Category Archives: Culture

EnviroWatch: Climate, fires, water, nukes


We begin with climate coverage, starting with a headline from the Christian Science Monitor:

Why the UN Climate Summit will have a hard time doing anything

President Obama will address the UN Climate Summit, and more than 120 world leaders are expected to attend. But big emitters China and India will not be represented by their top leaders.

In New York on Sunday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators demanded global action on climate change.

And on Monday, a new report found that global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped to new heights in 2013, with India alone increasing greenhouse emissions by 5 percent. Even the United States, which like many developed countries had seen its emissions fall in recent years, recorded an increase last year, according to the report from the Global Carbon Project.

Yet despite the mounting public pressure for action and new evidence of a continuing rise in heat-trapping gases, a United Nations summit Tuesday on climate change is given little chance of delivering much beyond dire rhetoric on the consequences of inaction.

From The Real News Network, a report on Sunday’s demonstrations:

Leading Activists Demand Climate Action at People’s Climate March

From the transcript:

MARY ROBINSON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF IRELAND, UN SPECIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: I think we have learned a lot since Copenhagen. First of all, this summit is taking place 15 months before the decision in Paris. Secondly, we know that there’s a lot happening all over the world on the climate issue. And there’s a New Climate Economy report that says that for every government now, it makes business sense for the government to reduce emissions, be more efficient, and move towards a carbon-neutral world. And that’s more jobs, better health, more equality, better for people. And that’s a big message.

So, at the same time, we need People’s Marches. We need everybody to demand of their leaders the kind of decision-making that is business as usual with a bit of greener touch. That’s not enough. We need to change course. We are on course for a four degree world, which would be catastrophic. We need to be on course to below two degrees. And that needs all the pressure that is here all over the world today, and we need to keep it up.

ANNIE LEONARD, GREENPEACE USA: Well, today’s march is not about a vague statement. It’s about a very clear demand, which is that we want climate solutions. And the reason that we don’t have one particular slogan we’re all agreeing to is that everyone’s coming to this march from very diverse places. But to me that represents a source of strength and diversity and inclusion that this March has that we haven’t seen before in the climate movement. So I’m excited that this is a real turning point and we’re going to start seeing some action following soon.

MARK RUFFALO, FILMMAKER: Implementing renewable energy is the greatest thing that people can do to give themselves power. Whoever controls your energy controls your destiny. And today we have renewable energy systems that are adoptable by any one person that over time will pay for themselves and will make their energy cheaper. It’s free. And that’s ready to go today. And so either our leaders are going to get it and then adopt it or people are going to adopted on their own.

DAME JANE MORRIS GOODALL, PRIMATOLOGIST, ETHOLOGIST, ANTHROPOLOGIST: It’s going to take more people to join the coalitions that are already being made by some of the big corporations, like Unilever, particularly pledging not to use oil palm from unsustainable use, because it’s the oil palm industry that’s destroying forests all over Asia. And it’s up to us the people to show our will. And that’s why a march like this is important.

WINNIE BYANYIMA, EXEC. DIR., OXFAM INTERNATIONAL: Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue. It’s a justice issue. We’re seeing the impact hitting the poorest people hardest, trapping people in poverty. It’s a food issue. It’s hitting the food system and denying people of food. It’s an issue of public health. It’s an issue of the survival of people.

The Guardian covers confrontation on Wall Street today:

Police face off with Flood Wall Street protesters in climate change march

  • At least one person is arrested as New York demonstration builds in city’s financial district, site of adversarial Occupy protests

Hundreds of people gathered in New York City’s financial district on Monday, many with the intent of getting arrested as an act of civil disobedience to bring attention to the perils of climate change.

Flood Wall Street demonstrators, primarily dressed in blue to represent climate change-induced flooding, marched to New York City’s financial center to “highlight the role of Wall Street in fueling the climate crisis,” according to organizers.

At least one person had been arrested on Monday afternoon, though the New York police department said it did not yet have official reports on the arrest numbers.

A video of the action from Mashable:

Cops, Activists Clash at #FloodWallStreet

Program notes:

One day after a huge climate march in New York City, activists gathered on Wall Street Monday to protest what they say is corporate and economic institutions’ role in the climate crisis. The protesters, many dressed in blue, scheduled a rally in Battery Park before marching to the financial district in Lower Manhattan, according to organizers of the protest, #FloodWallStreet.

From the Guardian, a California fire update:

Rain helps firefighters from across US contain California King fire

  • Wildfire about 60 miles east of Sacramento forced thousands to evacuate, destroyed 128 acres and worsened air quality for miles

Crews battling a huge northern California wildfire threatening thousands of homes braced for hotter temperatures and erratic winds Monday after cooler, wet weather helped them make progress over the weekend.

