Category Archives: Asia

EnviroWatch: Climate, water, eruption, fuels


First up, a fait accompli from the Guardian:

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

  • Evidence from around the world supports scientists’ assertion that global warming is already happening

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet’s warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country’s president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. “He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating,” Tony de Brum, the islands’ foreign minister, revealed recently.

From the Associated Press, water woes in parched California:

California’s water agencies look to budget water

As California’s severe drought continues, state and local agencies are looking at budgeting water use by creating a daily water allocation for each household.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1xsETsi ) that under such a scheme, a household would be allotted a certain number of gallons for indoor water use and another for outdoor water use.

The amount allocated is calculated using census data, aerial photography and satellite imagery to determine a property’s efficient water usage amount. Those using above their designated amount would pay extra.

Such a system is already in use or being considered by several municipalities statewide.

A similar crisis half a world away from the Los Angeles Times:

Iran prays for rain amid acute water shortage

Concern is mounting about dwindling water supplies across Iran, from the densely populated, smog-ridden capital and its parched suburbs to provincial towns and cities to far-flung corners of the nation, much of which is desert. Lakes and rivers have been drying up, reservoirs are at historic lows and water supplies have been cut in some areas. The annual snowmelt from the mountains is on the decline.

On the streets here, people grumble about cuts in water service. Many buildings have tanks on the roofs to collect rainwater. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rained in months. Bottled water is available, but many Iranians have little excess income for purchasing it. Most Iranians rely on tap water for both drinking and washing.

“On some days of the week, our tap water is cut for seven or eight hours,” said Akbar Aziz, 40, a printing-house employee who lives in the capital’s working-class Khorasan district. “We are consuming as little as possible,” said Aziz, a father with young daughters. “We shower only two times a week. So we are not responsible for the water shortages.”

Environmental Health News covers another water woe:

Fish still contaminated with phased-out Scotchgard chemical

A persistent chemical formerly used in Scotchgard still contaminates most fish in U.S. rivers and the Great Lakes despite a phase-out a dozen years ago, a new federal study shows.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency researchers found perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in all of the 157 fish sampled from nearshore waters in the five Great Lakes and in 73 percent from 162 rivers.

The study, the largest of its kind in freshwater fish, suggests that eating bass, trout, walleye and catfish could be a major source of exposure for anglers and their families. The chemical remains widespread in wildlife, people and water around the world.

From BBC News, a body count:

Japan volcano: Mt Ontake rescue teams find 31 bodies

The bodies of 31 hikers have been found near the top of Japan’s Mount Ontake a day after a sudden volcanic eruption.

The hikers were not breathing and their hearts had stopped. The search for a total of 45 missing climbers has now been called off for the night.

The volcano, about 200km (125 miles) west of Tokyo, erupted without warning on Saturday, spewing ash and rocks. About 250 people were trapped on the slopes of the popular beauty spot, but most got down safely.

Deutsche Welle covers the story:

Hikers killed in Japan earthquake

Program notes:

More than 30 people have been killed after a volcano in Japan erupted unexpectedly. Mount Ontake continues to spew ash and smoke into the air, creating difficulties for rescue teams attempting to reach hikers still stranded on the slopes. Experts were taken by surprise by the eruption; they say there were no warning signs in the preceding hours.

From BBC News, Big Oil taps an arctic vein:

Rosneft and Exxon discover Arctic oil

Russian energy giant Rosneft says it has discovered oil with its US project partner Exxon Mobil at a controversial well in the Arctic. Drilling was completed in record time, it said, but questions remain about how quickly the well can be developed.

Exxon has said it will “wind down” the project following US sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Environmentalists have campaigned hard against drilling for oil in the pristine region.

“Rosneft successfully completed the drilling of the northernmost well in the world – the Universitetskaya-1 well in the Arctic,” the company said in a statement.

Big Oil fracks your British basement, via the Guardian:

Fracking trespass law changes move forward despite huge public opposition

  • Ministers reject 40,000 objections to allow fracking below homes without owners’ permission

Fracking will take place below Britons’ homes without their permission after ministers rejected 40,000 objections to controversial changes to trespass laws.

The UK government argued that the current ability for people to block shale gas development under their property would lead to significant delays and that the legal process by which companies can force fracking plans through was costly, time-consuming and disproportionate.

There were a total of 40,647 responses to a consultation on the move to give oil and gas companies underground access without needing to seek landowners’ permission, with 99% opposing the legal changes. Setting aside the 28,821 responses submitted via two NGO campaigns, 92% of the remaining responses objected to the proposals.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore signals a major nuclear [power] proliferation:

India turns to nuclear as energy crisis deepens

  • Energy-starved India relies on coal to produce two thirds of its electricity, and it is now looking at nuclear options to ease a power crisis

India’s new prime minister is turning to nuclear energy to ease a power crisis made worse by the cancellation of hundreds of coal mining permits, but he faces scepticism both at home and abroad.

Energy-starved India relies on coal to produce two thirds of its electricity, but power blackouts are common and demand is rising quickly as the economy and middle class expand.

On Wednesday (Sep 24), the Supreme Court cancelled over 200 coal mining permits because the licensing process was deemed illegal, making the need for alternative energy sources yet more pressing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made nuclear a priority as he seeks to fulfil his campaign pledge to kickstart the country’s flagging economy.

Want China Times takes seaborne nuclear power in a whole new direction:

China ready to construct floating nuclear power plant

The 719th Research Institute of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation was appointed to establish China’s first R&D center for floating nuclear power plants in central China’s Hubei province, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a contract with president Xi Jinping of China during his visit to Shanghai in May for the two nations to collaborate in constructing such a plant. As China Shipbuilding Industry Corp’s website writes, the floating plant will be used to provide electricity to Chinese facilities in the disputed South China Sea.

Equipped with a smaller nuclear reactor, some vessels can also be used to exploit the natural resources beneath the sea floor. When natural disasters and accidents strike, emergency assistance can be deployed from the floating station. If China gathers experience in operating such plants, they will be able to construct nuclear reactors for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the future.

And for our final item, a nuclear reminder from the Mainichi:

Ex-mayor raps gov’t before 15th anniv. of Japan’s 1st criticality accident

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 was brought about as the government neglected to learn lessons from Japan’s first criticality accident that occurred 15 years ago, the former mayor of the affected village said Sunday.

Speaking before an audience of some 350 people who gathered for a public meeting ahead of the accident’s 15th anniversary, Tatsuya Murakami, who served as mayor of Tokaimura in Ibaraki Prefecture until last year, said despite the accident Japan has persisted to maintain a “safety myth.”

“Japan was caught up in a ‘safety myth’ that a serious nuclear accident would not happen in this country when the criticality accident occurred at a nuclear fuel processor in this village” on Sept. 30, 1999, he said.

The myth and the failure to firmly clarify the cause of the accident eventually led to the Fukushima meltdown, he said.

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, borders, hacks, threats


Today’s tour of the realms where paranoia and politics intersect begins with this from Xinhua:

Iran to counter IS militants in Iraq if threatened: commander

Iran will target Islamic State militants “deep inside the Iraqi territory” if they intend to approach the Iranian borders, a senior Iranian commander was quoted as saying by Press TV on Saturday.

“We will not allow the IS terrorist group to approach the country’s borders. We are fully prepared to counter them,” Commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces, Brigadier General Ahmadreza Pourdastan, said on Saturday. “If the IS terrorist group intends to come near the country’s borders, we will target them deep inside the Iraqi territory.”

The commander added that Iran has deployed ground forces in western border regions to beef up the security there, and that those forces have high operational capability and would “nip the threats in the bud.”

The New York Times covers another border:

Turkey Hesitant to Ally With U.S. in Syria Mission

No American ally is closer to the threat of the Islamic State than Turkey, and no country could play a more important role in a coalition that President Obama is assembling to combat the extremist Sunni militants. Yet Turkey has been reluctant to enlist, in part because of the desperate conflict playing out on its border with Syria.

