Category Archives: Asia

EnviroWatch: Ills, seas, animals, & nukes


First up the latest on an ongoing tragedy from CCTV America:

Number of polio cases in Pakistan highest in 14 years

Program notes:

This month Pakistan broke a 14-year record for the highest number of polio cases in a year. Militants continue to block vaccination efforts. CCTV America’s Danial Khan reports.

And an Asia outbreak continues to grow, via Want China Times:

Record-high number of dengue fever cases expected in Taiwan this year

Over the next few days, the accumulated number of dengue fever cases reported in Taiwan could surpass the previous high of 5,336 such cases recorded in 2002, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Thursday.

With a rate of 900 new cases per week since the beginning of October, it is only a matter of time before Taiwan sees the worst dengue fever outbreak in its history, CDC Deputy Director Chou Jih-haw said.

According to the CDC, there have been 4,750 indigenous dengue fever cases as of Oct. 13, 47 of which were the more severe hemorrhagic dengue fever, Chou said.

From BBC News, a South Seas climate protest:

South Pacific climate activists blockade Australia port

Hundreds of climate change protestors have attempted to disrupt shipments of coal from a port north of Sydney using their canoes, kayaks and surfboards to form a blockade.

The group included people from countries in the South Pacific who said they wanted to highlight the effects of climate change on their nations. They said the burning of coal mined in Australia was causing sea levels to rise which will impact low-lying Pacific islands.

About 30 Pacific Climate Warriors, as they call themselves, took to the water in traditional canoes. They had come from countries including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tokelau.

From the Guardian, they’re doing it on porpoise:

UK is breaking EU’s conservation laws on porpoises

  • European commission could take Britain to court within two months for failure to protect harbour porpoises

Britain is facing a referral to the European Court of Justice within two months unless it designates more protection sites for harbour porpoises, a threatened species in the North Sea.

Harbour porpoises are the most common, and smallest, cetacean species found in UK waters. Similar in appearance to bottlenose dolphins, they are very social animals, rotund in shape with a small dorsal fin that shows above the waves.

Although they are still relatively abundant, their numbers are thought to be falling fast under pressure from human activities such as fisheries bycatch, starvation, underwater noise and injuries from boats.

Salon casts doubt on a serial killer:

EPA: Bee-killing pesticides used on soy crops don’t even do what they’re supposed to

  • A federal study finds “negligible benefits” to the widespread use of neonicotinoid seed coatings

The EPA has yet to do much about neonicotinoids, the class of pesticides implicated in the United States’ mass bee die-offs, but it has started looking into them. And the results of an extensive review into one such pesticides, commonly applied to soybean seeds, presents another compelling reason to ban them: using them, the agency found, isn’t any better than using no pesticides at all.

“These seed treatments provide negligible overall benefits to soybean production in most situations,” the report concludes; at most, they up revenue by $6, or less than 2 percent, per acre, but the more likely estimate is $0. Part of the problem is that the insecticides are only effective within the first few weeks of planting, while the insects they’re intended to combat aren’t typically active during that time. And if attacks do occur, the study the study identified a whole assortment of other, non-bee-killing alternatives that are both effective and comparable in cost.

Colony collapse disorder, on the other hand, has cost the U.S. an estimated $2 billion in lost hives and, as a result, some $30 billion in crops.

From the Guardian, good on ‘em:

China tests outright logging ban in state forests

  • China has halted commercial logging by state firms in forests in Heilongjiang, a move experts see as a significant step to curb over-exploitation of timber, reports chinadialogue

China has launched a trial ban on commercial logging in state-owned forests in the vast north-eastern province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia, home to much of the country’s timber industry. Forestry experts have hailed the ban as a major step forward, predicting it will enable timber supplies to recover and shift the industry’s focus towards improved forestry management.

To make the ban stick, the central government has allocated 2.35bn yuan a year to cover forestry workers’ living costs between 2014 and 2020, chinadialogue has learned from the State Forestry Administration (SFA). If the trial ban is successful, the policy may be extended throughout north east China and Inner Mongolia.

Sheng Weitong, a forestry expert and former advisor to China’s cabinet-level state council, told chinadialogue that some laid-off loggers “will become forest rangers and learn how to manage forests because the vast numbers of young and semi-mature trees in these districts need management. Workers here neglected forest management in the past.”

And off to Fuksuhimapocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:

Survey: More Fukushima evacuees give up returning

A survey shows more evacuees from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident have given up returning home. The Reconstruction Agency and local municipalities released on Friday the results of the annual survey conducted in August.

Almost half of respondents from 2 towns designated as an evacuation zone said they decided they will not go back. The percentage of people who gave this answer is up 11 points from last year in the town of Namie and up 3 points in Tomioka town.

Officials say some of the people who were undecided in last year’s survey have made up their mind.

A delay from the Asahi Shimbun:

ANALYSIS: TEPCO behind schedule to eliminate contaminated water despite extra measures

Thanks to the newly set up ALPS units and the improved model to be introduced, it is estimated that the radioactive water processing ability of the plant will rise from the current maximum of 750 tons per day to 1,960 tons, according to TEPCO.

But many problems have been reported with ALPS since it first became operational, repeatedly forcing the plant operator to halt its operations. The utilization rate for the system between January and August was just 35 to 61 percent.

Although TEPCO replaced some components of ALPS with improved parts, problems occurred with some replaced components in late September, forcing the utility to suspend operations of some units of the system.

Whereas TEPCO has set a goal of completing the purification of all highly radioactive water stored on site, it would still be difficult to achieve that goal even if TEPCO could operate all the processing systems day and night.

A state broadcaster rebels, via Public Radio International’s The World:

Japan’s timid coverage of Fukushima led this news anchor to revolt — and he’s not alone

It’s been three-and-a-half years since 83-year-old Kamematsu left his home, with its rice patties, vegetable fields and 10 cows, fleeing the disaster at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. He still can’t go back.

When will it be ready for people again? No one seems to know — or be interested in telling him. “I can’t take my land with me,” he says, “so I don’t know what to do. I can’t see ahead.”

Kamematsu is one of about 80,000 people in Japan still officially displaced by the nuclear crisis. Questions remain about radiation levels, the clean-up process and when residents can return home. Yasuhiko Tajima, a professor of media studies at Tokyo’s Sophia University, says many Japanese are frustrated by what they see as a lack of information.

Japanese journalists did what Tajima calls “announcement journalism” in reporting on the crisis. He says they were reporting the press releases of big companies and the people in power. And he’s not the only one who thinks so.

“I am a newscaster, but I couldn’t tell the true story on my news program,” says Jun Hori, a former anchor for NHK, the Japanese state broadcaster.

Hori says the network restricted what he and other journalists could say about Fukushima and moved more slowly than foreign media to report on the disaster and how far radiation was spreading. The attitude in the newsroom was not to question official information

Another reactor stress from the Japan Times:

Utilities pressed to make quick decision on scrapping aged reactors

The government called on Friday for utilities to swiftly decide whether to scrap aging reactors that would be particularly vulnerable in the event of a natural disaster.

The pro-nuclear government, which is seeking to reactivate the nation’s idled reactors as soon as possible despite a glut of solar and other renewable energy that is being boycotted by the utilities, is pushing the them to decide quickly in the hope that shutting old facilities will help mitigate public concern so restarts can proceed.

Under new, tighter safety standards adopted because of the 2011 core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, utilities are not allowed to operate reactors for longer than 40 years, in principle.

And here’s one to give you nightmares, from JapanToday:

Expert says 2 Sendai reactors in danger from active volcano

A prominent volcanologist disputed Japanese regulators’ conclusion that two nuclear reactors were safe from a volcanic eruption in the next few decades, saying Friday that such a prediction was impossible.

A cauldron eruption at one of several volcanos surrounding the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Japan could not only hit the reactors but could cause a nationwide disaster, said Toshitsugu Fujii, University of Tokyo professor emeritus who heads a government-commissioned panel on volcanic eruption prediction.

Nuclear regulators last month said two Sendai reactors fulfilled tougher safety requirements set after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The regulators ruled out a major eruption over the next 30 years until the reactors’ reach the end of their usable lifespan.

More from Reuters:

Japan’s volcanoes made more jittery by 2011 quake, expert says

Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake may trigger more, and larger, volcanic eruptions over the next few decades, perhaps even that of Mount Fuji – but predicting them remains close to impossible, a volcano expert said on Friday.

The nation last month suffered its worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years when Mount Ontake, its second tallest active volcano at 3,067 meters (10,062 feet), suddenly erupted, raining down ash and stone on hikers crowding the summit.

The eruption killed 56 people, exceeding the deaths in the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens in the United States. Seven victims remain missing, and recovery efforts have been suspended until the spring.

Japan may well be moving into a period of increased volcanic activity touched off by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake of March 11, 2011, said Toshitsugu Fujii, a volcanologist and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.

“The 2011 quake convulsed all of underground Japan quite sharply, and due to that influence Japan’s volcanoes may also become much more active,” Fujii told reporters.

And we close with another nightmare from NHK WORLD:

Shimomura criticizes Monju operator

Science minister Hakubun Shimomura has criticized the operator of the Monju fast-breeder prototype reactor for its failure to properly maintain equipment. It recently came to light that a number of monitoring cameras at the reactor are not working.

Shimomura told reporters on Friday that it is very regrettable that the operator, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, lacks a sense of responsibility. More than 50 cameras, or about one-third of those monitoring coolant pipes, were found to be broken when Monju was inspected in September.

Shimomura said reassuring the public about Monju’s safety is the minimum requirement for restarting the experimental reactor. He said the prototype reactor may be stopped forever if the operator’s poor management continues.

InSecurityWatch: Threats, war, hacks, spies


And more. . .