The fire east of Sacramento had burned through 137 square miles as of Monday morning, an increase of about nine square miles from the day before. The expected weather shift could increase fire activity, fire spokesman Ryan Lubben said.

More than 5,000 firefighters – from as far as Florida and Alaska – managed to increase containment of the fire from 10 to 17% Sunday, said Captain Tom Piranio, a state fire spokesman. It was 18% contained Monday morning.

The Yomiuri Shimbun notes a number:

California logs 26% rise in wildfires

As of Sept. 6, there had been about 26 percent more wildfires in the state compared to the average for the same periods over the last five years, according to the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Statewide, there have been 6,660 wildfires this year as of Sept. 15, burning an area equal to about 80 percent of Tokyo, already more than the average for the last five years.

The state fire department said the wildfire season in the western United States has become about 70 days longer over the last 40 years.

“Usually it [the peak fire season in California] would be in June to the end of November. But unfortunately this year we started having fires in January,” said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the department.

While USA Today offers cause for chills:

New lab incidents fuel fear, safety concerns in Congress

Scientists wearing space-suitlike protective gear searched for hours in May for a mouse — infected with a virus similar to Ebola — that had escaped inside Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, one of the federal government’s highest-security research facilities, according to newly obtained incident reports that provide a window into the secretive world of bioterror lab accidents.

During the same month at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, a lab worker suffered a cut while trying to round up escaped ferrets that had been infected with a deadly strain of avian influenza, records show. Four days later at Colorado State University’s bioterrorism lab, a worker failed to ensure dangerous bacteria had been killed before shipping specimens — some of them still able to grow — to another lab where a worker unwittingly handled them without key protective gear.

Nobody was sickened in the incidents and the mouse was caught the next day. Yet in the wake of serious lab mishaps with anthrax and bird flu at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that prompted an uproar and a Congressional hearing this summer, these additional incidents are further fueling bipartisan concern about lab safety.

CBC News covers medicated water:

Drinking water contaminated by excreted drugs a growing concern

  • Researchers finding excreted drugs in drinking water

A Canadian study quietly released last month reported record-breaking levels of three pharmaceuticals in river water in southwestern Ontario.

Although the chemicals — the diabetic drug metformin, the acid reflux drug ranitidine, and the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide — are measured in nanograms per litre, and are extremely low, the levels detected have never been found before in North America.

When Health Canada sampled tap water across Canada, researchers found what they expected to find, traces of drugs in drinking water that comes from rivers and lakes, although that report has not yet been published.

And the Japan Times takes us to today’s Fukushimapocalypse Now!:

Fukushima cleanup going painfully slow

  • Opposition to waste storage complicates project

Three and a half years after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station spewed massive amounts of radioactive materials into the air and water, decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture has yet to draw to an end.

The government initially hoped to complete the decontamination by the end of last March, but the process continues to lag far behind, prompting the government to push back the goal by three years to 2017.

Due to the slow progress, huge bags filled with contaminated soil can still be seen piled up at hundreds of temporary storage sites across the prefecture, and many residents are in limbo, unable to make up their minds about whether to return home in the near future or to relocate for good.

Jiji Press prepares to fire up the nuclear boilers:

Japan Sets Forth N-Reactor Restart Plan at IAEA Meeting

Japan set forth its plan for the restart of two reactors at the Sendai power station in the country’s southwest at a five-day annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency that began on Monday.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has confirmed that enough safety measures have been taken for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the power station of Kyushu Electric Power Co., Science and Technology Policy Minister Shunichi Yamaguchi said.

In a speech, Yamaguchi also noted that the Japanese government in April adopted a basic energy policy in which nuclear energy is regarded as an important power source.

JapanToday covers the propaganda front:

Industry minister tries to convince public on need for nuclear energy

Japan’s new industry minister Yuko Obuchi said Sunday the resource-poor nation should be realistic about its energy needs as the government tries to convince a skeptical public on the necessity of nuclear power.

More than three years after the disaster at Fukushima, where a tsunami sent reactors into meltdown, the Japanese public remains unconvinced of the safety of the technology.

The difficult task of winning them round has fallen to Obuchi, appointed the country’s first female minister of economy, trade and industry by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

NHK WORLD offers belated posterior-protecting:

Japan to step up Fukushima contractors oversight

Japan’s labor minister says he’s ready to strengthen government monitoring of companies that are dispatching workers to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Yasuhisa Shiozaki visited a labor standards inspection office in Iwaki City on Monday. The office oversees areas surrounding the Fukushima plant.