On Saturday, outgunned Kurdish fighters, just a few hundred yards inside Syria and clearly visible from hilltop olive groves in this frontier village, battled Islamic State militants advancing from a village less than a mile away. They fought with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns within sight of Kobani, the central town in a besieged Kurdish area of Syria that has been falling village by village to a weeklong onslaught by the Islamic State.

Turkish soldiers in armored vehicles stood by at the border fence, taking no action except to block Turkish and Syrian Kurds from crossing into Syria to defend Kobani, where Kurds fear a massacre. That has fed the fury of Kurds on both sides of the border, who accuse Turkey, with its long history of conflict with Kurdish separatists, of tacitly supporting the Islamic State against them.

From the London Daily Mail, intrafamilial culture clash:

Arab woman pilot who is poster girl for Gulf states’ blitz on ISIS is ‘disowned by her family’ for bombing ‘Sunni heroes of Iraq and the Levant’

  • Mariam Al Mansouri’s F-16 bombing raids were celebrated in the West
  • But a statement purporting to be from her UAE family has ‘disowned’ her
  • It attacks her for ‘taking part in the brutal aggression against Syria’

The female air force pilot whose missions against Isis were dubbed ‘boobs on the ground’ has reportedly been disowned by her family and labelled an ‘ingrate’.

Mariam Al Mansouri’s participation in F-16 bombing raids for the UAE was celebrated in the West, but an anonymous statement claiming to be from her family ‘disowned’ her for ‘taking part in the brutal international aggression’ against Syria.

It also expressed support for the Islamic State, saying ‘we are proud of the Sunni heroes in Iraq and the Levant’. The brutal terrorist group’s original name was the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Isil.

Bombast from Deutsche Welle:

Al Qaeda splinter group claims responsibility for US embassy attack in Yemen

An extremist group linked to al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the US embassy in Yemen. The incident comes after Washington urged US citizens to leave the Gulf country.

The rocket landed around 200 meters from the heavily fortified embassy in the capital Sanaa on Saturday, hitting several members of the Yemeni police force who were guarding the compound. At least two were injured, authorities said.

Police told news agency Reuters that the rocket came from a M72 light anti-tank weapon fired from a car.

Shortly after the attack, the embassy said it did not believe it was the target of the rocket, and that Yemeni authorities were investigating.

USA Today covers collateral damage:

Another casualty of war in the Arab world: Education

In Kurdistan, the schools are full of refugees. In Gaza, many have been reduced to rubble. In Libya and Yemen, teachers and students can’t get to class because of fighting.

In the Iraqi city of Mosul, Islamic State militants have decreed that the school bell should ring to draw students, but few are going to classes.

As school starts across the Arab world this month, hundreds of thousands of students from across the Middle East and North Africa won’t be going. Conflict, turmoil and even destruction have put these children at great risk.

From the New York Times, a wrist slap:

Police Behavior in Ferguson Draws Attention of Justice Department

The Justice Department on Friday pressured the Ferguson Police Department to stop its officers from wearing bracelets stamped with the message “I am Darren Wilson,” in solidarity with the police officer who is being investigated for shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old, and from covering up their name plates with tape.

The bracelets, dark blue with white lettering, were photographed on the wrists of several Ferguson police officers who were interacting with demonstrators this week as protests flared up once again in this small city in the suburbs of St. Louis. A grand jury is looking into the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9, and the police department is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible civil rights violations.

In a stern letter to Chief Thomas Jackson, Christy E. Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that the bracelets “upset and agitated people.”

Questions from the Los Angeles Times:

Growing use of police body cameras raises privacy concerns

For many departments, questions remain about when officers should be allowed to turn off such cameras — especially in cases involving domestic violence or rape victims — and the extent to which video could be made public.

Such video “sometimes captures people at the worst moments of their lives,” American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst Jay Stanley said. “You don’t want to see videos of that uploaded to the Internet for titillation and gawking,” he said.

Video from dashboard cameras in police cars, a more widely used technology, has long been exploited for entertainment purposes. Internet users have posted dash-cam videos of arrests of naked women to YouTube, and TMZ sometimes obtains police videos of athletes and celebrities during minor or embarrassing traffic stops, turning officers into unwitting paparazzi.

From the Daily Dot, espiocorporatism:

The NSA is renting its technology to U.S. companies

The National Security Agency (NSA), which develops surveillance tools that are both dazzling and terrifying, has been making money on the side by licensing its technology to private businesses for more than two decades.

So if you’re looking to buy a tool to transcribe voice recordings in any language, a foolproof method to tell if someone’s touched your phone’s SIM card, or a version of email encryption that isn’t available on the open market, try the world’s most technologically advanced spy agency.

It’s called the Technology Transfer Program (TTP), under which the NSA declassifies some of its technologies that it developed for previous operations, patents them, and, if they’re swayed by an American company’s business plan and nondisclosure agreements, rents them out.

From BBC News, reasonable requests:

Google urged to change privacy rules by data regulators

European data privacy regulators have put renewed pressure on Google to alter its privacy policy. It follows changes to the policy two years ago which regulators felt breached European rules.

Among other things, it says Google must tell users exactly what data is collected and with whom it is shared.

Google said it was working with regulators to “explain its privacy policy changes.” The dispute has been running since March 2012 when Google consolidated its 60 privacy policies into one and started combining data from YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps.

Hacking away, via the Guardian:

Russian malware used by ‘privateer’ hackers against Ukrainian government

  • Attackers were carrying out hits to make money, but were ‘co-opted’ into carrying out state espionage, say security researchers

A hacker tool popular across underground Russian crime networks has been used in attacks on the Ukrainian government, indicating the use of “privateers” for digital espionage, according to researchers.

The malware, known as BlackEnergy, appears to have been used in cyberattacks against Georgia during the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008 too, but has also been operated by criminals as a means to steal credit card data.

This summer, it was tailored to hit a number of Ukrainian targets. Researchers from security firm F-Secure said Ukrainian Railways and infrastructure related to government bodies in Dnipropetrovsk, a city in the southeast of Ukraine, were in the crosshairs of the hackers. The researchers uncovered the hackers’ use of proxy servers – used to reroute internet traffic – linked to those targets’ networks.

And RT covers more iCloud-hacking agony:

Have mercy! Tons more of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrity nudes leaked online

There seems to be no end in sight for celebrities this season, as the “third round” of nude photo leaks adds top model Cara Delevingne, actress Anna Kendrick and more of Jennifer Lawrence to the mix.

The FBI promised earlier in the week to widen its probe into the leaks after new nude images of celebrities Kim Kardashian, Vaness Hudgens and others popped up online. It launched an investigation in the aftermath of the first leak linked to a security flaw in Apple’s iCloud file storage service, but has so far come up empty.

This Friday, however, a newer leak surfaced on the online communities Reddit and 4chan, exposing, among many others, superstar model Cara Delevingne, actress Anna Kendrick and T-Mobile ad star and top model Carly Foulkes. Other celebrities exposed include three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, a host of other soap opera and movie actresses – and topping that are 55 more images of Jennifer Lawrence.

Drones are for we, not thee, say the cops, via Photography is Not a Crime:

L.A. Drone Activist Jailed Four Days After Refusing Deal to Revoke Right to Fly Them

Daniel Saulmon, Southern Californian’s notorious video activist, spent four days in a crowded county jail this week after refusing a plea deal that would have forbade him from flying his quadcopter for two years within Los Angeles County.

“It was terrible,” he said of his experience in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime hours after his release.

“I watched deputies nearly beat a guy to death with batons and tasers. I saw another man go into a seizure and almost die. It was not good.”