We begin with a very real security threat from Salon:

Americans see economic inequality as a bigger threat than nuclear weapons

  • Asked to name top threat to the world, a plurality of Americans say it’s the gap between rich and poor

Pew polled people in 44 countries for the survey. In the U.S., 27 percent of respondents named income inequality as the biggest danger to the world, followed by religious and ethnic hatred (24 percent), nuclear weapons (23 percent), pollution and the environment (15 percent), and AIDS and other diseas (7 percent). Europe, which was also hard hit by the Great Recession and whose leaders have since embarked on an agenda of economic austerity, joined the U.S. in seeing economic inequality as the top global threat.

The findings are part of Pew’s spring 2014 Global Attitudes poll. Earlier this month, Pew unveiled data from the survey showing that a plurality of Americans support raising taxes as a means of combating economic inequality.

The percentage of Americans naming inequality as the top global threat has increased sharply since the Great Recession. In 2007, just 17 percent of Americans told Pew that they considered inequality the biggest threat.

And on to the highest profile conflict of the moment from BBC News:

Islamic State ‘being driven out of Syria’s Kobane’

The Islamic State (IS) militant group has been driven out of most of the northern Syrian town of Kobane, a Kurdish commander has told the BBC.

Baharin Kandal said IS fighters had retreated from all areas, except for two pockets of resistance in the east. US-led air strikes have helped push back the militants, with another 14 conducted over the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the new UN human rights commissioner has called IS a “potentially genocidal” movement. Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein described the group as the antithesis of human rights.

From TheLocal.dk, the latest player in the bombing war:

Danish F-16s carry out first mission against Isis

For the first time since parliament approved Denmark’s military involvement in northern Iraq, Danish jets took to the air to support an American-led mission.

Danish F-16 fighter jets participated in their first mission over northern Iraq on Thursday, the Defence Ministry announced.

“The jets took part in an operation over Iraq in close cooperation with our coalition partners. Our people have made dedicated and highly professional efforts to be ready and I am very pleased that the Danish F-16s are now actively contributing to the international coalition’s fight against the Islamic State,” Defence Minister Nicolai Wammen said in a statement.

Another high-flyer from the Guardian:

UK to send armed drones to assist campaign against Isis

  • Foreign secretary says drones will carry out surveillance over Iraq, and defence secretary says they will add to strike capability

Britain is to send heavily armed Reaper drones to the Middle East to help in the fight against forces from the Islamic State in Iraq.

Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, told MPs that the Reaper drones would add to Britain’s surveillance operations over Iraq. Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, said the drones would add to Britain’s “strike capability”.

Hammond told the Commons: “We are in the process of redeploying some of our Reaper remotely piloted aircraft from Afghanistan to the Middle East to add to our surveillance capabilities.”

Blowback from the Guardian:

Threat of extremist attack in UK is escalating, say police

  • About 50 people a week referred to deradicalisation programmes, with 218 terror-related arrests so far this year

Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer has said that several plots this year to murder people on Britain’s streets “directed by or inspired by terrorism overseas” have already been disrupted, with police activity to prevent extremist attacks at its highest level for years.

Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said Britain’s counter-terrorism network was battling increasing radicalisation via the internet, with fears that young British people are being brainwashed by material including depictions of beheadings, suicides, murder and torture. About 50 people a week are being referred to deradicalisation programmes, he said.

Activity to stop an attack was said by one source to be the highest since the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 attack on London’s transport system, with the threat level escalating as the year has worn on.

From BBC News, gee, we’re shocked:

US ‘hid Iraq chemical weapons incidents’

US troops and Iraqi police were wounded by exposure to abandoned chemical weapons in 2004-11 in a series of incidents largely kept quiet by the Pentagon, a US newspaper has reported.

The New York Times said the weapons were built by Saddam Hussein’s regime during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/14/world/middleeast/us-casualties-of-iraq-chemical-weapons.html

Soldiers and police uncovered about 5,000 warheads, shells or bombs.

The Times based its report on dozens of pages of classified documents, and interviews with soldiers and officials.

And from the Intercept, an ominous development:

New Zealand Cops Raided Home of Reporter Working on Snowden Documents

Agents from New Zealand’s national police force ransacked the home of a prominent independent journalist earlier this month who was collaborating with The Intercept on stories from the NSA archive furnished by Edward Snowden. The stated purpose of the 10-hour police raid was to identify the source for allegations that the reporter, Nicky Hager, recently published in a book that caused a major political firestorm and led to the resignation of a top government minister.

But in seizing all the paper files and electronic devices in Hager’s home, the authorities may have also taken source material concerning other unrelated stories that Hager was pursuing. Recognizing the severity of the threat posed to press freedoms from this raid, the Freedom of the Press Foundation today announced a global campaign to raise funds for Hager’s legal defense.

In August, one month before New Zealand’s national election, Hager published Dirty Politics, which showed that key figures in Prime Minister John Key’s National Party were feeding derogatory information about their opponents to a virulent right-wing blogger named Cameron Slater. Hager published evidence in the form of incriminating emails, provided by a hacker, demonstrating coordination between National Party officials and Slater. The ensuing scandal forced the resignation of a top Key ally, Justice Minister Judith Collins, and implicated numerous other National Party officials and supporters. Despite the scandal, the National Party won a resounding victory in the election, sending Key to a third term as prime minister.

From Al Jazeera America, The Most Transparent Administration in American History™ is a sore loser:

US may appeal release of Guantanamo tape

Federal judge asked to halt plans for releasing video showing Guantanamo Bay hunger striker being force-fed his meals.

The United States government has asked a federal judge to halt plans for releasing videotapes showing a Guantanamo Bay hunger striker being force-fed his meals.

In court papers filed on Wednesday night, the Justice Department told US District Judge Gladys Kessler that the government may appeal an order by the judge that would, for the first time, lead to disclosure of classified information in a proceeding involving a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

The Justice Department told Kessler that she was substituting the court’s judgment for that of executive branch officials, contrary to established precedent.

intelNews covers old school spookery:

Senior Polish defense official detained for ‘spying for Russia’

A high-ranking official in Poland’s Ministry of National Defense has reportedly been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia.

Poland’s Dziennik Gazeta Prawna said early on Wednesday that a man had been detained by Polish security personnel because it was thought he had been acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Another source, Poland’s commercial news Radio Zet, reported that two men had been arrested, a colonel in the Polish Army and a lawyer with dual Polish-Russian citizenship.

Later in the day, an official statement from the office of the Senior Military Prosecutor said simply that Poland’s “Ministry of National Defense detained a Polish Army officer on suspicion of being a member of a foreign intelligence service.”

And RT covers Cold War 2.0, the latest complication:

US tanks arrive in Latvia to ward off ‘perceived’ Russian threat

US tanks have arrived in Latvia as NATO flexes its muscles in an apparent show of strength towards Moscow. The machines are being deployed across the Baltic States and Poland over the next two weeks and will be used for training exercises.

The 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood in Texas, was deployed in Adazi, not far from the Latvian capital of Riga. 150 soldiers used five M1A2 Abrams tanks, as well as 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in a training demonstration.

The commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, John Di Giambattista said, “This is more than just a training mission. This is more than just a trip across the Atlantic; this is more than a multinational training exercise. This is how we demonstrate our nations’ commitment to reassure our NATO allies,” Reuters reports.

After the jump, neo-Nazi legislators to stand trial in Greece, Another FBI blast at citizen encryption coupled with a shot at China, hackers game the latest online ad tech, cybercam spookery, another corporation found selling our their “secure” devices, an NSA exec’s curious enterprises, an intriguing story about what Greenwald and company haven’t published, “smart meter” hacking, the latest Cold War 2.0 move, more mass grave found as search for Mexican students intensifies and anger rises, an Aussie/Japanese Channel sub deal draws closer, Korean military talks stall, another Korean nuclear threat [from the U.S.], on to Hong Kong as the crackdown intensifies, America responds, and pointless talks are proposed, Taiwan frets over Chinese maritime moves and Japan looks to America for critical help, Japanese lawmakers pay a provocative visit [Abe does it with an offering], and an even more provocative moved aimed at banishing any admission of World War II war guilt. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Drought, critters, crime, nukes


We being with the latest California drought development from the Los Angeles Times:

Amid drought, Mayor Garcetti directs L.A. to cut water use 20% by 2017

Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday challenged Los Angeles residents, businesses and city agencies to cut water use by 20% over the next 21/2 years and warned of new water restrictions if conservation targets aren’t met.

In announcing the plan, Garcetti said the city’s already significant reductions in water use were inadequate given the seriousness of the drought.

“The ongoing drought has created a water crisis second to none. We need bold action,” the mayor said.

From the Guardian, a deadly nexus:

Fossil fuel industry supported by a ‘toxic triangle’ that puts 400 million at risk

  • Political inertia, financial short-termism and vested fossil fuel interests threaten to push up global temperatures, says Oxfam

Political inertia, financial short-termism and vested fossil fuel interests have formed a “toxic triangle” that threatens to push up global temperatures, putting 400 million people at risk of hunger and drought by 2060, Oxfam said on Friday, a week before a European Union summit to finalise a new climate and energy policy framework.

In its Food, Fossil Fuels and Filthy Finance report, Oxfam warned that EU leaders must resist pressure from the fossil fuel industry, which spends at least €44 million (£35m) a year on lobbying the European bloc, and commit to cuts of at least 55% in carbon dioxide emissions, energy savings of at least 40% and an increase in the use of sustainable renewable energy to at least 45% of the energy mix.

EU leaders meet in Brussels on October 23-24 to agree on targets for emissions cuts by 2030, deployment of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. The meeting comes ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris next year. The leaders are expected to agree an emissions cut target of 40% over 1990 levels, but Oxfam said this would not be enough if Europe was to make a fair contribution to tackling climate change. The European Union emits about 10% of global carbon dioxide.