His visit follows nearly 130 complaints from April to August alone of unpaid wages and inadequate safety measures for workers employed to decommission the Fukushima plant.

For our final item, a new nuke in Old Blighty from the Guardian:

Hinkley nuclear reactor project gains EU approval, leak reveals

  • Green groups condemn commissioner Almunia’s U-turn as he deems Hinkley Point C subsidies to be within state aid rules

British plans for a nuclear renaissance centred on a nuclear reactor in Somerset achieved a breakthrough when a nine-month European Union state aid investigation ended with a call for Brussels to approve the project.

The EU’s competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, had expressed scepticism that the Hinkley Point C scheme could satisfy the EU’s stringent state aid criteria after the UK government agreed to underwrite the project with a loan guarantee and a commitment on the price of the electricity generated by the power station.

But the commissioner appears to have been persuaded that the proposed £17.6bn of subsidies are legal under bloc rules, despite the lack of a competitive tendering process. Hinkley Point will be operated by EDF, the French state-owned company, while two Chinese state-owned nuclear companies have agreed to help fund the plant.

EbolaWatch: Travel bans, healers felled, more


We begin with the World Health Organization’s new recommendations on controversial travel bans:

WHO statement on the second meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the 2014 Ebola outbreak in west Africa

The second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the IHR 2005 regarding the 2014 Ebola virus disease (EVD, or “Ebola”) outbreak in west Africa was conducted with members and advisors of the Emergency Committee through electronic correspondence from 16 September 2014 through 21 September 20141.

The following IHR States Parties provided an update on and assessment of the Ebola outbreak, including progress towards implementation of the Emergency Committee’s Temporary Recommendations2: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal.

The Committee, whilst recognising and appreciating the efforts made by affected states, identified a number of areas where more action and attention is urgently needed. In particular, the Committee noted:

  • Flight cancellations and other travel restrictions continue to isolate affected countries resulting in detrimental economic consequences, and hinder relief and response efforts risking further international spread; the Committee strongly reiterated that there should be no general ban on international travel or trade, except for the restrictions outlined in the previous recommendations regarding the travel of EVD cases and contacts.
  • The Committee also advised that affected countries should fully engage with the transport sector, especially the aviation and maritime sectors, to facilitate a mutual understanding of potentially diverse viewpoints and develop a coordinated response.
  • Where extraordinary supplemental measures such as quarantine are considered necessary in States with intense and widespread transmission, States should ensure that they are proportionate and evidence-based, and that accurate information, essential services and commodities, including food and water, are provided to the affected populations.
  • Many responders have lost their lives due to the nature of the response work; the Committee stressed that affected countries should ensure health care workers receive:
    ● adequate security measures for their safety and protection;
    ● appropriate education and training on infection prevention and control;
    ● support to families of deceased health care workers;
    ● and access to adequate health care services, in particular for international health care workers.
  • Challenges in implementation of standard Ebola control measures (case finding and contact tracing, case management, safe burials, social mobilization) in affected countries warrant measures to augment their implementation, including through deepened community engagement, in areas of intense transmission.
  • All States should reinforce preparedness, validate preparation plans and check their state of preparedness through simulations and adequate training of personnel.

More from the Liberian Observer:

EU Assures Long Term Commitment to Ebola Affected Countries

With the waving Ebola crisis in the country causing almost every economic activity to stall and money diverted to the fight, the European Union (EU) has assured that its long-term commitment to Liberia’s and other Ebola affected countries’ development goals remain on course.

European Union Deputy Director General for Development Cooperation, Marcus Cornaro at a recently held press briefing disclosed that apart from the interventions in the Ebola crisis, EU is still engaged with previous projects it once undertook.

Among major projects the EU sponsors in Liberia are energy, forest sector, health and sanitation and education.

Next, from the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, an alert from the other coast of Africa:

EAC issues alert on Ebola in region

The East African Community has issued another red alert over Ebola in West Africa as the death toll from the viral disease reached more than 2,600.

A high level ministerial meeting in Nairobi mid this week resolved that the region must maintain “a high level emergency preparedness and response” to ensure it was spared from the killer disease.

“Countries should ensure their Ebola emergency and preparedness response plans meet the minimal WHO (World Health Organisation) standards”, the Secretariat said in a communique at the weekend.

Partner states were further urged to enhance cross border collaboration and information-sharing while the international community was requested to provide technical and logistical support to the affected countries.

DR Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan were called upon to join the East African Integrated Disease Surveillance Network in order to jointly monitor and detect the spread of Ebola which continues to claim lives in West Africa.

Good news on Africa’s other Ebola outbreak, via The Hill:

WHO: Ebola outbreak ‘pretty much contained’ in Nigeria, Senegal

The spread of Ebola has been “pretty much contained” in two West African countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.

