Category Archives: Agriculture

EnviroWatch: Health, water woes, climate, nukes


Another shorter collection today, mostly because we pulled our Ebola coverage out for a separate EbolaWatch, but there’s still plenty to cover.

First up, via the Los Angeles Times, another cost of meddling with our own internal environments:

Drugs used for anxiety, sleep are linked to Alzheimer’s disease in older people

Older people who have relied on a class of drugs called benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety or induce sleep are at higher risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, new research finds, with those whose use of the medications is most intensive almost twice as likely to develop the mind-robbing disorder.

Benzodiazepines — marketed under such names as as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin — are widely used to treat insomnia, agitation and anxiety, all of which can be early signs of impending Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. But the current study sought to disentangle benzodiazepines’ use in treating early dementia symptoms, probing instead the possibility that heavy use of the medications may permit, cause or hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.

The study compared the pattern of benzodiazepine use in 1,796 people elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s with that of 7,184 similar people who had no such diagnosis. Such a study design, conducted by French and Canadian researchers and published Tuesday in the journal BMJ, cannot by itself establish that more intensive use of the medications causes Alzheimer’s disease. But it does strengthen such suspicions.

Next up, the first of today’s water woes posts, via CNBC:

California rice farmer: Drought may make us ‘quit’

California’s ongoing drought is claiming another victim: the state’s rice crop.

Nearly 25 percent of California’s $5 billion rice crop will be lost this year due to lack of water, say experts. And while analysts say the loss is not a crisis just yet, at least one rice producer is ready to call it a day.

“If we keep going through this drought, it may make us quit and sell the ranch,” said Sherry Polit, who grows organic rice with her family on 1,500 acres in the Northern California town of Maxwell. “We had droughts before, but this is like the third bad one in a row,” explained Polit, who also grows organic olives.

MercoPress covers another:

Caribbean nations beaches disappearing because of rising sea level and recurring storms

The World Bank says due to rising sea levels and recurring storms, the beaches in most Caribbean nations have started to disappear. In a new report, the Washington-based financial institution said, in some areas of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for instance, an estimated 18-30 meters of beach have been lost over the last nine years.

“The highly vulnerable coastal strand and adjacent towns are fighting against increased flood risk from rainfall and storm surge,” said the bank, noting that the issue of challenges faced by small islands around the world was at the center of the just-concluded Third Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference in Samoa.

The World Bank said beaches are not the only concern, stating that Caribbean ports are also at risk from rising sea levels.

And from Deutsche Welle, yet another:

India ‘overwhelmed’ by intensity of monsoon floods

Program notes:

In the Indian region of Kashmir, rescue teams have begun evacuating tens of thousands of villagers stranded by the worst floods in over a century. 450 people have been killed as a result of the heavy rainfall in the mountainous region between India and Pakistan.

Still another, via South China Morning Post:

Sea cucumber farmers use of chemicals has led to a large number of fish deaths

  • Significant amounts used in farms in Pikou town in Liaoning, according to CCTV report

Some sea cucumber farmers in northeastern China have been using large amounts of antibiotics, disinfectants and pesticides leading to the deaths of a large number of several species of fish and endangering the conservation of migratory birds in the area, according to a report by the state broadcaster.

CCTV reported that the farmers in Pikou town, Pulandian city of Liaoning, used “a great amount of antibiotics” in their sea cucumber ponds. The water from those ponds was periodically discharged into the Bohai Gulf, causing the death of plenty of fish, the broadcaster said. The water in the gulf has been documented as being heavily polluted, according to the China Marine Environmental Monitoring Centre.

CCTV images show bodies of fish floating in the gulf close to the Pikou farms. Empty bottles of ceftriaxone were shown at one of them. Ceftriaxone is normally used to treat sexually transmitted diseases and infections of the lungs and urinary tract.

Another one, via the Asahi Shimbun:

Salmon still affected by 3/11 disaster, dealing blow to Tohoku economy

The salmon run in northeastern Japan this autumn will likely plummet by 40 percent compared with last year due to damage to hatcheries caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The Fisheries Research Agency said Sept. 9 the sharp decline in returning salmon to spawn in the Tohoku region will impact the economy of the disaster-stricken region. The price of salmon roe–a delicacy–is bound to rise, sources said.

Millions of salmon fry are released from hatcheries to rivers each spring. The adult fish generally return three and a half years later to the rivers where they were released.

And yet another, via Grist:

Living close to a fracking well could have given you that rash

A new study from Yale University – claimed by the lead author to be the largest of its kind – shows a correlation between living in proximity to a fracking well and symptoms of skin and upper respiratory problems.

The study, which was published today, surveyed 180 households in Washington Co., Pa., which lies about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh and has developed into a hotbed of fracking activity in recent years – the county now plays host to over 1,000 wells. It specifically sampled houses dependent on ground-fed water wells, which can be susceptible to contamination from chemicals used in fracking.

The results? Those who lived less than 0.6 miles away from a well were twice as likely to report health issues as their friends who lived over 1.2 miles from it.

From the Guardian, a rare upbeat note:

Ozone layer shows signs of recovery after 1987 ban on damaging gases

  • Continued rises in other greenhouse gases, as well as illicit usage of carbon tetrachloride, still has potential to undo gains

The ozone layer that shields life from the sun’s cancer-causing ultraviolet rays is showing its first sign of thickening after years of dangerous depletion, a UN study said on Wednesday.

Experts said it showed the success of a 1987 ban on manmade gases that damage the fragile high-altitude screen, an achievement that would help prevent millions of cases of skin cancer and other conditions.

The ozone hole that appears annually over Antarctica has also stopped growing bigger every year, though it will be about a decade before it starts shrinking, said the report, coproduced by the World Meteorological Organisation and the UN Environment Programme.

And another from the Independent:

Bacteria found in honeybee stomachs could be used as alternative to antibiotics, scientists claim

  • Bacteria found in honeybees could be used as an alternative to antibiotics and in the fight against antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA, scientists have claimed.

For millenia, raw unmanufactured honey has been used to treat infections.

Scientists believe its effectiveness could lie in a unique formula comprised of 13 types of lactic acid bacteria found in the stomachs of bees. The bacteria, which are no longer active in shop-bought honey, produce a myriad of active anti-microbial compounds.

The findings could be vital both in developing countries, where fresh honey is easily available, as well as for Western countries where antibiotic resistance is an increasingly concerning issue.

From the Guardian, delegitimizing Aussie environmentalism:

Queensland passes laws to stop ‘vexatious’ green groups

  • Laws that limit the capacity of most Queenslanders to object to new mines have been savaged as an attack on democracy

New state laws will prevent most Queenslanders going to the land court to object to proposed mining projects.

The government says the Mineral and Resources (Common Provisions) bill will stop green groups and others launching “vexatious” objections just to delay projects.

Green groups, the Labor opposition and minor parties have savaged the government’s bill, which passed parliament on Tuesday. They say the new law is an attack on democracy because it limits the capacity of most Queenslanders to object to mining proposals.

The laws mean only directly affected landholders, their neighbours and local councils can now go to the court.

Next up, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with Jiji Press:

National Road in Fukushima No-Go Area to Fully Open

The Japanese government plans to fully open a national road that runs north-south along the coast of Fukushima Prefecture on Monday for the first since the March 2011 nuclear accident in the northeastern Japan prefecture, it was learned Wednesday.

The closed 14-kilometer section of Route 6 in a no-go area, where the annual radiation level tops 50 millisieverts, will be open to free traffic after the completion in August of decontamination work, officials said.

The government is expected to announce soon how much the radiation level has been reduced there, according to the officials.

The Japan Times reveals a cover-up attempt:

Tokyo lodged protest over March 2011 U.N. report saying Fukushima plant not under control

The Foreign Ministry unofficially lodged a protest over a U.N. report released immediately after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that described the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as not being under control, sources said Wednesday.

At the time, a series of hydrogen explosions occurred in the plant’s reactors as Tokyo Electric Power Co. was unable to cool them sufficiently.

In making the protest, the Foreign Ministry said the expression in the report was too strong, the sources said, indicating the government underestimated the disaster, in which meltdowns occurred in reactors 1, 2 and 3.

From the Guardian, ongoing consequences:

Fukushima nuclear disaster: three years on 120,000 evacuees remain uprooted

  • Japan’s 2011 plant meltdown has torn apart close families, leaving elderly relatives isolated and villages uninhabited

More than three years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster more than 120,000 people from the region are living in nuclear limbo with once close-knit families forced to live apart.

Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday gave the green light for two nuclear reactors at Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai plant in south-west Japan to restart, but communities are anxious over the safety aspects. The nuclear industry in Japan has been mothballed since the meltdown.

But the Asahi Shimbun announces the inevitable, given the current government:

NRA approves safety at Kagoshima nuclear plant; paperwork next step

The Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture formally passed tougher safety checks on Sept. 10, but the plant operator must submit a mountain of paperwork before it can restart its reactors.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s approval is the first since new safety standards were established following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. That means safety checks have effectively been completed for a resumption of operations of the Sendai plant’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors.

As the next step, Kyushu Electric Power Co., the operator of the Sendai plant, will have to submit to the NRA construction plans that include designs of equipment and the company’s new safety regulations detailing operation procedures and accident responses.

And for our final item, more from the Japan Times:

Japan’s regulator OKs nuclear plant return while pushing to close old reactors

Japan is nearing the end of its first full year without nuclear power since 1966 and public mistrust of the sector remains high after the 2011 Fukushima triple meltdown, the worst such disaster since Chernobyl.

The government is pressing regulators to make the tough decision on whether to decommission the oldest of the country’s 48 reactors, which face higher safety hurdles than the rest. Weeding out reactors that are 40 years old or more may help win public trust in the rest of the industry.