After the jump, lashes for gays in Indonesia, turmoil and arrests in Hong Kong, a Taiwanese rebuff of a Beijing gambit, China stakes an oceanic claim and crosses the line, Japanese remilitarism justified, Washington/Tokyo military ties tightening, and a real security threat in New Mexico. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Eruptions, fuels, GMOs, ills


We begin with the latest from the GMO front via Common Dreams:

Second Discovery of GMO Wheat Reveals ‘Failed Policy’ That Threatens Farmers: Watchdog

USDA says genetically engineered wheat discovered on Montana farm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday revealed that it was opening an investigation into the appearance of unapproved genetically engineered wheat in Montana.

It marks the second time the USDA is issuing notice of a discovery of rogue genetically engineered (or GMO) wheat. There is no commercially-approved GMO wheat.

According to a statement issued by the USDA, the discovery of the Roundup-resistant GMO wheat was made in July at Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in Huntley, Montana. That location was the site of Monsanto-led GMO wheat trials, approved by the USDA, from 2000 to 2003.

The Latin American Herald Tribune delivers a warning:

Agriculture Experts Warn of Lack of Food Security in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is far from achieving food security because it imports between 85 percent and 87 percent of its daily food consumption, partly due to neglect of the island’s farm sector as well as to increased urban development in recent decades, several experts told Efe.

Gladys Gonzalez, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), said in an interview with Efe that the island’s geographical limitations prevent it from producing enough food to feed the entire population.

Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 census, the amount of farm land in Puerto Rico expanded to 584,988 acres but only 433,563 acres were under cultivation. The 2014 amendment to Puerto Rican Law 550 requires that between 600,000 and 700,000 acres of land throughout the commonwealth be set aside for growing crops.

On the beach with Star Africa News:

SLeone: Environmental body alarmed by sand mining

Sierra Leone’s environmental and tourism authorities have warned that a resurgence of illegal sand mining threatens to destroy the country’s beaches and hence its tourism industry.The tourism ministry, which is on a joined monitoring of communities where sand mining is predominant, said the country’s beaches are a major component of its tourism potential.

A spate of illegal sand mining activities last year attracted wide spread concern, prompting a temporary ban.

The government has identified three places were sand mining could be allowed but under strict conditions. Report now say dealers in sand have been violating the ban and some carry out their illegal act in the dark of night.

From the Los Angeles Times, a non-eruption story, hopefully:

Mammoth Lakes earthquake swarm tied to water pressure, tectonic stress

The more than 600 earthquakes that have struck the Mammoth Lakes region over the last 24 hours are an indication of tectonic, not volcanic, stress, an expert said Friday.

At least 109 of the earthquakes were magnitude 2.0 or greater, with smaller quakes making up the bulk of the activity, said David Shelly, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Science Center. At least six, however, were greater than magnitude 3.0.

The largest, a 3.8 temblor six miles from Mammoth Lakes, occurred at 9:21 p.m. Thursday.

The swarm of quakes, which began Thursday in the 20-by-10-mile Long Valley caldera east of the central Sierra Nevada Range, isn’t uncommon for the region. About 200 small quakes — the largest a magnitude 2.7 — shook in Long Valley Caldera in July.

And from the Japan Times, the first of two lethal eruptions:

Volcano eruption on Nagano-Gifu border kills hiker, wounds 46; Abe mobilizes SDF

Mount Ontake, a volcano straddling Nagano and Gifu prefectures, erupted on Saturday, spewing ash and small rocks into the air, killing a female hiker, leaving at least 16 people unconscious and 30 others seriously injured, and stranding more than 40 on the mountain, officials and media said.

Following the eruption at 11:53 a.m., a thick, rolling gray cloud of ash rose high into the sky above the mountain close to where hikers were taking pictures, TV footage showed. Hikers and residents were warned of falling rock and ash within a radius of 4 km.

Rescue headquarters on the Nagano side of the mountain said it had received information from rescue workers that a female hiker was killed in the eruption. Further details, including her identity or cause of death, were not yet available.

Japanese vlogger Kuroda Terutoshi was climbing the mountain when the eruption happened, and his clip is understanding a bit shaky:

The second lethal eruption, via TheLocal.it:

Child dead after Sicily mud geyser eruption

The sudden eruption of a mud geyser at a nature reserve in southern Sicily killed a seven-year-old girl on Saturday, Italian media reported, adding that her nine-year-old brother was missing.

The two children were walking with their father in the Maccalube nature reserve north of Agrigento when a geyser spewed mud over them.

The father, a police officer, was uninjured, but the girl’s body was found shortly afterward while the boy could not be found, the reports said.

From TheLocal.dk, another outbreak:

Three deaths traced to new listeria outbreak

The new outbreak stems from soups served at two hospitals and is not connected to the deli meat outbreak that has claimed 16 lives.

Three people have died from listeria-infested asparagus soup at Odense University Hospital.

The deaths are a result of a new listeria outbreak and are not related to the one that has been traced to the deli meat rullepølse, which has claimed 16 lives.

From the Associated Press, a far larger outbreak:

New mosquito-borne virus spreads in Latin America

An excruciating mosquito-borne illness that arrived less than a year ago in the Americas is raging across the region, leaping from the Caribbean to the Central and South American mainland, and infecting more than 1 million people. Some cases already have emerged in the United States.

While the disease, called chikungunya, usually is not fatal, the epidemic has overwhelmed hospitals, cut economic productivity and caused its sufferers days of pain and misery. And the count of victims is soaring.

In El Salvador, health officials report nearly 30,000 suspected cases, up from 2,300 at the beginning of August, and hospitals are filled with people with the telltale signs of the illness, including joint pain so severe it can be hard to walk.

From the Guardian, blood fever for our fine feathered friends:

New controversy over Malta’s bird slaughter

  • Island MP Karmenu Vella nominated as European commissioner to head green policies, including wildlife protection

Karmenu Vella has unusual credentials for a man selected to be the next European commissioner for the environment. The 64-year-old politician is a long-serving member of Malta’s Labour government, which is accused of direct involvement in the widespread slaughter of birdlife on the island – including many endangered species.

Every spring and autumn, thousands of migratory birds – including quails, song thrushes and brood eagles – pass over Malta as they fly between northern Europe and Africa, only to be greeted by thousands of local hunters who gather in trucks bearing slogans like “If it flies it dies”. They duly open fire on the birds.

“Turtle doves have suffered a catastrophic decline in western Europe, including Britain. Yet the Maltese government continues to allow them to be shot in their thousands every year,” said Andre Farrar of the RSPB. “This slaughter has widespread implications and involves dozens of rare species, many of them regular visitors to the British Isles.”

Public Radio International gives us our first fuels story:

Fearing pollution, some local governments are demanding back zoning control over oil and gas

In eight states across the country, communities are trying to decide if new energy sources and possible economic growth from oil and gas are worth losing control of their land — and the huge changes it brings to the countryside.

Ten years ago, Ohio changed its zoning laws. It took zoning control of oil and gas operations away from local communities and gave the authority to the state department of natural resources. In 2012, Pennsylvania also tried to limit local zoning rights around oil and gas operations, as part of the controversial Act 13. But late last year, the state Supreme Court struck it down, maintaining local control. New York courts have also upheld the rights of local governments to regulate fracking.

TheLocal.no gives us our second:

Statoil freezes oil sands project in Canada

Norwegian oil company Statoil announced the postponement of an oil sands project in Canada due to rising costs and limited pipeline transport capacity.

The Corner project, located in the province of Alberta in western Canada, is being postponed for a minimum of three years, the company said in a statement late Thursday.

The production capacity of the project is 40,000 barrels per day and its delay does not affect the neighbouring Leismer project, which can produce up to 20,000 barrels per day, according to Statoil.

“Costs for labour and materials have continued to rise in recent years and are working against the economics of new projects,” Statoil Canada country manager Ståle Tungesvik said.