There have been no new Ebola cases reported in Senegal and Nigeria for several weeks, according to a report from the WHO’s regional office for Africa.

A total of 5,833 cases have been recorded in six West African countries — the majority reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. About 140 new cases have been reported in those countries, according to the WHO.

From BBC News, a report on the conclusion of the first national lockdown:

Ebola outbreak: Sierra Leone lockdown declared ‘success’

A three-day curfew aimed at containing the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has been declared a success by authorities.

The wide-ranging curfew ended at midnight on Sunday (GMT) and will not be extended, authorities said.

Sierra Leone is one of the countries worst affected by the outbreak, with nearly 600 of the almost 2,800 total deaths recorded so far. Some health groups have criticised the lockdown, saying it would destroy trust between patients and doctors.

RT covers numbers:

Ebola fight: 200 dead found in weekend Sierra Leone lockdown, US troops head to Liberia

A second detachment of US forces set to battle the deadly Ebola virus have arrived in Liberia. They land as a weekend lockdown in Sierra Leone to confine the outbreak resulted in finding at least 200 people infected or dead.

The second deployment of 3,000 troops is set to train local employees and establish institutions to help Liberia and other African nations deal with the epidemic that has already left 2,600 people dead in West Africa alone.

“Some American troops came soon [sic] this morning. They arrived with tactical jeeps,” a source at Roberts International Airport, near Monrovia, told AFP, without giving more precise data on the number of soldiers.

The latest European response from Deutsche Welle:

EU health ministers meet on Ebola response

  • European officials are meeting in Milan to assess their resources to fight Ebola. They hope to plan a coordinated response to the most widespread outbreak of the virus in known history.

Italian Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said she and her European counterparts would would work toward a coordinated response plan to combat the disease. The EU has so far pledged 140 million euros ($180 million) to fighting the current outbreak. According to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), the outbreak has killed 2,600 people, almost all of them in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

“Only four or five countries in Europe are equipped,” Lorenzin said Monday on the sidelines of the meeting. “We will work together to coordinate the aid effort.”

The hemorrhagic fever was first identified in 1976 near the Ebola river in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is fighting a separate, smaller outbreak. The current epidemic has infected at least 5,357 people since the first diagnosis in March. So far, doctors have reported no cases of Ebola in Italy, but Britain, Spain and France have repatriated citizens who contracted the virus in West Africa.

And a companion video report from Deutsche Welle:

Epidemiologist: Germany is well-prepared for Ebola

Program notes:

Germany’s robust healthcare system should be able to cope with the Ebola virus, says epidemiologist Lars Schaade in an interview to Deutsche Welle. But he adds that time is of the essence in combating the disease.

Lars Schaade is Vice President of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s leading research institute for infectious diseases in Berlin. Schaade worked as a medical doctor for Microbiology and Epidemiology at the University of Göttingen and at the department for infectious diseases, AIDS and epidemiological hygiene at the German Health Ministry.

El País covers another European rescued:

Ebola patient brought to Madrid hospital

  • Manuel García-Viejo is the second Spanish missionary to be flown home for treatment

Manuel García Viejo, a Spanish missionary who contracted ebola in Sierra Leone, arrived in Spain early Monday morning in a medically equipped airplane and was transferred to a Madrid hospital amid heavy security measures.

He is the second Spaniard with the deadly virus to be treated at Carlos III hospital. In August, a priest named Miguel Pajares died after being flown in from Liberia and treated for five days by a team of specialists in rare diseases.

García Viejo, 69, was previously being treated at the health center in Lakka, outside Freetown, where he was admitted last Thursday after displaying symptoms of ebola, according to Luca Rolla, a doctor and health coordinator for Emergency, the Italian non-profit that was looking after him. “He was conscious but appeared confused at times. His overall condition is not good.”

Star Africa News covers restrictions in another nation thus far spared:

Gambia announces new restrictions on Ebola nations

The Gambia has announced new restrictions for travelers from Ebola-hit nations in West Africa where an epidemic of the disease has killed over 2, 600 people since March.A report by The Point newspaper on Monday quoted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Banjul as indicating that people entering the country from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo would be prevented from entering The Gambia unless they had left the affected countries 21 days before.

The report referred to a statement from the ministry which clarified that individuals from those countries with a proven Ebola-free status would be exempted.

Under the new restrictions, travelers from the Ebola-ravaged countries can only pass through the three designated entry points into The Gambia namely, the Banjul International Airport and the border posts of Amdalai and Giboro.

