Category Archives: Cancer

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, species, nukes


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

Ebola virus has mutated during course of outbreak

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

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

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

From the Associated Press:

Liberian Ebola survivor praises experimental drug

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

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

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

CBC News covers a non-case in Canada:

Ebola tests negative for Gatineau girl who remains in isolation

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

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

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

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

From Science, a question:

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

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

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

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

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

Same continent, different virus from United Press International:

AIDS progress in South Africa could suffer funding blow

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

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

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

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

From Public Radio International, on to the atmosphere:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warming waters threaten to trigger methane eruptions from Arctic Ocean seafloor

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

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

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

On to water with the Associated Press:

Online list IDs water wells harmed by drilling

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

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

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

From the Mainichi, victims of a pollution disaster:

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

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

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

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

From the Chicago Tribune, a small win:

Judge tosses challenge to flame retardant rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with Kyodo News:

Fukushima nuclear plant chief feared catastrophe for eastern Japan

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

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

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

From the Japan Times, a challenge:

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

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

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

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

From the Mainichi, austerity meets tragedy:

Nuclear disaster evacuee compensation halved across board: internal document

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

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

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

Jiji Press keeps it local:

Fukushima Governor OKs Polluted Soil Interim Storage

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

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

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

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

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, a leak:

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

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

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

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

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

Marijuana compound may halt Alzheimer’s disease – study

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

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

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

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, toxic sperm, nukes


We open today’s compendium of environmental news with the latest on the Ebola front, and conclude with a case of Down Under idiocy.

First up, a declaration via Reuters:

Guinea declares public health emergency over Ebola

Guinea has declared a public health emergency over an Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 1,000 people in three West African states and is sending health workers to all affected border points, a government official said.

An estimated 377 people have died in Guinea since the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola began in March in remote parts of a border region next to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Guinea says its outbreak is under control with the numbers of new cases falling, but that the new measures are needed to prevent further infection from the other countries at the center of the epidemic.

Global Times covers a clean bill of health:

No confirmed Ebola cases in S. Africa: health authorities

There have been no laboratory- confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in South Africa associated with the current outbreak in West Africa, health authorities said on Thursday.

Given the frequency of travel between southern and western African countries, there is a risk of EVD cases being imported into South Africa, but overall this risk is low, the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said in its latest update on the spread of EVD.

The Associated Press mulls a quandary:

Liberia gets Ebola drug; ponders who should get it

Liberian officials faced a difficult choice Thursday: deciding which handful of Ebola patients will receive an experimental drug that could prove life-saving, ineffective or even harmful.

ZMapp, the untested Ebola drug, arrived in the West African country late Wednesday. Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said three or four people would begin getting it Thursday, although another health official said there was only enough for three people.

The government had previously said two doctors would receive the treatment, but it was unclear who else would.

A related story from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Doctors: Ebola drug poses dilemma

Doctors treating a Sierra Leone physician with Ebola defended their decision not to give him an experimental drug, saying Wednesday they feared it was too risky.

Calling it “an impossible dilemma,” Doctors Without Borders explained in detail last month’s decision in response to a New York Times story on the case. It would have been the first time the experimental drug was tried in humans.

The explanation came the same day that another top doctor from Sierra Leone died of the disease, further fueling a debate about how to apportion a limited supply of untested drugs and vaccines and whether they are even effective.

Xinhua ads context:

Ebola crisis could continue for months: health official

A U.S. health official warned Thursday it would take at least three to six months to end the Ebola outbreak, which has killed nearly 1,000 in West Africa, and which has prompted a state of emergency in Liberia and Nigeria.

“It will be a long and hard fight,” Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tom Frieden told a congressional hearing.

The director on Wednesday activated the level of the agency’s response to the outbreak to its highest alert status.

The Wire covers a patient cured:

Ebola-Stricken Doctor Could Be Released From Atlanta Hospital Soon

According to the charity Samaritan’s Purse, Dr. Kent Brantly is recovering nicely from Ebola and is expected to be released from the hospital shortly. From the group’s statement:

“Dr. Kent Brantly is doing very well and hopes to be released sometime in the near future. The staff at Emory Healthcare are taking extremely great care of him. Kent and his wife continue to express appreciation for everyone’s prayers.”

A simple enough sentiment although one not accompanied by a timetable. Reports on Brantly’s condition have been increasingly positive since he arrived in Atlanta two weeks ago.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, another false alarm:

Nigerian woman sent to Singapore hospital did not have Ebola: MOH

  • The patient, who is in her 50s, was reportedly suffering from a high fever. She has since been discharged.

Fears of the first case of Ebola surfacing in Singapore on Thursday (Aug 14) proved unfounded.

In a statement, the Health Ministry clarified that there is no suspect case of Ebola in Singapore at present. “The case in question was indeed referred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, but she does not fit the case definition,” it said. “MOH will continue to closely monitor the situation, and continually assess and calibrate its measures.”

The scare began when a Nigerian woman was transferred from Gleneagles Hospital to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH)’s Communicable Diseases Centre on Thursday. She was suffering from a high fever.

Reuters covers an exodus:

U.S. Embassy dependents to leave Sierra Leone due to Ebola

The United States said on Thursday it had ordered family members at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone to depart because of limitations on regular medical care as a result of the Ebola outbreak.

“The Embassy recommended this step out of an abundance of caution, following the determination by the Department’s Medical Office that there is a lack of options for routine health care services at major medical facilities due to the Ebola outbreak,” the State Department said in a statement.

From Global Times, a prohibition:

Filipino seafarers prohibited from disembarking in Ebola-stricken countries

The Philippine government on Monday prohibited Filipino seafarers from disembarking in Ebola-hit countries in West Africa.

The order is contained in the guidelines issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to protect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and prevent the spread of the Ebola virus disease.

“There will be no shore leave for seafarers and no crew change in the ports of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the meantime,” POEA chief Hans Leo Cacdac said in a statement.

From Reuters, a suspension:

Korean Air suspends flights to Kenya over Ebola worries

Korean Air Lines Co Ltd said on Thursday it will suspend flights to and from Nairobi from August 20 to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Korean Air said it had been operating three return flights from Incheon, South Korea, to the capital of Kenya a week.

The company said it would determine whether to resume the flights based on a change in conditions. It did not elaborate.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, another ounce of prevention:

Airport steps up measures against Ebola

Narita Airport Quarantine is strengthening measures to prevent the Ebola virus from entering Japan, in light of the deadly outbreak in parts of West Africa.

There are no direct flights from West African countries to Narita Airport, but there are fears that residents and travelers from such countries as Guinea, where there have been reports of an Ebola outbreak, may transfer planes at Narita Airport. To address such concerns, airport quarantine has been stepping up efforts to screen out infected individuals with fever by conducting thermographic inspections.

Furthermore, in response to the World Health Organization’s declaration of an international emergency on Aug. 8, quarantine is urging those who have stayed in West Africa to voluntarily declare their visit when entering Japan through public announcements in Japanese and English in addition to information boards and video displays in eight languages.

Anxiety-inducing historic precedent from the Associated Press:

25 Years Ago, a Different Ebola Outbreak in Va.

It had all the makings of a public-health horror story: an outbreak of a wildly deadly virus on the doorstep of the nation’s capital, with dozens of lab monkeys dead, multiple people testing positive, and no precedent in this country on how to contain it.

Americans’ introduction to the Ebola virus came 25 years ago in an office park near Washington Dulles International Airport, a covert crisis that captivated the public only years later when it formed the basis of a bestselling book.

Initially thought to be the same hyper-deadly strain as the current Ebola outbreak that has killed hundreds in Africa, the previously unknown Reston variant turned out to be nonlethal to humans. But the story of what might have been illustrates how far U.S. scientists have come in their understanding of a virus whose very name strikes fear, even in a country where no one has fatally contracted it.

Global Times reassures:

Outbreak of Ebola in China unlikely: expert

A Chinese expert said Wednesday that the possibility of an Ebola outbreak in China is extremely low, although the virus may enter the country.

Dong Xiaoping, research fellow with the Institute of Virus of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), said the possibility of Ebola entering China through fruit bats, its natural vector, and other animals is very low. However, it may enter China through humans in individual cases. Risks of this kind can be controlled with strengthened checks at customs.

