Category Archives: Cancer

EnviroWatch: Ills, carbon, climate, fuel, nukes


We begin with an alien invasion of the microbial trans-species kind from SciDev.Net:

Monkey malaria on the rise among humans in Malaysia

Once only monkeys were suffering — now people are getting sick too. Monkey malaria, which is three times more severe than other forms of malaria, now accounts for two-thirds of human malaria cases in Malaysian Borneo, says Balbir Singh, director of the Malaria Research Centre at the University of Malaysia in Sarawak.

Other South-East Asian countries such as Cambodia and Thailand are seeing infections too. Signs that monkey malaria may now be jumping directly between humans could lead to a further spike in cases, adds Singh.

The disease is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium knowlesi, transmitted by mosquitoes which usually feed on monkeys’ blood. The parasite was first described in 1932, and it was known that very occasionally people could get infected — for instance, when spending time in the jungle canopy being exposed to bites from mosquitoes that would normally prefer monkeys.

Cancer, race, and class from Newswise:

Race, Hospital, Insurance Status All Factors in How Lung Cancer Is Treated

African Americans, Hispanics, and those who receive care at a community hospital are all significantly less likely than other patients to receive treatment for early stage non-small cell lung cancer, according to a report in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

“We found significant disparities for treatment of a curable cancer based on race, insurance status, and whether or not treatment was at an academic or community hospital,” said Dr. Matthew Koshy, a physician in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and lead author of the study. “Reducing these disparities could lead to significant improvements in survival for many people with inoperable early stage lung cancer.”

The study is the largest to date looking at treatment received by patients with stage I non-small cell lung cancer, an early stage of lung cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes and is characterized by a small nodules in the lung tissue. Treatment during this early stage offers the best chance for long-term survival.

From the Washington Post, and it should come as no surprise:

U.N. report: Promised cuts in carbon emissions not enough to prevent warming

Pledges by the United States and other countries to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas emissions still aren’t enough to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond levels that scientists believe could be dangerous to the planet’s health, a U.N.-commissioned study says.

The report by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) cited a sizable “emissions gap” between the promises made by world leaders to lower pollution and the maximum amount of carbon the atmosphere can safely absorb.

“Without additional climate policies, global emissions will increase hugely up to at least 2050,” said the study, released Wednesday by the U.N. body that established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific organization that studies the effects of heat-trapping greenhouse gases on the global environment.

More atmospheric aggro from the Mainichi:

Brazil environmentalists: greenhouse gases rise

Emission levels of greenhouse gases in Latin America’s biggest country were almost 8 percent higher in 2013 than one year earlier, a Brazilian network of environmental groups said Wednesday.

The Observatorio do Clima, or Climate Observatory, is comprised of more than 30 non-governmental organizations focused on climate change. It said in a report that greenhouse gas emissions amounted to 1.57 billion metric tons in 2013 compared to 1.45 billion metric tons in 2012.

The increase represents a reversal in the trend that started in 2005 when emissions of greenhouse gases dropped year-by-year as deforestation levels fell, the report said.

The report said that soil use changes in 2013 accounted for 16.48 percent of the emissions due to increased deforestation levels in the Amazon region and in the savanna-like ecosystem known as the Cerrado in central Brazil.

Still more atmospheric woes from the Guardian:

EU court rules UK government must clean up dangerous air pollution

  • UK government must urgently improve air quality in British cities following a landmark case that could see more vehicles restricted from city centres

The government will be forced to urgently clean up illegal air pollution in British cities following a ruling on Wednesday in the European court of justice. It is likely to see many diesel cars and heavy goods vehicles restricted from city centres within a few years.

The landmark case, brought by a small environmental group through the UK courts, will allow people to sue the government for breaching EU pollution laws and will force ministers to prepare plans for many cities to improve air quality.

Europe’s highest court firmly rejected Britain’s long-standing approach to complying with EU air pollution laws which has been to appeal to Europe for time extensions.

The government has admitted that under its current plans, London, Leeds and Birmingham will not meet legal limits for the toxic nitrogen dioxide gas (NO2) until after 2030. This is 20 years after the original deadline set by Europe. Other cities, including Manchester and Glasgow , have target dates of 2025.

