement it believes the “malware has been contained.” Most of the stores, including one Orange Julius location, were affected for between three weeks to a month starting in early August, according to a list.

“We deeply regret any inconvenience this incident may cause,” wrote CEO and President John Gainor.

PCWorld covers another one:

Kmart hacked, exposing customers’ card numbers

Sears Holding Corp. said Friday the payment systems at its Kmart retail chain had been breached as a result of malware, compromising shoppers’ credit and debit card numbers.

The U.S. retail chain’s payment systems were infected with a form of malware that went undetected by its anti-virus systems, Sears said. There is no evidence that Kmart shoppers’ personal information, PIN numbers, email addresses or Social Security numbers were stolen, and the malware has since been removed, Sears said.

A forensic investigation indicates that the breach began in early September, Sears said. Kmart’s IT team discovered the breach only this Thursday.

After the jump, Japan orders Google amnesia, more unrest in St. Louis after police shooting, protests in Ferguson, more violence in St. Louis, protests in Ferguson, military misbehavin’ comes home to roost, digital crime in the police station, on to the deepening mystery of the mass graves and missing Mexican students, parental vigils, a missing mayor, and a hunt for masterminds, more murderous criminality, this time military, violence in Brazil, on to Asia and a bloody border battle, a Korean Coast Guard killing of a Chinese fisherman sparks a diplomatic row, Hong Kong protesters hit the street, and Taiwan lends its support. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ills, pollution, GMOs, nukes


We begin with another outbreak from Global Times:

Guangdong sees over 1,400 new dengue cases

Health authorities of south China’s Guangdong Province said 1,412 new cases of dengue were confirmed in the province on Thursday.

The total number of dengue infections rose to 27,593, over 27 times that of same period last year, said the provincial health and family planning commission on Friday.

The disease, which has killed six people, has been detected in 20 prefecture-level cities in Guangdong. Its capital city Guangzhou was hit worst with 23,484 cases reported.

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, not courting illness:

Court suspends trials over Marburg

  • Proceedings halted. Criminal proceedings have been halted and the court is only handling civil cases which do not involve prisoners

The Magistrate’s Court in Kasese District has suspended proceedings after the Mubuku Prison administration refused to admit more prisoners due to fear of Marburg infection in the country.

On Tuesday, the chief magistrate’s court presided over by Agatonica Mbabazi sentenced four people to three months in jail each in Mubuku Prison.

However, they were later released after prison authorities declined to receive them for custody.

“Four convicts were released immediately after the prison authorities refused to take in more inmates due to fear of Marburg outbreak in the country. I had nowhere to put them,” the chief magistrate said.

And from Punch Nigeria, another African concern:

29 million Nigerians risk Lassa fever –FG

The Federal Government has said that 29 million Nigerians are at the risk of Lassa fever, while 26 states are exposed to the disease.

The government also said the recent outbreak of the disease in the country was a signal that it had not received the expected attention.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan, spoke on Friday in Abuja during a press briefing to coincide with the National Lassa Fever Day and public presentation of 5,000 safeguard soaps to the ministry by Procter & Gamble, Nigeria.

And from Public Radio International, another public health tragedy:

Deaths among low-income children are making the US a leader in infant mortality

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the United States is the worst among developed nations when it comes to infant mortality rates. There are 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the United States; compare that to Finland, which had only 2.3 per 1,000 live births, or even Greece with 3.8.

So what’s the reason?

“It’s the period after a month of life — a month to 12 months — where the US is really doing worse,” says Emily Oster, an economist who helped calculate these figures. “Much of the death rate in that period is not really about medical interventions, it’s about things that are happening in the home.”

And in low-income homes, says Oster, a visiting associate professor of economics at Brown University, there’s a lack of support and resources that may be leading to a high number of deaths among babies. While there are other factors, including questions about how the US calculates infant mortality, she says this is the biggest problem.

And another one, via MintPress News:

A Third Of Schoolchildren Vulnerable To Hazardous Chemicals Facilities

While the conversation on hazardous chemicals facilities tends to revolve around risks to the general public, nearly 20 million schoolchildren go to schools located in vulnerability zones. Many of these schools lack plans in case of a chemical emergency.

One in three U.S. students attends school within the formally designated “vulnerability zone” of facilities involved in the manufacture or storage of large amounts of hazardous chemicals, according to new research.

That would translate into nearly 20 million schoolchildren spending near-daily time within the vicinity of at least one hazardous facility, including refineries, chemical manufacturers and wastewater treatment plants. Further, half of that number attend school near multiple facilities like these. And in 102 counties in 22 states, every single student goes to class within one or more vulnerability zones, most of which are a mile or larger.