Dong said the spread of Ebola in China is unlikely even if Ebola cases are found, as China is capable of disease control and prevention.

Next, opportunity for the corporate sector, first from USA Today:

NewLink Genetics: Ready to test Ebola vaccine

An Iowa drug developer is preparing to test a possible Ebola vaccine in humans, as scientists race to develop ways to prevent or fight a virus that has killed more than 1,000 people in a West African outbreak.

NewLink Genetics is planning an initial phase of testing involving up to 100 healthy volunteers and is talking with regulators about the study, said Brian Wiley, the company’s vice president for business development. He declined to say whether the drug developer has submitted an application for the research to the Food and Drug Administration.

Chief Financial Officer Gordon Link said Thursday the timing of the testing, which would involve up to 100 healthy volunteers, is uncertain.

MintPress News adds a dimension:

On Use Of Experimental Ebola Drugs, U.S. Under Increased Pressure

  • Officials wrestle with whether it is ethical to withhold potential treatment from some groups, but also if it is acceptable to offer either false hope or true risk to vulnerable populations

The World Health Organization has taken the unprecedented step of declaring that the use of experimental drugs — the efficacy and safety of which have yet to be proven — would be “ethical” to combat the current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

The multilateral agency’s unusual backing, announced Tuesday, will further complicate an issue that has suddenly become a major quandary for global health officials, the U.S. government and the very small number of private companies that have been working on Ebola research. Even as issues of access and equity have come to the fore, others are expressing concern that the discussion around experimental treatments could be a distraction.

The backing of the WHO followed a two-day emergency meeting of medical workers, ethicists and others.

“There was unanimous agreement among the experts that [due to] the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak it is ethical to offer unregistered interventions as potential treatments or prevention,” Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director-general at the WHO, told journalists Tuesday, while also releasing an institutional statement on the discussions.

A Chinese company’s venture from Shanghai Daily:

Biotech firm develops kit for diagnosing Ebola

A LOCAL biotech company says it has developed a diagnostic kit for Ebola that has been used in Nigeria with good effects.

Shanghai ZJ Bio-Tech Co said it started to develop the kit for Ebola virus in 2010 at the request of African clients.

Since the recent outbreak in west Africa, some 50 health facilities and laboratories home and abroad have ordered it.

Our final business item from El País, bringing in a corporate ’bot:

Bleach and a robot used to disinfect ebola victim’s Madrid hospital room

  • New tests confirm late Spanish priest Miguel Pajares’ colleague Juliana Bonoha is not infected

The Madrid hospital room in which Spanish priest Miguel Pajares spent the last five days of his life battling the ebola virus began to be disinfected on Wednesday. The task was first undertaken by a team from the Carlos III public hospital using bleach and then by a robot belonging to the same US company that cleaned the Washington, D. C. central post office after the 2001 anthrax attacks and also helped prevent the spread of infection in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in New Orleans in 2005. The hospital has not disclosed the cost of the procedure.

Staff at the center used bleach and disinfectant gas to clean the installations and burnt materials used by both Pajares, who died from the disease on Tuesday, and sister Juliana Bonoha Bohé, who was  repatriated to Spain from Liberia alongside him last week. New tests on Thursday confirmed that the 65-year-old Spanish nun has not been infected by the ebola virus, though she will remain in hospital until the 21-day incubation period has passed.

The firm Steris Iberia is in charge of completing the decontamination process in the room that Pajares occupied. Its technicians sealed the room, leaving in it a robot “similar to a large shopping cart” that is controlled by a computer from outside, explained the company’s head of business, Miguel Ángel Valdeolivas.

Our final Ebola item, a bigger picture from MintPress News:

Ebola And Climate Change: How Are They Connected?

  • In light of the recent outbreak, some researchers are connecting deforestation in countries such as Liberia to the disease, noting that the change in landscape is bringing wildlife in closer contact with humans

In 2006, a study published in the journal Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene revealed that Ebola, a “violent hemorrhagic fever that leads to internal and external bleeding,” would be more frequent with global warming due to its intermittent connection to wildlife and climate. In 2008, another study reiterated the same fears, noting that Ebola outbreaks would be among a cluster of other viral diseases gaining momentum, such as bird flu, cholera, plague and tuberculosis.

“We are calling for increased attention and action in developing global monitoring networks to look at a wide variety of infectious diseases in a wide variety of wildlife since they are such sensitive indicators of the health of the systems in which they live,” said veterinarian William Karesh, Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) vice president of global health programs, back in 2008.

In light of the recent outbreak, some researchers are connecting deforestation in countries such as Liberia to the disease, noting that the change in landscape is bringing wildlife in closer contact with humans. According to researchers, the virus is typically found in wildlife, and transmission from animals to humans occurs through contact with infected bodily fluids, causing a “spillover” in species. The virus can also be contracted from another human being when a person is in direct contact with infected blood, vomit or feces during contagious periods, putting health workers in West Africa primarily at risk.

From the Guardian, our first water woe:

Tibet’s glaciers at their warmest in 2,000 years, report says

  • Glacier retreat could disrupt water supply to Asia’s main rivers including Yellow, Yangtze, Brahmaputra, Mekong and Salween

The Tibetan plateau, whose glaciers supply water to hundreds of millions of people in Asia, were warmer over the past 50 years than at any stage in the past two millennia, a Chinese newspaper said, citing an academic report.

Temperatures and humidity are likely to continue to rise throughout this century, causing glaciers to retreat and desertification to spread, according to the report published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.

“Over the past 50 years, the rate of temperature rise has been double the average global level,” it said, according to the report on the website of Science and Technology Daily, a state-run newspaper.

Glacier retreat could disrupt water supply to several of Asia’s main rivers that originate from the plateau, including China’s Yellow and Yangtze, India’s Brahmaputra, and the Mekong and Salween in southeast Asia.

In May, Chinese scientists said Tibetan glaciers had shrunk 15% – around 3,100 sq miles (8,000 sq km) – over the past 30 years.

A food perspective from Global Times:

Concerns over grain supply as North China suffers worst drought in 63 years

The worst drought in 63 years in North China has badly hit three major grain producing regions, sparking concerns over nationwide grain supply.

Liaoning, Jilin and Henan provinces have seen the lowest levels of precipitation in the last six decades. Another nine regions, including Shandong, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces as well as Inner Mongolia, are also bearing the brunt of the severe drought, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The prolonged drought has affected 4.39 million hectares of cropland and 2.35 million people across the country, people.com.cn reported Wednesday.

Another water woe, via Homeland Security News Wire:

Ingredients in “fracking” fluids raise concerns

As the oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) proliferates, a new study on the contents of the fluids involved in the process raises concerns about several ingredients. The researchers say that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there is very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals.

As the oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) proliferates, a new study on the contents of the fluids involved in the process raises concerns about several ingredients. The scientists presenting the work yesterday at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) said that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there is very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals.

An ACS release reports that William Stringfellow, Ph.D., says he conducted the review of fracking contents to help resolve the public debate over the controversial drilling practice. Fracking involves injecting water with a mix of chemical additives into rock formations deep underground to promote the release of oil and gas. It has led to a natural gas boom in the United States, but it has also stimulated major opposition and troubling reports of contaminated well water, as well as increased air pollution near drill sites.

And from The Real News Network, another potentially alarming water worry, this time in the form of privatization:

Is Baltimore City’s Water Supply Up For Privatization?

  • City Hall denies the charge, but workers and advocates say an upcoming water contract could be a foot in the door for privatization

BBC News covers iDetox:

Apple bans two hazardous chemicals from assembly lines

Apple has banned two potentially hazardous chemicals from being used in the final assembly process at 22 of its iPhone and iPad production plants.

Benzene, which is a carcinogen, and n-Hexane, which can cause nerve damage, will no longer be used in cleaning agents or degreasers at the facilities, the firm said.

The move follows a campaign urging the tech giant to scrap the substances.