“For myself, I would like to proceed with smooth decommissioning (of some plants) and at the same time the restart of nuclear power stations certified as safe,” Yuko Obuchi, the new minister for economy, trade and industry, who oversees the nuclear industry, said last week.

EnviroWatch: Including a tragic Ebola update


Though we broke out Ebola coverage for today’s earlier EbolaWatch, we have one crucial update — a demonstration once again that racism, tinged with eugenics, lies at the heart of today’s Grand Old Party. [And there’s lot of environmental news, including a series of very serious alarms.]

First, via The Hill, the deplorable:

GOP cuts funding request to fight Ebola

House Republicans indicated Tuesday that they will provide less than half of the White House’s funding request to fight Ebola in the next government spending bill.

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) agreed as of Tuesday morning to spend a total of $40 million to fight the epidemic in the 2015 spending bill.

This would include $25 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $15 million for the Biological Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to ramp up production of an experimental anti-Ebola drug, the source said.

The White House had asked for $88 million for Ebola in total, including $58 million for BARDA, which is involved in coordinating experimental treatments during public health emergencies.

On to that other outbreak we’ve been coverage, first with JapanToday:

81 dengue fever cases reported in 15 prefectures

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Tuesday that the number of reported dengue fever cases stood at 81 in 15 prefectures as of Tuesday morning.

The ministry is working with Tokyo metropolitan government health officials to spray insecticide in three parks in Tokyo, where the disease spread by mosquitoes, is believed to have originated, TV Asahi reported.

Since the weekend, parts of Yoyogi, Shinjuku Gyoen and Meijijingu Gaien parks have been closed to the public, resulting in the cancellation of many events.

Jiji Press notes a spread:

1st Dengue Case outside Tokyo Reported

A man in his 60s is believed to have been infected with dengue fever in Chiba, east of Tokyo, the first infection outside the capital since the first domestic case in nearly 70 years was reported last month, the health ministry said Tuesday.

This is the third infection confirmed outside Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park and surrounding areas, where most of the recent infections originated.

It remains unclear whether the man has come into contact with others infected with the virus. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases is now investigating.

And from the Mainichi, same disease, another continent, another notable development:

Brazil looks to introduce genetically modified mosquitoes to tackle dengue fever

While Japan is experiencing a domestic dengue fever outbreak for the first time in decades, the same virus claimed 603 lives in Brazil last year. The Brazilian government is implementing numerous efforts to prevent the mosquito-borne virus from spreading.

Last year, some 1.4 million people were infected with the dengue virus in Brazil. While the country had tried to eliminate dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes by spraying insecticide and informing residents about the disease, pest control could only be done in limited areas, and the effect was temporary.

Recently, the Brazilian government has focused on eliminating puddles of water where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Local governments have advised residents not to leave water in items such as empty cans, old tires and dishes under plant containers while fining home owners when mosquito larva are found on their premises.

From Environment News Service, another epidemic, one we created ourselves:

Poor European Air Quality Linked to Poor Adult Lung Health

Children who suffer poor lung health from breathing polluted air are not alone – so do adults.

In the first study of its kind, published Saturday, researchers from across Europe evaluated the correlation between air pollution and lung function in European adults and found that the harmful effects of breathing polluted air persist into adulthood.

The researchers used indicators of vehicle traffic in the area and modeled the exposure levels to different pollution measures, including nitrogen oxides (NO2 and NOx) and particulate matter (PM).

Their conclusions may seem obvious, but the study’s authors, Nicole Probst-Hensch and Martin Adam from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute based in Basel, say their findings are “crucial” as they demonstrate that air pollution is having a negative effect, not only on children, as previously demonstrated, but also on adults.

Along the same lines, via the Guardian:

South Africa’s coal-fired power stations carry heavy health costs

In the settlement of Masakhane near the Duvha plant, residents wear masks to avoid breathing in the coal dust

South Africa’s dependence on coal to generate 85% of its electricity is taking a substantial toll on human health, according to environmental groups. A report from Greenpeace (pdf) in February estimates that up to 2,700 premature deaths are caused every year by emissions from the country’s 16 coal-fired power plants.

Greenpeace released the report in the wake of an application by Eskom, South Africa’s public power utility, to postpone compliance with new minimum emissions standards aimed at reducing the damaging health impacts of air pollution.

These new standards are particularly vital for the country’s north-eastern Mpumalanga province where 12 coal-fired power plants are clustered on the western high-altitude side of the Highveld. They pump out sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM) at levels often more than double the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). As a result, levels of air pollution in Mpumalanga’s Highveld are the highest in the country and among the highest in the world, according to news reports.

From BBC News, alarms shriek:

Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984

A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that it highlights the need for a global climate treaty. But the UK’s energy secretary Ed Davey said that any such agreement might not contain legally binding emissions cuts, as has been previously envisaged.

Reuters covers a consequence:

Climate change increases possibility of megadrought in Southwestern U.S.

  • A new study finds an increased possibility of severe and long-term megadrought affecting Southwestern United States

The Southwestern United States could face a decade long drought according to a new study by Cornell, University of Arizona and U.S. Geological Survey researchers.

According to lead author and Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences Toby Ault, climate change is increasing the possibility of a “megadrought” – a drought that could last over thirty years.

The study is based on historical data of previous droughts and uses current changes in precipitation patterns caused by global warming to evaluate the risks of severe droughts in the near future.

MercoPress covers another:

Antarctica sea levels rising faster because of fresh water from melting glaciers, say researchers

  • Sea levels around Antarctica are rising faster than anywhere else in the southern ocean. The global average rise in ocean heights in the last 19 years has been 6cms, but the rise in seas around Antarctica is 2cms higher.

This seemingly counter-intuitive finding is certainly a consequence of melting ice in the Southern Ocean, but the connection with global warming is, for the moment, tenuous. The agency that is behind the rising sea levels is simply an excess of fresh water from melting glaciers – about 350 billion tons of it.

“Fresh water is less dense than salt water, and so in regions where an excess of fresh water has accumulated we expect a localized rise in sea level,” says Craig Rye, an oceanography researcher at of the University of Southampton in the UK, who, with colleagues, has published the findings in Nature Geoscience.

From New Europe, yet another:

Spain sees increased damage by forest fires in 2014

Forest fires in Spain burned a total of 39,410 hectares of land in the first eight months of 2014, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment said Monday.

The amount of damage to the nation’s forests has increased by 15 percent, compared to the 34,268 hectares burned down during the same period in 2013, data showed.

2014 has seen a 40.5 percent rise in the number of fires burning an area of over a hectare. This implies that fires have been able to both become established and to spread faster this year than in 2013.

And yet another, via the Guardian:

North America’s key birds facing extinction, study finds

  • 314 species, including the bald eagle and 10 state birds of US at risk from climate change

Half of North America’s bird species, from common backyard visitors like the Baltimore oriole and the rufous hummingbird to wilderness dwellers like the common loon and bald eagle, are under threat from climate change and many could go extinct, an exhaustive new study has found.

Seven years of research found climate change the biggest threat to North America’s bird species.

Some 314 species face dramatic declines in population, if present trends continue, with warming temperatures pushing the birds out of their traditional ranges. Ten states and Washington DC could lose their state birds.

And from RT, more anthropogenic environmental havoc:

Lake Baikal, world’s deepest body of freshwater, turning into swamp – ecologists

The world’s oldest and deepest body of freshwater, Lake Baikal, is turning into a swamp, Russian ecologists warn. They say that tons of liquid waste from tourist camps and water transport vehicles is being dumped into the UNESCO-protected lake.

One of the natural wonders and the pearl of Russia’s Siberia, Lake Baikal has recently been a source of alarming news, due to an increased number of alien water plants which have formed in the lake waterlogging it, ecologists said at a roundtable discussion recently held in the city of Irkutsk.

A recent scientific expedition discovered that 160 tons of liquid waste are produced every season in Baikal’s Chivyrkui Bay, said the head of Baikal Environmental Wave, one of Russia’s first environmental NGOs, according to SIA media outlet.

From BBC News, another tragedy:

Four Peruvian anti-logging activists murdered

Four Peruvian tribal leaders have been killed on their way to a meeting to discuss ways to stop illegal logging.

The men from the Ashaninka community were attempting to travel to Brazil when they were murdered. Campaigners say the men had received several death threats from illegal loggers, who are suspected of being behind the killings.

Correspondents say indigenous people have felt under increasing threat from deforestation in recent years.

An optimistic note from Business Insider:

The End Of Fracking Is Closer Than You Think

Canadian geologist David Hughes has some sober news for the Kool-Aid-drinking boosters of the United States’ newfound eminence in fossil fuel production: it’s going to go bust sooner rather than later.

Working with the Post Carbon Institute, a sustainability think-tank, Hughes meticulously analyzed industry data from 65,000 US shale oil and natural gas wells that use the much-ballyhooed extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as fracking. The process involves drilling horizontally as well as vertically, and then pumping a toxic cocktail of pressurized water, sand, and chemicals deep underground in order to break apart the rock formations that hold deposits of oil and gas.

Hughes found that the production rates at these wells decline, on average, 85 percent over three years. “Typically, in the first year there may be a 70 percent decline,” Hughes told VICE News. “Second year, maybe 40 percent; third year, 30 percent. So the decline rate is a hyperbolic curve. But nonetheless, by the time you get to three years, you’re talking 80 or 85 percent decline for most of these wells.”

But if you really want some to worry about, consider this from RT America:

Yellowstone supervolcano eruption to be a countrywide disaster

Program notes:

Although the odds are low for a major eruption happening anytime soon, a new study is once again raising fears over the Yellowstone supervolcano. A paper in the “Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems” journal lays out the suffering the US would undergo in a worst-case scenario disaster, predicting most major cities in the US being covered in layers of potentially deadly volcanic ash. RT’s Lindsay France takes a look at the study and breaks down its findings.