“Literally tons of inadequately tested, potentially harmful chemicals and known human toxins are in use in industrial production sites and storage facilities across the country. These stocks of toxic chemicals represent a looming, silent risk in communities nationwide,” a new report from the Center for Effective Government, a Washington watchdog group, states.

Another Chinese accomplishment, via the Guardian:

China pollution levels hit 20 times safe limit

Visibility dropped dramatically as small pollutant particles reached dangerous levels in northern China’s Hebei province

Days of heavy smog shrouding swathes of northern China pushed pollution to more than 20 times safe levels on Friday, despite government promises to tackle environmental blight.

Visibility dropped dramatically as measures of small pollutant particles known as PM2.5, which can embed themselves deep in the lungs, reached more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre in parts of Hebei, a province bordering Beijing.

The World Health Organization’s guideline for maximum healthy exposure is 25.

In the capital, buildings were obscured by a thick haze, with PM2.5 levels in the city staying above 300 micrograms per cubic metre since Wednesday afternoon and authorities issuing an “orange” alert.

From the Guardian, a marine tragedy in the making:

Great Barrier Reef: ‘a massive chemistry experiment gone wrong’

  • Scientists warn that pollution may be dramatically increasing the rate of ocean acidification in inshore areas, threatening coral

It has long been known that pollution is having a devastating impact on the Great Barrier Reef but now scientists are warning that it may also be dramatically increasing the rate of ocean acidification in inshore areas of the region.

Dr Sven Uthicke, a senior research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, has with colleagues this week published a paper in the journal PLOS one, on ocean acidification in the reef. The study compares the reef’s inshore and offshore waters, and information on present-day water quality with 30-year-old data.

The study, Coral Reefs on the Edge? Carbon Chemistry on Inshore Reefs of the Great Barrier Reef,reads as though a massive chemistry experiment has gone wrong on one of the country’s most precious ecosystems.

Another water woe from BBC News:

Brazil drought crisis deepens in Sao Paulo

The governor of the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo has asked for emergency clearance to siphon the remaining water out of the main reservoir serving Sao Paulo city, which has almost run dry.

After nine months of unprecedented drought, 95% of the water has gone.

Geraldo Alckmin, re-elected in last week’s elections, has been criticised for not imposing water rationing to tackle the crisis.

Twenty-nine other Brazilian cities have been affected by the drought.

From NASA Goddard, changing ice poles apart:

The Arctic and the Antarctic Respond in Opposite Ways

Program notes:

The Arctic and the Antarctic are regions that have a lot of ice and acts as air conditioners for the Earth system. This year, Antarctic sea ice reached a record maximum extent while the Arctic reached a minimum extent in the top ten lowest since satellite records began. One reason we are seeing differences between the Arctic and the Antarctic is due to their different geographies. As for what’s causing the sea increase in the Antarctic, scientists are also studying ocean temperatures, possible changes in wind direction and, overall, how the region is responding to changes in the climate

And the Guardian covers a water dilemma:

China’s water dilemma between farming and growing population

Water stressed China faces a dilemma between safeguarding food production and releasing water to a thirsty population, can new technology and policy reforms help?

In an increasingly volatile world, China’s economic growth has proved remarkably resilient. While the economies of Europe and America have stalled or nose-dived since the 2008 financial crash, China’s has continued to expand. The headlines are startling: since the early 1990s, GDP growth per capita has averaged 8.9%, and nearly 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that China’s growth was kick-started by investment in agriculture. This, in turn, catalysed growth in the wider rural economy and, as China’s rural inhabitants got richer, so they moved to growing towns and cities, building – literally – the skylines of Beijing, Shanghai and other megacities.

In the meantime, China’s agricultural economy has motored on. Despite rapid urbanisation, and an economy now driven by industry rather than farming, the country is still able to feed over 20% of the world’s population. Maintaining self-sufficiency in wheat and rice remains ideologically important, even if imports of feed grains for meat production have soared over recent years.

Agence France-Presse covers a GMO confrontation:

Argentine ecologists block construction of Monsanto plant

Program notes:

In Cordoba, Argentina, a group of environmentalists decided a year ago to block the construction of a corn processing plant of US seed giant Monsanto, in opposition of its use of genetically modified crops.

While China may greenlight GMOs, via Global Times:

China may renew certificates for GM rice

Expired safety certificates for two species of genetically modified (GM) rice developed in China may be renewed, said an official with the Ministry of Agriculture on Friday.

“A safety certificate is a precondition for further use. If the rice did not show safety issues during the previous term of the safety certificate, the certificate will be renewed,” said Kou Jianping, head of technology enforcement at the Ministry of Agriculture, “but it depends on the whole review process.”

In 2009 three safety certificates were issued for GM plants, two for rice and one for corn. They all expired on Aug. 17. On June 9, the ministry received an application from Huazhong Agricultural University to renew safety certificates for the GM rice, but has not received any application for the corn, Kou said.