China Daily bans dosed up American pig meat:

US pork halted, additives feared

China stopped importing pork from six processing and six cold storage facilities in the United States on Wednesday to enforce its ban on the use of a feed additive that promotes lean muscle growth, the US Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

To ensure food safety, China had in March said that third-party verification was necessary to ensure that US pork shipped to the country is free of the additive ractopamine, which is sold for hog farm use as feed additive.

Ding Lixin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, said such quality control measures are commonplace in the domestic market, especially the checks to trace the presence of ractopamine in pork. The new move indicates that the government is implementing quality checks on imported pork products also.

From Spain, poisoned sperm via TheLocal.es:

Judge demands study on ‘Spain’s worst semen’

A judge in the Catalan city of Tarragona has ordered an investigation into the possible health impact of the area’s chemical industry after discovering that only six per cent of local men have fully mobile sperm.

The enquiry was launched yesterday after a judge studied a complaint made in 2010 by the environmental group L’Escurçó.

The group cited a 2002 study showing that the semen of 53 per cent of Tarragona’s men had semen which did not measure up to World Health Organization parameters.

The judge has now asked the Civil Guard to identify chemical industry companies in Tarragona which emit substances capable of reducing male fertility.

On to today’s episode of Fukushimapocalypose Now! with alarming news from the American Genetic Association:

Fukushima’s legacy

  • Biological effects of Fukushima radiation on plants, insects, and animals

Following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown, biological samples were obtained only after extensive delays, limiting the information that could be gained about the impacts of that historic disaster. Determined not to repeat the shortcomings of the Chernobyl studies, scientists began gathering biological information only a few months after the disastrous meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan in 2011. Results of these studies are now beginning to reveal serious biological effects of the Fukushima radiation on non-human organisms ranging from plants to butterflies to birds.

A series of articles summarizing these studies has now been published in the Journal of Heredity. These describe widespread impacts, ranging from population declines to genetic damage to responses by the repair mechanisms that help organisms cope with radiation exposure.

“A growing body of empirical results from studies of birds, monkeys, butterflies, and other insects suggests that some species have been significantly impacted by the radioactive releases related to the Fukushima disaster,” stated Dr. Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, lead author of one of the studies.

From the Guardian, hot times to come in the Outback?:

Aboriginal people can still apply to use land for nuclear waste, says minister

  • Ian MacFarlane tells traditional owners in Tennant Creek that the process would remain open until November

Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory can still apply to offer their land as a nuclear waste dump despite the collapse of government attempts to nominate Muckaty Station, the industry minister has said.

Ian MacFarlane met traditional owners, members of the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust and community members in Tennant Creek on Thursday, where he announced that the option to volunteer their land for a radioactive waste management facility would remain open until 30 November this year.

Muckaty had spent almost 10 years mired in bitter negotiations and legal battles, since the NLC lobbied for Aboriginal people to volunteer a site after former prime minister John Howard legislated for the first nuclear waste disposal facility in 2005.

And for our final item, the Guardian covers Aussie idiocy:

Tony Abbott adviser warns of threat of ‘global cooling’

  • Opponents label comments ‘terrifying’ after Maurice Newman writes opinion piece in the Australian newspaper

The Abbott government’s chief business adviser, Maurice Newman, has warned that Australia is ill prepared for global cooling owing to widespread “warming propaganda” in his latest critique of mainstream climate science.

Newman, who chairs the prime minister’s Business Advisory Council, said there is evidence that the world is set for a period of cooling, rather than warming, leading to significant geopolitical problems because of a lack of preparedness.

Adam Bandt, deputy leader of the Greens, said Newman’s comments were an “embarrassment to the government”.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, fracking, forests, Fuku’d


And a long collection of news environmental to accompany our spooky compendium, beginning with the latest Ebola stories, starting with this from the Associated Press:

2nd American aid worker with Ebola arrives in US

A second American aid worker infected with Ebola arrived Tuesday in Atlanta, where doctors will closely monitor the effect of an experimental drug she agreed to take even though its safety was never tested on humans.

Nancy Writebol arrived from Monrovia, Liberia, in a chartered plane at Dobbins Air Reserve Base and will join Dr. Kent Brantly in the isolation unit at Emory University Hospital, just downhill from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both were infected despite taking precautions as they treated Ebola patients in West Africa, where the virus has been spreading faster than governments can contain it, killing nearly 900 people so far.

From Vanity Fair, paranoia strikes:

Atlanta Public Health Officials Treating Ebola Victims Are Getting Hate Mail

Atlanta public health officials are begging people to calm down and stop sending them nasty messages about their decision to treat two American relief workers who are suffering from Ebola.

The deadly virus, for which there is no vaccine or treatment other than caring for symptoms such as high fever, has claimed the lives of at least 887 people in West Africa. Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (C.D.C.), revealed that the agency was on the receiving end of “nasty e-mails” and phone calls about the decision to bring home two American relief workers stricken with the virus.

“I hope our understandable fear of the unfamiliar does not trump our compassion when ill Americans return to the U.S. for care,” Frieden said.

>snip<

A number of high-profile pontificators, who seemingly exist solely to torment the unknowing, contributed to domestic Ebola panic. Donald Trump has repeatedly tweeted in opposition to the idea of treating any Ebola patients in the United States, arguing, “People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!” Appearing on Fox and Friends to discuss his tweet storm, Trump pushed for a ban on inbound flights from countries in West Africa, and compared Ebola to AIDS.

BBC News makes a pronouncement:

Ebola outbreak risk to US ‘very low’

  • Nancy Writebol arrived at Atlanta’s Emory Hospital on Tuesday

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice has said the risk of Ebola transmission in the US is “very low”, as a second ailing American arrives for treatment.

One US aid worker is being cared for in Atlanta while his colleague, also infected, is on her way from Liberia to the same specialist hospital.

Another man, in New York, is being tested after travelling to the region.

Since February, 887 people have died in four West African countries. The World Bank has given $200m (£120m) to help.

And the London Daily Mail offers a rare ray of sunshine:

Doctors say it is ‘very unlikely’ that a patient being tested for Ebola at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has the deadly disease

  • The man was admitted to hospital with high fever after recently returning from a West African country where the deadly virus has been reported
  • The patient arrived at the hospital’s emergency room early on Monday morning with ‘a high fever and gastrointestinal symptoms’
  • He has been isolated and is undergoing diagnostic testing – the full results are expected today or Wednesday
  • Nancy Writebol, the American aid worker with Ebola, is due to arrive at the Atlanta hospital where she will be treated around midday on Tuesday
  • The death toll of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone has climbed to 887, according to the World Health Organization
  • Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or urine

From Bloomberg News, a video report on the experimental drug being given the American patients:

Ebola Patients Receive ZMapp Experimental Drug

Program note:

Bloomberg’s Yang Yang reports on U.S. Ebola patients treated with Zmapp experimental drug from Mapp Pharmaceuticals in San Diego. She speaks with Betty Liu on “In The Loop.”

While the Guardian send in the troops:

Soldiers deployed in Sierra Leone and Liberia to contain Ebola outbreak

  • Troops set up roadblocks to ensure that only health personnel can move in and out of the hardest-hit communities

Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed in Sierra Leone and Liberia in an attempt to quarantine the remote villages at the centre of the Ebola outbreak, as three new cases were discovered in Nigeria and authorities in Saudi Arabia said a man was being tested for suspected infection.

The Saudi health ministry said a man in his 40s who had recently returned from Sierra Leone had shown symptoms of viral haemorrhagic fever and was being treated was at a specialist hospital in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. The patient is in isolation and blood samples are being tested.

As the epidemic entered its seventh month, 700 troops in Sierra Leone began setting up roadblocks to ensure that only health personnel could move in and out of the hardest-hit communities. They include two eastern districts where health workers have sometimes been attacked by residents who fear that treatment centres are causing Ebola to spread.

Al Jazeera makes a pledge:

World Bank pledges $200m to contain Ebola

  • Emergency aid aims to improve medical supplies and staff wages as Liberian healthcare system shuts down out of fear.

The World Bank has pledged $200m to help contain the deadly Ebola virus, with the growing crisis forcing healthcare system in Liberia to shut down out of fear of staff contracting the virus.

The World Bank said on Monday that it would provide up to $200m in emergency assistance to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to help the West African nations contain the deadly outbreak which has killed 887 since the outbreak began in March this year.