Another deadly entity from Science:

Deadly virus striking European amphibians

A virus that has slipped into several European countries is alarming herpetologists, as it ravages amphibians. A type of ranavirus (RV) is being blamed for gruesome deaths and declining populations of a wide range of species in the Picos de Europa National Park in northern Spain, according to research published today in Current Biology. “This is the best example to date of RV being a serious threat to amphibian populations,” says Karen Lips of the University of Maryland, College Park, who was not involved in the research.

The virus adds to the woes of the world’s amphibians, which have been declining at a worrying rate. A major culprit, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has afflicted a wide range of species since it was discovered in 1998. In particular, it has apparently driven many species of frogs extinct in the tropics. The new RV, in contrast, seems to be a problem for temperate species.

Unusual amphibian deaths in the Spanish park were first noticed in 2005. With help from Jaime Bosch of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, park biologists have kept close tabs on six common species of amphibians that live there. They’ve been seeing sick animals with necrotic tissue, open sores, and internal hemorrhages. Some vomit blood. “It’s not a pretty sight,” says Stephen Price, a molecular biologist at University College London.

Bearing arms against bears from the Guardian:

Romanian politician calls for the army to help control bear population

Csaba Borboly has called for military assistance and for culling quotas to be lifted following a spate of cases involving brown bears damaging property in Romania

In the depths of Transylvania, Romania, a war against one of Europe’s largest brown bear populations is looming.

Following a string of cases involving damage to private property from bears in recent months, Csaba Borboly, a senior politician from the Transylvanian region, has called for the army to be brought in. “The [bear] problem needs the involvement of specialised state institutions such as the police, the paramilitary and even the army.”

Borboly’s remarks follow on the heels of a decision made in late September by the Romanian government to raise the bear hunting quota by the largest margin in recent history. The new quota allows for 550 bears to be killed over the next 12 months, up two-thirds from the 2012 quota.

Some good news for a magnificent endangered critter from Punch Nigeria:

Interpol issues arrest warrant for Kenya’s ivory kingpin

International Police Organisation (Interpol) on Thursday issued a warrant to arrest Mombasa businessman Feisal Ali Mohammed, suspected dealer in poaching syndicate in East Africa region.

Interpol has sent out a Red Alert to member countries to assist in the arrest of Feisal, who is wanted for alleged engaging in wildlife trophies trade in Kenya.

Police say Feisal is wanted in connection to last year’s seizure of three tonnes of ivory found in a yard in Tudor in Mombasa. Interpol is expected to send the Red Alert to member countries, notifying officials it is a priority to pass along any information on his whereabouts.

A source within the police indicated that Interpol will increase information exchange, support intelligence analysis and assist national and regional investigations, to apprehend kingpins in wildlife poaching.

Questions about another critter under deep threat from KCST in Seattle:

Is Alaska Safe For Sea Stars?

Program notes:

A deadly disease has been wiping out West Coast starfish for more than a year. One place that has held off the disease the longest is Alaska. Researchers recently traveled there to search for new clues.

“Almost everywhere we’ve looked in the last year, we’ve seen catastrophic losses of sea stars,” says Pete Raimondi, a biology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has been studying an alarming epidemic that’s been killing starfish by the millions.

Raimondi’s team has been tracking the spread of the disease. They noticed signs of the disease in Sitka in the summer of 2013, but there hasn’t been a mass die-off until now. Scientists believe that warming water or an infectious pathogen, like a bacteria or virus, may be to blame, but no one knows for certain.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with the Asahi Shimbun:

Plans to remove cover over damaged Fukushima reactor draws concern

Amid local concerns of the further spread of radioactive materials, Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced plans to start dismantling the canopy installed over the destroyed Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s No. 1 reactor building.

The operation, announced by TEPCO on Oct. 15, will remove the cover that was erected in October 2011 over the building to prevent radioactive materials from entering the atmosphere.

The structure’s walls and roof were destroyed in a hydrogen explosion that occurred after the plant was struck by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami

The Japan Times covers political resistance:

More answers about Fukushima disaster needed before reactor restarts, Niigata governor says

Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida said Japan should not restart any nuclear plants until the cause of the Fukushima meltdowns is fully understood and nearby communities have emergency plans that can effectively respond to another major disaster.

Izumida, whose prefecture is home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, said on Wednesday that regulators look at equipment but don’t evaluate local evacuation plans.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to restart two reactors in Kagoshima Prefecture that last month were the first to be approved under stricter safety requirements introduced after the Fukushima disaster started. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has called the new standard one of the world’s highest.

And from the London Telegraph, Britain’s just-approved nuclear power complex hits a stumbling block:

Hinkley Point nuclear energy deal under investigation by National Audit Office

  • Spending watchdog quietly began probe a year ago, it emerges

The National Audit Office has been quietly investigating the subsidy deal for the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear plant for the past year, it emerged on Thursday.

In recent days both the Labour Party and the Commons Environmental Audit Committee have urged the spending watchdog to examine the deal, which commits consumers to pay up to £17bn in subsidies to developer EDF over a 35-year period.

But the NAO confirmed on Thursday night that an investigation was in fact already well underway. It announced the move in a little-noticed statement on its website on October 21st last year, the day the headline terms of a subsidy contract with the Government were unveiled.

The statement said the watchdog would investigate the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)’s “commercial approach to securing this deal and the proposed terms of the contract” and would “report to Parliament on value for money and the resulting risks which the Department must manage”.

More nuclear questions raised, via Al Jazeera America:

Former workers, whistleblowers shed light on nuclear site safety setbacks

  • Former employees at Hanford, the country’s most contaminated nuclear waste site, discuss its disturbing safety culture

On the banks of the Columbia River, miles of open land sit undeveloped behind barbed wire fences. A handful of mysterious structures dot the landscape, remnants from the early days of the Cold War. Passing by the old Hanford nuclear production complex can feel like a journey into the past.

Known simply as Hanford, workers here produced plutonium for the world’s first atomic bomb and for many of the nation’s current nuclear warheads. The site was first developed in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project and ceased plutonium production nearly 50 years later, leaving behind 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste. Spanning 586 square miles, it is now ground zero for the largest cleanup project in America.

For 27 years, Mike Geffre was part of that effort, working in an area known as the tank farms: 177 massive underground storage tanks, which hold up to 1 million gallons each of the country’s most toxic nuclear waste.

Fracking foe intimidation from the Guardian:

Anti-fracking activist faces fines and jail time in ongoing feud with gas firm

  • Company claims the Pennsylvania woman showed ‘blatant disregard’ for injunction banning her from being near well sites

An oil and gas company is seeking fines and jail time for a peaceful anti-fracking activist in Pennsylvania, according to court documents.

In a motion filed this week, lawyers for Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation, one of the biggest operators in Pennsylvania, asked the Susquehanna County court to find longtime activist Vera Scroggins in contempt of an injunction barring her from areas near its well sites.

The row between Cabot and Scroggins became notorious in environmental and human rights circles after the company sought last year to ban the activist from an area of about 310 sq miles (803 sq km) – or about half the entire county. The scope of that ban was later reduced

Finally, from Science cold [shouldered] fusion:

U.S. fusion plan draws blistering critique

Many U.S. fusion scientists are blasting a report that seeks to map out a 10-year strategic plan for their field, calling it “flawed,” “unsatisfactory,” and the product of a rushed process rife with potential conflicts of interest. One result: Last week, most members of a 23-person government advisory panel had to recuse themselves from voting on the report as a result of potential conflicts.

“The whole process was unsatisfactory,” says Martin Greenwald of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Plasma Science and Fusion Center in Cambridge.

Achieving fusion—nuclear reactions that have the potential to produce copious, clean energy—requires heating hydrogen fuel to more than 100 million degrees Celsius, causing it to become an ionized gas or plasma. Huge and expensive reactors are needed to contain the superhot plasma long enough for reactions to start. The largest current fusion effort is the ITER tokamak, a machine under construction in France with support from the United States and international partners. But no fusion reactor has yet produced more energy than it consumes.

InSecurityWatch: War, a drone, spies, lies, more


First, via Reuters, blowback:

U.S.-led air strikes intensify as Syria conflict destabilizes Turkey

American-led forces have sharply intensified air strikes in the past two days against Islamic State fighters threatening Kurds on Syria’s Turkish border after the jihadists’ advance began to destabilize Turkey.

The coalition had conducted 21 attacks on the militants near the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani over Monday and Tuesday and appeared to have slowed Islamic State advances there, the U.S. military said, but cautioned the situation remained fluid.

U.S. President Barack Obama voiced deep concern on Tuesday about the situation in Kobani as well as in Iraq’s Anbar province, which U.S. troops fought to secure during the Iraq war and is now at risk of being seized by Islamic State militants.

And another Arab Spring country bombed by yet another, via the Associated Press:

Egypt warplanes hit Libya militias, officials say

Egypt deepened its involvement in the fight against Islamist militias who have taken over key parts of Libya on Wednesday, with officials saying Egyptian warplanes have bombed their positions in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The two officials, who have firsthand knowledge of the operation, said the use of the aircraft was part of an Egyptian-led campaign against the militiamen that will eventually involve Libyan ground troops recently trained by Egyptian forces.

The operation, they said, was requested by the internationally recognized Libyan administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk. That elected administration was thrown out of the capital, Tripoli, by rival militias allied with Islamic political factions.

That drone we promised you, via the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Drone-sparked fighting ends Serbia-Albania match

A small drone dangling an Albanian banner and circling the soccer field touched off fighting between Serbian and Albanian players and fans Tuesday, forcing a European Championship qualifier to be called off.

English referee Martin Atkinson halted the match in the 41st minute when a Serbian player grabbed the banner and Albanian players tried to protect it. Several Serbian fans ran onto the field and clashed with Albanian players. The score was 0-0 at the time.

The Union of European Football Associations said the match was later abandoned because of a “disturbance” on the field.