On to the nuclear, starting in Germany with TheLocal.de:

One in three nuclear waste barrels damaged

Inspectors in northern Germany have found that a third of barrels containing radioactive waste at a decommissioned nuclear plant are damaged, the Schleswig-Holstein Environment Ministry said on Thursday.

Vattenfall, the energy company which manages the Brunsbüttel site in Schlewswig-Holstein, reported that 102 of the 335 barrels stored in the site’s six underground chambers were corroded, leaking or had loose lids.

Some of the containers are so deformed that they can no longer be moved, as they no longer fit into the robotic gripping arms installed at the site, the inspectors reported.

And for our final item, a done deal from Reuters:

South Africa signs nuclear agreement with France

South Africa has signed a nuclear power agreement with France, the government said on Friday, three weeks after it reached a similar deal with Russia as part of Pretoria’s first tentative steps towards building up to 9,600 MW of nuclear power.

The Sept. 20 agreement, which Russia touted as a $10 billion contract to build power plants, took many South Africans by surprise, compelling officials to clarify that it was in fact just the early stages of a long procurement process.

Energy officials also stressed that other intergovernmental agreements – with France, China, South Korea, the United States and Japan – were likely to follow.

EnviroWatch: Dengue, Canada, drought, nukes


And more. . .

First, via the Mainichi, more dengue deaths in China:

6 die in dengue virus outbreak in southern China

The dengue virus has killed six people and infected more than 23,000 in southern China’s worst outbreak of the mosquito-transmitted disease in about two decades, officials said Tuesday.

Authorities in worst-affected Guangdong province attribute the severity of this year’s outbreak to exceptionally hot and wet weather, plus increasing travel by residents to regions where dengue is endemic, especially Southeast Asia.

The Guangdong health agency said on its website that 19,631 of the 23,146 cases reported as of Monday were in the provincial capital of Guangzhou, a sprawling city in China’s manufacturing heartland near the border with Hong Kong. It said more than 1,000 new infections were being registered in Guangdong every day, with other provinces reporting a few dozen cases.

And a growing area covered in Japan via Jiji Press:

1st Dengue Case outside Tokyo Area Reported

Japan’s health ministry said Tuesday that a young woman is believed to have been infected with dengue fever in the western Japan city of Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, the first confirmed dengue infection outside the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The Nishinomiya city government will carry out a mosquito elimination program at the site where the patient, a 19-year-old female university student, is believed to have contracted the disease, presumably from the same source as cases confirmed in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo.

According to the ministry, the woman was bitten by mosquitoes in her apartment in a residential area of Nishinomiya on Sept. 22 and developed dengue fever symptoms on Sept. 28.

While the Guardian covers dramatic underestimation in Indian:

India dengue fever cases 300 times higher than officially reported – study

  • Study by US and Indian researchers finds nearly 6m annual clinically diagnosed dengue cases between 2006 and 2012

The annual number of dengue fever cases in India is nearly 300 times higher than officially reported, according to a study by US and Indian researchers.

The report also finds the sometimes-fatal viral disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, costs the emerging economic power at least $1.1bn (£700m) each year in medical and other expenses.

“We found that India had nearly 6m annual clinically diagnosed dengue cases between 2006 and 2012 – almost 300 times greater than the number of cases that had been officially reported,” said Prof Donald S Shepard, health economics professor at Brandeis University, Massachusetts, who led the five-year research project.

On to Canada and an environment in danger via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Scathing report details Canada’s environmental shortfalls

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions, fight climate change and regulate oil and gas emissions, a series of audits from a federal watchdog have found.

The audits, contained in a report published Tuesday, say Canada has no detailed plan to meet its emissions reduction targets, is on pace to fall well short of meeting them and has made no long-term commitment to environmental monitoring in the oil sands region, the fastest-growing source of emissions.

The report offered a sweeping critique of many environmental policies of Mr. Harper’s government, but it was Canada’s poor record on emissions reduction that stood out to Julie Gelfand, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development appointed earlier this year.

From the report, a graphic illustration of the anticipatied rise in tar sands production:

BLOG Tar sands

And another chilling graphic from the report, showing the sheer scale of the Canadian deposits:

BLOG Tar sands area

And a European tar sands thumbs up from the Guardian:

EU scraps plan to label tar sands oil as highly polluting

  • Revised draft law on fuel quality directive removes obstacle to Canada shipping crude from tar sands to Europe

The European Commission on Tuesday proposed scrapping a mandatory requirement to label tar sands oil as highly polluting after years of industry opposition.

The new proposal abandons one obstacle to Canada shipping crude from tar sands to Europe and is likely to draw strong criticism from environmental campaigners and Green politicians.