Jim Yong Kim, World Bank president, himself an expert on infectious diseases, said he has been monitoring the spread of the virus and was “deeply saddened” at how it was contributing to the breakdown of “already weak health systems in the three countries”.

And the Associated Press is grounded:

BA suspends flights to Liberia amid Ebola outbreak

British Airways says it has temporarily suspended flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone until the end of August because of the worsening outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

The airline had been flying four times per week to the two countries, traveling first to Freetown before continuing on to Monrovia.

BA says customers with tickets on those routes are being offered refunds or the ability to rebook flights for a later date.

While the London Telegraph takes precautions:

Ebola: Several Britons across the UK quarantined at home after returning from West Africa

  • Doctors say the individuals are ‘voluntarily’ confined at home after returning from an Ebola infected country in West Africa

Several Britons are quarantined across the UK with suspected Ebola, public health officials admitted on Tuesday.

The revelation comes as a Welsh national who fears they may have contracted the deadly Ebola virus while abroad has returned home and placed themselves in voluntary quarantine.

The potential victim is understood to be living in Cardiff and is being “closely monitored,” health officials said.

In Italy, the right seizes an opportunity, via TheLocal.it:

Put all migrants in quarantine: far-right

A councillor from the far-right Northern League party has called for all immigrants in Milan to be screened for the deadly Ebola virus. Unnecessary, people who work with immigrants tell The Local.

The proposal was voiced by Fabio Rolfi, a Northern League (Lega Nord) councillor for the Lombardy region, La Repubblica said on Tuesday.

He suggested “a preventative quarantine in welcome centres for undocumented immigrants that arrive in Milan every day,” to minimize the risk of Ebola spreading within Italy.

On to another environmental woe, via the Associated Press:

Money allocated for suppressing fires to run out

The U.S. Forest Service will soon have to tap into programs designed to prevent wildfires so that it can meet the expenses of fighting this summer’s round of fires.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that about $400 million to $500 million in projects will have to be put on hold in what has become a routine exercise toward the end of the fiscal year. He predicted that the money set aside strictly for firefighting will run out by the end of August.

“When we begin to run out of money we have to dip into the very programs that will reduce the risk of these fires over time,” Vilsack said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

Business Insider covers other trees, other threats:

Bye, Bye OJ? The World’s Citrus Is Being Destroyed — Here’s What Scientists Are Doing About It

Anyone who delights in freshly squeezed orange juice or eats grapefruit for breakfast should take a moment to stop and savor the taste of those citrus fruits. Many of them are at risk of being destroyed by a disease spread by an invasive pest that’s been sweeping across the citrus-producing regions of the world.

“It’s horrible — it’s a disaster,” says Fred Gmitter, a professor of horticulture science at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center.

It might be time to kiss your OJ goodbye, unless science steps in to save the day.

At least 70% of Florida’s citrus trees are already infected by the disease, known as citrus greening, huanglongbing, or occasionally just with an ominous “it,” as in “It’s here.”

Other arboreal woes from BBC News:

Climate ‘key driver’ in European forest disturbances

  • Europe’s forests have experienced increased disturbances throughout the 20th Century from wind, bark beetles and wildfires, a study has shown.

A team of European-based scientists identified climatic changes as a “key driver behind this increase”.

However, they added, how the expected continuation of climate change would affect Europe’s forests in the future remained unresolved.

The findings have been published online by the journal Nature Climate Change.

The researchers wrote: “Natural disturbances, that is, large pulses of tree mortality from agents such as wildfire, insect outbreaks or strong winds, are integral drivers of forest dynamics and contribute to the diversity and adaptive capacity of ecosystems.”

While EurActiv covers a European environmental crime [or so it would seem to us]:

How the Commission ‘blocked’ key environmental plans

Plans to crack down on endocrine disruptors and illegal timber being imported into the EU, were buried by the outgoing President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and his secretary-general Catherine Day, according to a senior EU source.

With only weeks remaining before the Commission President steps down, tongues are beginning to loosen at the EU executive.

Barroso and Day have often been singled out by environmentalists for a perceived tilt to business interests when it comes to green legislation, a charge their spokespeople strongly deny.

But it now appears that key legislative proposals put forward by the Commission’s own environment directorate were quashed by Barroso and his secretary-general after being deemed unimportant.

After the jump, seedy regulatory zeal, pimping for GMOs with Mo Rocca and Monsanto, fracking and offshore drilling opposition intensified, Fukushimapoclaypse Now!, and a must-read warning for parents about the potentially serious impacts of all those wireless devices and cell phones on their children, plus much more. . . Continue reading

Plutopia: Bombmaking cities of the U.S., U.S.S.R.


A stunning talk by University of Maryland historian Kate Brown, author of Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, about the deadly consequences for the plutonium-making high security cities in the two principal Cold War adversaries.

From the wonderful collection of videos at TalkingStickTV:

Kate Brown — The Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters

From an account by the Kennan Institute’s Mattison Brady about a talk Brown presented there:

Brown observed that Chernobyl and Fukushima were disasters that “involved big meltdowns and occurred while the cameras were running.” That is, they were accidents that involved total failure of the plants and could not be hidden or covered up. The disasters at Hanford [Washington] and Maiak, however, were catastrophes “in slow motion” and, more importantly, were not truly accidents. They were, Brown contended, “intentional – part of the normal working order.” Brown did not, however, paint a picture of simple recrimination for the plant managers. Rather, she illustrated the dangerous combination of misinformation, miscommunication, hopefulness, and, above all, pressure that contributed to many of the recurring mistakes made at each plant.

The two plutonium plants and, by extension, their constituent populations “orbited each other and were produced in each other’s image.” Each time the project in one country was in danger of having its budget cut, the other would make some significant breakthrough, which would in turn spur production at the other. The rivalry fueled the growing arms race and ensured their continued existence and funding. The constant atmosphere of fear and pressure led each of the plants to taking dangerous short cuts to meet the mushrooming production goals.

One such shortcut was the length of time used uranium fuel was allowed to cool before being processed. This fuel, pulled from the cooling ponds long before the recommended 90-day period, was called “green” and, when processed, would release vastly more radioactive iodine than fuel left to cool longer. War-time pressure in 1944 called for this cooling period to be minimized, but the post-war arms race meant that the Soviet Maiak plant ran green fuel for many years and that in 1949 the Hanford plant ran a dangerous experiment with green fuel (called the “Green Run”) to see how they could trace the hot radioactive isotopes as they scattered across eastern Washington State.

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Fuku/Fuelishness


Today’s headlines being at home, starting with hints of a bubble brewing from CNBC:

A new wave of US mortgage trouble threatens

U.S. borrowers are increasingly missing payments on home equity lines of credit they took out during the housing bubble, a trend that could deal another blow to the country’s biggest banks.

And from Al Jazeera America, stuffing turkeys:

Hundreds of protests planned to mark Black Friday

Labor groups hope to capitalize on a year of controversy surrounding Wal-Mart and other big retailers

Bloomberg Businessweek covers harsh realities:

McDonald’s Worker Says She Can’t Afford to Eat at McDonald’s

For a piece on the potential economic and social consequences of raising the federal minimum wage in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, I interviewed several low-wage workers about how they manage. As we’ve learned from recent studies, they often rely on public assistance; sometimes they turn to their extended family and friends or charity. One told me she donates plasma when she needs a little cash; a second sleeps in her car. One, Shawndraka Mack, works full-time at McDonald’s, but noted she can’t afford to eat there.

From ThinkProgress, uncharitable politics:

Los Angeles Considering Proposal To Ban Feeding Homeless People In Public

The proposal will need to pick up more support among the 15-member Council in order to become law. If passed, though, Los Angeles would join a growing number of other cities that have banned or passed significant restrictions on charities attempting to feed the homeless, including Raleigh and Orlando.

From South China Morning Post, more allegations of banksters behaving badly — in this case, hiring the progeny of Chinese leaders as a wedge to opening doors for deals:

US expands China hiring probe to Morgan Stanley and Citigroup

US authorities are expanding their probe into the hiring practices of American financial institutions, with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) now looking into whether Morgan Stanley and Citigroup hired children of well-connected mainland officials with an intent to win business.