From Reuters, partnering up:

EU, China agree to step up cooperation against terrorism: EU

Leaders from China and the European Union agreed to step up cooperation to counter extremism and terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, the EU said on Thursday.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Wednesday evening on the sidelines of a gathering of Asian and European leaders known as the Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan.

“They reviewed the situation in the Middle East, northern Africa and the Sahel (region of Africa) and agreed to increase cooperation to counter the common threat of extremism and terrorism in these regions,” an EU statement issued after the talks said, without specifying what kind of cooperation.

From TheLocal.de, the singing Nazi judge:

‘Neo-Nazi’ magistrate quits Bavarian post

A magistrate in Bavaria resigned on Tuesday after police discovered that he was a former singer in a neo-Nazi band and had long standing links to the far-right scene.

The young lawyer, who was working in a court in Lichtenfels, Upper Franconia, met the president of the higher state court in Bamberg on Tuesday and resigned.

After studying in Brandenburg, the lawyer was named as a magistrate on a provisional basis by the Bavarian judiciary in November 2013.

While a student, he had been under observation by the Brandenburg security services between 2003 and 2013 due to his alter ego as “Hassgesang” (“hate song”), his neo-Nazi one-man music project.

From the Independent, Old Blighty’s money laundry:

The great British money launderette: At least 19 UK firms under investigation for alleged conspiracy to make $20bn of dirty money seem legitimate

Front companies in the UK are at the heart of an investigation into one of Europe’s biggest money-laundering operations, allegedly forming part of a conspiracy to make $20bn (£12.5bn) of dirty money look legitimate. The funds are believed to have come from major criminals and corrupt officials around the world wanting to make their ill-gotten cash appear “clean”, so they can spend it without suspicion.

At least 19 UK-based front companies are under suspicion. The scandal highlights how lax corporate rules have made this country an attractive destination for global organised crime. The secrecy company directors are entitled to under UK law is also hindering attempts to identify the “Mr Bigs” behind the scam.

An investigation by The Independent and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an NGO, has identified dozens of firms in a global web spreading from Birmingham to Belize.

The scam appears to have gone on for four years before being shut down in May by investigators in another of its main centres – the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

From TheLocal.it, proving crime really does pay, at least in a neocon world:

Sex and drugs help lift Italy out of recession

Italy learnt it was no longer in a recession on Wednesday thanks to a change in data calculations across the European Union which includes illegal economic activities such as prostitution and drugs in the GDP measure.

Adding illegal revenue from hookers, narcotics and black market cigarettes and alcohol to the eurozone’s third-biggest economy boosted gross domestic product figures.

GDP rose slightly from a 0.1 percent decline for the first quarter to a flat reading, the national institute of statistics said.

Google hack, with Network World:

Security vendors claim progress against Chinese group that hacked Google

A group of security companies say a collaborative effort has helped counter several hacking tools used by a China-based group most known for provoking strong condemnation from Google four years ago.

The companies, which include Cisco, FireEye, F-Secure, iSIGHT Partners, Microsoft, Tenable, ThreatConnect, ThreatTrack Security, Volexity, Novetta and Symantec, said their efforts have led to a better level of protection in their products against the hacking tools used by the group. How long the effort will stymie the hackers remains to be seen.

“We’re not naïve,” said Novetta CEO Peter LaMontagne in a phone interview Tuesday. “Our view is that the threat actors that are out there are absolutely focused on staying ahead of our defensive efforts.”

But China is worried about being spied on, as Want China Times reports:

Retired ROC military officers recruited to spy for PLA

To steal crucial intelligence regarding the Republic of China Armed Forces’ new weapons systems, China has recruited several retired officers through Taiwanese businesspeople working in mainland China, getting them to conduct espionage against their own country, Wendell Minnick wrote in his article for the Washington-based Defense News.

Minnick lists the officers who sold information on the E-2K Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and PAC-2 anti-ballistic missile systems, the Hawk air defense missile system, and the Raytheon Palm IR-500 radiometric infrared camera to China in recent years.

Peter Mattis, a research fellow from the Jamestown Foundation, said that contrary to popular opinion, China hires professionals and not “amateur free-for-all sources” to steal information from Taiwan.

And from the Intercept, if its ours, it’s theirs:

Local Cops Say Your Driving History Is Public — Unless You Want a Copy

What’s public for me is private for thee. At least that’s what Monroe County, N.Y. believes when it comes to where you drive your car.

Monroe Police have been using high-speed cameras to capture license plates in order to log vehicle whereabouts. As of July, the County’s database contained 3.7 million records, with the capability to add thousands more each day. The justification for cops having records of the whereabouts of law-abiding citizens is that the vehicles are driven in public and therefore drivers have no expectation of privacy. It’s an argument that’s at odds with the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in U.S. v. Jones. In Jones, a GPS tracking case, the court held that individuals do have an expectation of privacy when it comes to their long-term whereabouts, even when using public roads.

If cops are determined to violate this privacy, then at least they could behave more consistently. Last summer, Rochester, N.Y.’s Democrat & Chronicle filed a state open records request — more commonly called a FOIL (for Freedom Of Information Law) — for information on seven of it’s reporter’s license plates as well as two city and county government vehicles. After all, if such information is public when collected, why would it change merely because it’s sitting in a database?

On to Asia, starting in Hong Kong with the Guardian:

Hong Kong police use pepper spray as video of beating reignites protests

  • Hundreds gather to express outrage at violent police attack on pro-democracy party member

Hong Kong police used pepper spray early on Thursday to stop pro-democracy protesters from blocking a major road near the office of the city’s embattled leader amid public anger over the police beating of a protester a day earlier.

At the police HQ in the nearby district of Wan Chai, hundreds of people gathered outside into the early hours of the morning to express outrage at the beating, with dozens queuing to lodge formal complaints over the incident.

Authorities said on Wednesday that police involved in the beating of Ken Tsang Kin-chiu, a member of the pro-democracy Civic party, would be suspended.

Footage of the beating has gone viral and injected fresh momentum into a protest movement that had been flagging after nearly three weeks of demonstrations over Chinese restrictions on how Hong Kong will choose its next leader.

Here’s the video, via corc buhs:

Hong Kong Police Carry a Protester to a Dark Spot for a Beating

Program notes:

Hong Kong police officers involved in an apparent assault on a protester have been “removed” from their positions, the city’s security chief said Wednesday, after video emerged of a handcuffe.

The London Telegraph covers censorship:

China blocks BBC website as Hong Kong tensions rise

Broadcaster defends move as ‘deliberate censorship’

Chinese censors have blocked the website of Britain’s national broadcaster, the BBC said in a statement late on Wednesday, coming as tensions rise in Hong Kong between pro-democracy protesters and police.

The broadcaster said that the move seemed to be “deliberate censorship”. It did not say what may have prompted the move by Beijing, which also blocks the websites of the New York Times, newswire Bloomberg and the BBC’s Chinese language website.

“The BBC strongly condemns any attempts to restrict free access to news and information and we are protesting to the Chinese authorities. This appears to be deliberate censorship,” said Peter Horrocks, director of the BBC World Service Group.

The BBC’s English-language website was still inaccessible in China on Thursday morning.

From Want China Times, a strategic edge:

PLA’s DF-21D missiles already in service, says US report

A forthcoming report from the bipartisan US-China Economic and Security Review Commission indicates that two brigades of DF-21D ballistic missiles have already entered service with the People’s Liberation Army, Bill Gertz, senior editor of Washington Free Beacon, wrote in an article on Oct. 13.

The report will be published on November to discuss China’s military expansion. Citing China’s development of two stealth fighter models, the first deployment of a naval expeditionary amphibious group to the Indian Ocean and aerial bombing exercises in Kazakhstan, the report paints an alarming picture of China’s growing aggressiveness and expanding power that the country could bring to bear against the United States and its regional allies.

Despite the strong trade and financial links between Beijing and Washington, the report said that the Communist Party government in China still views the United States as its primary adversary. China’s rapid military buildup is changing the balance of power in the Western Pacific, it said, which may bring destabilizing security competition between China and its neighbors while exacerbating regional hotspots in Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, and the East and South China seas.

And from the Japan Times, refusing to learn from history:

Web page on ‘comfort women’ donations taken down by Foreign Ministry

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has again deepened international suspicion that it aims to revise history despite repeated denials.

The Foreign Ministry has deleted a page from its website that carried a 1995 appeal for donations to a government-linked fund for former “comfort women” forced to work at Japanese wartime military brothels.

The move drew immediate protest from the South Korean government, which issued a written statement by a spokesperson at its Foreign Ministry, because it came at the demand of a right-leaning lawmaker who has called for the retraction of the government’s apology, made in 1993.

A key part of the appeal read: “Particularly brutal was the act of forcing women, including teenagers, to serve the Japanese armed forces as ‘comfort women,’ a practice that violated the fundamental dignity of women. No manner of apology can ever completely heal the deep wound inflicted on these women both emotionally and physically.”

For our final item, a Toky0/Washington disagreement from Kyodo News:

U.S. opposed to Japan’s plan to end Futenma base operations by 2019

The U.S. government is opposed to Tokyo’s plan to end the operations of a key U.S. military base in Okinawa by February 2019, according to U.S. government sources.

The U.S. side conveyed to Japan during a meeting of the countries’ foreign and defense officials in Tokyo on Oct. 2 that the timing for the end of operations at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station should be 2022 at the earliest, given the time required to complete construction of a replacement facility in the prefecture, the sources said.

Washington was “surprised” by Tokyo’s announcement last month that it will aim to end operations at the Futenma base by February 2019 and views the Tokyo-set deadline as “fanciful speculation,” U.S. officials told the meeting, adding that the announcement placed the United States in a “difficult position,” according to the sources.

EnviroWatch: Ills, the endangered, nukes


And more. . .