It is suggested in a revised draft law on how refiners report the carbon intensity of the fuel they supply.

The debate about labelling tar sands, also known as oil sands, dates back to 2009 when EU member states approved legislation with the aim of cutting greenhouse gases from transport fuel sold in Europe by 6% by 2020, but failed to agree how to implement it.

From the Guardian again, British fracking decried:

Naomi Klein: UK fracking trespass law flouts democratic rights

Recent changes to the law, enabling companies to frack beneath landowners’ properties without their permission, have fuelled resistance to fracking in Britain, says author and activist

Ministers’ rewriting of the law to allow fracking to happen beneath people’s homes without their permission flouts basic democratic rights, according to Naomi Klein.

The author and activist said that the UK government’s changes to trespass laws, to speed up the ability for shale gas companies to frack beneath landowners’ property, was energising resistance to fracking in Britain.

“What is animating the anti-fracking movement? Yes, it’s water. It’s also a defence of democracy. The fact the government is colluding with energy companies to force the right to frack underneath people’s homes without their permission flies in the face of the most common-sense definition of democracy and self-definition,” she told an audience at a Guardian event in London on Monday.

Here’s the full event:

Naomi Klein Live – This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate

Program notes:

Naomi Klein, the award-winning journalist and author of global best-sellers The Shock Doctrine and No Logo discusses her most provocative book yet, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.

Klein challenges the myths that cloud the climate debate, refutes the argument for dependence on fossil fuels and aims to show how our current economic model is waging and winning a war on earth.

In conversation with columnist and writer Owen Jones, Klein will discuss why she believes climate change is a wake-up call for civilisation, why it’s now about changing the world and not just lightbulbs and how tearing up the “free-market” playbook may be the answer.

More fracking woes from this side of the Atlantic via the Associated Press:

Pennsylvania pursues record $4.5M fine against Marcellus Shale driller over leaking waste pit

Pennsylvania environmental regulators are pursuing a record $4.5 million fine against a gas driller over what they describe as a major case of pollution from a leaking waste pit.

The Department of Environmental Protection filed a civil complaint against EQT Corp. on Tuesday, accusing the Pittsburgh-based company of polluting streams and groundwater and harming trees and other vegetation around its impoundment in Duncan Township, Tioga County.

The company has been uncooperative during the investigation and “fails to recognize the ongoing environmental harm” from its impoundment, Acting DEP Secretary Dana Aunkst said in a statement.

On to California and a question from the National Journal:

Can California Make It Rain With Drones?

Faced with extreme drought, California continues its experiment with weather modification.

Billowy and filled with life-sustaining water vapor, the cloud passes overhead without emitting a drop of rain. In times of severe drought, that cloud is a frustrating, lumbering tease. That cloud is tantalizing. Delicious even.

What that cloud needs is a kick start, a catalyst to squeeze the water out of it. It’s not science fiction; it’s called cloud-seeding. And in beyond-parched California, it may become a viable option to combat long-term water shortages.

The Guardian covers another dry spell:

Drought fears across southern Australia after months of below average rainfalls

  • Bureau of Meteorology says the drought affecting Queensland and northern NSW is edging south into Victoria and SA
  • Near-drought conditions are spreading further across eastern Australia as summer approaches

The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest drought statement says the big dry gripping northern NSW and Queensland is extending south, with parts of Victoria recording their driest ever September and widening long-term rainfall deficiencies in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

“Particularly, southern NSW, Victoria and NSW are beginning to see a sequence of very dry months and as a result we are starting to see the emergence of some rainfall deficiencies,” BoM climate monitoring and prediction manager David Jones said.

“About half of Victoria, for example, is currently experiencing serious or severe rainfall deficiencies or just outside of that category, so we are starting to see a large spatial extent of these deficiencies further south.”

On to the kitchen cupboard with the Guardian:

Most US packaged foods labeled ‘natural’ have GM ingredients – report

  • Non-profit finds that while ‘organic’ products lack GM ingredients, many cereals, chips and infant formula contain them

A majority of US packaged foods labeled as “natural” and tested by Consumer Reports actually contained a substantial level of genetically modified ingredients, according to a report issued Tuesday by the non-profit product testing group.

Consumers are being misled by the “natural” label, said Urvashi Rangan, executive director of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability.

Consumer Reports said it had conducted a survey of more than 80 different processed foods containing corn or soy, the two most widely grown genetically engineered crops in the United States, to determine whether labeling claims for GMO presence were accurate.

And from Richmond cardiologist and former city councilmember Jeff Ritterman writing in Truthout, dangers in the herbicide for which those GMOs were created:

Monsanto’s Roundup Linked to Cancer – Again

Roundup is now heavily sprayed in what is known as the “Soy Republic,” an area of Latin America larger than the state of California. This region has undergone a profound transformation since genetically modified (GM) crops were first introduced in 1996. Some 125 million acres in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay are now devoted to GM soy production.