From the Los Angeles Times, the pollution pecking order:

Province near Beijing aims to move polluting factories overseas

In an effort to reduce pollution, authorities in Hebei province on Tuesday announced a plan to move steel, cement and glass factories outside of China, the official New China News Agency said. Through preferential policies and financial incentives, local companies will be encouraged to relocate to Africa, Central Asia and South America by 2023.

Industrial pollution is the largest source of the tiny, choking particles that regularly cloud Beijing’s skies, according to research last year by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Hebei, which surrounds the capital, is one of the country’s main industrial production centers. But with China’s economy slowing, factories have a surplus of capacity.

Authorities now want to put some of these factories offshore, with the government seeking to move 5 million tons of both steel and cement production out of the country by 2017, and even more ambitious targets of 20 million tons of steel and 30 million tons of cement moved out by 2023.

From TheLocal.dk, closer to home:

Denmark pressures EU on everyday chemicals

Saying that “the phasing-out of harmful chemicals is progressing far too slow in the EU,” Denmark’s environment minister has recruited colleagues for a coordinated campaign targeting the EU Commission.

Denmark’s environment minister, Kirsten Brosbøl, has joined with seven other European ministers to pressure the new EU Commission to increase its efforts to protect consumers from dangerous chemicals.

Brosbøl and the environment ministers of Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden are calling on the new members of the EU Commission to eliminate chemicals from everyday products.

“Denmark holds an unfortunate record with regard to testicular cancer, and many couples are having difficulties getting pregnant, while children are reaching puberty at an ever earlier age. We know that this may be due to a number of harmful chemicals in our everyday lives,” Brosbøl said in a press release.

On to petro politics and perils with the Guardian:

Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise detained in Spain

  • Greenpeace ship taken into Spanish custody after oil protest in waters off of the Canary Islands, six months after being released by the Russian government

The Greenpeace protest ship Arctic Sunrise has been taken into custody by the Spanish government in waters off the Canary Islands, just months after it was released by the Russian government.

Spain’s Ministry of public works and transportation detained the vessel on Tuesday night pending an investigation against the captain for an “infringement against marine traffic rules”. The maximum fine for the offence is €300,000 (£240,000).

On Saturday, Greenpeace protesters from the ship approached the Repsol oil ship Rowan Renaissance – ignoring warnings from the Spanish navy to leave an exclusion zone. Activists were injured after their rhibs – an inflatable boat with a rigid hull – were repeatedly rammed by the Spanish navy. Footage of the clashes showed the moment when one activist had her leg broken and was thrown into the water.

EcoWatch fracks the commons:

Fracking Approved in Largest National Forest in Eastern U.S.

Despite strong opposition from both elected officials in the affected areas and environmental groups, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has approved fracking in George Washington Forest. Objections to the plan came from members of Congress from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Washington D.C. city council, which passed a resolution opposing it in March. McAuliffe reiterated his opposition before a meeting of the state’s Climate Change and Resilience Commission in September.

The forest, located in Virginia and West Virginia, is the largest national forest on the east coast. It contains the headwaters of the Potomac River, which feed into the Chesapeake Bay and provide drinking water for millions of people in the Washington, DC/Chesapeake region.

The USFS had initially proposed  to ban fracking in the 1.1 million acre forest, the first outright ban of the practice in a national forest. But when the plan was released in 2011, energy companies complained and exerted pressure on the USFS. About 10,000 acres of the forest are already been leased to oil and gas companies, with private mineral rights existing under another 167,000 acres. The newly released plan will only allow fracking on that land, which is located in sparsely populated rural Highland County, Virginia. The plan also puts off limits another 800,000 acres that were available for drilling.

And from RT America, Sioux pipeline ire:

Keystone XL an “act of war” declares South Dakota tribe

Program notes:

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota says that congressional approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline will be considered an act of war. If given the green light by congress, the controversial project will traverse land under the control of the Native American tribe, which is now threatening to exercise its rights as a “sovereign nation.” RT’s Ben Swann speaks to tribal president Cyril Scott to learn more.

Next, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with nuclear politics from the Japan Times:

Abe’s election decision met with anger in disaster-hit communities

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap election was met with anger in communities affected by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster.