And for our final item, today’s lone Fukushimapocalypse Now! event, via the Guardian:

Fukushima fallout continues: now cleanup workers claim unpaid wages

  • Last month Tokyo Electric Power was ordered to pay $500,000 compensation, now workers sue for promised danger money

The legal net has started to tighten around the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as victims of the accident, and those responsible for clearing it up, take their grievances to the courts.

Last week, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said it would not contend a court ruling ordering it to pay almost $500,000 in compensation to the family of a woman who killed herself two months after being forced to flee her home near the plant.

That claim, which could pave the way for similar suits, has been followed by a unprecedented attempt by four Fukushima Daiichi workers to sue the utility for unpaid wages.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, forests, crops reefs, nukes


First up, via the Associated Press:

Ebola is surging in places it had been beaten back

Doctors Without Borders shuttered one of its Ebola treatment centers in Guinea in May. They thought the deadly virus was being contained there.

The Macenta region, right on the Liberian border, had been one of the first places where the outbreak surfaced, but they hadn’t seen a new case for weeks. So they packed up, leaving a handful of staff on stand-by. The outbreak was showing signs of slowing elsewhere as well.

Instead, new cases appeared across the border in Liberia and then spread across West Africa, carried by the sick and dying. Now, months later, Macenta is once again a hotspot.

The resurgence of the disease in a place where doctors thought they had it beat shows how history’s largest Ebola outbreak has spun out of control.

More from Reuters:

Ebola spreads exponentially in Liberia, many more cases soon: WHO

Liberia, the country worst hit by West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, should see thousands of new cases in coming weeks as the virus spreads exponentially, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

The epidemic, the worst since the disease was discovered in 1976, has killed some 2,100 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria and has also spread to Senegal.

The WHO believes it will take six to nine months to contain and may infect up to 20,000 people. In Liberia, the disease has already killed 1,089 people – more than half of all deaths reported since March in this regional epidemic.

“Transmission of the Ebola virus in Liberia is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially,” the U.N. agency said in a statement. “The number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them in Ebola-specific treatment centers.”

Still more from International Business Times:

Ebola Outbreak: ‘Huge Need’ For Funding, Supplies, Says UN Agency

The Ebola outbreak currently ravaging West Africa continues to spread at an alarming rate, and the World Health Organization says that hospital beds, supplies and transportation are all in short supply. The United Nations agency announced last week that it had developed a $490 million program for the U.N.’s network of agencies to implement. But that money is not immediately available because the WHO is “badly” funded, spokesman Dan Epstein told the International Business Times on Monday.

The funding shortfall and persistent logistical issues mean that victims of the deadly hemorrhagic fever and the health care professionals who treat them have not had access to all of the specialized equipment and support required to provide proper care.

“We need at least 980 more beds in Ebola treatment centers. There’s a huge need for foreign medical teams in these countries, and we also need personal protective equipment and other supplies,” Epstein said.

CBC News reports another casualty:

Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone infects WHO doctor

  • 152 health-care workers in Liberia have been infected, 79 have died

A doctor with the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone has tested positive for the Ebola virus.

The physician is in stable condition in Freetown and will be evacuated shortly, the UN health agency said in a statement Monday.

To maintain patient confidentiality, WHO spokeswoman Nyka Alexander in Freetown said the agency won’t provide details on nationality or where the person is going for treatment.

The Independent covers a vector:

Ebola virus spread by taxi passengers, says WHO

The Ebola virus is spreading exponentially in Liberia, the World Health Organisation warned today.

The organisation said that motorbike-taxis and regular taxis are “a hot source of potential virus transmission” because they are not disinfected in Liberia, where conventional Ebola control measures “are not having an adequate impact”.

The United Nations agency said aid partners needed to scale up efforts against Ebola by three- to fourfold in Liberia and elsewhere in West African countries battling the epidemic.

From the Guardian, another ill evacuee:

Fourth Ebola patient to be flown to US for care

  • Emory University Hospital says patient, possibly a doctor who had been working in Sierra Leone, will arrive Tuesday in the US

An Atlanta hospital says a patient infected with Ebola will be brought from West Africa to its isolation unit for treatment.

Emory University Hospital says the patient is expected to arrive Tuesday morning.

Air force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel James Wilson says the patient would be flown into Dobbins Air Reserve Base outside Atlanta.

The hospital released no more information on the patient.

USA TODAY sends in the troops:

Pentagon enlisted in Ebola fight

The Pentagon will airlift a portable, 25-bed hospital to Ebola-stricken Liberia to help treat first responders who have contracted the deadly disease, the Pentagon announced Monday.

The hospital, contained in a series of tents, will be set up and stocked by U.S. personnel. They will most likely be a mix of uniformed and civilian medical experts, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

The hospital will be given to the government of Liberia and operated by aid organizations and local medical personnel, Warren said.

From Science, dashing statistical optimism:

How deadly is Ebola? Statistical challenges may be inflating survival rate

The Ebola virus that is causing the raging epidemic in West Africa is famously lethal. In previous outbreaks it has killed as many as 90% of the people it infects. That’s why the figures in World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) latest “Situation Report” look like they might be a rare glimmer of good news. Although the rate of infections is picking up speed at an alarming rate, the report says the fatality rate is 53% overall, ranging from 64% in Guinea to just 39% in Sierra Leone.

But there’s a catch: The apparent low proportion of deaths probably depends more on the way health officials are calculating the number than on the deadliness of the virus—or the quality of care patients are receiving. Indeed, the dramatic increase in cases in recent weeks is one of the main reasons the reported death rate appears to be artificially low.

There are several ways to calculate what officials call the “case fatality rate,” or CFR, of a disease outbreak. One of the simplest is to divide the number of deaths by the number of total cases. That is what WHO does in its recent CFR calculations.

StarAfrica offers a defense:

S/Leone defends proposed anti-Ebola lockdown

Sierra Leone’s Information Minister, Alhaji Alpha Kanu, Monday defended the decision by the government to declare a nationwide shutdown in an effort to contain the deadly Ebola virus disease in the country.From September 19 to 21, everyone will be confined to their homes, according to the decision reached last Friday.

Only a limited personnel providing essential services like health workers, power service employees, will be allowed to work during the lockdown.

The government said this will enable it identify sick people and refer them for early treatment so that they do not spread the virus.

Punch Nigeria poses a challenge:

Ebola: Doctors reject Sept 22 schools’ resumption date

The   Nigerian Medical Association on Monday faulted the Federal Government’s directive to schools to resume on September 22 as against October 12.

It said through its National Secretary-General, Dr. Olawunmi Alayaki, that all schools ought to remain   shut   till all those under surveillance for the Ebola Virus Disease in the country had been certified free.

“We are not happy with this decision on the resumption of schools. Schools should be shut till the last suspected case or patient is certified free of the virus,” the NMA said.

StarAfrica eases:

Ebola-hit Liberia adjusts curfew hours, lifts quarantine on Town

Liberia has adjusted the curfew period throughout the country, reports said on Monday. According to Information Minister Lewis G. Brown, the curfew will as of September 8, last from 11:00 P.M to 6:00 A.M.

Brown made the disclosure in an interview on Monrovia, telling reporters that the curfew was lifted based on recommendations from the Ministry of Health.

Meanwhile, Minister Brown has announced the lifting of the quarantine on Dolo’s Town in Margibi County. According to him, the government’s decision to lift the quarantine on Dolo’s Town is based on positive and satisfactory reports coming from the area.

euronews defends:

Guinea announces new measures to stop Ebola

The Guinean government has set up a medical checkpoint near the country’s border with Sierra Leone in an attempt to stop the spread of Ebola.

People are being stopped and tested for the virus, which has killed almost 2,100 people in West Africa this year.

Xinhua calls for a halt:

Travel ban over Ebola should be lifted: AU

The African Union (AU) has agreed at an emergency meeting that countries should lift travel ban over the Ebola outbreak, but underlined the need to put appropriate measures to protect and contain the spread of the Ebola virus.

The AU Executive Council on Monday convened an emergency meeting at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to consolidate collective continental efforts against Ebola.

Ebola has affected West African countries.

The AU said in a statement ahead of the meeting that the Executive Council would deliberate on issues related to the suspension of flights, and maritime and border closures, as well as stigmatization of the affected countries and their nationals.

On a related note, from Deutsche Welle:

Ebola lockdown criticized

  • Aid organizations have criticized plans by the Sierra Leone govenerment to enforce a three-day Ebola lockdown. They say it could erode trust in the already embattled authorities.

From the Los Angeles Times, another mystery ailment:

Virus poses particular danger to kids with asthma; cases in 12 states

A rare virus that threatens respiratory systems has sickened hundreds children in Kansas City, Mo., and and Chicago and could be responsible for far more cases in about a dozen states, national health officials said Monday.

The virus, known as Enterovirus D68, is a rare form of the virus normally associated with the common cold, Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a news conference at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reports of hundreds of children being infected have raised concerns, and doctors have been warned to be on the lookout for more clusters, she said. “We understand the concern about this. Severe respiratory illness is also a concern, especially when children are involved,” she said.

On to other environmental news, first with the Guardian:

Activists promise biggest climate march in history

  • People’s Climate March in New York and cities worldwide hopes to put pressure on heads of state at Ban Ki-moon summit

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets of New York, London and eight other cities worldwide in a fortnight to pressure world leaders to take action on global warming, in what organisers claim will be the biggest climate march in history.

On 23 September, heads of state will join a New York summit on climate change organised by Ban Ki-moon, the first time world leaders have come together on the issue since the landmark Copenhagen summit in 2009, which was seen as a failure.

The UN secretary general hopes the meeting will inject momentum into efforts to reach a global deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2015, at a conference in Paris.

National Post covers a decline:

Canada leads world in forest decline, report says

The world’s virgin forests are being lost at an increasing rate and the largest portion of the degradation is in Canada, according to a new report.