Doctors serving these areas have documented an alarming increase in cancers. A group of dedicated physicians formed an organization, Doctors of Fumigated Towns. They held a national conference in August of 2010 in Córdoba, the center of Argentina’s soy region. The Department of Medical Sciences of the National University at Córdoba sponsored the conference. An estimated 160 doctors from throughout the country attended.

Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a pediatrician specializing in environmental health, explained his concerns:

“The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases. We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before. What we have complained about for years was confirmed and especially what doctors say about the sprayed towns and areas affected by industrial agriculture. Cancer cases are multiplying as never before in areas with massive use of pesticides.”

After the jump, air pollution-linked heart attacks, toxic Mexican beef, lethal pollution inequality, Nobel laureates call for major changes in the corporate consumption regime, the dying Bolivian mountain that floated the Spanish Armada, a victory against forest killers in Parguay and a forest-saving pledge in Africa, more secrecy in Fukushima, a scathing hit to regulators over a California nuclear plant headed for decommissioning, and the deadly legacy of an African nuclear folly. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Critters, coast, water, nukes


First, StarAfrica reminds us that other diseases like visceral leishmaniasis [Kala-azar] remain endemic problems:

Cases of Kala-azar infections increase in South Sudan – UN

United Nations has revealed that the number of Kala-azar disease cases in South Sudan have been risen to 4,624 after nine months of war in the new born country.

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in the weekly situation update that 260 new cases have been recorded since September, bringing the 2014 total to 4,624; up from 1,614 cumulative cases up to the same week in 2013.

“A full response to Kala-azar requires additional health and nutrition partners to support treatment facilities,” the OCHA report said. “In addition, more health partners need training on diagnosis and case management.”

Kala-azar is transmitted by the bite of the sand fly and can be fatal within weeks if not treated.

BBC News covers the surface:

Different depths reveal ocean warming trends

The deeper half of the ocean did not get measurably warmer in the last decade, but surface layers have been warming faster than we thought since the 1970s, two new studies suggest.

Because the sea absorbs 90% of the heat caused by human activity, its warmth is a central concern in climate science. The new work suggests that shallow layers bear the brunt of ocean warming.

Scientists compared temperature data, satellite measurements of sea level, and results from climate models.

From the Los Angeles Times, another consequence of California’s dramatic drought:

In wake of drought and fires, turtle habitat becomes death trap

Biologists strode along the cracked, dry mud surrounding this evaporating north Los Angeles County lake last week, pausing periodically to pick up an emaciated turtle and wash alkaline dust off its head and carapace.

“A lot of these animals are severely ill and starving,” said Tim Hovey, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, as he gestured toward a group of turtles bobbing in the murky water offshore.

After three years of drought, this natural 2-mile-long lake, about 15 miles west of Lancaster, has become a smelly, alkaline death trap for one of the largest populations of state-protected Western pond turtles in Southern California.

CNBC covers potential consequences:

If California doesn’t get rain this winter …

Each year from October to the following September, California measures its rainfall and snow accumulation.

This past season didn’t take much figuring. It turned out to be the fourth driest year ever for the state, as it only got around 60 percent of the average precipitation.

As California starts a new water measurement cycle—and faces a fourth year of severe drought—another dry winter could be a tipping point for the country’s top agricultural producer.

“This year is crucial,” said Michael Hanemann, professor and environmental economist at the W.P Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

“A third winter of low rain would be extremely painful,” he said. “If we have one or two dry winters we can get through that. But the lack of water this winter would have a significant economic impact on agriculture that hasn’t been felt before.”

A plea for piscine rectification from Al Jazeera America:

Salmon people pray for sacred fish to return to historic home

  • Northwest tribes urge US and Canada to revise Columbia River Treaty to allow safe passage for salmon crossing dams

The Columbia River Treaty, which was negotiated in the 1950s and signed in 1964, aimed to generate hydropower and protect cities like Portland, Oregon, from flooding by building five high-head hydropower dams. But they didn’t provide for fish passage, and small bands of Native people in the U.S. and Canada weren’t consulted, though they stood to lose a fishery central to their nutrition, economy, religion and culture. Some 2,300 settlers as well as Indians were flooded out of fertile valleys in Canada that now fill and empty like bathtubs by dams built to regulate downstream river flow and light distant cities.

The salmon have been absent here for 72 years — for roughly three human and 15 salmon generations. Is that long enough to seem unchangeable?

“While we’ve protected Portland from flooding, people forget we’ve permanently flooded upriver,” said D.R. Michel, executive director of the Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT), a coalition of Northwest tribes. Michel said the reservoirs, which can fluctuate up to 40 feet at a time, have permanently displaced thousands of people,

“We’ve swung so far to the other side, where everything is about bottom lines and profit. It’s just a short-sighted way of looking at things,” he added.