Meanwhile, mouth farts from blowviator via Salon:

Rush Limbaugh: The pope sounds like a Marxist

“This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope”

Meanwhile, Rush might ponder this from the New York Times:

Breadlines Return

The Great Recession was the worst downturn since the Great Depression.  And yet, throughout the recent decline and today’s sluggish recovery, conditions have never seemed as bad as they were in the 1930s. Breadlines, for example, have not been commonplace.

That may be about to change.

An encouraging sign, via Salon:

Breaking: Whole Foods strike wins Thanksgiving day off, workers say

“I think it will be disruptive, but that’s kind of the point,” says one of Chicago workers striking today

Canada next, with the Toronto Globe and Mail, and cross-border ties:

Canadian growth to accelerate but U.S. well-being still key: IMF

The IMF pegs Canadian growth at 2.25 per cent next year following modest growth of 1.6 per cent this year as exports and business investment “disappointed.”

Next, feet enter oral orifices, via Techdirt:

TPP Defenders Take To The Internet To Deliver Official Talking Points; Inadvertently Confirm Opponents’ Worst Fears

from the TPP-doesn’t-do-anything-opponents-claim-it-does,-except-for-all-this dept

Seeking friends in need, via EUbusiness:

France, Spain seek European push for jobs, growth

France and Spain’s leaders, both suffering in the polls as they grapple with feeble economies, united Wednesday in pressuring the European Union to do more to help boost activity and create desperately needed jobs.

BBC News takes us to Britain and austerian arrogance:

David Cameron defiant over tougher EU benefit plans

David Cameron has defended plans to toughen welfare rules for EU migrants, saying he was sending a “clear message” to people that the UK was not a “soft touch” for claiming benefits.

He said he shared public concerns about the end of work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians next month.

More Cameron Tory neoliberalism from The Independent:

David Cameron to lobby for support on migration restrictions at EU summit in Lithuania

From the London Telegraph, Mariano Rajoy scotches hopes:

Spanish PM: Independent Scotland would be kicked out of the EU

Scotland would be kicked out of the European Union if it voted for independence, the Spanish Prime Minister has said in a devastating blow to Alex Salmond’s claims membership would be seamless.

Sweden next, with a burgeoning bubble from TheLocal.se:

Swedes’ mortgage debt continues to swell

Swedes are borrowing money more than ever, data from Statistics Sweden revealed on Wednesday, as household indebtedness reached new heights.

The annual growth rate of household indebtedness was calculated to be 4.9 percent in October this year, a 0.1 percentage-point increase in one month. Statisticians at the state agency predicted that the increase will continue, and cited the upswing from 4.5 percent in January 2013.

TheLocal.se, planning ahead and raising hopes for Sweden’s braceros:

Swedish opposition to scrap migrant-worker law

The left-wing opposition stands ready to tear up the controversial Laval Law, which differentiates between domestic and foreign workers, if the Social Democrat party wrests power from the government in next year’s elections.

“Swedish collective bargaining agreements should apply in Sweden,” said party leader Stefan Lövfen on Wednesday at a press conference. “It does not matter from which country the employee comes from nor where the employer is registered.”

TheLocal.no covers a seminal embargo:

China blocks semen of hardy Norwegian Red

China has cancelled a project to import semen from the hardy Norwegian Red diary cow, in a move put down to continuing poor diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Holland next, and troubling news from DutchNews.nl:

Healthcare freedom of choice under threat, entire hospitals excluded

Health insurance companies are limiting patient access to some hospitals, and some policyholders will have to pay a contribution to be treated in hospitals with a better reputation, according to research by the AD and insurance comparison website Independer.

On to Germany and high hopes from Europe Online:

German consumer confidence hits six-year high

Consumer confidence in Germany hit a six-year high in December, a survey released Wednesday showed as retailers in Europe’s biggest economy are gearing up for the key Christmas shopping period.

The mood among German households rose to a bigger-than-forecast 7.4 in December from 7.1 in November, the Nuremberg-based market research group GfK said.

BBC News covers a done deal:

Deal reached on new government for Germany under Merkel

Angela Merkel will return as German chancellor for a third term under a coalition deal hammered out with her old Social Democrat (SPD) opponents.

Her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) signed a 185-page agreement with the SPD entitled “Shaping Germany’s Future”

From Spiegel, making virtue of necessity in the peculiar German miracle:

Living Large on a Little: Campgrounds Go Residential in Germany

An increasing number of people are moving to German campgrounds permanently to save money. The little communities of motorhomes and trailers offer a comfortable yet affordable lifestyle that residents say they couldn’t find elsewhere.

TheLocal.de notes banksters behaving badly:

Watchdog probes gold and silver price-fixing

The German financial watchdog, BaFin, said on Wednesday it was looking into allegations of possible manipulation by banks in gold and silver price-fixing.

“In addition to the Libor and Euribor interest rates, BaFin is looking at other bench-marking processes such as gold and silver price fixing at individual banks,” the watchdog said in a statement.

From TheLocal.fr, righteous anger:

Outrage over €21million pension for French CEO

Plans to award the CEO of struggling French car giant Peugeot Citroen with a €21 million pension ($28.5million) has provoked uproar among trade unions, who have spent the last year battling in vain against factory closures and mass job cuts at the firm.

A culinary invasion with TheLocal.fr:

Burger King set to open 400 outlets in France

US fast food giant Burger King looks set to take a big bite out of the French market, after they announced this week they would be opening up to 400 new restaurants throughout the country.

And on to the Alps with Channel NewsAsia Singapore and more BBB:

UBS Paris office raided in Swiss tax fraud probe

French investigators on Wednesday raided the Paris headquarters of the local arm of Swiss bank UBS, which has been placed under investigation for allegedly helping rich clients hide money in undeclared accounts.

Spain next, with El País and a central bankster’s assurance:

Recovery continued at start of fourth quarter, Bank of Spain says

Spanish export sector remains buoyant with some signs of an improvement in domestic demand while salaries flatline

The London Telegraph reports a con:

Spanish government accused of pushing illegal homes to Britons

A register with details of Spain’s three million empty homes fails to flag all of those earmarked for demolition

From El País a singular act of resistance to the reigning neoliberal Popular Party:

Madrid Socialist leader resigns Senate seat over PP-linked judge

Gómez stages “act of rebellion” against privatization of public healthcare and carve-up of legal watchdog’s membership

The leader of the Socialist Party in Madrid (PSM), Tomás Gómez, on Wednesday announced he is resigning his seat in the Senate to “be consistent with” his principles. Gómez’s decision came in response to the national party’s pact with the Popular Party (PP) over the reshuffling of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), by which Judge Francisco Gerardo Martínez Tristán will be elevated to the legal watchdog’s panel. Martínez sits on the 50-magistrate panel of the Madrid regional High Court that has been charged with deciding the fate of six of the region’s public hospitals, which the PP wants to privatize.

El País again, with neoliberalism in action:

More than 1.1 million students lose textbook grants

Families were receiving between 70-180 euros, depending on the schooling period and the region

Public subsidies for school book purchases have nosedived during the economic crisis. But according to a report from the Ombudsman’s Office, which notes a 45-percent drop in financing in the last four years, the crisis “explains but does not justify this reduction.”

The Portugal News takes across the border to yet another postal privatization, that essential plank in the neoliberal destruction of the commons:

CTT postal privatisation sees demand outstrip supply six times over

The demand for shares in the Portuguese post office CTT – Correios de Portugal outstripped supply 6.5 times according to information supplied by CMVM, the stock market authorities, to state holding company Parpública.

Italy next, with a Bunga Bunga booting from the New York Times:

Berlusconi Expelled from Senate in Italy

Having spent months manufacturing procedural delays or conjuring political melodrama in hopes of saving himself, Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday could no longer stave off the inevitable: Italy’s Senate resoundingly stripped him of his parliamentary seat, a dramatic and humiliating expulsion, even as other potential troubles await him.

And TheLocal.it pledges allegiance:

‘Berlusconi will always be our leader’

Supporters of Silvio Berlusconi mourned his expulsion from parliament on Wednesday, with one declaring: “This is not finished!”