No longer is Brazil the main villain in the struggle to stop forest destruction.

“Canada is the number one in the world for the total area of the loss of intact forest landscapes since 2000,” Peter Lee, of Forest Watch Canada, said in an interview.

He said the main drivers are fires, logging and energy and industrial development.

BBC News raises threats:

Food crop wild relatives endangered

Scientists have released the most complete database of the wild relatives of common food crops.

These wild relatives are closely related to our crops, but grow naturally under a wide range of environmental conditions. This makes them essential for the development of more resistant and adaptable food sources.

However, many of them grow in conflict zones in the Middle East, where their conservation is threatened.

While Al Jazeera America covers a rescue:

Ancient superfoods saved (and savored) by modern palates

  • An heirloom grain revival takes root in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands

The towering ancient corn, which grows to twice the height of a man, was cultivated for thousands of years by Uto-Aztecan tribes, but had all but disappeared. Now, horticulturalist Jonathan Wick stoops over green shoots of the maize sprouting in a field near this Mexican village just south of the Arizona border.

“It was originally grown by the Aztecs, and it was their superfood,” Wick said of the Chapalote corn. “It was the food that they would roast and mill, make into a drink with water — pinole — the drink that they needed to keep them going all day long. It’s very nutritious.”

Wick is working to revive the ancient, once near-extinct, flinty, chocolate-colored corn first sown 4,200 years ago in a region extending from what is now northwest Mexico to Arizona

BBC News comes covers a rescue:

New proposal on Australia reef dumping plan

The Queensland government has proposed a plan that would prevent sediment being dumped in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The central government has already approved the reef dumping plan, which is linked to a major port expansion. But the decision has proved hugely controversial, prompting stringent criticism from environmentalists.

The Queensland government said its plan to dispose of the sediment on land would “create a win-win situation”.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:

TEPCO apologizes family over evacuee suicide

The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant apologized to the family of a woman who committed suicide after she was forced to evacuate her home because of radiation released by the meltdowns in March 2011.

The Fukushima District Court last month ordered the Tokyo Electric Power Company to pay about 470,000 dollars in damages for the suicide of Hamako Watanabe.

The court acknowledged a sufficient causal relationship between her suicide and the nuclear accident.

Kyodo News looks to a restart:

Japan nuclear plant to get safety clearance this week

A nuclear plant in southwestern Japan will obtain a safety clearance from regulators this week to become the first such facility in the country to meet new, tighter regulations introduced following the 2011 Fukushima crisis, official sources said Monday.

The move will let the two-reactor Sendai complex in Kagoshima Prefecture move a step closer to operational resumption, which could mark the revival of Japan’s nuclear industry, idled since the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

But a restart of the Sendai plant is not expected before this winter, as the operator Kyushu Electric Power Co. has yet to get some paperwork done to fully complete the regulatory safety screening process, undergo on-site operational checks and obtain local consent.

NHK WORLD covers reluctance:

Local govts wary of nuclear plant restart

An NHK survey shows that more than 60 percent of local governments that host or surround a nuclear power plant are cautious about restarting idled reactors even if they meet new safety guidelines.

Last month, NHK polled 146 prefectures and municipalities within a 30-kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant. The survey asked whether they will approve restarting plants nearby if authorities find they satisfy new safety requirements.

About 12 percent said they will approve or hope to approve in the future, while 8 percent said they will not approve or will never approve. About 67 percent said they were undecided for now. Of the respondents, 44 percent of the municipalities that host a plant gave a positive answer. Only 8 percent of municipalities surrounding a plant did so.

And for our final item, not all environments are external, via Public Radio International:

Bacteria in our gut may influence both our physical and mental health

  • If bacteria in your gut can affect your health, can they affect your brain, too?

Researchers are finding more and more evidence that the trillions of bacteria contained in our gut are sending signals to the brain and influencing behavior and cognitive functioning.

People in the fields of appetite and food intake have long known that the brain and the gut talk to one another, says researcher John Cryan, but a paper published 10 years ago in Japan made scientists take a new look at gut-brain communication. The paper revealed that mice lacking certain bacteria showed an increased stress response.

Cryan, who is chairman of the department of anatomy and neuroscience and principal investigator of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Center at the University of College Cork in Cork, Ireland, says the paper made researchers in stress neurobiology ask an important new question: “What are bacteria doing that helps animals have a proper stress response?”

EnviroWatch: Ebola, Dengue, water, nukes


From the Associated Press, or first Ebola item:

Obama warns Ebola outbreak could worsen

President Barack Obama says helping contain the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a U.S. national security priority but it’s going to be a long and difficult task.

He says the American military will be helping set up isolation units and equipment there and providing security for public health workers flocking in from around the world. But even then, he says “it’s still going to be months before this problem is controllable in Africa.”

Obama spoke on Ebola during a wide-ranging interview with NBC, conducted Saturday and broadcast Sunday.

BBC News offers hope:

Vaccine gives monkeys Ebola immunity

Vaccinated monkeys have developed “long-term” immunity to the Ebola virus, raising a prospect of successful human trials, say scientists.

The experiments by the US National Institutes of Health showed immunity could last at least 10 months.

Human trials of the vaccine started this week in the US and will extend to the UK and Africa.

But the Associated Press cautions:

Monkey study: Ebola vaccine works, needs booster

New monkey studies show that one shot of an experimental Ebola vaccine can trigger fast protection, but the effect waned unless the animals got a booster shot made a different way.

Some healthy people are rolling up their sleeves at the National Institutes of Health for the first human safety study of this vaccine in hopes it eventually might be used in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The NIH on Sunday published some of the key animal research behind those injections. One reason the vaccine was deemed promising was that a single dose protected all four vaccinated monkeys when they were exposed to high levels of Ebola virus just five weeks later, researchers reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

Is five weeks fast enough?

The Independent backgrounds:

Ebola outbreak: Why has ‘Big Pharma’ failed deadly virus’ victims?

Asked why a fully tested and licensed vaccine had not been developed, [Professor Adrian Hill of Oxford University] Hill said: “Well, who makes vaccines? Today, commercial vaccine supply is monopolised by four or five mega- companies – GSK, Sanofi, Merck, Pfizer – some of the biggest companies in the world.

“The problem with that is, even if you’ve got a way of making a vaccine, unless there’s a big market, it’s not worth the while of a mega-company …. There was no business case to make an Ebola vaccine for the people who needed it most: first because of the nature of the outbreak; second, the number of people likely to be affected was, until now, thought to be very small; and third, the fact that the people affected are in some of the poorest countries in the world and can’t afford to pay for a new vaccine. It’s a market failure.”

He said that producing a vaccine for Ebola was “technically more doable” than making one for other challenging and more widespread diseases such as TB, HIV and malaria, which receive more funding. “There’s a lesson here,” he said. “If we had invested in an Ebola vaccine, had it sitting there as the outbreak comes, you could have nipped it in the bud, been able to vaccinate the region where it started. What happened in Guinea was that it got out of control and spread. If you invest in having a relatively small amount of vaccine, available in the right place, as soon as anything happens, you could save huge amounts of money, not to mention lives.”

And from StarAfrica, a story that raises many questions:

Zimbabwe to introduce HIV self-testing

The Zimbabwean government will soon introduce HIV self-testing kits as a way to encourage people to know their HIV status, a senior Ministry of Health official said Sunday.The director of the ministry’s AIDS and TB Unit, Owen Mugurungi said the government was undertaking an assessment before the introduction of the HIV self-testing kits.

“By the end of the year we should be releasing preliminary results on the assessment which will guide us on the decisions we are supposed to make,” Mugurungi told the state-run Sunday Mail.

The development follows revelations that only 185,000 of the 196,000 people who went for HIV tests in 2013 collected their results.

Uganda’s Daily Monitor limits:

Guinea football team restricted to 25 people

  • The move seeks to minimise the risk of spreading Ebola in Uganda.

Government has restricted to 25 people the contingent of the Guinea football team, which is expected to play Uganda Cranes this Wednesday in Kampala in the African Cup of Nations Qualifiers.

The move, which seeks to minimise the risk of importing Ebola to the country, will only allow in players, coaches and support staff.

Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the minister of Health said at the weekend that no fans from Guinea would be allowed into the country.

From Punch Nigeria, a call from an organization with a controversial history:

Seadogs ask C’ River to set up isolation centres

Two chapters of the National Association of Seadogs in Cross River State on Saturday called on the state government to set up isolation centres as a proactive step to curtail the spread of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease.

Although Cross River had yet to record any case of EVD, the Jokaina and Frigate decks of NAS were of the view that it was taking the state government too long to establish quarantine centres.

They made the call in Calabar, the state capital, during an exercise organised to sensitise traders, motorists and the general public on preventive measure

StarAfrica covers a negative:

Zambia: Quarantined man tests negative to Ebola

The Zambian government has assured the public that the country has not recorded any cases of the dreaded Ebola fever in the country after a man suspected of having the disease tested negative to the virus.Ministry of Health spokesperson Kennedy Mulenga told journalists on Sunday that samples drawn from the man from Mumbwa west of the capital last week had tested negative to the deadly fever and the man had since been released from quarantine.

Residents of Mumbwa panicked last week when word went round that the man who exhibited symptoms similar to the fever was suffering from Ebola fever but Mulenga said the man had tested negative.

He said the ministry has assembled a rapid response team made up health personnel to carry out surveillance for the disease around the country especially at entry and exit points around the country.

From Punch Nigeria, another challenge:

Enemuo acted like a traditional healer —Medical council

If not for death, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, the country’s regulatory agency for the practice of medicine, would have disciplined the late Dr. Iyke Enemuo because he acted like a traditional healer.

Enemuo died after contracting the Ebola Virus Disease from the ECOWAS diplomat, Olubukun Koye, whom he treated in a Port-Harcourt hotel.