Punch Nigeria covers restrictions ended:

FCT schools resume, comply with Ebola prevention directives

Public and private schools resumed in the Federal Capital Territory on Monday with most of them using laser thermometers  to screen their pupils in compliance with government directives.

Checks by our correspondent showed that most of the schools had procured laser thermometers, hand sanitisers and chlorine water which were placed at the schools entrance to be used by teachers, pupils, parents and  visitors.

At the Kings Spring International School, Kubwa, the security guard ensured that all visitors washed their hands with chlorine water after scanning them with the thermometer.

The same procedure was observed at Harold Curtis Academy, Kubwa, whose Head teacher, Adedeji Anuoluwapo, explained that the pupils w

A video report from Reuters:

Nigeria schools reopen after Ebola break

Program notes:

Nigerian school students return to class following an Ebola break, as the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the virus is “pretty much contained” in the country. Nathan Frandino reports.

The Liberian Observer covers another casualty:

Ebola Hits Gibi District, Chief Prayer Man, Pastor Dies

The commissioner of Gibi District, Rev. Amos V. Boyer says his district is currently under health threat as mysterious deaths and ailment loomed the district. He said as of Monday September 16, 2014, there were 1o suspected Ebola related deaths including several sick people most especially family members of those corpses in the district.

Gibi District is one of the largest districts in Margibi County situated in the Upper part of the county.

According to Commissioner Boyer, the senior elder of the district who administered special prayers for sick people and get immediate healing, Elder Sam David has succumbed to death as well as Pastor Gayway, Zeyeo Town Chief John Furner, including eminent sons and daughters of the district.

The Liberian Observer again, with another casualty:

‘Ebola Herbalist’ Dies in Nimba, Along with One of His Followers

A young man who claimed to have received God’s revelation to treat Ebola Virus Disease mysteriously died on 17th September 2014 at his residence in Ganta after a short period of illness.

Robin Dahn, in early August 2014 visited the Ganta City Office and said he had a vision where the medicine of Ebola was shown him by creatures he claimed to be angels. He said he had the dream on two separate occasions with the angels, revealing same medicine in his dream.

He visited the city office so that the city authority can grant him permission to carry on the treatment free of charge, but the city authority including the task force couldn’t consent with his request.

With funding from his Church, he prepared his herbs and began treating those suspected of having Ebola in the Small Ganta Community as well as other parts of Nimba where people were quarantined.

A plea from the Monrovia Inquirer:

“Please Stop Laying Hands” Catholic Priest Urges Praying People, Commissions Church Taskforce

The Pastor of the St. Kizito Catholic Church in the Outland Community in Paynesville, Father Foday Kromah has called on fellow men of God to stop laying hands as a means of healing persons suspected of Ebola. Father Kromah made the assertion on Sunday when the Church commissioned at least 16 persons to serve on the Church’s Ebola Task Force.

Commissioning the 16-member committee, Father Foday Kromah cautioned the Task Force to get prepared for a much tougher challenge; meaning, there lies ahead of them greater challenges of criticism from people. “Today, in a small but solemn manner we launch the St. Kizito Parish Ebola Response Initiative, ‘Phase Two’ which focuses on going beyond the confines of our Parish, the Outland Community,” Father Kromah stated.

Father Kromah who appeared very humble on the occasion also pleaded with those Pastors and Imams who said laying hands on the sick, anointing people’s heads with hands and bathing of dead bodies as prayer for sick persons to at least desist. According to him, such behaviors are contrary to those preventive health tips outlined by health workers.

From the Liberian Observer, another healer dies, along with relatives:

Ebola Deaths Heighten in Monrovia, Hit Borbor Taylor’s Family at Omega Station

As the fight against the deadly Ebola pandemic reaches uncharted territory, a maze of deaths continues to hit every sector of the Liberian population,  both within the capital Monrovia and its environs.

There is a rising death toll in other parts of the country as bodies of victims of the deadly virus are collected by special burial teams known as “Body Collectors” and taken to designated sites where they are cremated.

However, as the death toll continues to soar in the capital city, one family continues to be affected in the wake of the deadly Ebola onslaught.

It may be recalled that about two weeks ago, this newspaper reported that there were bodies in the home of one Steven Fomba and his wife, Beatrice Taylor.  These included the mother-in-law Kumba Hawah [Hawah Sammie].  Their death, which is blamed on the virus, sparked a wave of concerns around the Bernard Farm Community in Paynesville City outside Monrovia.

Beatrice, who was a Nursing student, was the first victim; while her mother died at a later date with a surge of deaths following hers.

For our final item, the Monrovia Inquirer notes a strong contrast in infection rates:

Ebola Affects More Men Than Women

An Epidemiology Survey conducted by National Ebola Task Force has revealed that more men are being infected by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) than women within the thirty first, thirty second and thirty three weeks of the menace.