A court of coastal consequences from the New York Times:

The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever

  • A quixotic historian tries to hold oil and gas companies responsible for Louisiana’s disappearing coast.

Beneath the surface, the oil and gas industry has carved more than 50,000 wells since the 1920s, creating pockets of air in the marsh that accelerate the land’s subsidence. The industry has also incised 10,000 linear miles of pipelines, which connect the wells to processing facilities; and canals, which allow ships to enter the marsh from the sea. Over time, as seawater eats away at the roots of the adjacent marsh, the canals expand. By its own estimate, the oil and gas industry concedes that it has caused 36 percent of all wetlands loss in southeastern Louisiana. (The Interior Department has placed the industry’s liability as low as 15 percent and as high as 59 percent.) A better analogy than disappearing football fields has been proposed by the historian John M. Barry, who has lived in the French Quarter on and off since 1972. Barry likens the marsh to a block of ice. The reduction of sediment in the Mississippi, the construction of levees and the oil and gas wells “created a situation akin to taking the block of ice out of the freezer, so it begins to melt.” Dredging canals and pipelines “is akin to stabbing that block of ice with an ice pick.”

The oil and gas industry has extracted about $470 billion in natural resources from the state in the last two decades, with the tacit blessing of the federal and state governments and without significant opposition from environmental groups. Oil and gas is, after all, Louisiana’s leading industry, responsible for around a billion dollars in annual tax revenue. Last year, industry executives had reason to be surprised, then, when they were asked to pay damages. The request came in the form of the most ambitious, wide-ranging environmental lawsuit in the history of the United States. And it was served by the most unlikely of antagonists, a former college-football coach, competitive weight lifter and author of dense, intellectually robust 500-page books of American history: John M. Barry.

Pro-pachydermal protests from the Guardian:

Elephant poaching: thousands march worldwide for wildlife protection

  • Demonstrators in 136 cities and towns across six continents joined the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Thousands marched in Africa and around the world Saturday to pressure governments to do more to stop the poaching industry that many fear is driving rhinos and elephants to the brink of extinction.

The protests, dubbed the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, took place in 136 cities and towns across six continents, from Soweto to Nairobi, and Paris to New York and Tokyo.

In South Africa, which is struggling to stem a rhino poaching crisis, demonstrators gathered across 17 cities.

Agence France-Presse covers one of the events:

Kenya joins global march to highlight animal slaughter

Program notes:

Kenyans join with people in over 120 cities across the globe to raise awareness of the costs of poaching, and to ask the world to shun ivory and rhino horn products in what is set to be the largest demonstration of its kind.

The Observer plays god:

In the Age of Extinction, which species can we least afford to lose?

  • Climate change and human intervention are accelerating the planet’s loss of biodiversity. So should we try to preserve ‘useful’ bees before ‘cuddly’ tigers?

The threatened extinction of the tiger in India, the perilous existence of the orangutan in Indonesia, the plight of the panda: these are wildlife emergencies with which we have become familiar. They are well-loved animals that no one wants to see disappear. But now scientists fear the real impact of declining wildlife could be closer to home, with the threat to creatures such as ladybirds posing the harshest danger to biodiversity.

Climate change, declining numbers of animals, rising numbers of humans and the rapid rate of species extinction mean a growing number of scientists now declare us to be in the Anthropocene – the geological age of extinction when humans finally dominate the ecosystems.

Last week a report from WWF, the Living Planet Index 2014, seemed to confirm that grim picture with statistics on the world’s wildlife population which showed a dramatic reduction in numbers across countless species. The LPI showed the number of vertebrates had declined by 52% over four decades. Biodiversity loss has now reached “critical levels”. Some populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have suffered even bigger losses, with freshwater species declining by 76% over the same period. But it’s the creatures that provide the most “natural capital” or “ecosystem services” that are getting many scientists really worried. Three quarters of the world’s food production is thought to depend on bees and other pollinators such as hoverflies. Never mind how cute a panda is or how stunning a tiger, it’s worms that are grinding up our waste and taking it deep into the soil to turn into nutrients, bats that are catching mosquitoes and keeping malaria rates down. A study in North America has valued the loss of pest control from ongoing bat declines at more than $22bn in lost agricultural productivity.

From BBC News, wasn’t this in Old Testament?:

Hungry US bullfrog invasion spreads

Scientists are reporting an invasion of hungry American bullfrogs along the Yellowstone River in the US state of Montana. The bullfrogs are said to eat nearly anything, including other bullfrogs, and pose a threat to native species.