Fielding questions from journalists in Abuja, the Registrar of MDCN, Dr. Abdulmumuni Ibrahim, condemned the decision of the late doctor to treat a patient suffering from a contagious disease in a hotel.

While describing Enemuo’s action as highly unethical, Ibrahim said it was wrong to treat a patient outside a medical facility.

Off to Asia and another disease, first from China Daily:

1,145 dengue fever cases in S China

A total of 1,145 dengue fever cases have been confirmed in South China’s Guangdong province, with 31 in critical situation, according to a statement released by local health department.

Of the cases, 90 percent are confirmed in Guangzhou. There have been no deaths reported, the statement said.

Zhang Yonghui, director of the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, appealed to all citizens to take self-protective measure against mosquitoes and eradicate mosquitoes so as to prevent dengue fever.

Jiji Press imposes a closure:

Shinjuku Gyoen Closed amid Dengue Outbreak

Japan’s Environment Ministry closed Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden on Sunday as many domestic dengue fever infections have taken place in nearby Yoyogi Park recently.

Although no infection in Shinjuku Gyoen has been reported, the park will be closed for the time being, according to the ministry.

The ministry will catch mosquitos in the park and check whether they carry the dengue virus.

From the Guardian, another outbreak closer to home:

US has seen nearly 600 measles cases this year, CDC says

  • Outbreaks linked to trend of parents not vaccinating children
  • Deadly disease had been virtually eradicated in US

The United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.

Authorities have confirmed 592 cases between 1 January and 29 August, a jump caused mainly by parents refusing to vaccinate their children, according to the latest monthly report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest figures from summer continue a troubling trend reported in May when the US recorded 288 cases of measles since January – the most in a five-month period since 1994.

From the Associated Press, a water woe:

Water shortages lead to ‘tanker mafia’ in India

While New Delhi has had water troubles for decades, the shortage has become critical in recent years as the city’s population has grown with little or no planning, rising from 9 million in 1991 to almost 17 million today.

Even many of the wealthiest neighborhoods get water for just an hour in the morning, with residents rushing to turn on pumps and fill storage tanks when the municipal supply flows.

The most urgent problem, though, is getting water to the sprawling neighborhoods of illegally constructed buildings, home to 40 percent of the city’s residents and largely without water lines. The city’s water agency, the Delhi Jal Board, sends 900 tankers onto the crowded roads every day. In some neighborhoods, a tanker passes every few minutes, its load sloshing down its sides.

RT covers an agricultural woe:

India ozone pollution kills enough crops to feed nearly 100mn poor a year – study

Millions of tons of India’s major crops get damaged yearly due to air pollution – leaving a third of the country’s impoverished people short on nutrition, a joint US-India study reveals.

In the space of just one year, ozone pollution has deprived the Indian economy of millions of tons of wheat, rice, soybean and cotton – the country’s main crops. Losses of $1.29 billion translate as food for 94 million people living below the poverty line. These figures were made public in research titled “Reductions in India’s crop yield due to ozone”, recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

India’s Air Monitoring Center has already pointed out the soaring rates of pollution in the country, comparing the national capital Delhi to Chinese Beijing – one of the most polluted cities in the world – as of years 2011-2014. But rising emissions also worry scientists, who are studying severe ozone pollution in some of India’s most populated regions.

Next up, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with astonishing numbers from  the Japan Times:

Two trillion becquerels of radioactive material may have escaped No. 1

Some 2 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and cesium-137 may have flowed into the bay of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant during the 10 months to May this year, it was learned Sunday.

The amount exceeds by 10 times the limit of radioactive material releases Tepco set before the March 2011 meltdown accident at the power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

At the plant, tainted groundwater may be flowing into the bay, and highly radioactive water may be leaking into the bay from reactor buildings through trenches.

According to Tepco documents, some 4.8 billion becquerels of strontium-90 and 2 billion becquerels of cesium-137 are estimated to have flowed into the plant’s bay per day, based on their average concentrations near a water intake for the Nos. 1-Nos. 4 reactors between August last year and May this year.

NHK WORLD drops in:

New industry minister visits Fukushima Daiichi

Japan’s new industry minister says the government will do all it can to decommission the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Yuko Obuchi became Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister last week. She made her first inspection of the plant in Fukushima Prefecture on Sunday. Obuchi thanked plant workers for the difficult work they are doing. She said the decommissioning of the reactors is moving forward.

She stressed that for the future of Japan and Fukushima’s recovery, the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates Fukushima Daiichi, must work together to overcome many difficulties.

From BBC News, another fuel, another problem:

Brazil’s ex-Petrobras director Paulo Roberto Costa claims corruption

An ex-director of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras has accused more than 40 politicians of involvement in a kickback scheme over the past decade.

Paulo Roberto Costa – who is in jail and being investigated for involvement in the alleged scheme – named a minister, governors and congressmen.

They were members of the governing Workers party and two other groups that back President Dilma Rousseff.

And to close, this from News Corp Australia:

Stephen Hawking says Higgs boson has potential to destroy entire universe

SCIENTIST Stephen Hawking has warned that the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle, could cause space and time to collapse.

But there is time for lunch: It may take trillions of years to topple.

The British professor said that at very high energy levels the Higgs boson – the subatomic particle which gives us our shape and size – could become so unstable that it would cause space and time to collapse.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, Dengue, fracking, sharks


Plus some rare good water news.

First, from StarAfrica:

SADC health ministers hold emergency Ebola meeting in Zimbabwe

Health ministers from southern African are meeting in the Zimbabwean resort town of Victoria Falls to strategise on a regional response to the Ebola outbreak that has ravaged parts of West Africa, APA learnt here Friday.Ministers responsible for health in the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) began a two-day emergency meeting on Friday to review measures adopted by countries in response to the Ebola outbreak with a view to ultimately developing a regional response.

Zimbabwe’s Health Minister David Parirenyatwa, who currently chairs the SADC Committee of Health Ministers, said the meeting would, among others, seek to harmonise responses by member states to the outbreak, in particular measures on how to deal with travellers and border controls.

The meeting comes in the wake of reports that more than 80 cases have detected in the Democratic Republic of Congo, resulting in at least 36 deaths.

BBC News warns:

Sierra Leone’s Ebola lockdown will not help, says MSF

A three-day lockdown announced by Sierra Leone to combat Ebola will not help contain the virus, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says.

The charity said a lockdown would force people underground, destroy trust between doctors and the public and ultimately help spread the disease.

Sierra Leone officials say the measure, due to begin on 19 September, will let health workers isolate new cases.

From StarAfrica again, sad and dangerous:

Another Ebola trial drug arrives in Liberia

Liberia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says dosages of the experimental homeopathic drug for the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) have arrived in the country as part of efforts by the government to curb the epidemic.A Foreign Ministry statement on Friday disclosed that a 3 kg package of the experimental remedy containing sufficient doses for 30 infected persons arrived in the country from the International Emergency Management Organization (IEMO) in Italy.

It comes following two weeks of telephone exchanges between Liberia’s Foreign Minister, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan and the Rome-based office of IEMO, the statement said.

According to the IEMO, the remedy is an aqueous alternative medicine that promotes homeopathic cure with no side effect.

From TheLocal.at, another non-Ebola case:

15-year-old boy has malaria not Ebola

A 15-year-old boy who was admitted to Linz General Hospital on Friday having symptoms consistent with Ebola has now been confirmed as having malaria.

He had recently returned from a trip to West Africa, where there have been more than 3,000 cases of the disease since it was first identified in Guinea in February.

A suspected case of Ebola in Vienna was given the all clear on Wednesday, and earlier alarms in Tyrol and Upper Austria all proved not to be Ebola.

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, another alert:

Kasese on Ebola alert

According to WHO, the Health Ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo said in August that two samples taken from a remote village in the North-western province of Equateur had tested positive for the deadly virus, but added that the infections were from a different strain than the one that has killed more than 1,400 people in four West African countries

Kasese district has been put on Ebola alert following reports that the disease had so far killed 13 people in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kasese district leadership has directed all Health facilities in the area especially those along the Uganda-DR Congo common border to be on the alert of any suspicious cases.

A Health Inspector with Kasese District local government, Mr Samuel Kabunga on Monday told a District Health Assembly that the ministry of health had confirmed that Ebola had been reported in the Equatorial Province of the DRC where 13 people were reported dead.

StarAfrica announces another ban:

Sudan: UN imposes anti-Ebola measures on W/African personnel

The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has imposed wide health restricted measures among its staff to prevent the transmission of Ebola to Sudan through the West African UN personnel, reports said on Saturday.The move came after some Sudanese media reports warned of suspected cases among the West African UN staffs who are working in the mission in Darfur.

However the mission denied the reports, confirming that there are no recorded cases of Ebola among UNAMID’s personnel.

UNAMID said in a statement that the mission’s health section has put in place strict set of measures to prevent the risks related to Ebola, including three stages of tests to the personnel travelling to or coming from the West Africa countries.

From the Daily Monitor again, Uganda sends a general, not a doctor:

Gen Oketta for AU anti-Ebola operation

Maj Gen Julius Oketta, the disaster and relief coordinator in the Office of the Prime Minister has been nominated to join an Africa Union led humanitarian mission to combat the threat of the Ebola virus to the continent

Maj Gen Julius Oketta, the disaster and relief coordinator in the Office of the Prime Minister has been nominated to join an Africa Union led humanitarian mission to combat the threat of the Ebola virus to the continent.
Maj Oketta will join the Ethiopia-based Africa Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa( ASEOWA) that is spearheading an strategy code-named “Operation ASEOWA” in devising a strategy to combat the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa and is threatening East Africa.

In an interview on Tuesday, Maj Gen Oketta revealed that his appointment was a testimony that the African Union was impressed by Uganda’s effective response to the 2000 Ebola epidemic that ravaged Northern Uganda- even as the region was suffering war-but was ably dealt with.