From the Independent, the spice of life:

Curry spice turmeric ‘could help brain heal itself’

A spice commonly used in curries could help the brain heal itself, new research has suggested.

A report in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy found a compound in the curry spice turmeric may hold the key to repairing the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

A team in Germany say aromatic turmerone promoted the proliferation of brain stem cells and their development into neurons during laboratory tests on rats.

And for our last item, via the Guardian, submitting the question to a jury of their pee-ers:

US city considers testing sewage to gather data on residents’ marijuana use

  • Spokane, Washington wants to test the water to get a more accurate picture of marijuana usage now the drug has been legalised

City leaders in Spokane, Washington, want to know just how much pot residents are smoking, now that it’s legal there. Sewage might hold the answer.

The primary author of Washington state’s recreational marijuana law, attorney Alison Holcomb, made this suggestion to the city’s marijuana policy subcommittee at a meeting on Tuesday. About 50 city leaders and residents make up the group, which attempts to grapple with what legalization means for the city of about 210,000.

“We don’t have really good data on usage and perceptions of harm,” said Jon Snyder, a Spokane city council member. “It’s funny how the sewage thing has really captured people’s imagination.”

EbolaWatch: Crisis, shortages, help, & more


First up, a notable quarantine from the Associated Press:

Liberia Health Chief Is Under Quarantine

Liberia’s chief medical officer is placing herself under quarantine for 21 days after her office assistant died of Ebola.

Bernice Dahn, a deputy health minister who has represented Liberia at regional conferences intended to combat the ongoing epidemic, said Saturday that she did not have any Ebola symptoms but wanted to make sure that she was not infected.

Liberia’s government has asked people to keep themselves isolated for 21 days if they think they have been exposed. The unprecedented scale of the outbreak, however, has made it difficult to trace the contacts of victims and quarantine those who might be at risk.

“Of course we made the rule, so I am home for 21 days,” Ms. Dahn said. “I did it on my own. I told my office staff to stay at home for the 21 days. That’s what we need to do.”

She’s clearly better off than most of her fellow citizens, as the Toronto Globe and Mail reveals:

Newest Liberian Ebola treatment centre overwhelmed with cases

Less than a week after opening, the 150-bed unit is already overwhelmed with 206 patients, and more are arriving each day. Some lie huddled on the dusty ground outside the gates until they are carried in, while a steady stream of ambulances, sirens blaring, bring more patients.

“We’re trying to squeeze in as many as possible,” said Atai Omoruto, the overworked Ugandan doctor in charge of the centre. “We’re still getting so many patients, every day. We’re using the corridors. Whatever space is available, we’re putting camp beds there.”

As she spoke, trucks arrived with piles of donated mattresses from a local microfinance organization and a load of wooden bed frames from a Liberian carpenters’ union. But the new treatment unit, on Bushrod Island near the city’s seaport, is making barely a dent in an ever-growing disaster that has already killed more than 3,000 people in five West African countries. Monrovia has roughly 500 treatment beds, but Liberia as a whole needs thousands and they have been slow to arrive.

It’s not just Liberia, as this clip from the Voice of America makes clear:

Sierra Leone Struggles to Care For Ebola Patients

Program notes:

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It’s a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.

Al Jazeera English covers backlash:

Guinea residents ‘refusing’ Ebola treatment

  • Residents say people frightened to go to clinics because of conspiracy theories that they will be killed by doctors

Residents of the Guinean capital Conakry, hit hard by Ebola, say they are afraid to seek treatment at hospitals for fear of being poisoned by doctors, as the death toll across West Africa passed the 3,000 mark.

Local resident Tairu Diallo said on Friday that people living in his neighbourhood refused to seek medical help and instead stayed at home, trying to alleviate their symptoms with drugs bought at a pharmacy.

Diallo said people think doctors at hospitals inject patients with a deadly poison. “If we have a stomach ache we don’t go to hospital because doctors there will inject you and you will die,” he said.

While Reuters covers the pale rider’s companions:

Ebola’s spread brings host of other diseases in its wake

Last week, fear of Ebola caused locals to kill eight members of an Ebola education team, sick people are avoiding clinics, and the World Health Organization says that 208 of the 373 infected healthcare workers in the region have died from the virus.

As a result, “the health services of West Africa have to a very large degree broken down,” according to Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust international health charity.

Experts predict a quadrupling in deaths caused by diarrhea, pneumonia, and particularly malaria, next year, and the collapse of immunization programs means that children are at a higher risk of diphtheria, polio and tuberculosis. Not to mention the impact to things like childbirth, diabetes and mental health.

So it’s a race against time. According to WHO director of strategy Dr. Christopher Dye, “If control efforts are only partly successful, Ebola viral disease in the human population could become ‘a permanent feature of life in West Africa.’”

From Star Africa News, a call from the Economic Community Of West African States:

ECOWAS calls for regional response to Ebola

ECOWAS has called for urgent mobilization of the Armed and Security Forces of Member States to strengthen the regional response and interventions against Ebola, according to a statement issued on Saturday.The body’s Coordinating Ministerial Group for the implementation of the Regional Operational Plan on the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) issued the statement on Saturday in Abuja after on Friday meeting with a Ministerial Group Chaired by Ghana’s Health Minister, Dr. Kwaku Agyeman.

It recommended that the armed and security forces should provide, among others, medical personnel and logistics as well as mobilize the support of military engineers regiments in setting up Ebola treatment centers in Ebola-hit countries.

It added that the Ministerial Group, which considered the report of the just-ended two-day meeting of the ECOWAS Technical Monitoring Surveillance and Group on Ebola response, equally called for the provision of adequate financial incentives to National Health personnel already on ground in Member States.

Another call, this one from China, via Xinhua:

Chinese FM calls for more global assistance as Ebola epidemic rages

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday called for more global assistance to African countries as the Ebola epidemic is raging in some countries in the region.

Wang made the appeal while speaking at the ongoing annual high- level debate of the UN General Assembly, which opened here Wednesday. “The Ebola epidemic, which is raging in some African countries, has once again sounded the alarm bell for global health security,” he said.

“As a good brother and good partner of Africa sharing weal and woe with it, China will continue to stand firmly with the African people, and support and assist them to the best of its ability,” Wang said, pledging China’s active part in the international assistance efforts.

The Los Angeles Times covers those left behind:

Ebola outbreak often leaves children alone and terrified

As the Ebola virus sweeps through Liberian villages, through its towns and cities, whole families are being cut down by the disease. Parents who die leave behind children no one wants to care for, rejected by neighbors and relatives, who order them to stay away. With an acute shortage of beds, the lucky ones are picked up by ambulance and taken to treatment units. Many of the rest die on the streets.

In Monrovia, the capital, all the Ebola treatment unit beds are full, vacancies opening only as patients die or survivors are discharged. The IMC center, which opened just last week, is one of two in Liberia with available beds. It has admitted 26 patients, seven of whom have died. Two of the dead were children.

The main priority in the treatment units is to keep the workers safe. Next is to isolate infectious patients to prevent spread of the disease. Providing decent care has to come third.

And from the London Telegraph, a short clip about those children:

The abandoned children of the Liberia Ebola outbreak

Program notes:

Children whose families have been killed by outbreak of Ebola in West Africa have found themselves shunned through fear of the deadly disease.

On to Liberia, with new numbers from The Analyst:

Bong County: 21 New Suspected Ebola Deaths Reported

Reports coming from the Central Province of Bong County say there were 36 new suspected Ebola cases in the County last week. This was disclosed by the head of the Bong County Ebola Response task force Superintendent Selena Polson Mappy last Thursday. Out the number, 21 died, she said.

Superintendent Mappy also disclosed that four persons out of the number of confirmed cases that were treated at the Ebola Testing Unit have also died. Appearing on a live radio talk show, Info Box on Radio Gbarnga, Superintendent Mappy said, although the task force and other stakeholders continue to make progress in the fight against the killer disease in the County, more needs to be done to contain the spread of the virus.