Many people in the affected areas are concerned about a further delay in post-disaster reconstruction as procedures will grind to a halt until a new government is installed.

“Why does the Lower House need to be dissolved now?” Shigetoshi Shimomura, a local community leader in the Kerobe district of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, asked indignantly. “Although Abe has said that there will be no revival for Japan without reconstruction of disaster-hit areas, he doesn’t seem to attach much importance to the issue,” the 65-year-old said.

JapanToday administers a seismic reminder:

M5.3 quake hits off Fukushima, jolts Kanto; no tsunami alert issued

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 struck in the sea off Fukushima Prefecture at 10:51 a.m. Thursday, but no tsunami alert was issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The agency said the epicenter was 40 kilometers deep.

The quake registered a 4 in Fukushima Prefecture, 3 in Miyagi, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures, and a 2 in Tokyo and other parts of the Kanto region. Buildings shook briefly in Tokyo.

There was no immediate reports of injuries or damage to buildings.

Finding fault with the Mainichi:

Experts retain Tsuruga reactor fault judgment in draft report

A panel of experts under Japan’s nuclear regulator on Wednesday reaffirmed an earlier judgment that a reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear station is sitting right above an active fault, a move that could force the operator to permanently shut down the unit.

After the Nuclear Regulation Authority acknowledged last year that the fault in question is active, Japan Atomic Power Co. has submitted additional data in trying to have it overturned.

The experts, however, concluded that the new data offered no evidence to sway the judgment as it compiled a new draft report on the fault’s assessment.

From RT America, questions raised:

US fails to properly monitor Fukushima fallout

Program notes:

Scientists are warning that more stringent monitoring of radiation levels in the ocean is needed to ensure pollution from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster doesn’t worsen. Radioactive particles from Japan have managed to reach the west coast of the US, but there is no federal agency tasked with monitoring the levels of pollution, as RT’s Lindsay France explains.

Paving the way for politically fraught preliminary cleanup operation, via Jiji Press:

Japan Enacts Bill on Radioactive Soil Interim Storage

Japan enacted a bill Wednesday that is necessary to establish interim facilities to store soil polluted with fallout from the March 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The storage facilities for the radioactive soil collected through decontamination of polluted areas in the northeastern Japan prefecture of Fukushima are set to be built around the natural disaster-stricken nuclear plant in the same prefecture.

The legislation, given the final go-ahead by the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, requires the state government to dispose of the stored soil outside the prefecture and finish the final disposal work within 30 years, one of the five conditions that the Fukushima prefectural government has set for allowing the interim storage.

Disaster preparations from NHK WORLD:

Diet approves nuclear compensation treaty

Japan’s Diet has approved a bill to join an international treaty on sharing the costs of compensation in a nuclear disaster.

The bill on the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage cleared the Upper House on Wednesday.

The treaty obliges the signatories to set aside the equivalent of 47 billion yen, about 400 million dollars, to compensate victims in a nuclear accident.

If the cost of compensation in Japan exceeds its reserve, other signatories would provide around 60 million dollars more. Conversely, Japan would have to contribute about 34 million dollars to help compensate for a nuclear accident in another country.

And to close, British nuclear woes of another sort from the Guardian:

Hinkley Point C nuclear plant’s future in doubt as crisis hits shareholder

  • Questions over new Somerset power station after Areva’s nuclear projects in Finland and France run into difficulties

The future of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset is under a cloud amid a financial crisis at Areva, a shareholder in the project and the designer of the proposed reactors.

Shares in the French engineering business plunged by almost a quarter after Areva warned it must suspend future profit predictions because of problems centred on a similar power station project in Finland.

Both that scheme at Olkiluoto and another at Flamanville in France are massively over-budget and over-schedule, forcing Areva to consider whether it needs an injection of new cash to survive.

EnviroWatch: Ills, toxics, fuels, climate, nukes


From the Express Tribune in Karachi, an ongoing plague, easily prevented:

As more polio cases surface, Centre unhappy with Sindh’s performance

As the 25th case of polio is reported in Sindh, the federal government has expressed dissatisfaction with the provincial government’s efforts to eradicate the virus from the province.