And the Associated Press appreciates:

Zeal, devotion guides volunteers to Ebola crisis

These volunteers are passionate, but there’s also a cold logic to their commitment: This epidemic that has killed more than 2,000 people and sickened 3,900 in five West African nations won’t end unless more experienced health care workers confront it directly.

Ebola is being spread by people, in hospitals, homes and funerals. People catch the virus when they have direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of those who are sick and dying, or already dead. At ELWA, Jamison trained workers how to protect themselves and the wider population.

The hospital in Monrovia is operated by Charlotte-based SIM USA, and includes more than 200 beds as well as the 50-bed isolation unit for Ebola patients.

And from Agence France-Presse, raw footage — including the loading of bodies — outside an Ebola facility in the capital of Liberia:

Relatives of Ebola victims wait for news at Liberia hospital

Program note:

The death toll from the Ebola epidemic has climbed above 2,000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Friday, as it voiced hopes a vaccine could be available in November.

From the Japan Times, an Asian outbreak expands:

Dengue spreads beyond two Tokyo parks; tally at 74

Evidence emerged Saturday that dengue fever is spreading throughout the capital after an infected Tokyo man said he hadn’t recently visited either of the parks so far linked to the virus, and the case tally grew overnight to 74.

The man, in his 60s, said he did not recently visit either Yoyogi Park or Shinjuku Chuo Park, the two hot spots identified as having mosquitoes carrying the virus, the health ministry said.

The others infected said they had spent time in or near Yoyogi Park, except for a Saitama man identified Friday who said he was bitten by mosquitoes in Shinjuku Chuo Park, west of Shinjuku Station and just north of Yoyogi.

From UC Riverside, some good water news for a change:

Acidity on decline in Sierra Nevada lakes

California’s water supply depends on a clean snow pack and healthy mountain lakes.  The lakes receive a large amount of runoff in the spring from the melting snowpack.  If the snowpack is polluted, the lakes will be polluted.

James O. Sickman, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Riverside, has conducted research on lakes in the Sierra Nevada — the most sensitive lakes in the U.S. to acid rain, according to the Environmental Protection Agency — and described human impacts on them during the 20th century.  The research was done by long-term measurements of lake chemistry beginning in the 1980s and the collection of long sediment cores from the lakes.

The conclusion is the overall news is good: Air quality regulation has benefited aquatic ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada, and controlling air pollution is benefiting nature in California.

Led by Sickman and his graduate students, the researchers have published a series of articles in peer-reviewed journals on their work, the latest of which appears in Environmental Science and Technology.

Back to watery woes with Al Jazeera America:

In shadow of oil boom, North Dakota farmers fight contamination

  • One county’s infertile lands offer a test case of the long-term effects of wastewater spills

Last summer, in a wet, remote section of farm country in Bottineau County, landowner Mike Artz and his two neighbors discovered that a ruptured pipeline was spewing contaminated wastewater into his crop fields.

“We saw all this oil on the low area, and all this salt water spread out beyond it,” said his neighbor Larry Peterson, who works as a farmer and an oil-shale contractor. “The water ran out into the wetland.”

It was August, and all across Artz’s farm the barley crop was just reaching maturity. But near the spill, the dead stalks had undeveloped kernels, which, the farmers knew, meant that the barley had been contaminated weeks earlier.

Soon after, state testing of the wetlands showed that chloride levels were so high, they exceeded the range of the test strips. The North Dakota Department of Health estimated that between 400 to 600 barrels of wastewater, the equivalent of 16,800 to 25,200 gallons, had seeped into the ground.

Wastewater, known as “saltwater” because of its high salinity, is a by-product of oil drilling, which has been a boom-and-bust industry in North Dakota since at least the 1930s. Far saltier than ocean water, this wastewater is toxic enough to sterilize land and poison animals that mistakenly drink it. “You never see a saltwater spill produce again,” Artz said, referring to the land affected by the contamination. “Maybe this will be the first, but I doubt it.”

Al Jazeera America again, with more fuelishness:

As Keystone awaits fate, other tar sands projects move forward

  • Environmental groups accuse pipeline companies of skirting federal review to get tar sands to the US

Over the past few years, the Keystone pipeline has become a household name. The controversy caused by Canadian pipeline company TransCanada’s project, which would bring hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from Canada’s tar sands to the U.S. each day, has ignited an environmental movement across the country, and has elicited responses from top U.S. politicians, including President Obama.

But the U.S. has approved other cross-border tar sands transportation projects with little fanfare.

Those projects include one by TransCanada competitor Enbridge to build a facility in Illinois to transport crude oil from the tar sands via train, which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week. The decision came just weeks after the State Department approved an Enbridge pipeline project that would cross Canada through the Minnesota border and help bring millions more barrels of oil to the U.S. each year. The project was approved without a public review process or an environmental-impact assessment.

The Times of India gives us our lone nuclear story:

Cancer behind 70% deaths in India’s atomic energy hubs

Cancer caused almost 70% of the 3,887 health-related deaths in the atomic energy hubs across the country over the last 20 years, an RTI reply has revealed. In all, 2,600 succumbed to cancer in 19 centres between 1995 and 2014.

The query to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), which, like the others, is under the Department of Atomic Energy, had another shocking revelation: 255 employees took their own lives while in harness in the same period, meaning an average of almost one every month over 20 years. Investigations showed they were mostly over prolonged illness or family problems.

Cancer is among the top ten killers in India, and accounts for around 7% of the roughly 9.5 million annual deaths, as has been estimated by the Centre’s ongoing Million Deaths Study.

And for our final item, via the London Telegraph, Help! Help! Sharks! [from a joke every U.S. fifth grade boy used to learn]:

Sharks nine times more likely to kill men than women, study says

  • Australian scientists baffled by finding that men are targeted in 84 per cent of all unprovoked shark attacks, and make up 89 per cent of all shark bite fatalities

Sharks are nine times more likely to kill men than women, new research from Australia shows.

Men are targeted in 84 per cent of all unprovoked shark attacks, and make up 89 per cent of all shark bite fatalities – which means that women are statistically more likely to survive a shark attack.

The numbers are from a study out of Bond University in Queensland to be published in the international journal Coastal Management this week.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, dengue, water, & nukes


First up, via Reuters, the latest grim numbers:

EU pledges 140 million euros in Ebola aid as West Africa toll tops 2,100

The European Union on Friday pledged 140 million euros ($180 million) to boost the fight against Ebola in West Africa, where the death toll in the worst outbreak on record has passed 2,100 people.

More than six months into the crisis, the disease is spreading faster than ever and organizations across the world are scrambling cash and supplies to the region. But the World Health Organization (WHO) said the lack of trained staff was hobbling the response.

“The situation is going from bad to worse,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the EU commissioner responsible for humanitarian aid. “We are helping make a difference on the ground but the needs are outpacing the international community’s capacity to react.”

From Reuters, a campaign:

U.N. to set up Ebola crisis center, aims to stop spread in six to nine months

The United Nations plans to set up an Ebola crisis center to coordinate the response to the deadly virus and to strive to halt its spread in West African countries in six to nine months, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Friday.

Ban called on the international community to provide $600 million needed for supplies in West Africa, where more than 3,500 confirmed or probable cases of the hemorrhagic fever have been reported and more than 1,900 people have died since March.

“The number of cases is rising exponentially. The disease is spreading far faster than the response. People are increasingly frustrated that it is not being controlled,” Ban told reporters.

StarAfrica liberates:

Ebola: Cameroon quarantines, releases 60 migrants

The Minister of Public Health, André Mama Fouda in Yaounde has authorized the return home from Nigeria of 60 Cameroonian migrants who were quarantined earlier this week due to Ebola, the ministry announced Friday.The migrants had been placed in isolation in Ekok and Ekondo Titi (South-west) and put under observation for 21 days, the incubation period for the virus.

Cameroon shares a 1,500km land border with Nigeria, a country where cases of Ebola have been reported in recent months.

As part of its prevention and response plan, the Cameroonian authorities have prohibited any movement of people and goods from or into Ebola-hit countries.

The Associated Press diagnoses:

US doctor infected with Ebola in stable condition

A doctor who became infected with Ebola while working in Liberia is sick but in stable condition and communicating with his caregivers at the Nebraska Medical Center, officials said Friday.

Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, is being treated at a 10-bed special isolation unit, the largest of the United States’ four. It was built to handle patients with highly infectious and deadly diseases, according to Dr. Mark Rupp, chief of the infectious diseases division at the center.

Sacra— the third American aid worker sickened with the virus — arrived at 6:38 a.m. Friday at the Omaha hospital. Sacra was wheeled on a gurney off the plane at Offutt Air Force Base, transferred to an ambulance and then wheeled into the hospital, said Rosanna Morris, chief nursing officer for the medical center.

More from USA Today:

U.S. doctor will be treated without experimental drug

With all supplies of an experimental drug exhausted, doctors and nurses caring for the third Ebola patient to return to the USA will rely on conventional methods of treating symptoms and preventing complications.

Physician Richard Sacra, 51, arrived Friday at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha’s special Biocontainment Unit, one of only four such specialized units in the USA, which is designed for patients with dangerous and highly infectious diseases. Although Sacra works as a family physician in Worcester, Mass., he is also an experienced medical missionary, and he returned to Liberia to replace staff who had fallen ill with Ebola.

Smith and several other doctors with the unit repeatedly said Sacra’s transfer to Omaha posed no threat to the public, noting Ebola is transmitted through close contact with an infected person.

From TheLocal.at, an alarm in Austria:

Suspected case of Ebola in Linz

A 15-year-old boy with Ebola-like symptoms is being treated in an isolation ward in Upper Austria. The young man was admitted to Linz General Hospital on Friday morning, suffering from a high fever.

He has recently returned from a trip to West Africa, where there have been more than 3,000 cases of the disease since it was first identified in Guinea in February.