The Bong County task force chairperson called on citizens of the County to desist from denial and take preventive measures to avoid further spread of the virus. Superintendent Mappy said Liberia can only succeed in combating the killer disease when citizens accept the existence of the virus and join the fight, adding that plans are underway for the construction of another Ebola testing unit in the County. The Bong superintendent said the facility is expected to be constructed by the US Army at the former UNMIL base in Maimu Salala district

The Analyst again, with evidence of spreading contagion:

Grand Gedeh Records First Ebola Case

A 35-year-old man in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, has tested Ebola positive, making it the first case in the county since the outbreak of the disease in the country in March. The man, whose name is being withheld by the Liberia News Agency, was showing signs and symptoms of the disease when the Grand Gedeh County Health Team (CHT) picked him up from the Zwedru Central Market last Friday.

In a brief interview with the Liberia News Agency Wednesday, the Coordinator of the CHT, Netus Nowena, said the man migrated from Ganta, Nimba County to Grand Gedeh County following the death of nine of his family members from the disease early this month.

According to Nowena, the health team was taking the man to Gbarnga, Bong County for treatment when they observed that he was showing signs and symptoms of the virus, adding that he later tested positive for the disease. According to Nowena, the 36 people who were at the holding center for 21 days of observation have been released without any signs or symptoms of Ebola.

The Liberian Observer covers another threat:

Ebola Weakens Liberia Food Security

Liberia has been the hardest hit country in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) with more than 3000 cases, Voice of America (VOA) reports.

With this latest development, it is reported that 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties have been affected. Some of the first cases in Liberia were reported in northern Lofa County. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (ANFAO) said, the outbreak has had a big effect on food security in the country.

The FAO has just completed a four-day assessment of Lofa County, where a three-man team visited the towns of Foya and Barkedu. The far northern area is close to the border with Guinea. That’s where the World Health Organization (WHO) reports the Ebola outbreak probably began early this year with the case of a two year old boy.

FAO representative, Alexis Bonte is quoted as telling the VOA’s Joe DeCapua that Lofa County residents are “terrified at how fast the disease is spreading.” He says that “neighbors, friends and family members are dying within just a few days of exhibiting shocking symptoms.”

After the jump, calls for mobilization in Sierra Leone,  Guinea, and Gambia, Sierra Leone’s Patient Zero heads home, Ivory Coast ends airline restrictions, an HIV drug cures Ebola in Liberia, World Bank warns Nigeria over Ebola complacency, another American comes home for treatment, Cuba medical teams arrive, more cash is promised by Europe, Asia, and the IMF. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, cops, hacks, more


First up, from the Los Angeles Times, piling on:

Britain, Belgium and Denmark to join U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq

The British Parliament voted Friday to join U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq against the extremist group Islamic State.

The motion approved by a vote of 524 to 43 does not allow Britain’s air force to also conduct operations in neighboring Syria, where the militants have seized large swaths of territory.

Prime Minister David Cameron made the case for military intervention to lawmakers, who were recalled to London during a recess for Friday’s vote.

More from the London Telegraph:

British air strikes on Iraq in hours after MPs vote for action

  • Bombing is backed by 524 to 43 MPs after David Cameron said the “psychopathic terrorists” must be destroyed

Air Strikes could begin within hours after MPs backed Government plans for a bombing campaign against “psycopathic” Isis terrorists in Iraq.

Six Tornados supported by a Voyager refuelling tanker have been at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in mid-August and could be ready to begin air strikes within hours.

Sources said the Tornados could quickly be fitted with Paveway IV guided bombs or Brimstone missiles to carry out strikes on Isil vehicles and convoys.

Another body for the huddle from  CBC News:

Stephen Harper says Canada won’t ‘stand on the sidelines’ of ISIS fight

  • PM calls Islamic State a ‘direct threat to the security of this country’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will not sit idly while Islamic State militants in the Middle East threaten to slaughter thousands of innocent people.

“We do not stand on the sidelines and watch. We do our part,” Harper said following a meeting with European Union leaders on Parliament Hill Friday.

“That’s always how this country has handled its international responsibilities, and as long as I’m prime minister that’s what we will continue to do.”

TheLocal.no adds another:

Norway commits military staff in fight against Isis

Norway’s government officially ruled to let five Norwegian officers be included in the US-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in Iraq, on Friday.

The five officers of the Norwegian military will be made available “for relevant headquarters planning and leading the international effort against ISIS in Iraq” for no more than twelve months, informed the Department of Defence.
Minister of Defence Ina Eriksen Søreide said to NTB: “It is important to show that the global society stands together in the fight against international terrorism, and that serious violations on human rights will not be tolerated. The government has decided that Norway will contribute with five officers, who will take part in the military planning and be able to contribute to a stronger basis for decision-making for an evaluation of possible further Norwegian military contributions.”

The Norwegian officers will first be sent to Tampa, Florida to begin their tasks as soon as possible.

RT has numbers for another:

Denmark to send F-16 jets to aid anti-ISIS strikes in Iraq

Denmark is to dispatch seven F-16 fighter jets to Iraq to aid in the struggle against Islamic State militants, Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt announced Friday.

The US filed a request with Denmark on Thursday to contribute to the international air campaign against Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS, or ISIL) in Iraq. Thorning-Schmidt said that the F-16s would be limited to flying in Iraq and would not be targeting any areas in neighboring Syria.

“I am very pleased that there now is a broad coalition, including countries in the region who want to… contribute,” she told a press conference. “The terror organization ISIS cannot be defeated with military means alone.”

Reuters has one reaction:

Wary of air strikes, Islamic State insurgents change tactics

Islamic State militants are changing tactics in the face of U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq, ditching conspicuous convoys in favor of motorcycles and planting their black flags on civilian homes, tribal sources and eyewitnesses say.

They reported fewer militant checkpoints to weed out “apostates” and less cell phone use since the air strikes intensified and more U.S. allies pledged to join the campaign that began in August, saying the militants had also split up to limit casualties.

A tribal sheikh from a village south of Kirkuk said Islamic State elements “abandoned one of their biggest headquarters in the village” when they heard the air strike campaign was likely to target their area.

Reuters has another:

U.S.-led strikes pressure al Qaeda’s Syria group to join with Islamic State

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, is facing mounting pressure from its own members to reconcile with its rival Islamic State and confront a common enemy after U.S.-led air strikes hit both groups this week.

But that move would require pledging loyalty to Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, which would effectively put an end to the Nusra Front, fighters in the group say.

Nusra, long one of the most effective forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was weakened this year by battles with Islamic State, an al Qaeda splinter group that routinely employs ruthless methods such as beheadings and mass executions.

And possibly another from the China Post:

IS jihadists execute female rights activist in Iraq’s Mosul

The jihadists who rule Iraq’s northern city of Mosul have executed a female rights activist who criticized the Islamic State (IS) group on social media, several sources said Thursday.

According to rights groups and residents, Samira Saleh al-Nuaimi was executed on Monday. A source at Mosul morgue confirmed to AFP that her body was brought in earlier this week.

“I have also had contact with the morgue and sadly I can confirm that she is dead,” Hana Edward, a prominent Iraqi rights activist who knew Nuaimi, told AFP.

From TheLocal.fr, alerting:

France slaps travel warnings on 40 countries

Following the beheading of a French hostage, authorities have expanded to 40 countries the list of places where French visitors should use “utmost vigilance”. Some on the list may surprise you.

With France carrying out air strikes against Isis in Iraq and one of its nationals beheaded at the hands of jihadists, French authorities have added new countries to a warning list for its citizens.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expanded the list from 31 to 40 countries on Thursday, warning French people to use their “utmost vigilance” if they visit these places.

