Category Archives: Class

EnviroWatch: Ebola, Dengue, water, nukes

From the Associated Press, or first Ebola item:

Obama warns Ebola outbreak could worsen

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

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

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

BBC News offers hope:

Vaccine gives monkeys Ebola immunity

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

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

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

But the Associated Press cautions:

Monkey study: Ebola vaccine works, needs booster

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

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

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

Is five weeks fast enough?

The Independent backgrounds:

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

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

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

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

And from StarAfrica, a story that raises many questions:

Zimbabwe to introduce HIV self-testing

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

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

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

Uganda’s Daily Monitor limits:

Guinea football team restricted to 25 people

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

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

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

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

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

Seadogs ask C’ River to set up isolation centres

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

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

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

StarAfrica covers a negative:

Zambia: Quarantined man tests negative to Ebola

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

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

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

From Punch Nigeria, another challenge:

Enemuo acted like a traditional healer —Medical council

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

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

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

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

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

1,145 dengue fever cases in S China

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

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

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

Jiji Press imposes a closure:

Shinjuku Gyoen Closed amid Dengue Outbreak

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

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

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

From the Guardian, another outbreak closer to home:

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

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

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

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

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

From the Associated Press, a water woe:

Water shortages lead to ‘tanker mafia’ in India

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

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

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

RT covers an agricultural woe:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NHK WORLD drops in:

New industry minister visits Fukushima Daiichi

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

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

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

From BBC News, another fuel, another problem:

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

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

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

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

And to close, this from News Corp Australia:

Stephen Hawking says Higgs boson has potential to destroy entire universe

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

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

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

More proof San Francisco has jumped the shark

First up, a video from KRON 4 in San Diego:

Electric Unicycles All the Rage

Program note:

Sometimes you don’t need “wheels” to get around.

KRON 4 Tech Reporter Gabe Slate finds one of the hottest new transportation trends in San Francisco involves just one wheel and a motor.

We yield the commenting to Kevin McDonald of Valleywag:

With every tech boom, we get an awkward and doomed walking replacement. First there was Segway, heralded by Steve Jobs as being “as big a deal as the PC” and now strictly used by gross tourists and mall cops. Now, San Francisco’s “tech hipsters” are tooling around town on “self-balancing unicycles.”

KRON 4 interviewed Focus Designs, which calls their electric unicycle “the SBU,” but they are not the only manufacturers of these devices.

“You get a lot of looks, and you will be the center of attention,” brags the SBUs’ pitchman, somehow missing that riders will be getting stares for all the wrong reasons.

As you might imagine, these things, which are basically the social equivalent of Google Glass for your feet, are a hit with the code jockeys behind Silicon Valley’s hottest companies. The motorized unicycle’s marketing team targets people “that are just out of college” and notes that that Twitter, Google, and Facebook employees are “really in love with the product because they are early adopters.”

Chart of the day: Who really rules America?

From a paper [PDF] by political scientists Martin Gilen of Princeton and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern, charts revealing whose policies are most likely to be adopted in today’s oligarchic American pseudodemocracy:

Microsoft Word - Gilens and Page 2014-Testing Theories

Keiser Report: Global economic crash redux

Max and Stacey are back, this time with an episode focusing on the shaky world economy and the host of signs that we’re headed for yet another very bumpy ride, with African Americans certain to bear the brunt of it.

From RT:

Keiser Report: Mortgage Crisis 2.0

Program notes:

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss the impending second wave of the lastest mortgage crisis, this time due to Helocs (Home equity lines of credit) and HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) interest rate resets. In the second half, Max interviews Aaron Krowne on the true state of the housing market across America – from home ownership rates to mortgage arrears.

Quote of the day: The rich got richer

From a Reuters report on data on that that 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances cited in today’s Chart of the day:

The Fed survey released suggests that wealth and income is concentrated not just within the top 1 percent, as some analyses have suggested, but actually among a slightly broader slice of the ultra-rich: the top 3 percent.

From 2010 to 2013, average income for U.S. families rose about 4 percent after accounting for inflation, the survey showed. All of the income growth was concentrated among the top earners, the survey showed, with the top 3 percent accounting for 30.5 percent of all income.

The disparity was even greater by wealth, with the top 3-percent holding 54.4 percent of all net worth in 2013, up from 51.8 percent in 2007 and 44.8 percent in 1989.

Fox News: In a nutshell or in a nut’s hell?

From an image found at Worldwide Hippies:


Chart of the day: Union approval rates falling

A sad commentary, via Gallup:

BLOG Labor