From South Africa’s GroundUp, a reminder that Ebola has killed far few people thus far than have some other diseases prevalent in Africa [Malaria is estimated to have killed 627,000 people in 2012, 90 percent of them in Africa, and most children]:

A deadly disease that demands huge investment

No doubt you’ve heard there’s a disease about that is infectious, difficult to treat and that has an extremely high death rate.

It’s drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Several thousand people died from it in our country last year; more will likely die this year.

There were just over 54,000 recorded TB deaths in South Africa in 2011, the last year for which data is available. The actual number of TB deaths is probably much larger than this. It is by far the biggest single cause of death in the country, and it is exacerbated by the HIV epidemic. On the positive side, as more people with HIV have gone onto antiretroviral treatment, the number of TB deaths has declined; there were over 70,000 recorded deaths a year in the mid-2000s.

One spot of good news from the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda:

Uganda is now Marburg-free, says Health ministry

he government has declared the country Marburg-free as no new case has been registered in more than a fortnight.

According to the state Minister for Primary Healthcare, Ms Sarah Opendi, there is no new confirmed case of Marburg since the first that occurred on September 30, involving a health worker who was working at Mengo Hospital, who died of the hemorrhagic fever.

“We continue to receive and investigate all alert cases from different parts of the country. None has so far tested positive for the Marburg virus,” Ms Opendi said at Marburg status-news conference held in Kampala yesterday.

But another Daily Monitor story hints that something else may be lurking in the biosphere:

Panic in Kayunga as child dies from strange illness

Panic has gripped residents and health workers in Kayunga District following an outbreak of a strange disease that has so far killed one person and left others admitted.

Mr Ssenoga Mubanda, the Kayunga District health educator, yesterday identified the dead as Andrew Kigundu, 6. Those admitted in Kayunga hospital include Alice Nabukalu, 26, Steven Miiro, 10, Deo Kigundu and Sam Luutu all of Namagabi B village.

According to health workers and residents, the deceased and the sick first developed high bouts of fever on Saturday and later started vomiting.
Kiggundu, according to the hospital and family sources, died on Sunday and was immediately buried.

Reuters tracks another rapidly spreading virus:

Mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus likely to reach Mexico- health ministry

Mexico is very likely to join the list of countries to register cases of the painful mosquito-borne viral disease chikungunya, a senior health ministry official said on Wednesday.

Chikungunya is spread by two mosquito species, and is typically not fatal but can cause debilitating symptoms including fever, headache and severe joint pain lasting months.

There is no current treatment for the virus, which was detected for the first time in the Americas late last year, and no licensed vaccine to prevent it.

From the Guardian, the nightingale vanishing, and more:

Birds that migrate from UK to Africa in winter declining drastically, RSPB says

Nightingale and turtle dove among populations that have seen dramatic long-term fall in number, annual RSPB report says

Bird populations that make the great journey between northern Europe and Africa – including the nightingale and turtle dove – are drastically declining, conservationists have warned.

Nearly half of the 29 summer migrants, who appear in the UK in spring to breed before returning in the autumn, show long-term population declines.

The nightingale, famed for its song and for inspiring English poets, is one of a group of birds that spend winter in the African humid zone of Sierra Leone, Senegal, the Gambia and Burkina Faso that are suffering particularly badly.

Of this group of 11 humid zone species, eight are declining in number.

An a species invading from the Asahi Shimbun:

Poisonous red-back spiders feared to have started breeding in Tokyo

With an increase in sightings of venomous spiders in Tokyo, experts warn that the elderly and infants are most in danger if bitten.

“Red-back spiders that invaded Tokyo are likely to have started breeding,” warned Toshio Kishimoto, a former senior researcher at the Japan Wildlife Research Center.

The species, endemic to Australia, has been found in 35 prefectures, including Tokyo, across Japan since first being spotted in Osaka Prefecture in 1995 after apparently inadvertently hitching rides on cargo containers, according to the Environment Ministry.

From the Guardian, a pledge:

Australia pledges to halt loss of native mammal species by 2020

Environment minister reveals masterplan that involves tackling feral cats thought to kill 75m birds and mammals a day

The environment minister, Greg Hunt, has set out his vision to reverse the precipitous decline in the number of Australian species, pledging to end the loss of native mammal species by 2020.

Hunt admitted Australia has a legacy of “clear and significant failures” in protecting its wildlife, citing the fact that the country has the worst rate of mammal extinctions in the world, with 29 species perishing in the past 200 years.

“I have set a goal of ending the loss of mammal species by 2020,” Hunt said in a speech in Melbourne on Wednesday. What’s more, I want to see improvements in at least 20 of those species between now and then. Our flora and fauna are part of what makes us Australian. I don’t want the extinction of species such as the numbat, the quokka, the bilby, on our collective consciences.”

To achieve that goal the government will wage war on the feral cat population, which has been cited by scientists as a leading threat to Australian native species. There are about 20m feral cats in Australia, which are understood to slaughter an astonishing 75m birds and ground-dwelling mammals every day.

Restance to the Tory fracking imperative, from the Guardian:

Fracking firm lodging appeal after council rejects its planning application

  • West Sussex county council refused application by Celtique Energie for oil and gas exploration near South Downs national park

A fracking company is lodging an appeal against a county council decision to refuse it permission to explore for oil and gas.

West Sussex county council’s planning committee refused the application by Celtique Energie for oil and gas exploration near Wisborough Green, a conservation area just outside the South Downs national park, in July.

The refusal, thought to be the first time a council had rejected a planning application by a fracking company, was welcomed by local campaigners and environmentalists.

The county council said it turned down the application because Celtique did not demonstrate the site represented the best option compared with other sites, it had unsafe highways access and would have had an adverse impact on the area.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Asahi Shimbun:

Government having trouble locating landowners of planned radioactive waste site

The Environment Ministry has completed briefings for landowners of a site to store radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but attendance at the meetings was less than half the landholders.

A total of 901 property owners of the construction site, located in the towns of Okuma and Futaba near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, attended the 12 meetings hosted by the ministry. Those that participated are believed to account for less than half of the total number who hold land titles to the site.

Ministry officials said many of the landowners evacuated as the March 2011 nuclear disaster unfurled and have yet to be found or contacted, which is just one of the obstacles the government’s purchasing plan has to overcome.

The site also includes land whose ownership remains unclear due to the death of the previous owners.

From the Japan Times, tabling emotion:

Fukushima food safety debated at London art show

A controversial performance artist whose work explores the safety of food from Fukushima Prefecture is attracting media interest at one of London’s most prestigious contemporary art shows.

New York-based Ei Arakawa is offering free soup to visitors at the Frieze Art Fair made from mushrooms and radishes grown in Iwaki, a city about 60 km south of the nuclear plant that suffered meltdowns following the tsunami in 2011.

His performance art is titled, “Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent?” and has been picked up by British newspapers with sensationalist references to “radioactive soup” and “poison.”

From Reuters, still on hold:

Japan’s nuclear restart unlikely this year, local vote expected in December

As Japan pitches an unpopular nuclear restart to residents near Kyushu Electric Power Co’s Sendai plant, local politicians say approval is unlikely until December, delaying an already fraught process to revive the country’s idled reactors.

More than three years after the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima, the worst disaster since Chernobyl, Japan’s nuclear plants remain offline nationwide even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes to restart reactors that meet new safety guidelines set by an independent regulator.

The focus has switched to townships located near the Sendai reactors, the nation’s first to receive safety clearance from regulators. The debate over restarts pits host communities that get direct benefits from siting reactors against other nearby communities that do not reap the benefits but say they will be equally exposed to radioactive releases in the event of a disaster.

More from the Japan Times:

Niigata governor says it’s too soon for reactor restarts

Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida said Wednesday that Japan should not restart any nuclear plants until the cause of the Fukushima meltdowns is fully understood and nearby communities have emergency plans that can effectively respond to another major disaster.

Izumida, whose prefecture is home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, said regulators look at equipment but don’t evaluate local evacuation plans.

While the Wall Street Journal offers hope from the radioactive ashes:

Japan Could Use Fukushima to Develop Safer Nuclear Technology

Japan is looking to put nuclear power back online early next year with the expected restarting of two reactors in southern Japan. They would be the first of Japan’s 48 offline reactors to resume operations under new, tougher safety regulations introduced after the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi.

While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration wants to get these reactors and others back on line to help power Japan’s economic recovery–provided they comply with the new regulations–opinion polls consistently show that more than half of respondents are opposed to restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants.

Nobuo Tanaka, a public policy professor at Tokyo University and a former executive director of the International Energy Agency, says Japan should go ahead with restarting the reactors, adding that the country has become too reliant on the Middle East for its energy needs. The IEA is a Paris-based agency that advises members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on energy security and recognizes the role to be played by nuclear power in a diverse, efficient and sustainable energy mix.

From TheLocal.de, seeking payment for a shutdown:

Swedes want €4.7 billion for nuclear shutdown

Swedish energy giant Vattenfall wants €4.7 billion from the German government for phasing out nuclear power.

The state-owned energy firm has been seeking money since 2011 as compensation for Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster that year.

But the amount in damages it was seeking was unclear until it was revealed by Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel in parliament on Wednesday.

Vattenfall has filed its case against the German government at the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

And for our final item, via the Guardian, presumably too cheap to meter?:

Lockheed announces breakthrough on nuclear fusion energy

  • 100MW reactor small enough to fit on back of a truck
  • Cleaner energy source could be in use within 10 years

Lockheed Martin Corp said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade.

Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said he and a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were now going public to find potential partners in industry and government for their work.

Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck, and is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire told reporters.

InSecurityWatch: War, hacks, cops, Hong Kong


And lots more. . .