The head of the National Ebola Case Management Team and Assistant Minister of Health for Preventive Services, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, told journalists at yesterday’s edition of the Special Ebola Press Briefing that seventy percent of men had been infected in the three weeks which falls in the month of August as compared to thirty percent of women that were infected.

Minister Nyesnwah said as of yesterday, Montserrado County still tops the Ebola infection chart followed by Lofa and Margibi Counties.

Minister Nyenswah explained that the survey’s finding revealed that between the ages of 25 to 34 are highly infected with the EBOLA Virus Disease with the ages of 35 to 40m being the second most infected and ages 45 to 54 being the third most infected.

Sculpture al fresco: Vanished public art


Our heart is utterly doffed to 3 Quarks Daily for evoking a chain of memories from the 1960s and ’70s from the years we first visited then lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, first briefly in Mountain View and Menlo Park, and then in a house at the very apex of the Oakland Hills.

One of our favorite sights sprouted from the tidal flats of Emeryville, on the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.

There, rising from the mud in exuberant irreverence erupted a tumultuous profusion of sculptures erected by whoever the hell wnated to throw something up where it would be seen, twice a day, by commuters creeping along in rush hour congestion.

In other words, an art gallery to relieve the frustrations of countless thousands of commuters daily.

Writing in a well-illustrated feature for Boom magazine, Robert Sommer captures one notable quality of the works:

Art museums exhibit sculpture in a consistent light. It doesn’t make any difference whether one visits in the morning, afternoon, or evening, or in winter or summer; the art will look the same. A changing visual panorama awaited the visitor to a mudflat gallery. The appearance of the sculpture changed as the sun set and color disappeared. Pieces that were relatively invisible during the day, due to the predominant gray-on-gray quality of wood against bay, become vivid silhouettes against a pink-hued sky. The flowering plants at ground level added color and verve. A first visit to a mudflat gallery brought home images of impermanence and mortality. Most of the wooden creatures still standing were in stages of decrepitude. Arms and legs missing, heads fallen off, everywhere was rubble where now-unrecognizable figures had stood erect until brought down by wind and tide. The center post embedded deep in the mud with a few dangling boards was the last to fall.

Needless to say, the politicians of Emeryville, busily engaged in trying to shore up tax revenues in an industrial barrens rightly dubbed Emptyville saw all that anarchic artistic adventuring as a negative when it came to hustling big buck developers, so they had to go.

And gone they were, by the late 1980’s.

Imagine our delight, then, when we paid a visit to 3 Quarks Daily and found French filmmaker/photographer/multimedia artist Chris Marker‘s 1981 short Junkopia, filmed while he was in the Bay Area to shoot scenes for another film.

From the Criterion Collection:

Junkopia – A Short Film by Chris Marker

Program notes:

Codirected by Frank Simeone and John Chapman, JUNKOPIA was filmed at the Emeryville Mudflats outside of San Francisco while Chris Marker was also shooting the Vertigo sections of Sans Soleil.

More images of the sculptures may be found here.

Quote of the day: On the eurocratic elites


From  Antonis Karakousis, writing in the Athenian paper To Vima:

Europe is being governed by an army of political officers and well-educated bureaucrats, with a similar political direction and almost common culture.

They are paid well, live the life of Riley in Brussels, Strasbourg, Frankfurt and elsewhere, they have deified neoliberalism and tend to resemble bank and multinational business group executives who felt like little kings before the bubble burst, believing that the groups they served belonged to them rather than shareholders.

Dominated by the riches, self-indulgent life and unique power, the European elite feels that Europe belongs to them, forgetting that it belongs to its people and that this cycle only exists to serve them. The distortion is obvious, apparent to the naked eye.

This is apparent from the uniform fatwas that they occasionally issue, which do not take into consideration the peculiarities or special circumstances of each country. In many cases, hidden behind the thick and complicated lines, are malicious and lawless pursuits, which subvert the European ideal.

Read the rest.

Rebooting: Rap News tackles the Singularity


Yep, tis time for another edition of Juice Rap News, featuring a stellar cast and tackling that much-hyped and beloved-of-libertarian-SciFi-fans vision of a cyber/human fusion.