In a follow-up meeting with provincial authorities on Wednesday after meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad, State Minister for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar, expressed her concerns over the rise of polio cases in Sindh.

The meeting which was attended by top officials of the province, except for the health minister and his secretary, briefed about the routine and special campaigns in the province. Sources at the meeting claim that the minister was displeased with how the routine polio drives were being conducted by the provincial health department. According to the minister, in certain districts there was only six per cent coverage, while in a few others it went as high as 29 per cent. She claimed that the polio virus could be eradicated completely if the provincial government would perform its duties properly. She added it will be impossible to overcome this situation without the exact data which will have to be provided by the provincial government.

The San Jose Mercury News covers residual poisons:

Fire retardant chemicals found in small group of Californians

The study, while small, offers the first glimpse of how these chemicals, which have been shown to cause cancer, neurological diseases and developmental disorders, have been absorbed into people’s bodies simply by sitting on a couch or breathing in dust, and offers a strategy for state and local bio-monitoring programs to test larger populations, experts say. The better people’s exposure to these harmful chemicals can be tracked, advocates say, the better experts can understand how they make people sick, offering more ammunition for legislative change to regulate toxic chemicals.

The findings also underscore the possible consequences of a California law passed in 1975 that set fire safety standards that effectively required furniture manufacturers to inject flame-retardant chemicals into all upholstered furniture sold in the state for the last 40 years. The bill was revised Jan. 1 to remove the flame retardant requirement, but some experts caution that Californians will be dealing with the public health fallout for several years.

The study, by Silent Spring Institute, an environmental nonprofit in Massachusetts, and university researchers in Belgium, found traces of a chemical that has been named a carcinogen on the state’s Proposition 65 list in 15 out of 16 people from Richmond and Bolinas, who had their urine and homes tested for chemicals in 2011.

From the Guardian, mutilation:

India mass sterilisation: women were ‘forced’ into camps, say relatives

  • Brother-in-law of one victim says women were ‘herded like cattle’ after 12 die and scores injured following botched operations

Relatives of the 12 women who died after a state-run mass sterilisation campaign in India went horribly wrong have told local media they were forced by health workers to attend the camp.

More than 80 women underwent surgery for laparoscopic tubectomies at a free government-run camp in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Saturday. About 60 fell ill shortly afterwards, officials said. At least 14 were in a very serious condition by Wednesday and the death toll was expected to rise.

“The [health workers] said nothing would happen, it was a minor operation. They herded them like cattle,” Mahesh Suryavanshi, the brother-in-law of one casualty, told the Indian Express newspaper.

Such camps are held regularly across India as part of a long-running effort to control population growth.

And as we expected, via the Guardian, killing tomorrow’s kids for today’s profits:

Republicans vow to use expanded powers to thwart US-China climate deal

  • Obama’s opponents looking for ways to undermine bold climate change strategy that could bring about drastic reduction in carbon emissions

Republicans promised on Wednesday to use their expanded power in Congress to undermine Barack Obama’s historic deal over carbon emissions with China on Wednesday, claiming Beijing could not be trusted to see through its side of an agreement that would ultimately damage the US economy.

The hard-hitting response from top Republicans to the historic deal between the US and China – the world’s two largest emitters – foreshadowed an expected collision with the White House over climate climate change that looks set to define Obama’s last two years in office and could shape the 2016 presidential elections.

That fight will encompass top-line carbon emissions targets set by White House, rules implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will reduce pollution from power stations and a looming and totemic decision over the Keystone XL pipeline.

We’ll let Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles have the last word:

BLOG Hot air

The Los Angeles Times covers a success story:

Water conservation efforts pay off: U.S. usage lowest in decades

Americans recently passed a milestone when federal officials reported that water use across the nation had reached its lowest level in more than 45 years: good news for the environment, great news in times of drought and a major victory for conservation.

What was surprising in the U.S. Geological Survey report released last week was how little of the 13% decline in national water usage was due to the public cutting back.

In drought-stricken areas, such as California and other states across the West, consumers are used to frequent warnings about the need to save water. Dry public fountains, limits on lawn watering and official requests for shorter showers have all been aimed at reducing water use at a time when reservoirs are shrinking and streams are running dry.