Blood samples from the patient have been sent to Vienna for analysis. A result is expected by Saturday morning.

From Reuters, another quarantine:

Sierra Leone to impose 4-day, countrywide anti-Ebola ‘lockdown’

Sierra Leone will impose a four-day, countrywide “lockdown” starting Sept. 18, an escalation of efforts to halt the spread of Ebola across the West African nation, a senior official in the president’s office said on Friday.

Citizens will not be allowed to leave their homes between Sept. 18-21 in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading further and allow health workers to identify cases in the early stages of the illness, said Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, a presidential advisor on the country’s Ebola task force.

“The aggressive approach is necessary to deal with the spread of Ebola once and for all,” he told Reuters. As of Friday, Sierra Leone has recorded 491 of the total of 2,097 deaths blamed on Ebola in West Africa since March, U.N. figures showed.

The San Francisco Chronicle allocates:

White House asks for $30M for CDC’s Ebola efforts

The White House on Friday sent Congress a request for $30 million to pay for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s efforts to help contain the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.

The administration wants the money added to a spending bill to keep government agencies running until mid-December and comes on top of $58 million it requested above current levels to speed the production of promising drugs to fight the deadly disease.

The White House is also seeking additional flexibility for the Homeland Security Department to cope with the thousands of unaccompanied Central American children still arriving at the southern border.

More from Homeland Security News Wire:

HHS awards $24.9 million contract to accelerate development of Ebola drug

The development of a medication to treat illness from Ebola will be accelerated under a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). HHS says that this contract supports the government-wide response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The $24.9 million, 18-month contract with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., of San Diego, California, may be extended up to a total of $42.3 million. HHS notes that it is seeking additional proposals for the advanced development of antibody treatments, antiviral drugs, and vaccines against the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

The development of a medication to treat illness from Ebola will be accelerated under a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). HHS says that this contract supports the government-wide response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Xinhua gets defensive:

China imposes stricter port inspection for precaution against Ebola

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever has been listed as a quarantinable disease as the country’s health authorities pass harsher port inspections for people and goods entering from affected areas.

All Chinese ports of entry will carry out stricter quarantine measures, said the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) in a statement published on its website on Friday.

People, vehicles, goods and mail from infected areas will be thoroughly inspected, said the NHFPC.

The New York Times reckons:

Ebola Is Taking a Second Toll, on Economies

Airlines have canceled their flights to the countries most affected. Prices of staple goods are going up, and food supplies are dwindling. Border posts are being closed, foreign workers are going home and national growth rates are projected to plummet.

Ebola — the reality and the hysteria over it — is having a serious economic impact on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, three West African nations already at the bottom of global economic and social indicators. Aggravating both the financial and social consequences, these countries and their frightened neighbors are imposing concentric circles of quarantines, cutting off neighborhoods, regions and even whole nations.

International medical authorities have warned against such practices, arguing that they will worsen suffering and deprivation, and do little to stop the spread of the disease. But many African nations have gone ahead anyway, sealing borders, barring entry to residents of the affected countries and barring their airlines from flying to those countries. Senegal has even refused to allow humanitarian flights with urgently needed supplies and medical personnel to take off from Dakar, the West African hub for international aid agencies. South Africa and Kenya, two of the continent’s economic heavyweights, have restricted entry to people coming from the Ebola zone.

But Ebola isn’t the only disease Africans fear, as revealed in this report from the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, covering a little known but very serious disease:

28 put under nodding disease surveillance

At least 28 children suspected of having the nodding syndrome have been placed under close surveillance in Amida and Akwanga sub-counties in Kitgum District.

According to the nodding syndrome focal person in Kitgum District, Dr Geoffrey Akena, 20 cases were reported in Okidi Parish and eight in Akwang Sub-county.

“We are not committing ourselves that these cases are nodding syndrome, but 60 per cent of the signs and symptoms the children present are those of nodding syndrome,” Dr Akena said.

And from the Daily Monitor again, yet another concern:

Medics jailed over fake HIV results

A magistrate’s court in Luweero District has remanded two medical staff on charges of conspiring with a patient to falsify HIV/Aids status results.
Ms Teopista Nansubuga and Mr Muhamad Walubiri attached to Penny Clinic in Kasana Town, were sent to jail on Wednesday.

They were charged with doing an act likely to spread disease contrary to provisions of the Penal Code Act. Ms Nansubuga pleaded guilty but Mr Walubiri denied the charges.

Grade One Magistrate Harriet Namata remanded them until September 8 when they will reappear in court. Ms Nansubuga will be coming to know her sentence after she pleaded guilty to the offence while Mr Walubiri will find out when his trial will start.

From the Washington Post, other bugs, other woes:

Six more deadly microbes found improperly stored in NIH and FDA labs

Workers searching government laboratories in the wake of the July discovery of smallpox have found six more improperly stored, dangerous microbes — including ricin and the bacteria that cause plague.

On Friday, officials at the National Institutes of Health said the search on its sprawling Bethesda campus had turned up five different misplaced substances in recent weeks. All of the microbes are considered so dangerous- they are known as select agents– that the federal government requires them to be stored in special high secure facilities. Instead, these vials were in regular labs, often part of collections of samples that date back decades.

Simultaneously, the Food and Drug Administration said it had found vials of staphylococcus enterotoxin, a frequent cause of foodborne illness, at a lab within the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition that was not registered to handle it.

And from Japan, another piece of bad news about a growing outbreak from Jiji Press:

Japan Confirms 1st Dengue Case Away from Yoyogi Park

Japan’s health ministry said Friday it has confirmed the first dengue fever infection that is believed to have taken place in a central Tokyo park away from Yoyogi Park, where most of the recent cases seem to have originated.

A resident of Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, in his 30s developed symptoms on Saturday. He went to hospital in the eastern Japan prefecture Monday and was confirmed positive Friday from a test by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The man, who is in stable condition, has not traveled abroad or visited Yoyogi Park recently.

More from the Wall Street Journal:

Japan Steps Up Efforts to Contain Dengue

Japanese authorities stepped up their efforts Friday to deal with an outbreak of dengue fever, sealing off Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo and closing a seaside park in the neighboring city of Yokohama as the number of people infected reached at least 66.

While most of the affected people appear to have contracted the disease from mosquitoes in Yoyogi Park, at least one of the 66 picked up dengue in Shinjuku Central Park about a kilometer away, suggesting that mosquitoes carrying the disease have spread to another location.

Health ministry figures indicate that 24 of those infected after visiting Yoyogi are in other parts of the country, including Osaka prefecture in western Japan and the northern island of Hokkaido. That suggests the possibility that dengue fever could spread elsewhere in the country if those infected people outside the capital were bitten by mosquitoes during the weeklong period before symptoms of the illness emerge.

From the Guardian, news about another epidemic:

EU under pressure to allow GM food imports from US and Canada

Large businesses lobbying intensely to undermine safety regime in new trade deal, campaigners warn

Britain and other European Union member states are under increasing pressure from North American business groups to open their borders to imports of genetically modified food as part of negotiations for a new Transatlantic trade deal, environmental campaigners have warned.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is being negotiated among European governments, the US and Canada, with the active participation of dozens of large businesses. It has already attracted strong criticism from democracy campaigners, who say it could mean the UK could have to open the National Health Service further to private companies, and complaints against large companies could be treated in secret without proper legal recourse.

The potential impacts on food safety are less apparent as the negotiations are being conducted without public consultation. Progress on signing the partnership is expected to be hastened later this year when new EU commissioners are appointed.

After jump, sea levels already rising and threatening cities, California drought relief hopes dim, a whale of a recovery, water tragedies in Mexico, drought grief in Brazil, palm oil threats, Aussie environmental danger, lava losses, free weed in Berkeley, a tar sands appeal, a Chinese land grab in Africa, a rampaging beaver, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalyse Now!. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, species, nukes


Again, we lead with Ebola, first from the Washington Post:

Ebola virus has mutated during course of outbreak

The Ebola virus sweeping through West Africa has mutated repeatedly during the current outbreak, a fact that could hinder diagnosis and treatment of the devastating disease, according to scientists who have genetically sequenced the virus in scores of victims.

The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, also offer new insights into the origins of the largest and most deadly Ebola outbreak in history, which has killed more than 1,500 people in four countries and shows few signs of slowing. It also provided another reminder of the deep toll the outbreak has taken on health workers and others in the affected areas, as five of the paper’s more than 50 co-authors died from Ebola before publication.

In a collaboration led by scientists at Harvard University and aided by officials at Sierra Leone’s health ministry, researchers sequenced Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients beginning in the early days of the outbreak this spring. Those 99 samples — some patients were tested more than once — suggested that the outbreak began with a single human infection before spreading rapidly, like a spark that grows into a wildfire.

From the Associated Press:

Liberian Ebola survivor praises experimental drug

A Liberian health worker who recovered from Ebola after receiving an experimental drug urged the manufacturer to speed up its production and send it to Africa, while crowds celebrated in the streets Saturday after authorities reopened a slum that had been barricaded for more than a week to try to contain the disease.

Physician’s assistant Kyndy Kobbah was expected to be released from hospital Saturday after she survived Ebola, which has been fatal in more than half the cases sweeping West Africa. Kobbah contracted the disease while working at a government-run hospital north of the capital.

In an interview with The Associated Press before her release, she said when she informed her family that she had been cured, the home exploded with joy “and the house is on fire right now” with celebration.

CBC News covers a non-case in Canada:

Ebola tests negative for Gatineau girl who remains in isolation

  • Girl who was in Sierra Leone with family returned to Canada with flu-like symptoms

Tests on a young girl from Gatineau, Que., have come back negative for the Ebola virus after she was feeling ill upon returning from Sierra Leone, one of the west African countries hard hit by this year’s Ebola outbreak.