Discouragement from Homeland Security News Wire:

New DOJ pilot program aims to deter Americans from joining terrorist groups

Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives.

Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz said on Tuesday. Boston was chosen “for the strength of our existing relationships, community engagement and community oriented policing programs,” Ortiz added.

Reuters has numbers:

Nine Japanese said to have joined Islamic State

Nine Japanese nationals have joined Islamic State, Japan’s former air force chief, Toshio Tamogami, quoted a senior Israeli government official as saying, but the government’s top spokesman said on Friday it had not confirmed the information.

Tamogami, now a senior official of a tiny new political party, said on his blog that Nissim Ben Shitrit, the director-general of Israel’s foreign ministry, told him this month that nine Japanese had taken part in Islamic State.

Asked about the possible participation of Japanese citizens in the militant group, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference, “The government has not confirmed such information.”

The Mainichi debunks:

FBI: About 12 Americans fighting in Syria, not 100

The U.S. believes there are about 12 Americans fighting alongside extremist groups in Syria, not more than 100, as has been cited for months.

That’s not to say there is no concern about these other 88 or so Americans who officials say have been killed, arrested, traveled or attempted to travel to join the fight. But the U.S. only knows of about 12 who are currently in Syria fighting, FBI Director James Comey said Thursday.

The 100 figure, however, had taken on an urban legend status over the past few months as the Obama administration made its case to the American public for military action in Iraq and Syria. It’s unclear what significance the discrepancy has as far as Americans’ support for the U.S. military action, which so far has been strong.

And from the London Daily Mail, adding fool to the fire:

Hero company CEO, who works part time as a cop, shot Muslim convert employee, 30, as he BEHEADED female co-worker and stabbed another after trying to convince colleagues to join Islam

  • Alton Nolen, 30, had just been fired when he drove up to Vaughan Foods in Moore, Oklahoma and ‘attacked the first two people he saw’
  • He beheaded Colleen Hufford, 54, and stabbed Traci Johnson, 43, before Mark Vaughan, an off-duty officer and the company’s former owner, shot him
  • Nolen and Johnson are both being treated in hospital
  • Co-workers revealed that Nolen, who has an extensive rap sheet, had recently converted to Islam and had tried to get them to convert as well
  • He has a Jesus tattoo on his chest and a Muslim greeting inked on his abdomen, court records show
  • In 2010, after he eluded cops and sparked a massive overnight manhunt, he was ordered to take an anger management course
  • 911 call reveals the chaos inside the entrance to the building after the suspect entered and attacked at random before he was gunned down
  • FBI now investigating whether conversion to Islam linked to attack

Süddeutsche Zeitung has a blast from the hitherto secret past

The Aborted Origins Of The First Hunt For Osama Bin Laden

Some of the drones the United States used to hunt for Osama bin Laden were once piloted out of Ramstein Air Base in Germany, apparently without the knowledge of officials in Berlin.

It was known that the data for all drone attacks flowed through Ramstein, but according to both internal documents and U.S. officers, the drone pilots themselves were located there for at least part of the time (pictured: ground control station in New Mexico).

In the summer of 2000, (more than a year before the Sep. 11 attacks) a team from the U.S. Air Force 32nd Expeditionary Air Intelligence Squadron in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate began a remote-controlled drone hunt for Osama bin Laden. At the time, the CIA and the National Security Council were developing various plans to capture or kill bin Laden. The idea of armed drones was discussed, although at the time this was thoroughly new ground and the military was skeptical of their use.

TheLocal.dk covers a military hack attack:

Danish defence secrets obtained by foreign spies

Denmark’s largest weapons company and up to four other defence targets were successfully hacked over a period of four years, and signs point to China.

The Danish defence industry was the target of successful hacks by a foreign state, mostly likely China, DR reports. The news comes just days after DR revealed that sensitive Danish business information was obtained by state-sponsored hackers in 2012.

The defence hack was targeted at the Danish contributions to the American F35 Joint Strike Fighter jet programme.

Deutsche Welle ponders a visit:

Could Snowden come to Berlin?

  • German opposition members appealed to the country’s highest court to allow former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden to testify at a parliamentary inquiry in Berlin

A German parliamentary inquiry looking into US National Security Agency (NSA) spying in Germany initially decided it would not invite whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked the documents revelaing the US intelligence agency’s massive spy programs, to testify in Berlin.

The Green and Left opposition parties on Friday requested that the German Constitutional Court, the country’s highest legal institution, to rule on whether Snowden should testify in front of the inquiry committee in Berlin to provide a “global overview of the technical conditions of mass surveillance,” according to Greens lawmaker Konstantin von Notz.

Although the German government appears not to want to risk harming its relationship with the US by allowing Snowden to speak in Berlin, inquiry committee members from Germany’s governing parties have said they also want to hear from Snowden. They, however, want to do it via video link or in Russia, where Snowden currently lives in exile, rather than in the German capital.

From the Birmingham News, a very, very curious story:

Huntsville schools say call from NSA led to monitoring students online

A secret program to monitor students’ online activities began quietly in Huntsville schools, following a phone call from the NSA, school officials say.

Huntsville schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski says the system began monitoring social media sites 18 months ago, after the National Security Agency tipped the school district to a student making violent threats on Facebook.

The NSA, a U.S. agency responsible for foreign intelligence, this week said it has no record of a call to Huntsville and does not make calls to school systems.

Regardless of how the program started, Huntsville City Schools began scanning Facebook and other sites for signs of gang activity, watching for photos of guns, photos of gang signs and threats of violence.

After the jump, apology rejected in Ferguson, military arrests in Mexico, Argentine tax cheats pursued by drones, Shellshock implacability, a horrendous online vulnerability revealed, Down Under spook spoofing Pakistan expands its nuclear horizons, censoring soaps in Thailand, An Internet purge in China, Hong Kong protests end in clash and Hillary’s chickens come home to roost, illustrative imprisonment in China, a Sino/Indian border spat,  Nazi-ness in Japan, and an attack of liberal newspaper. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Fires, climate, nukes, & more


We begin with a California Burning update from the Los Angeles Times:

Rain helps crews expand control of King fire in Northern California

Much-needed rain from a weather system out of the Pacific Northwest helped give firefighters the upper hand overnight as they battle a series of wildfires across Northern California.

The storm dumped up to an inch of rain on the Eldorado National Forest region, where the King fire has been raging for more than two weeks, helping firefighters boost containment to 68%, officials reported Friday.

More than 7,700 firefighters have been battling the 97,009-acre wildfire, which has destroyed a dozens home and even more structures, since Sept. 13. Fire activity was minimal overnight with smoldering flames buried deep inside heavy vegetation, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

And a California Thirsting update, also from the Los Angeles Times:

Drought has 14 communities on the brink of waterlessness

Parkwood is one of 28 small California communities that have since January cycled onto and off of a list of “critical water systems” that state officials say could run dry within 60 days. Amid the drought that is scorching the state and particularly the Central Valley, the State Water Resources Control Board decided this year, for the first time ever, to track areas on the brink of waterlessness.

“It’s a sign of how severe this drought is,” said Bruce Burton, an assistant deputy director for the board.

For some communities, earning a place on the list was the impetus to address problems that should have been fixed long ago. Some drilled new wells, built storage tanks or connected their water systems with larger ones and got off the critical list. Other communities were saved by late spring rains that filled reservoirs and other water supplies.

Fourteen communities, though, remain on the list, approaching a crisis point and trucking in water while they work to find a solution.

MintPress News covers cooptation:

Growing Business Role In Climate Debate Prompts New Concerns

Instead of government setting goals and rules for emissions reduction, the private sector — including multinational oil giants — is increasingly dictating to governments how companies can be “supported” to make changes

As global leaders came together this week in New York to unveil commitments on cutting carbon emissions and to try to inject fresh energy into climate discussions, focus on the private sector took on a prominent new role – both inside the United Nations headquarters and outside, among protesters.