We open with diminished expectations, via The Hill:

Obama: Expect ‘setbacks’ in ISIS fight

President Obama on Tuesday warned that there would be periodic “setbacks” in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the administration faces criticism over its strategy.

“This is going to be a long-term campaign, there are no quick fixes involved,” Obama said after a meeting with coalition military leaders at Joint Base Andrews, adding that there were “going to be periods of progress and setbacks.”

The president acknowledged that the terror network, which controls large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria, did not present a “classic” military challenge.

From BBC News, what a difference a border makes:

Turkish jets bomb Kurdish PKK rebels near Iraq

Turkish F-16 and F-4 warplanes have bombed Kurdish PKK rebel targets near the Iraqi border, as their ceasefire comes under increasing strain.

The air strikes on Daglica were in response to PKK shelling of a military outpost, the armed forces said.

Both sides have been observing a truce and it is the first major air raid on the PKK since March 2013.

Kurds are furious at Turkey’s inaction as Islamic State (IS) militants attack the Syrian border town of Kobane.

From BBC News again, adding fuel to flame:

Terror trial: Suspect ‘had Tony Blair’s address’

A terror suspect was considering an indiscriminate Mumbai-style attack and had an address for Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, the Old Bailey has heard.

Erol Incedal plotted to attack a “significant individual” or killings similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which left 174 dead, prosecutors said.

He also had a phone containing material supporting Islamic State, they added.

Mr Incedal, 26, from London, denies preparing for acts of terrorism. He is being tried partly in secret.

From the Guardian, noteworthy:

US security contractor shot dead in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh

  • One American killed and another wounded in gun attack at petrol station in eastern district of city

A US national was shot dead and another wounded in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on Tuesday, police said, in what appeared to be the first killing of a westerner in years in a gun attack in the kingdom.

Police later shot and wounded an assailant and then arrested him, said the brief statement, carried by SPA, the state media agency said.

“The attack resulted in the killing of one person and the wounding of another and it turned out they were of American citizenship,” it said.

A US official said both victims were working with a private security contractor, Vinnell Arabia. The company was working with the Saudi national guard, the official said.

An echo from Cold War 1.0, via the London Daily Mail:

Atomic bomb spy David Greenglass, whose false testimony sent his own sister and her husband to the electric chair, dies aged 92

  • David Greenglass served 10 years in prison for his role in the most explosive atomic spying case of the Cold War
  • He gave testimony that sent his brother-in-law and sister, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, to the electric chair in 1953
  • Greenglass, 92,  died in New York City on July 1
  • He lived for decades under an assumed name in Queens, hoping to be forgotten for his part in the case that is still furiously debated to this day

A clarion call from the Guardian:

UK intelligence agencies need stronger oversight, says David Blunkett

  • Former home secretary tells committee continued secrecy is undermining public confidence in wake of Snowden revelations

The former home secretary David Blunkett has called for stronger oversight of the UK’s intelligence agencies and warned that the “old-fashioned paternalism” of secrecy based on perceived security interests was undermining public confidence in their activities.

Blunkett called for the legal framework on mass surveillance to be updated on a regular basis and for judicial oversight to be made much more robust and transparent.

The Labour MP’s call came during only the second public evidence session ever held by the intelligence and security committee. Its inquiry into security and privacy was set up following the disclosures by Edward Snowden of the scale of the bulk collection of personal data by GCHQ and the US National Security Agency.

From the National Journal:

Snowden’s Closest Confidant Reveals What It Was Like Spilling the NSA’s Secrets

  • “We knew we were going to piss off the most powerful people in the world,” Laura Poitras told National Journal

There’s a prolonged scene in Laura Poitras’ new documentary, Citizenfour, when Edward Snowden looks in his hotel room’s mirror and tussles his hair in a nervous—and, ultimately fruitless—attempt to defeat bedhead.

The shot is a revealing and humanizing moment for Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who became known the world over last summer after his leaks exposed the agency’s vast phone and Internet surveillance programs.

Despite his notoriety, such an intimate look at Snowden has been missing from the story of arguably the greatest heist and disclosure ever of U.S. government secrets—until now.

Cyberwar revelations from SecurityWeek:

Russia-linked Hackers Exploited Windows Zero-day to Spy on NATO, EU, Others

Attackers exploited a zero-day vulnerability in Windows to spy on NATO, the European Union, Poland, Ukraine, private energy organizations, and European telecommunications companies, according to cyber-intelligence firm iSight Partners.

Microsoft is expected to patch the flaw today as part of October’s Patch Tuesday release.

The espionage campaign began five years ago and is still in progress, iSight said in its advisory. It has evolved several times over the years to adopt new attack methods, and only began targeting the Windows zero-day with malicious PowerPoint files in August, according to the company. iSight analysts have named the operation “Sandworm Team” because the attackers included several references to Frank Herbert’s Dune in the code.

Very curious, via the Guardian:

Chat logs reveal FBI informant’s role in hacking of Sun newspaper

  • US agency faces questions after records show Lulzsec leader, who was informant at time, helped attack that closed UK sites

The FBI is facing questions over its role in a 2011 hacking attack on Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper in the UK after the publication of chat logs showed that a man acting as an agency informant played a substantial role in the operation.

In July 2011, a group of hackers known as Lulzsec – an offshoot of Anonymous – posted a fake story about the death of Murdoch, penetrated several News International (now News UK) corporate sites, and claimed to have obtained gigabytes of material from the company’s servers.

The attack was so successful that the publisher took down the websites of the Sun and the Times while technicians worked out the scale of the hack.

Dropbox punts, via SecurityWeek:

Dropbox Denies It Was Hacked, Says Passwords Stolen From Other Services

On Monday, a group of hackers posted a message on Pastebin claiming they have “hacked” nearly 7 million Dropbox accounts. The cloud storage giant said the data was stolen from other services, not from its own systems.

The hackers have already published hundreds of email addresses and associated passwords in clear text. They claim they will publish more as they get Bitcoin donations, but so far only 0.0001 BTC has been transferred to their address.

Reddit users have confirmed that at least some of the credentials are valid, but Dropbox says the information has been stolen from other services. In an effort to protect its customers from such attacks, the company is resetting the passwords for compromised accounts.

Another hack from TechWorm :

Personal Data of 850,000 job seekers of Oregon potentially compromised

  • 850,000 Job seekers from Oregon at risk of data theft

News emerge of another hack taking place, this time in Oregon, USA. The system in question is Oregon Employment Department’s WorkSource Oregon Management Information System (WOMIS).

This system is in short, a database for job seekers. Potential candidates share personal information on the site, information that might help them secure a job. This information has apparently been breached.

An anonymous tip was sent to the organization notifying them of a security vulnerability in the WorkSource Oregon Management Information System (WOMIS).  As per the reports available, the data that may be compromised includes names, addresses and Social Security Numbers.

On to Ferguson with BBC News:

Dozens arrested in Ferguson protests

Nearly 50 people have been arrested at protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager two months ago.

Civil rights activist Cornel West was among those held after he led a march to the police station.

Riot police lined up outside the building and arrests were made when people tried to break the line.

The protests were part of four days of events called “Ferguson October”, which calls for an end to police brutality.

A video report from RT America:

Police shut down protests in Ferguson

Program notes:

Marches continued in Ferguson, MO on Monday, with protesters descending on several Walmarts to demonstrate against police violence and what they call racial discrimination by law enforcement. Part of “Moral Monday,” the activists demanded justice for the killings of Ferguson resident Michael Brown and John Crawford III, who was gunned down inside an Ohio Walmart in August. RT’s Lindsay France followed the protests and has more details.

After the jump, it’s on to Mexico and the deepening mystery of the missing students, protest takes an inflammatory turn, Mexican anti-riot police dispatched, on to Asia and a reappearing Kim, it’s police to the barricades in Hong Kong, Japan sends mixed messages on the eve of a China trip as maritime talks also draw near, and Shinzo Abe grabs the power of the state secret and protests ensue. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: More alarms, US angst, African woes


And much, much more. . .

We begin with a shrieking alarm, via the Guardian:

WHO warns 10,000 new cases of Ebola a week are possible

  • UN agency says fatality rate at 70% and that ‘a lot more people will die’ unless world steps up its response to crisis

The Ebola outbreak could grow to 10,000 new cases a week within two months, the World Health Organisation warned on Tuesday as the death toll from the virus reached 4,447 people, nearly all of them in west Africa.

Dr Bruce Aylward, the WHO assistant director-general, told a news conference in Geneva that the number of new cases was likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000 a week by early December.

WHO’s regular updates show that deaths have resulted from 4,447 of the 8,914 reported cases, but Aylward said that any assumption that the death rate was 50% would be wrong. He put the death rate at 70% because many deaths are not reported or recorded officially.

Where detailed investigations have been carried out, it was clear that only 30% of people were surviving, he said, adding that the figure was almost exactly the same in the three hardest hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “This is a high-mortality disease in any circumstances but particularly in these places,” said Aylward.

More from Sky News:

Sixty Days To Beat Ebola, United Nations Warns

  • If the deadly outbreak cannot be reined in by Christmas then the UN says there is no plan in place and it could be overwhelmed

The UN says the ebola outbreak must be controlled within 60 days or else the world faces an “unprecedented” situation for which there is no plan.

The United Nations made the stark warning as it warned that the disease “is running faster than us and it is winning the race”.

Nearly 9,000 cases of ebola have been reported so far in West Africa, including 4,447 deaths.

“The WHO advises within 60 days we must ensure 70% of infected people are in a care facility and 70% of burials are done without causing further infection,” said Anthony Banbury, the UN’s deputy ebola coordinator.

“We need to do that within 60 days from 1 October. If we reach these targets then we can turn this epidemic around.”