From thejuicemedia:

The Singularity – feat. Ray Kurzweil & Alex Jones

Program notes:

Today we travel into the pure world of sci-fi to investigate the much vaunted, mysterious potential future event known as ‘The Singularity’. What will a machine consciousness mean for humanity? What are the ethical, political, military and philosophical implications of strong A.I.? And what would an AI sound like when spitting rhymes over a dope beat? All this and more shall be revealed in Rap News 28: The Singularity – featuring a special appearance from famed technocrat, futurist and inventor, Ray Kurzweil, in full TED talk mode; everyone’s favourite warmonger, General Baxter; and we welcome back the dauntless info warrior Alex Jones, who last made an appearance in RN6. Join Robert Foster on this epic Sci-Fi quest into the future/past of humanity.

Written & created by Giordano Nanni & Hugo Farrant in a suburban backyard home studio in Melbourne, Australia, on Wurundjeri Land.

EbolaWatch: Tragedy continues, aid promised


But it is the scale of the aid that still remains the problem, given the lack of adequate funding from the U.S. and other industrialized nations for the World Health Organization.

We begin with another video clip from Liberia, hardest hit of the countries, via FrontPageAfrica:

FPA WEB TV: Unlucky 7

Program notes:

A family of seven, showing symptoms of the deadly Ebola virus arrive at the Medecins Sans Frontieres treatment facility Friday looking to get in and get treated, what they met was rejection, the latest in a series of Liberians coping with Ebola but joining a long waiting list, finding it difficult to get in.

The Washington Post covers anther complication:

With Ebola crippling the health system, Liberians die of routine medical problems

While the terrifying spread of Ebola has captured the world’s attention, it also has produced a lesser-known crisis: the near-collapse of the already fragile health-care system here, a development that may be as dangerous — for now — as the virus for the average Liberian.

Western experts said that people here are dying of preventable or treatable conditions such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and the effects of high blood pressure and diabetes, such as strokes. Where services do exist, Ebola has complicated the effort to provide them by stoking fear among health-care workers, who sometimes turn away sick people or women in labor if they can’t determine whether the patient is infected. And some people, health-care workers said, will not seek care, fearful that they will become infected with Ebola at a clinic or hospital.

“If you stub your toe now in Monrovia, you’ll have a hard time getting care, let alone having a heart attack or malaria,” said Sheldon Yett, the Liberia country representative for UNICEF. “It’s a tremendous threat to children and a tremendous threat to families.”

The latest from the World Health Organization:

WHO welcomes decision to establish United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response

Nearly six months after the first case of Ebola in West Africa was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and the Security Council have approved resolutions creating the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) to contain the ongoing outbreak which has sickened more than 5,500 people and killed over 2,500.

“This is not just a public health crisis. This is a social crisis, a humanitarian crisis, an economic crisis and a threat to national security well beyond the outbreak zones,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, to the UN Security Council on Thursday. “For these reasons, Mr Secretary-General and I are calling for a UN-wide initiative that draws together all the assets of all relevant UN agencies.”

This is the first time in history that the UN has created a mission for a public health emergency. The Mission will bring together the vast resources of the UN agencies, funds and programmes, to reinforce WHO’s technical expertise and experience in disease outbreaks.

While WHO plays a central role in leading the public health efforts for this response, the support of other UN agencies is essential to deal with the social, economic, development and security challenges that are affecting these countries and the region.

From Al Jazeera English, another plea:

Sierra Leone seeks assistance to fight Ebola

  • Doctors say they are in desperate need of health workers and medical supplies.

Sierra Leone continues its efforts for the second day to halt the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, but doctors say they are in desperate need of health workers and medical supplies.

Thousands of workers join together to visit every single household in the country to educate people about the virus, while they also intend on isolating the sick.

Volunteers plan on placing stickers on each household they have visited, and any one suspected of being infected with the virus will be sent to an isolation ward in the capital Freetown.

Meanwhile, independent observers have voiced concerns over the quality of advice being given out, deeming the shutdown a “mixed success” in the Western Area, the region that includes the capital Freetown.

Star Africa News has the latest on the Sierra Leone lockdown:

S/Leone streets deserted amidst lockdown

The streets of Freetown and other cities across Sierra Leone have been deserted after the first day of a three-day curfew to allow health teams clear away contaminated bodies and identify possible cases of the deadly Ebola virus.By the morning of Saturday, the Sierra Leonean capital appeared like a ghost town as people and cars stay off the streets and markets after days spent stocking up on food and other basic essentials.

The road around Freetown’s landmark cotton tree, which is the busiest part of the city looked desolate as millions of the city’s residents and commuters heed the call to stay in their homes from September 19 to 21.

The lockdown has been characterized by a heavy security presence with the police manning roadblocks while health volunteers continue to conduct house-to-house visits in their designated areas to conduct Ebola tests on residents and identify those afflicted by the disease.

More from CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: Burial team attacked in Sierra Leone amid 3-day lockdown

  • Likely the largest lockdown in recent history, WHO says

Health workers in Sierra Leone have come under attack while trying to bury the bodies of five Ebola victims east of the capital, a police official said.