The girl was put in isolation at an undisclosed Ottawa hospital after her family took her to a Gatineau emergency room on Friday with flu-like symptoms after visiting family in Sierra Leone.

The tests, which were done in Winnipeg, came back negative on Saturday afternoon. The girl remains in isolation and she is in stable condition, according to health officials in western Quebec.

From Science, a question:

Experimental Ebola drug saves monkeys, but will this translate to humans?

This past Wednesday, at a discussion titled “Stopping the Deadly Ebola Outbreak” held at the Scripps Research Institute here, a local TV reporter repeatedly prodded one of the star panelists, Kevin Whaley, the CEO of Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego.

After Whaley explained that he had no idea whether ZMapp, his company’s now famous experimental antibody cocktail used to treat Ebola victims, really worked, the journalist continued to press. “From what you’ve seen in your research—and what your heart says—what do you say?”

The audience of 100 people or so broke into nervous giggles.

“I’m not willing to speculate on that,” Whaley replied.

Same continent, different virus from United Press International:

AIDS progress in South Africa could suffer funding blow

The AIDS epidemic in South Africa has been devastating. Factors like lack of awareness and the indifference of political leaders such as President Thabo Mbeki did not allow any kind of control. However, in the last few years there has been major progress in AIDS treatment and prevention thanks to President George W. Bush’s Pefar program implemented in 2003.

New infections have gone down by a third, mother-to-child transmissions have dropped by 90 percent and life expectancy rose by almost 10 years. Around 2.4 million people are on antiretroviral medication and more healthcare workers are being trained in new facilities.

“We’ve managed a miracle,” said Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, one of the country’s leading AIDS researchers. “Undertaking is not a business you want to go into anymore.”

Due to projected cuts to funding, things could take a turn for the worse. South Africa now pays 83 percent of its own costs for its AIDS health programs and Pepfar funding will probably drop from $350 million to $250 million by 2016. Pepfar workers say the money needs to be used to combat the disease in poorer countries like Cameroon and Burundi.

From Public Radio International, on to the atmosphere:

Rising carbon dioxide levels may reduce the nutritional value of important foods

A study in the journal Nature finds that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide threaten global human nutrition by significantly reducing the levels of nutrients important to human health.

Researchers cultivated 41 different varieties of staple crops on three continents to examine how they might be affected by the expected increase of CO2 in coming decades. The crops included rice, wheat, soybeans, maize, field peas and sorghum — plant groups that are central to human nutrition around the world.

The study’s lead author, Sam Myers, says they found significant reductions in zinc, iron and protein in grain crops like rice and wheat, and similar reductions in zinc and iron, but smaller reductions in protein, in legumes like soybeans and field peas.

The reductions are statistically highly significant and represent a serious threat to public health, Myers says. Roughly two billion people around the world already suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies.

From Arctic News, threats from another global warming gas far more dangerous that carbon dioxide:

Warming waters threaten to trigger methane eruptions from Arctic Ocean seafloor

A new study looks at how, in the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved deeper into the oceans, specifically the North Atlantic.

Sun-warmed salty water travels north along ocean currents in the Atlantic. When this saltier water reaches the North Atlantic, its greater density causes it to sink. From about 1999, this current began to speed up and draw heat deeper into the ocean.

These huge amounts of heat moving deeper into the Atlantic Ocean are very worrying.

On to water with the Associated Press:

Online list IDs water wells harmed by drilling

Six years into a natural gas boom, Pennsylvania has for the first time released details of 243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil or gas were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells.

The Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday posted online links to the documents after the agency conducted a “thorough review” of paper files stored among its regional offices. The Associated Press and other news outlets have filed lawsuits and numerous open-records requests over the last several years seeking records of the DEP’s investigations into gas-drilling complaints.

Pennsylvania’s auditor general said in a report last month that DEP’s system for handling complaints “was woefully inadequate” and that investigators could not even determine whether all complaints were actually entered into a reporting system.

From the Mainichi, victims of a pollution disaster:

32,000 people compensated for Minamata disease, more awaiting recognition

Over 32,000 people have been granted 2.1-million-yen compensation packages under the special relief measure for victims of Minamata disease established in 2009, the Environment Ministry reported on Aug. 29.

According to the ministry, some 65,000 people in Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Niigata prefectures applied for compensation by the end of July 2012 deadline. Of some 48,000 applicants, excluding those who applied to switch from the former relief system, a total of 32,244 — or 67 percent — were granted the lump-sum payment. A total of 19,306 successful applicants were in Kumamoto Prefecture, 11,127 in Kagoshima Prefecture, and 1,811 in Niigata Prefecture.

Meanwhile, 6,013 applicants have been granted only medical expenses, and 9,649 have been denied compensation altogether. The payments will be covered by Chisso Corp. and Showa Denko, which were responsible for the industrial pollution that causes the disease.

From the Chicago Tribune, a small win:

Judge tosses challenge to flame retardant rules

Consumers nationwide are closer to being able to buy furniture made without toxic, ineffective flame retardants after a California judge on Friday threw out a legal challenge from the chemical industry.

Chemtura Corp., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of flame retardants, sued in an attempt to block a new flammability standard that the furniture industry says it can meet without using the chemicals in products sold throughout the United States.

The regulations, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, will require upholstery fabric to resist smoldering cigarettes, which federal statistics show are by far the leading cause of furniture fires.

Off to Britain and birds on the brink from the Guardian:

Warblers and turtle doves join RSPB list of birds at risk of dying out

  • Bad weather and loss of habitat blamed as more breeding native species are at risk of extinction

Any true love who wants to give their significant other two turtle doves to celebrate the second day of the 12 Days of Christmas may soon be looking for an alternative gift.

In a move that will dismay ornithologists and poets alike, the bird, immortalised in verse by Shakespeare and Wordsworth, could shortly find itself on the near 100-strong list of the rarest birds in the UK as compiled by the RSPB’s rare breeding birds panel – a sign that its numbers are plummeting by such a degree that there are fears it could become extinct in the UK within a decade.

The list compiled by the panel, now in its 40th year, is based on sightings by dedicated bird watchers who provide the society with a wealth of information that is used to track the fortunes of different species over time and is the envy of wildlife organisations around the world.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with Kyodo News:

Fukushima nuclear plant chief feared catastrophe for eastern Japan

The chief of the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said in testimony before his death that he had feared catastrophic damage to eastern Japan while he was struggling to contain the crisis in March 2011, according to government documents obtained Saturday.

“Our image was a catastrophe for eastern Japan,” Masao Yoshida told a government panel that was examining the nuclear meltdowns at the plant about 220 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, according to his testimony. “I thought we were really dead.”

On the government’s interpretation that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. was seeking a “complete withdrawal” from the plant on March 15, Yoshida denied such a view, expressing anger at the office of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and TEPCO headquarters, which he thought had failed to understand the dire situation his workers were facing on the ground.

From the Japan Times, a challenge:

Fukushima families sue prefecture, government for radiation exposure during meltdown crisis

A group of parents and children who were residing in Fukushima Prefecture when the nuclear disaster unfolded in March 2011 is suing the central and prefectural governments for failing to take sufficient steps to protect children from radiation exposure during the crisis.

The 88 plaintiffs are demanding ¥100,000 each in compensation, according to the lawsuit filed Friday at the Fukushima District Court.

In a written complaint, they said the central and prefectural governments failed to promptly release accurate data on airborne radiation levels after the nuclear crisis, neglecting their duty to prevent residential radiation exposure as much as possible, and exposing children to radiation.

From the Mainichi, austerity meets tragedy:

Nuclear disaster evacuee compensation halved across board: internal document

The governmental Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center, tasked with reaching out-of-court settlements for individual claims filed over the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns, has set compensation uniformly at 50 percent, a document obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun has confirmed.

The internal document is being circulated among center staff and used in the processing of individual cases — calling into serious doubt the center’s previous denials that the “50 percent rule” had been an official practice.

The center calculates the total amount of damages for pain and suffering in individual settlement proposals by multiplying a base amount by a percentage figure representing the impact of the nuclear accident upon the particular case at hand.

Jiji Press keeps it local:

Fukushima Governor OKs Polluted Soil Interim Storage

Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato said Saturday he has decided to allow the planned construction of an interim facility to store soil and other waste polluted with radioactive fallout from the March 2011 reactor meltdowns.

Sato disclosed the decision to reporters after his talks with the mayors of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, which have been chosen as possible host municipalities for the storage for the waste tainted due to the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The construction of the interim facility is expected to help speed up decontamination of polluted areas in the northeastern Japan prefecture and thus the reconstruction of the region, observers said.

The proposed storage is “necessary for the decontamination of Fukushima Prefecture,” Sato told reporters. “It’s a tough decision. But I will tolerate its construction.”

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, a leak:

Yoshida ‘never’ called for ‘total retreat’ at N-plant

Masao Yoshida, manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant at the time of the March 2011 crisis, strongly denied that Tokyo Electric Power Co. considered a “full retreat” from the plant four days after the quake, according to interviews conducted with Yoshida in a government investigation of the disaster that were seen by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

However, Yoshida said having plant personnel evacuate to the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant on March 15, 2011, was the right decision.

The government is likely to release the interviews to the public in early September.

And for our final item, via RT, going green, remember?:

Marijuana compound may halt Alzheimer’s disease – study

Extremely low levels of THC compound, a chemical found in marijuana, may slow down or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, US neuroscientists have found, thus laying the ground for the development of effective treatment in the future.

In recent research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists from University of South Florida revealed their findings, that may shed light on controversial therapeutic qualities of marijuana.

As the team found, extremely low doses of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol chemical, also known as THC, reduce the production of amyloid beta protein, as well as prevent it from accumulating in abnormal amounts. What is special about this protein is that it is found in a soluble form in most aging brains. It also marks early evidence for Alzheimer’s disease.