At the U.N. Climate Summit on Tuesday and in the days leading up to the event, multinational corporations and major institutional investors took an unprecedented number of voluntary steps, from making unilateral pledges of sustainability to placing new priority on funding alternative energy technologies to collectively urging global policymakers to take substantive action on emissions reduction.

“These are vast and marked changes, and very different from any other time I can remember. The level of interest on the part of the private sector is radically different than it was even five years ago,” Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, a U.S. coalition of investors and others focused on sustainability, told MintPress News.

From Newswise, a remind that our environment is full of mysteries:

Mown Grass Smell Sends SOS for Help in Resisting Insect Attacks

The smell of cut grass in recent years has been identified as the plant’s way of signalling distress, but new research says the aroma also summons beneficial insects to the rescue.

“When there is need for protection, the plant signals the environment via the emission of volatile organic compounds, which are recognized as a feeding queue for parasitic wasps to come to the plant that is being eaten and lay eggs in the pest insect,” said Dr. Michael Kolomiets, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in College Station.

The research stems from a look at the function of a large family of lipid-derived molecular signals that regulate differential processes in humans, animals and plants, according to Kolomiets, whose research was published in The Plant Journal.

The Wall Street Journal covers a deadly alien invader:

Venomous Redback Spiders Found in Tokyo

Tokyo officials are conducting extensive extermination efforts in Mitaka after poisonous redback spiders were spotted in the area for the first time in the capital.

According to a Mitaka city official, more than 10 redback spiders were found in one of its parks on Thursday after the city received a report of sighting the previous day. It immediately called in the exterminators, and they are to revisit the area again Friday afternoon. There haven’t been any reports of locals being bit, the Mitaka city official said.

The venomous spiders, originating from Australia, were first spotted in western Japan in 1995. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, a national science agency in Australia, states on its website that the spiders are not aggressive but their bites are “very poisonous and potentially fatal for children or the elderly.”

And on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:

Water treatment system in Fukushima fails again

A water treatment system to decontaminate radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been partially shut down again. Tokyo Electric Power Company suspects faulty filters caused the trouble.

One of the 3 lines of the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, was turned off on Friday after the treated water in the line remained cloudy.

Engineers found that the water contained calcium, which hinders the elimination of radioactive strontium.

The Asahi Shimbun reveals a major problem:

Not nearly enough buses for mass exodus after nuclear accident

The gargantuan task of moving residents in a nuclear crisis will fall on chartered buses, according to the local governments’ evacuation plans.

The problem is there may not be nearly enough vehicles to move huge numbers of people to safety.

Some prefectures already realize they would be lucky to assemble just half the number of buses for the job.

There is also opposition from bus companies, which say they will not subject their drivers to hazardous radiation risks.

And from the Mainichi, disposal woes:

Bill to define government’s role in radioactive waste disposal

Details of a bill that would define the national government’s role in disposing of radioactive waste from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster emerged on Sept. 25.

The bill, to be presented at an extraordinary session of the Diet, which will be convened on Sept. 29, would revise the Act on Japan Environmental Safety Corporation. It is aimed at alleviating Fukushima Prefecture residents’ fears that midterm storage facilities will end up turning into final disposal sites.

The proposed revision emphasizes that “maintenance and management of midterm storage facilities essential to the decontamination and recovery of Fukushima will be handled responsibly by the national government.” The bill would also change the name of the Japan Environmental Safety Corporation (JESCO), which is to operate the midterm storage facilities, to incorporate “midterm storage” in addition to “environmental safety.”

From the Ecologist, another fuel, other problems:

Skin, respiratory symptoms increase near gas wells

A health study in Pennsylvania, USA, shows that people living near fracking and other natural gas wells are more likely to suffer from skin conditions and upper respiratory symptoms. It calls for further study of the associations, including the role of specific air and water exposures.

A Yale-led study has found a greater prevalence of health symptoms reported among residents living close to natural gas wells, including those drilled by hydraulic fracturing.

The study, titled ‘Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported Health Status: Results of a Household Survey in Washington County, Pennsylvania’ was published online this month in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health.

And for our final item, dangers from our digital environment from PsyBlog:

This is What Heavy Multitasking Could Be Doing To Your Brain

  • Multitasking may affect crucial areas of the brain’s emotional and cognitive centres

Using laptops, phones and other media devices at the same time could be shrinking important structures in our brains, a new study may indicate.

For the first time, neuroscientists have found that people who use multiple devices simultaneously have lower gray-matter density in an area of the brain associated with cognitive and emotional control (Loh & Kanai, 2014).

Multitasking might include listening to music while playing a video game or watching TV while making a phone call or even reading the newspaper with the TV on.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, quackery, aid, history


We open today’s compendium with the latest numbers, via Reuters:

West Africa Ebola Death Toll Passes 3,000-WHO

The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has risen to at least 3,091 out of 6,574 probable, suspected and confirmed cases, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.

Liberia has recorded 1,830 deaths, around three times as many as in either Guinea or Sierra Leone, the two other most affected countries, according to WHO data received up to Sept. 23.

An outbreak that began in a remote corner of Guinea has taken hold of much of neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, prompting warnings that tens of thousands of people may die from the worst outbreak of the disease on record.

The WHO update said Liberia had reported six confirmed cases of Ebola and four deaths in the Grand Cru district, which is near the border with Ivory Coast and had not previously recorded any cases of Ebola.

The district of Kindia in Guinea also reported its first confirmed case, the WHO said, a day after it said the spread of Ebola appeared to have stabilised in that country.

China Daily delivers a call:

FM calls for action on Ebola

The growing threat posed by the West Africa Ebola outbreak requires the international community to take further actions to fight against the epidemic, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday.

Wang made the remarks at a high-level meeting on response to Ebola during the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Epidemics know no borders, and Ebola is a common challenge for all countries around the world and all lives are equal,” said Wang. “The international community should take further action to build up confidence, stay united in adversity and adopt resolute measures to contain the epidemic.”

Optimism from the New York Times:

Ebola Doctor Shortage Eases as Volunteers Begin to Step Forward

Doctors and nurses are finally volunteering to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa after a long period of paralyzing fear in which almost none stepped forward.

But, experts say, even though money is now pouring in from the World Bank, the Gates Foundation and elsewhere, and the United States Army is to start erecting field hospitals soon, there is likely to be a long gap before those hospitals can be fully staffed to care for the growing numbers of people sick with Ebola.

“As a result, thousands of people will die,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, which treats more patients than any other entity. “I can’t say the exact figure because we don’t know how many unreported cases there are. But thousands for sure.”

Star Africa News announces more help:

UK to build treatment center for Sierra Leone’s infected Ebola workers

To build confidence among a demoralized work force in Sierra Leone, Britain is building a 16-bed treatment center exclusively for health workers infected with the Ebola virus, Sierra Leone officials have said.

The West African country has lost about 50 health workers to the epidemic which continues to spread. Health workers are most at risk, due mainly to lack of proper training but also unavailability of protective gears. Nurses have been particularly restless witnessing so many of their colleagues dying.

Their frustration grows as foreign doctors are evacuated while local doctors are left to die at home where weak health systems leave very little chance for survival.

The Ministry of Information said Thursday the new facility being built by the British army is part of the UK`s rejuvenated support for the anti-Ebola effort.