Thousands of Berlusconi’s fans travelled to Rome from all over Italy in a show of support, with waving Forza Italia flags and holding candle-lit vigils behind held outside his Rome residence.

From TheLocal.it again, more austerian reality:

Italy’s crisis leaves middle class struggling

With unemployment at record levels and some of the highest poverty levels anywhere in the EU, Italy’s economic crisis has left many formerly well-off Italians barely able to put food on the table.

Italy’s unemployment rate hit an all-time high of 12.5 percent in October, while thousands of those who are clinging onto jobs are on short-term contracts and often go unpaid for months.

An EU report in September said that Italy is the only large country in core Europe that suffers from “material hardships”, with one in ten Italians cutting back on basics such as heating and eating meat.

After the jump, ongoing Grecomeltdown, Russian baggage, Indian anxieties and opportunities, Southeast Asian land grabs and protests, environmental mayhem, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Enviro/NoFuku


For the first time in months, no stories from Fukushima! But there’s plenty of other news, including the latest from Greece, China’s embrace of Reaganomics, and a lot more. . .except for Fukushimapocalypse Now! because, for the first time in months, there’s no breaking news from the reactor complex.

We begin at home with CNBC and a legalization landmark:

First recreational marijuana seller in US expects sky-high revenue boost

A medical marijuana dispensary in Central City, Colo.—a small gambling town nestled in the mountains near Denver—just became the first business in the United States licensed to sell marijuana to patrons without a note from their doctors.

Erin Phillips, the co-founder of medical marijuana chain Strainwise, announced this week that the Colorado Department of Revenue’s marijuana enforcement division accepted the company’s application for a recreational marijuana license on Nov. 15. She told CNBC on Friday that industry insiders estimate business can triple with the new license.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, badly behaving bankster gets the slams. Finally:

Ex-Credit Suisse trader gets 30 months’ jail

A former top Credit Suisse trader has been sentenced to two and a half years’ jail in New York for inflating subprime mortgage-related bond prices during the housing market collapse.

Reuters scents danger:

Investors wary of U.S. stock surge, even as money piles in

Many prominent managers at the Reuters 2014 Global Investment Outlook Summit believe the record-setting run-up in U.S. stocks is due for a reckoning but acknowledge that ample liquidity could push equities higher regardless of fears.

From International Business Times, it should come ass now surprise:

Who Has Really Benefited From Five Years Of The Fed’s Quantitative Easing?

Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the Federal Reserve’s launch of its quantitative easing program to bail out the financial system and stimulate growth. Naturally, people are asking who has really benefited from the bond-buying binge.  The answer, according to an analysis by Credit Writedowns, is those who had the resources to hold on to stock investments. No one else was nearly as fortunate.

From BBC News, metastasis:

Online gambling in New Jersey signals US expansion

Online gambling has been launched in the state of New Jersey, a sign that the US may slowly be opening up to the multibillion-dollar industry.

And then there’s California’s surplus problem, covered by Jezebel:

California Wants to Unload Its Abandoned Chihuahuas on New York

Abandoned chihuahuas are apparently a problem in California, the land of second-guessing dog owners. So many people abandon Chihuahuas that California shelters are shipping the small, emotionally manipulative dogs to New York, claiming that Chihuahuas are an in-demand breed in New York because prospective pet owners are jammed into tiny apartments and don’t have the space for a quadruped companion any bigger than a coffee mug.

Canada next, with an OPEC application from CBC News:

Canadian oil production to rise 75% by 2035, NEB says

Demand forecast to increase by 28 per cent over the same period

Canadian oil production will increase by 75 per cent and gas production by 25 per cent by 2035, according to a report by the National Energy Board.

Its energy supply and demand projections report, released Friday, projects Canadian crude oil production of 5.8 million barrels a day by 2035.

And from EurActiv, justification for the abominable:

EU-US trade deal offers hope on reporting convergence

EU trade negotiators are optimistic that they can secure a place for financial services regulation within key trade talks next week (27 November), offering some hope that this will help spur the US towards more convergence in international corporate reporting.

And to Europe, first with flexibility from EUobserver:

Spain and Italy get leeway on budget targets

Just two euro states – Estonia and Germany – were given the budgetary all clear when the bloc’s economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn published the EU executive’s budget recommendations for the seventeen countries last week.

Britain next, with a noxious austerian prescription from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions via The Guardian:

Iain Duncan Smith ‘targeting seriously ill claimants’ in benefits overhaul

Nearly 550,000 people currently considered too sick to work face losing financial support if radical changes go ahead

The fate of nearly 550,000 benefit claimants currently deemed unfit for work due to serious illnesses such as cancer is in the balance as it emerged that Iain Duncan Smith is planning a radical change to the welfare system.

Meanwhile, hang out the “Help Wanted” sign, from The Independent:

NHS hospitals send overseas for nurses before winter crisis

Spanish and Portuguese professionals invited to fill 20,000 vacancies as Health Secretary is tackled on staffing levels

Sky News covers another privatization with far-reaching consequences:

Ministers To Unveil £900m Student Loan Sale

The Government is set to announce the privatisation of the 1990s loan book on Monday, Sky News understands.

Nearly £1bn of student loans will be offloaded by the Government to a private debt collection agency on Monday in a move likely to stoke renewed controversy over coalition sell-offs.

From BBC News, yet more banksters behaving badly:

Vince Cable refers report into RBS treatment of business to watchdogs

Business Secretary Vince Cable has referred a report about how RBS dealt with small business to City regulators.

RBS put some “good and viable” businesses into default so it could make more profit, it is claimed in a report by government adviser Lawrence Tomlinson to be released on Monday.

Strike up a chorus of Scotland the Brave, with Firstpost:

Scotland names independence day for first time: March 24, 2016

Scotland will become independent of the United Kingdom on March 24, 2016 if a majority of Scots vote to end their 306-year-old union next year, the Scottish government said on Sunday, naming its “date with destiny” for the first time.

And the appropriate music [bagpipe alert] from The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Tank Regiment:

To Ireland next with New Europe:

Ireland’s GDP to grow by 0.1% this year

Ireland’s GDP will only grow by 0.1% this year and 1.9% next year, according to the latest forecast of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Paris-based think tank said Ireland’s unemployment will remain high at 13.2% in 2014.

And one of the many dark sides of the Irish miracle from EUobserver:

Debunking the Troika’s ‘success’ in Ireland

Statistics released Thursday by Eurostat show that Ireland tops the European list of countries where the number of people leaving the country is higher than the ones coming in – by 35,000.

Ireland also saw a dramatic shift over a relatively short period of time. It went from the highest net immigration levels in Europe to the highest emigration in just six years, overtaking the Baltic states and Kosovo.

France next, with the not-so-Magic Kingdom with The Independent:

Exclusive: Trouble in the Magic Kingdom? With union marches replacing the parade, the fairytale is over for Disneyland Paris

Travails of the park stand in stark contrast to the ‘service with a smile’ the staff at Disney’s US parks are renowned for

At the end of October, the National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions (Unsa), a French confederation of trade unions, wrote to the chief executive of Disneyland Paris demanding an improvement in working conditions following the attempted suicide of a staff member, The Independent can disclose.

From RFI, saddled up for action:

French Horse-riders gallop through Paris against tax hike

In a country famous for strikes, a protester can come in many forms. On Sunday, it was horses. Thousands of horse-riders from across France marched in the streets of Paris, with horses and ponies in tow, to say “nay” to a proposed tax hike from seven per cent to 20 slated to start on 1 January.

Holland next, and putting the bite on with DutchNews.nl:

Dentist takes patient’s false teeth in lieu of payment

A Dutch dentist who confiscated a patient’s false teeth after he failed to pay his bills is in trouble with the national dentists’ association for his unusual approach.

The dentist called the patient in for his six-monthly check-up, then removed the teeth and demanded payment within a week, local paper De Gelderlander said. The patient made a formal complaint.

From Deutsche Welle, a Swiss miss, by a factor of two to one:

Swiss TV: Voters reject salary cap for nation’s top earners

Voters in Switzerland have rejected a move to limit the salary of companies’ top executives, provisional results suggest. The referendum asked whether it should be capped at 12 times the salary of their lowest earners.