A video report from RT:

‘Key to containing Ebola is getting more intl help’ – WHO spokesperson

Program notes:

Ebola deaths are being recorded in more and more countries around the world – a United Nations worker has died in hospital in Germany – the latest victim of the virus outside Africa. At the heart of the pandemic – in West Africa – the outbreak has already killed more than 4,000 people. For more RT is joined by Winifred Romeril from the World Health Organization.

From Voice of America, a lament:

International Ebola Support is Lethargic, MSF Says

South Africans working for Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, are calling on their fellow citizens to support efforts to stem the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  More than 4,000 people have died and the number of new infections is doubling every three weeks. Yet there is a severe shortage of medical facilities, contact tracing, surveillance and education on Ebola in affected communities.

The message from MSF is a simple one: the international community is failing the people of West Africa.

MSF says that despite promises from various countries to help stem the deadly virus, to date, few pledges have translated into concrete action on the ground.   Sharon Ekambaram, head of a MSF South Africa unit, says there are critical gaps in all aspects of the response.

“And so the spread of Ebola continues unabated as the response fails to curtail and bring down new infections,” she explained. “MSF is really angry that the world and the international community is failing the people of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. It is hard to understand, to be frank, the media frenzy about individual contaminations of people in the USA and in Europe… rich nations have the resources to contain spread of Ebola if it reaches their shores. It is the people of the impoverished communities of West Africa that are at the highest risk of infection and death.”

While Nikkei Asian Review examines another impact:

Ebola casting shadow on global economy

Rising concern over a possible global outbreak of Ebola, especially in the wake of the new cases in Spain and the U.S., is putting investors on edge and has begun affecting the global economy.

The disease will likely prove a long-term drag on the African economy. Ebola’s two-year financial impact could reach $32.6 billion by the end of 2015 in West Africa alone, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Thursday.

Expectations that global travel will slow sent airline stocks down in the U.S. market Monday. The government has begun screening travelers from West Africa at major airports.

From the New York Times, reassurance:

Scientists Rein In Fears of Ebola, a Virus Whose Mysteries Tend to Invite Speculation

News that a nurse in full protective gear had become infected with the Ebola virus raised some disturbing questions on Monday. Has the virus evolved into some kind of super-pathogen? Might it mutate into something even more terrifying in the months to come?

Evolutionary biologists who study viruses generally agree on the answers to those two questions: no, and probably not.

The Ebola viruses buffeting West Africa today are not fundamentally different from those in previous outbreaks, they say. And it is highly unlikely that natural selection will give the viruses the ability to spread more easily, particularly by becoming airborne.

“I’ve been dismayed by some of the nonsense speculation out there,” said Edward Holmes, a biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia. “I understand why people get nervous about this, but as scientists we need to be very careful we don’t scaremonger.”

From the Washington Post, angst:

Ebola poll: Two-thirds of Americans worried about possible widespread epidemic in U.S.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are concerned about a widespread Ebola epidemic in the United States, despite repeated assurances from public officials that the country’s modern health-care and disease-surveillance systems will prevent the type of outbreak ravaging West Africa.

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in recent days, the number of Americans who say the government should be doing more to prevent additional Ebola cases in the United States is almost twice the number who believe the United States is doing all it can to control the spread of the virus.

That includes overwhelming support — 91 percent — in favor of stricter screening for people traveling to this country from West Africa. Such screening began this past weekend at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and soon will begin at four other international airports in the country.

And the New York Times covers the political front:

Debate Over Ebola Turns to Specific Policy Requests

The public health concerns about Ebola have now spread to both political parties, which are engaged in a finger-pointing policy debate that could jar midterm elections just weeks away.

For a week, Republicans have advocated severely limiting — if not eliminating — flights from West Africa, accusing President Obama of complicity in a looming epidemic for failing to take their advice. On Monday, Democrats joined the debate, blaming Republican budget cutting for the government’s failure to prepare for Ebola.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee unveiled an Internet banner advertisement charging Republicans with undermining the Ebola response by cutting funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while protecting tax breaks for special interests. A little-known liberal group, the Agenda Project Action Fund, showed a 60-second advertisement that it says will run in Kentucky next week. It includes gruesome images of dead and dying West Africans. “Republican cuts kill,” the ad says as it ends, accompanied by the sound of breathing through a respirator. “Vote.”

More from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Pols trade blame for Ebola, but both parties cut budgets for health

The political blame game over the deadly Ebola virus is in full swing just weeks before the November elections – with each side ignoring the facts.

Several Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, contend that President Barack Obama has been too slow or hasn’t done enough in response to the outbreak. Some Republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, want to restrict air travel from West Africa, the outbreak’s epicenter, or bolster the U.S. borders.

Democrats are pointing fingers, too, blaming congressional Republican budget-cutting zeal for crippling the response of federal health institutions to the crisis. On Monday, a liberal group and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee linked Republican fiscal policies to the Ebola outbreak.

Still more from the National Journal:

Lawmakers Want Answers on U.S. Ebola Cases

  • Hearing Thursday will examine whether the country is prepared to cope with the virus.

Amid rising anxiety over the Ebola outbreak, a congressional panel is to convene Thursday in Washington to hear details of the two confirmed cases in Dallas and whether America’s ports of entry, hospitals, and health care workers are adequately prepared to prevent a further spread of the virus.

The lawmakers’ inquiry will include the question of why screening procedures did not prevent Thomas Duncan from entering the U.S. from Liberia on Sept. 20, the handling of his diagnosis, and his treatment prior to his death last week, according to a memo released Tuesday by majority staffers of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The committee will also be updated by officials scrambling to determine how a nurse who helped treat Duncan at a Texas hospital has become the first person to contract Ebola in the U.S.

Reuters covers the White House response:

White House to seek more Ebola funds in FY2015 spending bill

The Obama administration expects to ask Congress for additional funds for a growing U.S. government effort to halt the spread of Ebola, White House Budget Director Shaun Donovan said on Tuesday.

Donovan told Reuters that the request, which would come on top of more than $1 billion in federal funds currently available, would be made in the coming weeks as Congress reconvenes in November to consider a 2015 fiscal year spending bill in the post-election “lame duck” session.

“Our expectation is that we will be talking to Congress about additional needs,” Donovan said at the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit in Washington.

On to the first home-grown American case with the Guardian:

Dallas nurse infected with Ebola gets blood transfusion from survivor

  • Dr Kent Brantly, the first American to return to the US from Liberia to be treated for Ebola, donated plasma to Nina Pham

A Dallas nurse who caught Ebola while treating a Liberian patient who died of the disease has received a plasma transfusion donated by a doctor who beat the virus.

Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people nearly all of them in West Africa in an outbreak the World Health Organisation has called “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.” US health officials say they are ramping up training for medical workers who deal with the infected.

Nurse Nina Pham was among about 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, according to medical records. They drew his blood, put tubes down his throat and wiped up his diarrhoea. They analysed his urine and wiped saliva from his lips, even after he had lost consciousness.

More from the Washington Post:

The decades-old treatment that may save a young Dallas nurse infected with Ebola

In late July, when it looked like Dr. Kent Brantly wasn’t going to make it, a small news item escaped Liberia. It spoke of Brantly’s treatment – not of the Ebola vaccine, Zmapp, which Brantly later got. But of a blood transfusion. He had “received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care,” the missive said.

Now months later, Brantly, who has since recovered from his battle with the virus, has passed on the favor. A 26-year-old Dallas nurse named Nina Pham, who contracted the illness while treating the United States’ first Ebola patient, has received Brantly’s blood. It’s not the first time it has been used to treat Ebola patients. Recovered Ebola victim Richard Sacra got it, as well as U.S. journalist Ashoka Mukpo, who last night said he’s on the mend.

Injecting the blood of a patient such as Brantly, who has recovered from Ebola and developed certain antibodies, is a decades-old but promising method of treatment that, academics and health officials agree, could be one of the best means to fight Ebola. Called a convalescent serum, it might also save Pham, an alum of Texas Christian University.

And the Daily Mail offers the usual omnium gatherum:

Ebola-stricken nurse breaks her silence from quarantine unit to say she is ‘being cared for by the best team in the world’ at Dallas hospital

  • Nina Pham, 26, said on Tuesday: ‘I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world’
  • The nurse has received blood transfusion from Dr Kent Brantly, who was given the all-clear from Ebola
  • Antibodies in his blood could help the patients fight the disease
  • Miss Pham, from Fort Worth, caught the Ebola virus while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, in Dallas
  • Second person who some identified as Miss Pham’s boyfriend is being monitored for symptoms
  • Miss Pham raised in Vietnamese family in Fort Worth and graduated from Texas Christian University in 2010 with Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • About 70 staff members at Texas hospital were involved in the care of first Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan after he was hospitalized

Support, via Reuters:

U.S. health workers rally on Facebook for Dallas nurse with Ebola

Thousands of U.S. health workers have joined social media campaigns in the past few days to support a Texas nurse who became the first person infected with Ebola in the United States, which she contracted caring for a dying African patient at a Dallas hospital.

The nurse, Nina Pham, 26, was diagnosed over the weekend and is in an isolation unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where she worked. She has been swept in questions on whether a lapse in infectious disease protocols was behind her becoming infected.

“She isn’t sick because she is a bad nurse, didn’t follow protocol, or was inadequately trained. She is the RN (registered nurse) who made a sacrifice to care for a very sick man,” Roy Rannila, a staff member for the Texas hospital group caring for Pham wrote on his Facebook page.

A Facebook page, “Nurses for Nina”, has garnered over 4,500 “likes” in less than 24 hours and messages of support from healthcare providers in areas such as Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Tennessee and Washington D.C.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, playing catch-up:

Dallas health officials scramble to identify staff who treated Ebola patient

Health officials on Monday were scrambling to identify and monitor a large number of health care workers at a Dallas hospital who could be at risk of contracting Ebola after they cared for Thomas Eric Duncan in the hospital’s isolation ward.