From CCTV Africa, another report on the woeful shortages of treatment facilities, this time in Liberia:

Liberia’s Ebola Victims Dying at Home amid Shortage of Treatment Centres

Program notes:

Liberians have raised fresh concerns about a lack of Ebola treatment facilities. They say many victims of the virus have nowhere to go and instead stay at home. That increases the chances of infecting family members

Homeland Security News Wire covers a conundrum:

Models of Ebola spread cannot model people’s behavior

The most effective way to limit the spread of the Ebola virus is by tightly quarantining infected individuals in hospitals, Ebola treatment units (ETUs), or in their homes. The developer of a sophisticated model to predict the pace and scope of the spread of Ebola admits that the most important variable — predicting the most effective way to convince infected individuals to report their cases to health authorities and be admitted to a quarantined facility, or even just stay at home – is beyond the model’s reach. “The trouble is to get people to believe that going to the hospitals is in their best interest,” said CDC’s Dr. Martin Meltzer. “We’ve got to get people to understand that. You can go around to villages and cities and slums all you want and say, ‘If you’re ill, go to the hospital.’ Why should anybody believe? We can’t model that.”

In the early stages of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called the world’s first Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO), Doctors Without Borders, and other health-aid organizations worked to limit the spread of the disease by convincing patients to report their symptoms to doctors or let aid workers quarantine their homes and villages. The strategies deployed have had little positive effect on the two most affected countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The WHO recently reported that the number of cases has nearly doubled in the last three weeks. As of 25 September, the (CDC) recorded 6,263 cases of Ebola, resulting in 2,917 deaths.

From Star Africa News, a sign of tragic desperation:

Sierra Leonean minister advocates use of new drug to treat Ebola

Sierra Leone`s Information Minister, Alpha Kanu has said the controversial Ebola treatment solution, Nano Silver, does not need any approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that Sierra Leone was considering using it to treat Ebola patients.

Nano Silver is a natural solution-based treatment therapy. While it is not specifically made for Ebola but its proponents say it slows down the development of the virus. However, those opposed to it say it is unsafe.

Sierra Leone has been awaiting an assessment of a batch of the solution. Kanu, a chemist by training, has been a fervent supporter of the idea of deploying any treatment that can help alleviate the suffering of infected Ebola patients.

The US FDA is known to be vehemently opposed to the use of the drug which it considers as a fertilizer.

Not only is there no evidence whatsoever of the compound’s usefulness in treating Ebola, the main effect of its use seems to be in turning the skin blow.

On Monday [23 September] The Food and Drug Administration ordered the manufacturer, Natural Solutions Foundation of Newton, N.J., to stop promoting the compound’s use in treating the disease.

The letter noted some of the spurious claims falsely raising hopes in Africa:

On the home page you have a YouTube video embedded titled, “URGENT MESSAGE to EBOLA-STRICKEN NATIONS’  HEADS OF STATE.” In the video you state:

  • “As of now it is said that there is no treatment against Ebola, and that is not true. In fact there is a well-known, well characterized,  nutrient. That is Nano Silver….  [I]t does kill every pathogen against which it has been tested, worldwide, without exception. There is no other effective solution …Nano Silver …is unlimited in its effectiveness …[and is a] safe, non-toxic …and available solution against Ebola and every other communicable disease….”  (00:35- 2:12)

On your “Smoking Gun: US Suppressing Ebola Therapy Since 2009″ page, which is accessed from a link on your home page:

  • “2009 DOD Funded Study Finds Nano Silver Inhibits Ebola Virus”
  • “[] US GOVERNMENT  RESEARCH SHOW[S] THAT THERE IS A CURE FOR EBOLA …AND IT IS NANO SILVER. …” ·
  • “They DID come up with a cure, prevention and treatment for it [Ebola]: 10 PPM Nano Silver.”
  • “[] Nano Silver at 10 PPM IS the definitive prevention and therapy for Ebola virus…
  • [T]here is a cure, treatment and prevention for Ebola virus”
  • “[N]ano silver was known …as the definitive antiviral agent against Ebola virus[]”
  • “[] NANO SILVER, at 10 PPM, effectively kills the Ebola virus.”
  • “[T]here IS a …cure and prevention for Ebola Virus.”
  • “[T]he CBD will alleviate the terrible pain of the disease while the silver works its wonders….”

The FDA notes:

The therapeutic claims on your websites establish that the products are drugs because they are intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. As explained further below, introducing or delivering these products for introduction into interstate commerce for such uses violates the Act.

Star Africa News covers a press crackdown:

S/Leone legislators summon radio manager over Ebola funds reportage

The Station Manager of a leading radio station in Sierra Leone’s Ebola-hit eastern Kenema District has been summoned to parliament over his handling of reportage of funds allocated to Members of Parliament (Mps).

The MPs are angry with the media over the manner they are reporting on the epidemic generally, but that anger took a dramatic turn recently when they themselves came on the spotlight for a controversial allocation of funds in the name of anti-Ebola sensitization.

Star Line Radio, located in Kenema, was one of the stations fingered for its “inciteful” coverage of the matter. Its Station Manager Sidie Yaya Fofanah was summoned to answer to questions by parliamentarians, some of whom have been calling for the station’s suspension for “irresponsible” reporting.

Mr. Fofanah is due to appear on Friday at what some journalists concerned about media freedom term as a trial of the media.

From Al Jazeera English, big help from a small country:

Cuba sends 300 more doctors to fight Ebola

  • Cuban government’s pledge comes as European health experts urge their governments to ramp up relief efforts in region

Cuba says it will send nearly 300 more doctors and nurses to West Africa to help fight the Ebola epidemic.

The Cubans will work in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Regla Angulo, head of the Cuban medical relief agency, said in a statement on Friday.

The announcement means that up to 461 Cuban medical personnel would have been sent to help address the epidemic spreading across West Africa.

Angulo said the staff were currently undergoing intense training ahead of their deployment, working in a mock field hospital of the kind they expected to find in the region.

Punch Nigeria delivers a warning:

Ebola: World Bank warns Nigeria against complacency

The World Bank has advised Nigeria not to become complacent over the success it has achieved in the management of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease.

At a briefing in Abuja on Friday, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Marie-Francois Marie-Nelly, commended Nigeria for the effective way it managed the outbreak of the disease but emphasised that the guard should not be lowered.

Marie-Nelly said although Nigeria had been able to contain the contagious disease, it was important all states of the federation should be on the watch in case of any eventuality.

From the Japan Times, another treatment in the offing:

Fujifilm says French Ebola patient is taking its Avigan drug

Fujifilm Corp. said its influenza medicine Avigan is being given to an Ebola patient at a French hospital along with another experimental drug, the latest treatments to be deployed in the global push to curtail the deadly virus.

The French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety asked for the drug and the female patient has been given the combination since Sept. 19, the Japanese company said in a statement Friday.

The Fujifilm treatment, also called Favipiravir, was discovered by Yousuke Furuta at the Toyama Chemical unit of Tokyo-based Fujifilm in 1998. It targets polymerase, an enzyme that viruses use to replicate inside the body, to stop the viruses from spreading.

To close, historical perspective from der Spiegel:

Interview with Ebola Discoverer Peter Piot: ‘It Is What People Call a Perfect Storm’

  • Almost four decades ago, Peter Piot was part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus. In a SPIEGEL interview, he describes how the disease was isolated and explains why the current outbreak is different than any that have come before.

SPIEGEL: Professor Piot, as a young scientist in Antwerp, you were part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus in 1976. How did it happen?

Piot: I still remember exactly: One day in September, a pilot from Sabena Airlines brought us a shiny blue thermos and a letter from a doctor in Kinshasa in what was then Zaire. In the thermos, he wrote, there was a blood sample from a Belgian nun who had recently fallen ill from a mysterious sickness in Yambuku, a remote village in the northern part of the country. He asked us to test the sample for yellow fever.

SPIEGEL: These days, Ebola may only be researched in high security laboratories. How did you protect yourself back then?

Piot: We had no idea how dangerous the virus we were dealing with was. And there were no high security labs in Belgium back then. We just wore our white lab coats and protective gloves. When we opened the thermos, the ice inside had largely melted and one of the vials had broken. Blood and glass shards were floating in the ice water. We fished the other, intact test tube out of the slop and began examining the blood for pathogens using the methods that were standard at the time.