The number of the animal’s breeding sites has nearly quadrupled since 2010. Efforts by state and federal agencies to contain the spread of the animals has so far failed, after their numbers proved too great to control

“They are going to eat anything they can fit into their mounts. It doesn’t matter if it’s another frog or a bird or a mosquito,” US Geological Survey biologist Adam Sepulveda told the Associated Press news agency.

Hmmmm. . .reminds us of a movie we saw, way back in 1972:

MercoPress amalgamates:

Huge gathering or Pacific walruses in Alaska beach because of climate change

Scientists have photographed the largest gathering of Pacific walruses ever recorded, on a beach in northern Alaska, blaming climate change for the estimated 35,000 females and calves huddled beside the Chukchi Sea

NOAA photographed the gathering, known as a haul-out, north of the village of Point Lay over the weekend. NOAA photographed the gathering, known as a haul-out, north of the village of Point Lay over the weekend.

It’s hardly the first big walrus gathering to be documented, a fact noted by climate change skeptics. But scientists say the size of the gatherings are growing as climate change melts Arctic sea ice, depriving walruses of their sunning platforms of choice.

“The walruses are hauling out on land in a spectacle that has become all too common in six of the last eight years as a consequence of climate-induced warming,” the US Geological Survey wrote on their website.

Salon covers corporate capture of the commons:

Water is the new oil: How corporations took over a basic human right

  • Water has become a commodity, Karen Piper tells Salon, and the world’s poor are paying the price

When you talk about human rights, not to mention human necessities, there’s not much more fundamental than water. The United Nations has even put it in writing: it formally “recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

That’s the theory, at least. In practice? Well, on Monday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes arrived at a different conclusion from that of the U.N., in a ruling on Detroit’s hotly contested practice of cutting off water access to tens of thousands of residents who can’t pay their bills. “It cannot be doubted that water is a necessary ingredient to sustaining life,” Rhodes conceded. Yet there is not, he continued, “an enforceable right to free and affordable water.” Water, in the eyes of the court, is apparently a luxury.

While it’s shocking to watch a city deny the rights of its own citizens, that’s nothing compared to what could happen if private water companies are allowed to take over. In “The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos,” Karen Piper details the litany of examples worldwide of this very thing happening. In a classic example of the shock doctrine, Piper argues, water shortages are being seen as a business opportunity for multinational corporations. Their mantra: “No money, no water.” By 2025, it’s predicted they’ll be serving 21 percent of the world’s population.

From the Asahi Shimbun volcanic nuclear anxieties:

Difficulties remain in protecting nuclear plants from volcanic eruptions

The deadly eruption of Mount Ontakesan in central Japan has rekindled concerns about whether Japan’s nuclear power plants, such as the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, have adequate safeguards for dealing with such a disaster.

Government officials insist that the size and nature of the Sept. 27 eruption that killed at least 51 people in the deadliest volcanic upheaval in the postwar era differ from possible eruptions at mountains located near nuclear plants.

“Safety will be secured because strict screenings have been conducted based on conditions of much larger eruptions than the recent one at Mount Ontakesan,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at an Oct. 2 Upper House plenary session, offering assurances of the Sendai plant’s safety.

And for our final item, the bottom line for an earthshaking project [literally] from TheLocal.es:

Spain pays €1.35 bn for aborted gas project

Spain’s government said Friday it will pay €1.35 billion ($1.7 billion) in compensation to a Spanish firm which was forced to stopped work on a vast underwater gas-storage project that was suspected of causing minor quakes.

Known as Project Castor, the scheme aimed to store gas in a depleted oil reservoir 1.7 kilometres (1.05 miles) under the Mediterranean Sea in the Gulf of Valencia and send it via a pipeline to Spain’s national grid.

The government halted operations at the facility in September 2013 after more than 200 minor earthquakes were detected in the area which geologists and environmentalists blamed on gas injections.

The company which owns and operated the facility, Escal UGS, in June 2014 said it was giving up its concession for the gas storage project, which was financed by the European Investment Bank.

Chart of the day: Depleted California reservoirs


From CNBC:

BLOG Drought

EnviroWatch: Fire fears, critters, chemicals


Another short compendium today, though not for lack of searching. We begin with this from the Ecologist:

California burning points to more intense wildfires

As the forest fires burn on in the western US, writes Kieran Cooke, a new report predicts that climate-led temperature rise will lead to millions more acres across the world being burned to the ground, especially in southern Europe and Australia.

Smoke from fires burning at present in northern California has been detected as far north as Canada.

Thousands of firefighters are battling to contain blazes that together cover nearly 300,000 acres of forest and shrub wood. And it looks like things are going to get worse.

And now a new report by the US-based Cost of Carbon Pollution project forecasts that such fires are going to become ever more intense in the years ahead – not just in the western US, but elsewhere round the world, and particularly in areas of southern Europe and in Australia.