Spain next with the Associated Press, cleaning up:

Trash strike in Spain’s capital ends after 13 days

A trash collectors’ strike that left Madrid’s streets piled high with garbage has ended after 13 days, with workers voting to accept a deal hammered out by trade unions and employers.

Unions called the strike when Madrid’s municipal cleaning companies announced plans to lay off more than 1,000 workers and pay cuts for some 5,000 street cleaners, park workers and garbage collectors.

El País covers a gap:

Spain seeks Eurogroup support for draft 2014 budget

Brussels has warned government of need for further cuts worth 35 billion euros

And El País again, this time takin’ it to the streets:

Citizens take to city streets to object to Brussels’ call for more cutbacks

Thousands of people in more than 50 cities across Spain took to the streets on Saturday to protest against the European Commission’s latest call for further austerity measures. At the same time, campaigning organization Greenpeace took advantage of the fresh demonstrations to draw attention to the Popular Party (PP) government’s plans to tighten measures covering public protests, including issuing steep fines and other sanctions for certain types of conduct by citizens at such rallies.

Here’s a video report from Press TV:

55 Spanish cities engulfed in protests against public service cutback policies

Program notes:

Trade unions and anti-austerity groups angry at the effects of the financial crisis have held protest marches in 55 Spanish cities. They’re calling on the government to re-think its policy of cutbacks in public services, education and health care.

Thousands of Spaniards marched across the country carrying banners opposing health care policies. They also oppose a proposed law which would see citizens fined for unauthorized demonstrations. Many claim that the bill violates the principles of democracy. Spain has been the scene of protests in recent months. Spaniards argue the new laws along with anti-austerity measures have led to job losses, with the younger generation among the hardest hit.

And more to come, via thinkSPAIN:

Nationwide demonstration over education reforms next Saturday and three-day strike in the pipeline

A THREE-DAY strike and mass protests over schools reforms are set to take place this coming week in an attempted social coup to oust education minister José Ignacio Wert.

Italy next, with protest to come from Europe Online:

Berlusconi party plans street rally on day of Senate ejection vote

Forza Italia, the newly-renamed conservative party of Silvio Berlusconi, is preparing a street protest for Wednesday, the day Italy’s former prime minister is expected to be kicked out of parliament over a tax fraud conviction.

And another action, via Europe Online:

Italy’s sixth-largest city paralyzed by “Greek-style” bus strike

Italy’s sixth-largest city, Genoa, was facing Saturday the fifth straight day of a wildcat public transport strike that has paralyzed traffic and evoked comparisons with “Greek-style” labour unrest.

Europe Online, this time with hard times intolerance in Eastern Europe:

Shock in Slovakia: right-wing extremist wins regional vote

In an surprise outcome Saturday, a right-wing extremist was elected president of one of Slovakia’s self-governing regions, election officials said.

Marian Kotleba, known for his agitation against the Roma minority as well as for appearing in uniforms modeled upon fascist styles, defeated the Social Democrat incumbent in the Banka Bystrica region. The vote count was 55.53 per cent to 44.46 per cent.

After the jump, Greek meltdown, soaring Israeli stocks, labor questions in Qatar, Putin’s crackdown, a factory for Mexico, Chinese Reaganomics, gangster/bankster woes in Japan, and environmental crises. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Greco/Fukufails


Whole lot of economic news goin’ on, especially in Greece, and notable environmental stories after the jump, along with the latest episode of Fukushimapocalypse Now!

We begin in the U.S. with three cheers to the activists who purged fellow citizens of $14,734,569.87 in personal, mainly medical, debt. Via The Guardian:

Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15m of Americans’ personal debt

  • Rolling Jubilee spent $400,000 to purchase debt cheaply from banks before ‘abolishing’ it, freeing individuals from their bills

  • Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy’s Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before “abolishing” it, freeing individuals from their bills.

Salon casts a pall:

Scalia’s chance to smash unions: The huge under-the-radar case

A Supreme Court case being argued Wednesday could take away a tactic that’s kept unions alive

The case, Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, involves the constitutionality of “card check neutrality agreements” between unions and companies they’re trying to organize.

And Wonkette takes a well-deserved shot at California’s contemptible plutocratic senator:

Dianne Feinstein Joins Colleagues In Undermining Affordable Care Act, Thanks Obama!

The Guardian poses what shouldn’t be a choice at all:

Detroit’s decision to fend off bankruptcy: pay pensions or banks?

Fears grow that fight to stave off city bankruptcy may hit the poorest hardest

From the Washington Post, a simple conclusion:

The Great Recession may have crushed America’s economic potential

And a parallel headline from GlobalPost:

America is losing its allure

Analysis: A disturbing new trend suggests foreign investors may be falling out of love with the US economy.

But there’s one aspect of the U.S. other countries still cherish, reports the Los Angeles Times:

Foreign students continue to flock to U.S. colleges

A record number of international students were in the U.S. in 2012, a new study reports, with USC attracting the largest number of them.

From the Oakland Tribune, a call for the former Homeland Security boss who now runs the University of California:

Napolitano: Freeze UC tuition, seek low-fee policy

New UC President Janet Napolitano marked her first regents meeting Wednesday with a vow to make the university more affordable and calling for an undergraduate tuition freeze in 2014-15.

Yahoo! Finance makes a point we’re always proclaiming:

United States of Underemployment: Dead-End Jobs Prop Up Employment Growth

And from Women Rock Science, a sordid tale about our brasve new media:

Female Science writer gets called a Whore for saying NO to working for free

This is Biologist Dr Danielle N. Lee also known as the Urban Scientist at Scientific American, she “draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups.” Biology-Online liked her work so much they wanted her to write for them……for free. Danielle Lee politely declined so Biology-Online did what everyone does when women say no – they called her a “Whore”.

But the Contributor notes that some are winning big:

For First Time Since 1995, US Produced More Oil Domestically Than It Imported

For the first month in nearly two decades, the U.S. in October extracted more oil from the ground than it imported from abroad, marking an important milestone for a nation seeking to wean itself off foreign oil.

From Reuters, a prime market:

EU duty-free jet fuel sets new battle for world refiners

U.S. refiners are expected to ship large volumes of jet fuel across the Atlantic starting in 2014 after the European Union scrapped an import duty on the product, opening a new battleground for the world’s largest refineries, traders said.

The Guardian takes us to the dark side:

Over 3,000 US prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent crimes

ACLU report chronicles thousands of lives ruined by life sentences for crimes such as shoplifting or possession of a crack pipe

From the Verge, Obama’s latest sellout:

US patent moves are ‘profoundly bad’ in leaked TPP treaty

In new agreement, Obama sides with locked phones and Big Pharma

But the Contributor raises limited hope:

Not-So-Fast-Track: House Opposition to Secret International Trade Deal ‘Could Be the End of TPP’

From RT, a major investor:

Mormon Church purchases 2% of the state of Florida for half a billion dollars

A sect of the Mormon Church is poised to become the largest private landowner in the state of Florida after spending more than half a billion dollars to purchase hundreds of thousands of acres across three counties.

From the New Republic, a warning about the status of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission:

Congress Is Starving the Agency That’s Supposed to Prevent Another Meltdown

The chief regulator for over $300 trillion worth of derivatives trades has seen its operations squeezed by drastic underfunding, right at the time the Dodd-Frank financial reform law dropped a whole new set of responsibilities in its lap.

North of the border for the latest mayoral misbehavin’ from BBC News:

Toronto’s Rob Ford says he bought drugs in last two years

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has admitted buying illegal drugs in the past two years, at a raucous meeting at which city councillors asked him to take a leave of absence.

More from USA TODAY:

Santa parade officials ask Toronto mayor not to march

The mayor initially agreed to watch from the sidelines, but now wants to lead the march.

Our final Fordian frolic from National Post:

New Ford files: documents reveal staff suspicions over prostitutes, cocaine and OxyContin

Rob Ford court documents reveal staffers thought prostitute was in his office, mayor was driving drunk

Next, a global story from Bloomberg:

Emerging-Market Banks Threatened by End of Credit Boom

The world’s largest emerging markets recovered quickly from the 2008 financial crisis because consumers and companies went on a borrowing binge. Now that credit spree is coming back to haunt banks in those countries.