It’s unclear how many caregivers could be at risk; some reports indicated as many as 70 were involved in Duncan’s treatment. Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he wouldn’t be surprised if more workers develop the disease in the coming weeks.

A 26-year-old nurse at the hospital, who was identified Monday by her family as Nina Pham, tested positive for the virus Saturday even though she had worn protective clothing in her multiple contacts with Duncan.

More from the the Washington Post:

CDC doesn’t know how many health-care workers in Dallas may have been exposed to Ebola; AP says it’s ‘about 70’ people

A day after a nurse who treated an Ebola-stricken patient in Dallas was diagnosed with the virus, public health officials are still trying to figure out how many health-care workers may have had similar exposure.

It is still unclear how, exactly, the nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas became the first person to contract the virus in the United States, said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But if one health-care worker was infected, “it is possible other people could have been infected as well,” Frieden said during a briefing with reporters on Monday.

The Associated Press covers a confession:

CDC acknowledges it could have done more on Ebola

he nation’s top disease-fighting agency acknowledged Tuesday that federal health experts failed to do all they should have done to prevent Ebola from spreading from a Liberian man who died last week in Texas to the nurse who treated him.

The stark admission from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came as the World Health Organization projected the pace of infections accelerating in West Africa — to as many as 10,000 new cases a week within two months.

Agency Director Tom Frieden outlined a series of steps designed to stop the spread of the disease in the U.S., including increased training for health care workers and changes at the Texas hospital where the virus was diagnosed to minimize the risk of more infections.

While the Los Angeles Times covers serious allegations:

Dallas nurses describe Ebola hospital care: ‘There was no protocol’

A Liberian man who arrived by ambulance at a Dallas hospital with symptoms of Ebola sat for “several hours” in a room with other patients before being put in isolation, and the nurses who treated him wore flimsy gowns and had little protective gear, nurses alleged Tuesday as they fought back against suggestions that one of their own had erred in handling him.

The statements came as Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, fought off the Ebola virus after contracting it from the Liberian, Thomas Eric Duncan. The statements by the Dallas hospital nurses were read by representatives of the Oakland-based group National Nurses United.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, said the nonunionized Texas nurses could not identify themselves, speak to the media independently or even read their statements over the phone because they feared losing their jobs. In a conference call, questions from the media were relayed to the unknown number of nurses by National Nurses United representatives, and the responses were read back to reporters.

While here in the San Francisco Bay area, hospitals are getting ready, reports the Contra Costa Times:

East Bay hospitals brace against Ebola

East Bay hospitals are prepared to screen, diagnose, isolate, and if necessary, treat and stop the threat of Ebola, according to U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell.

“They are ready,” he said. “They know what to look for … and I’m confident that if someone does present Ebola-like symptoms, they will be immediately isolated and treated so we can stop the spread.”

Swalwell, D-Dublin, held a conference call Tuesday with about 20 East Bay health care leaders at San Ramon Regional Medical Center, allowing them the opportunity to query Dr. John Brooks, the medical task force lead for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Ebola Response, on the latest on the outbreak and how to protect against it.

“Hospitals are understandably concerned,” Swalwell said, adding that the spread of the virus has become a humanitarian crisis in West Africa where 4,000 people have died of Ebola and there are 8,000 cases. “I can’t think of a recent illness in the United States that is so deadly that could be spread by direct bodily fluid and have such a high fatality rate in such a short amount of time.”

And from United Press International, an apology from a talking head:

NBC’s Nancy Snyderman apologizes for violating Ebola quarantine

Nancy Snyderman issued an apology after she was caught leaving her house, despite being under quarantine after a member of her crew contracted Ebola in West Africa

A group of NBC journalists, including NBC’s chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman, are now under mandatory quarantine after they were spotted out in public last week, violating a voluntary quarantine after one of their crew contracted Ebola on a trip to Africa.

Dr. Snyderman issued an apology Monday, acknowledging that they had indeed left confinement against advice, but assured the public that they were not showing signs of the disease.

“While under voluntary quarantine guidelines, which called for our team to avoid public contact for 21 days, members of our group violated those guidelines and understand that our quarantine is now mandatory until 21 days have passed,” Snyderman said in a statement.

While Vocativ covers an act that mandates an apology:

College Allegedly Rejects Nigerian Student Because of Ebola Fears

  • The Texas school might have turned down the young man, even though he lives in a country that has been Ebola-free for more than a month

The latest outbreak of Ebola hysteria in the U.S. comes from a community college in central Texas called Navarro College. The school recently turned down an application from a student in Nigeria, writing that it’s not accepting international students “from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.” Idris Ayodeji Bello, a Nigerian who currently lives in east Texas, learned about the rejection letter from a friend in Nigeria, Dr. Kamorudeen Abidogun, who also happens to be the student’s brother-in-law. Bello posted the document on his website and to Twitter, and it looks to be signed by Navarro College Director of International Programs Elizabeth A. Pillans.

Abidogun tells Vocativ that the rejected Nigerian student hopes to major in computer science, and he “was motivated by the high standard of U.S. colleges and universities” to apply to Navarro College. The young man has written an email to Navarro expressing his disappointment with the rejection letter, Abidogun says, but he hasn’t yet received a response. It doesn’t make much sense for an American college to reject Nigerian students because of Ebola fears. Though Nigeria has had 20 confirmed Ebola cases, the country’s efforts to quash the disease have been largely successful—and could serve as a model for other West African nations.

The New York Times covers a death in Germany:

Ebola Patient Dies in German Hospital

A 56-year-old man who had been working with the United Nations in Liberia died overnight at the hospital in Leipzig where he was being treated for Ebola, the hospital said Tuesday in a statement quoted by the German news media.

The brief statement gave no further details. The man was the third patient to arrive in Germany in recent weeks for treatment of Ebola, and the first to die.

The first patient, a Senegalese man who worked for the World Health Organization, was treated in Hamburg from late August until Oct. 3, when he was released. He has since returned home. The second patient, a Ugandan doctor who was working in West Africa for an Italian aid organization, continues to receive treatment at a hospital in Frankfurt.

A video report from Deutsche Welle:

Ebola patient dies in Germany

Program notes:

A Sudanese UN medical worker has succumbed to Ebola in a Leipzig clinic after receiving intensive medical care.

On to Spain with El País:

Number of patients being monitored for Ebola symptoms rises to 100

  • As well as 15 high-risk contacts, a further 83 are under “active vigilance”

The number of people currently under observation after having come into contact with Spanish Ebola patient Teresa Romero has risen to 100. All of these people interacted with the nursing assistant during the six days that she was presenting symptoms of the virus, which is when contagion can occur.

As well as the 15 people currently admitted to the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, considered “high-risk contacts,” there are a further 83 that are being monitored, EL PAÍS has determined. The last official figure supplied was 52.

These 83 people are in their homes for now, and are subject to what the experts call “active vigilance” – i.e., they are being called by Madrid regional public health personnel twice a day to ensure that they are taking their temperature and to find out the results. This kind of passive observation is the same process used with people at risk, as was the case of Romero, who became infected with Ebola while treating two Spanish missionaries with the virus who had been repatriated from West Africa.

And an apology, also from El País:

Madrid health chief apologizes to nursing assistant with Ebola

  • Javier Rodríguez admits comments were “unfortunate,” but stops short of resigning

Madrid’s regional health chief has issued a public apology to Teresa Romero, the nursing assistant who contracted Ebola after treating two infected Spanish missionaries, after accusing her of concealing information from medics and of being clumsy with her protective suit.

In a letter to Romero’s husband, who had called for his resignation, Javier Rodríguez admits that his public statements last Thursday were “unfortunate” and that he never meant to offend the patient, who remains in a serious but stable condition in Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital.

“I know these are very tough moments for you and your family, and I understand that my words may have caused even more pain,” writes Rodríguez in a letter that was published by news agency EFE. “I in no way meant to add to the pain that you are going through.”

An Ebola scare in Canada from CBC News:

Ebola test result awaited by member of Canadian Forces aid mission

  • ‘Extremely unlikely’ aircrew member will test positive for Ebola, doctor says

A man quarantined in a Belleville, Ont., hospital while awaiting Ebola test results is a member of the Canadian Forces aircrew who dropped off supplies to combat the disease in Sierra Leone, CBC News has learned.

The patient is currently in isolation and samples have been sent to the National Microbiology lab in Winnipeg. Results should be ready late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning.

The patient arrived at the Belleville General Hospital emergency room early Monday. He had recently returned from West Africa and showed some symptoms common with the Ebola virus.

From the London Telegraph, the military angle:

More troops tackling Ebola than battling Isil or the Taliban

  • The military campaign to help defeat Ebola becomes the Armed Forces’ biggest overseas deployment

Britain will soon have more troops tackling Ebola than battling Isil or the Taliban, as the military campaign to help defeat the deadly disease outbreak becomes the Armed Forces’ biggest overseas deployment.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said the UK had to act to help stop the spread of the disease, or it would tear through West Africa, then into Europe and the UK.

By the end of November around 750 British troops will be in Sierra Leone helping to set up medical centres and train staff to tackle the outbreak which has killed more than 4,000.

He said by then it would be the UK’s “biggest deployment overseas” as it pulls back from its 13-year war in Afghanistan.

After the jump, preparations in Japan, capitalizing on crisis, vaccines promised and researched, a hefty Zuckberg donation, an atomic helping hand, a UN official’s prescription, a British hospital ship heading to Sierra Leone, an expanding Ebola text-message system, Ebola outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal over, on to Sierra Leone and scare resources, then on to Liberia and one county’s tripling of cases, division over a desperate measure in desperate times, a ministerial quarantine, the perils of care, a hospital reopens, a warning over burials, high-level visits to Monrovia, Cote d’Ivoire quarantines arrivals from Liberia, and to close on a note of absurdity, two stories about shouting Ebola on crowd bus. . . Continue reading