Next, an overdose from the Atlantic Monthly:

The FDA Says Farmers Are Giving Animals Too Many Antibiotics

Overuse of the drugs has increased over the past few years. That’s not good for human health.

A piece of bad news from the Food and Drug Administration: In the war against antibiotic overuse, the antibiotics are winning.

The amount of antibiotics given to farm animals in the United States increased by 16 percent between 2009 and 2012, the agency announced in a new report, and nearly 70 percent of those used are considered “medically important” for humans. That’s trouble for us as much as it is for our four-legged friends, who consume the majority of antibiotics in the U.S.—as much as 80 percent are given to the chickens, pigs, and cows bound for our grocery-store shelves, both to spur more rapid growth and to proactively protect them from disease.

Such widespread use of antibiotics has led to bugs that are getting tougher and tougher to treat. Worldwide, strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis and gonorrhea are on the rise. In the U.S., antibiotic resistance caused more than two million illnesses in 2013, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and an estimated 23,000 deaths, adding up to more than $20 million in healthcare costs.

From the Guardian, beguiled by the long green?:

WWF International accused of ‘selling its soul’ to corporations

  • Pandaleaks writer says conservation group has forged links with business which is using it to ‘greenwash’ their operations

WWF International, the world’s largest conservation group, has been accused of “selling its soul” by forging alliances with powerful businesses which destroy nature and use the WWF brand to “greenwash” their operations.

The allegations are made in an explosive book previously barred from Britain. The Silence of the Pandas became a German bestseller in 2012 but, following a series of injunctions and court cases, it has not been published until now in English. Revised and renamed Pandaleaks, it will be out next week.

Its author, Wilfried Huismann, says the Geneva-based WWF International has received millions of dollars from its links with governments and business. Global corporations such as Coca-Cola, Shell, Monsanto, HSBC, Cargill, BP, Alcoa and Marine Harvest have all benefited from the group’s green image only to carry on their businesses as usual.

The Independent sounds a death knell:

Elephants and rhinos ‘could be extinct within two decades’ because of ivory poaching

Elephants and rhinos could be extinct within the next two decades, conservation campaigners are warning.

Wildlife campaigners say an estimated 35,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos are killed each year as demand for ivory and rhino horn drives increasing poaching rates.

This demand means both species could potentially be wiped out within the next 20 years.

From the Jakarta Globe, capital critter conservation:

US Reduces Indonesian Debt in Exchange for Wildlife Protection

The United States has struck a deal to reduce Indonesia’s debts in exchange for Jakarta pledging about $12 million for programs to protect endangered species and their habitats on Sumatra island, conservationists said Friday.

The move adds to a similar agreement in 2009, under which the Indonesian government pledged $30 million for increased protection of Sumatra’s forests, said NGO Conservation International, which helped broker the deal.

The agreement, which was inked this week, will provide additional funds for environmental groups to improve programmes aimed at protecting the Sumatran low-land rainforests as well as efforts to increase populations of threatened animals.

The New York Times looks at the C-word in Brazil:

Clashing Visions of Conservation Shake Brazil’s Presidential Vote

From the podium at the United Nations to declarations on the campaign trail, President Dilma Rousseff is celebrating Brazil’s protection of the Amazon. But satellite data released last month shows that Brazil’s annual deforestation rate in the Amazon has climbed again after years of declines, rising 29 percent, leaving her vulnerable to attacks in this nation’s acrimonious presidential race. The vote is on Sunday.

“The mantra in Brasília is that they have deforestation under control, but the evidence on the ground shows this is not true,” said Philip M. Fearnside, a prominent researcher at the National Institute for Amazon Research in Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city.

Beyond alarming scientists, who note the importance of the vast rain forest to the world’s climate and biodiversity, the sparring over the Amazon symbolizes clashing visions of Brazil’s future. Both Ms. Rousseff and her top rival, Marina Silva, an environmental leader, say they want forest conservation, but the president’s model seeks economic growth by tapping into the Amazon’s natural resources, including huge mining projects and dams.

And our final item, via the Mainichi, mutating munchies:

Food safety commission recognizes snack food compound can cause gene mutations

The Cabinet Office’s Food Safety Commission called acrylamides, a chemical compound found in snack foods like potato chips, a carcinogen that can cause gene mutations, in a draft it released on Oct. 3.

The draft marks the first official evaluation of acrylamides’ alleged carcinogenic properties by Japanese authorities. In other countries, these properties have been recognized since the early 2000s based on various research studies, and those countries have been warning consumers about them. The Japanese food safety commission team has been independently looking into the substance’s properties since December 2011.

Based on animal experiments in Japan and in other countries, the team determined that acrylamides are carcinogens that can mutate genes and chromosomes and therefore even have effects on the subsequent generation.