Another one, from the Mainichi:

World economy being sustained by extraordinary aid

  • Five years after a global financial crisis erupted, the world’s biggest economies still need to be propped up.

  • They’re growing and hiring a little faster and creating more jobs, but only with extraordinary aid from central banks or government spending. And economists say major countries may need help for years more.

Across the Atlantic, first with Europe Online:

Eurozone industrial production down 0.5 per cent in September

Industrial production in the eurozone fell by 0.5 per cent in September, performing worse than expected after spiking in the previous month, data released Wednesday showed.

From Reuters, cause for anxiety:

Analysis: Deflation threat in Europe may prompt investment rethink

The threat of deflation in the euro zone could reverse a major investment trend of 2013, drawing funds out of stocks and into government bonds and cash.

From Bloomberg, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi hosts a come-to-Jesus meeting:

Draghi Goes Face-to-Face With Bank Chiefs on Asset Health

Chief executive officers from banks from five countries — Germany, Belgium, Cyprus, Malta and Luxembourg — met today with Draghi and other board members at ECB headquarters, a spokeswoman for the central bank said by telephone. The list included Europe’s largest investment bank by revenue, Deutsche Bank AG, and lenders such as Malta’s Bank of Valletta Plc.

And BBC News covers an exodus:

Escape to Oz: Young Europeans head to Australia in search of work

Migration from countries such as Ireland is at levels not seen since the 1980s as Australia’s seemingly bulletproof economy, insulated from the global slowdown by a roaring mining industry, offers the chance of a fresh beginning.

While Spiegel covers eurofoes:

Euroskeptic Union: Right-Wing Populists Forge EU Alliance

Right-wing populists are trying to create a powerful faction in the European Parliament. Leading the efforts are Geert Wilders from the Netherlands and Marine le Pen of France — and their initiative has big implications for Europe.

More from DutchNews.nl:

Wilders commissions report into cost of Holland leaving the EU

PVV leader Geert Wilders has commissioned a British bureau to carry out new research into how much it would cost the Netherlands to leave the EU, the NRC reports on Tuesday.

To Britain with Channel NewsAsia Singapore and an uptick:

British official unemployment rate hits four-year low

Britain’s unemployment rate has fallen to a four-year low point, official data showed on Wednesday, putting pressure on the Bank of England to raise its record-low interest rate sooner than expected.

But RT takes another angle:

Cheese thieves: UK middle classes turn to stealing food they can’t afford

Gourmet cheese and beef joints are among the top stolen items in the UK, a new report has shown. Middle class shoppers have turned to stealing out of need for food, due to the weak economy, with the total cost of retail theft hitting £3.4bn last year.

But BBC News offers the declaration of victory:

Bank of England says the UK recovery has taken hold

Bank of England governor Mark Carney says the UK recovery has “taken hold” and unemployment will fall sooner than it had forecast.

Germany next, with a sharper focus from the Associated Press:

EU launches review of Germany’s export strength

  • The European Union is launching a review of Germany’s hard-charging export economy and whether its burgeoning trade surplus hampers the recovery of weaker countries.

  • The question is whether Germany should encourage wage growth and more spending at home to help growth in its European trade partners and the 17-country euro currency union as a whole.

But Europe Online spots shaky ground:

Germany Social Democrats: Coalition talks with Merkel could fail

Negotiations between German conservatives headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD) on forming a coalition government could fail, a senior SPD member warned Wednesday.

While Spiegel proclaims a gerontocracy:

Punishing the Young: German Pension Reforms a Gift for the Elderly

Berlin’s incoming government is expected to institute a wave of pension reform that could exacerbate inequality, burden workers and create huge budget headaches. So why are the parties so intent on pushing it through?

Deutsche Welle invokes the technocrats:

Germany’s economic ‘wise men’ slam Merkel for costly coalition plans

Germany’s ‘wise men’ panel of economic advisers has warned Chancellor Merkel against striking costly deals in current coalition talks with the Social Democrats. They fear Germany’s nascent recovery might be slowed.

From DutchNews.nl, as on Wall Street, so in Amsterdam:

The Dutch rich are getting richer says Quote magazine

The 500 richest Dutch people have together become €7bn richer over the past year, according to the latest edition of the Quote 500 rich list.

And another DutchNews.nl headline sets the context:

Rabobank economists see no growth in 2014

The Dutch economy will not grow in 2014 and unemployment will continue to rise, according to economists from Rabobank in their latest forecast.

To France with RFI and the latest outburst of hard times intolerance:

Far-right paper causes storm with racist insult to French justice minister Taubira

A far-right paper in France has caused uproar with a headline comparing Guyanese-born Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey. The Minute front page is the latest of several racist insults that Taubira has faced since she guided the government’s gay marriage law through parliament.

RFI has more grief for the government:

Schools strike, mayors threaten non-compliance over French school reform

Schools in Paris were disrupted by strikes Wednesday morning on the second day of strikes against change to school hours. Mayors of 55 towns have declared that they will not implement the change when it comes into force across the whole of France in 2014.

And from RFI again, the pressure mounts:

Hollande under pressure to make changes amid mounting social discontent

The sight of protestors jeering at President François Hollande during the solemn Armistice Day Commemorations has stirred talk in France that the activities of various groups with different grievances are coalescing to form a more generalised revolt against the current government.

And the pressure intensifies again. From CNBC:

The euro could disappear in 10 years: BlackRock CEO

The euro could be in danger of disappearing within the next decade if France does not continue pushing economic reforms, BlackRock Capital boss Larry Fink said Tuesday.

Spain next, and a deflation alert from Europe Online:

Spain posts negative inflation for first time since 2009

  • Spain’s consumer price index dropped by 0.1 per cent in October, its first year-on-year fall since 2009, statistics body INE said Wednesday.

  • In September, inflation had registered an increase of 0.3 per cent.

While ANSAmed chronicles another deflationary alert:

Spanish real estate market down for 5th month

From El País, a mixed report card:

Spain fails Brussels’ economic imbalances probe in five areas

  • Germany cited for excess current account surplus.

  • Eurogroup to give thumbs up to Madrid on bank bailout conditions.

thinkSPAIN covers another austerian consequence:

Crisis causes fewer plane passengers and local travellers take the bus rather than the train

AIR passenger numbers are continuing to fall with a decrease of 14.5 per cent in the past year, reports the National Institute of Statistics (INE).

And El País reports a notable failure, a leading electrical appliance maker that is part of the world’s heretofore most successful co-op, Mondragon:

Fagor files for receivership

Other units of loss-making Basque electrical appliance manufacturer to follow suit in next few days

Portugal and a country where 100,o000 have already fled in search of work, via ANSAmed:

Portuguese unemployment falls from 17.7% to 16.4%

A total of 838,600 people out of a job

The Portugal News notices a debt shift:

Mortgage defaults up while personal credit defaults drop

The number of Portuguese families who are not managing to pay their loans fell in September to a total of 658,900, but the number who are finding it tough to pay their mortgages is increasing, according to data compiled by Lusa News Agency from Bank of Portugal data.

Italy next, and a declaration from Corriere della Sera:

Berlusconi to Withdraw from Government if Expelled from Senate

Former PM reflects bitterly: “For twenty years, I’ve been doing all I can to keep moderates united. Someone always turns up to split them”

And Reuters foresees a bite at the Apple:

Italy investigates Apple for alleged tax fraud: sources

U.S. tech giant Apple is under investigation in Italy for allegedly hiding 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) from the local tax authority, two judicial sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Bulgaria next, with GlobalPost:

It’s getting ugly in Sofia: Bulgarian students barricade university

After months of street demonstrations, the young take the vanguard of a popular protest movement.

Another take from EUobserver:

Bulgaria leaders condemn attacks on immigrants

Bulgaria’s president and prime minister on Tuesday jointly condemned the rise in racist attacks against immigrants and asylum seekers from Syria, reporters Reuters.

After the jump, Greek meltdown continues, mixed Latin American signals, Worries in India, China’s neoliberal surge, environmental alerts, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now! . . . Continue reading