But it turns out that the public reduced water use by only about 5% from 2005 to 2010, the most recent period measured by the USGS.

And the accompanying chart on water use by sector:

BLOG Water

A less salubrious water story from Grist:

California drought leads to a black market for water

The drought in California is bad — so very bad, in fact, that it’s created an illegal gold rush: Poachers are siphoning off fresh water with plans to sell it to the highest bidder.

If that sounds apocalyptic, it kind of is. While the State Water Resources Control Board has 22 employees tasked with investigating such crimes — “illegal diversions,” they’re called — there’s yet to be a concerted statewide effort to track (let alone control and punish) water theft. In some rural areas, wells are running completely dry; local law enforcement thinks the desperation drives theft, and they’re scrambling to keep up. Reports the National Journal:

Officials complain that the penalty for getting caught may not be sufficiently strict: Mendocino County counts water theft as a misdemeanor. County Supervisor Carre Brown considers that a slap on the wrist. “To me this is like looting during a disaster. It should be a felony,” Brown said. …

Another water story, at the source, via NHK WORLD:

Global warming blamed for more rain in Japan

Japanese weather researchers say Japan has experienced heavier hourly rainfalls due to global warming.

The Meteorological Research Institute analyzed the heaviest hourly rainfall recorded in more than 980 locations across Japan between 1978 and 2013.

Researchers learned that the maximum hourly rainfall intensified by about 13 percent in the past 35 years.

Annual rain tends to intensify when temperatures, including water temperatures, are high.

From the Guardian, monetizing nature:

Peru’s forests store more CO2 than US emits in a year, research shows

  • Carbon mapping by the Carnegie Institute for Science reveals nearly seven billion tonnes of carbon stored in Peru’s rainforests, in a technique that could help preserve such stores to reduce carbon emissions

Peru, the host for December’s UN climate change summit, stores nearly seven billion metric tons of carbon stocks, mostly in its Amazon rainforest. That’s more than US annual carbon emissions for 2013 which were calculated at 5.38 billion tons, the new research by the Carnegie Institute for Science (CIS) shows.

Home to the second-largest area of Amazon rainforest after Brazil, Peru is to date the most accurately carbon-mapped country in history thanks to high-resolution mapping which provides a hectare-by-hectare look at its carbon reserves, it was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The research by CIS’s Greg Asner means Peru now knows precisely how much carbon it is storing in its rainforest and where that carbon is being kept out of the atmosphere, allowing the country to negotiate a fair price for its reserves on the global carbon market.

After the jump, fracking disillusion in Old Blighty, Tar Sands pipeline litigation, a renewable breakdown Down Under, a European biking bonanza, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with official regrets, a gubernatorial nuclear dump demurrer, and objections to the restart of another nuclear power plant, plus that Colorado carbon tax on pot. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, Dengue, fracking, sharks


Plus some rare good water news.

First, from StarAfrica:

SADC health ministers hold emergency Ebola meeting in Zimbabwe

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

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

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

BBC News warns:

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

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

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

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

From StarAfrica again, sad and dangerous:

Another Ebola trial drug arrives in Liberia

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

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

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

From TheLocal.at, another non-Ebola case:

15-year-old boy has malaria not Ebola

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

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

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

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

Kasese on Ebola alert

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

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

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

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

StarAfrica announces another ban:

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

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

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

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

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

Gen Oketta for AU anti-Ebola operation

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

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

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

And the Associated Press appreciates:

Zeal, devotion guides volunteers to Ebola crisis

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

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

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

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

Relatives of Ebola victims wait for news at Liberia hospital

Program note:

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

From the Japan Times, an Asian outbreak expands:

Dengue spreads beyond two Tokyo parks; tally at 74

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

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

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

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

Acidity on decline in Sierra Nevada lakes

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

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

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

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

Back to watery woes with Al Jazeera America:

In shadow of oil boom, North Dakota farmers fight contamination

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al Jazeera America again, with more fuelishness:

As Keystone awaits fate, other tar sands projects move forward

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

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

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

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

The Times of India gives us our lone nuclear story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EnviroWatch: Ebola, 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.