Sgt. Edward Momoh Brima Lahai said there was a confrontation Saturday between a group of youths and the burial team in the Waterloo district.

A witness told state television the burial team initially had to abandon the five bodies in the street and flee. Lahai said the burial was successfully completed after police reinforcements arrived.

CCTV Africa covers the lockdown:

Ebola: Sierra Leone Lockdown Mixed Reactions

Program notes:

Streets in the capital of Sierra Leone are deserted, as the country continues it’s three-day lockdown to check the spread of Ebola virus. Although the majority of Sierra Leoneans are cooperating, some have fled to neighbouring Guinea in fear of being taken into isolation. Maria Galang reports

From TheLocal.fr, a belated assistance:

France plan air lifts to help fight Ebola

France and Germany will send military transport planes to West Africa to help efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and military officials said on Friday.

Merkel said Germany “will establish airlifts from Dakar (Senegal) from where deliveries can be made to all three countries, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea”.

She said Berlin would also supply a mobile clinic and could train medical personnel.

Government ministries were still discussing the details of the mission, she said, adding that “it’s currently not a question of money, but of capacity and logistics”.

More help from Bloomberg:

747 Filled With Supplies Helps on Ebola, But Only So Much

Aid organization Direct Relief had 100 tons of gloves, masks, medicines and gowns stockpiled in a California warehouse. Doctors fighting Ebola were calling from West Africa desperate for supplies.

Getting it there was the challenge. With airlines halting flights and borders closing to stop the disease from spreading, the nonprofit took matters into its own hands, chartering a Boeing 747 that’s leaving New York today for Sierra Leone and Liberia. It’ll figure out how to pay the $500,000 bill later.

“Sometimes we need to do the work, then hope the financial support follows,” Chief Executive Officer Thomas Tighe said.

From Sky News, Britain make a plea to its own National Health Service:

NHS Staff Asked To Help Africa’s Ebola Fight

The Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer writes to NHS staff to encourage them to volunteer to help with the deadly virus.

NHS staff are being encouraged to volunteer to help with the deadly ebola virus outbreak which is continuing to spread across West Africa.

The Department of Health’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said doctors, nurses and paramedics are among the medical staff who are needed to help contribute towards efforts to tackle the crisis.

In a letter to health service staff, Dame Sally says those who wish to help should contact the UK International Emergency Medical Register, set up to respond to large-scale international emergencies.

Star Africa News covers a desperate measure:

EU Condemns isolation of Ebola-hit countries

The European Union (EU) said on Saturday that it would rather the world help isolate the Ebola virus disease rather than isolate the affected countries.The Deputy Director-General, Directorate-General Development and Cooperation of EuropeAid (DEVCO), Marcus Conaro, said this is the time to demonstrate international partnership by giving all the help rather than sitting to witness the death of more people.

According to a presidential statement issued Saturday, the EU official made the observation when he paid a courtesy call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Friday at her office in the
capital Monrovia.

Mr. Conaro said the EU, as a long time and a strong partner, will continue to support Liberia in its fight against Ebola as well as its post-Ebola recovery.

From Agence France-Presse, another resource mobilized:

Traditional leaders join fight against Ebola in Liberia

Program notes:

Traditional, religious and local government Leaders are being trained in Liberia to enable them to take control of the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.

From Star Africa News, border controls enforced:

Seven arrested over Ebola on C/d’Ivoire-Guinea border

Seven people attempting to enter Cote d’Ivoire through the bush from Guinea have been arrested by the national gendarmerie in Madinani, about 709km northwest, APA can report, quoting security sources in Abidjan.Those arrested thought they had circumvented the security measures to enforce the closure of the Ivorian border with Ebola-hit countries after by entering Cote d’Ivoire through the bush, sources said.

“Fortunately, they were arrested Thursday by security forces in Madinani,” the sources added. They have been identified as Zonon Souley, Ngnampa Alassane, Sauré Boukary, Sauré Moussa, Sauré Issa, Zonon Idrissa and Sauré Amadou.

The seven were taken to Odienné, Madinani’s capital by Warrant Officer, Gérémie Kouamé, the town’s chief gendarmerie.

And from BBC News, an adjustment:

Ebola outbreak: How Liberia lost its handshake

Families and communities have been devastated by the deaths caused by West Africa’s Ebola outbreak. But the disease also has consequences for the region’s way of life, and in particular their traditional greetings.

One of the things the people of West Africa are very good at is greeting each other. In most of the region’s countries it would be positively rude to exchange a passing, British-style “Hello, how are you?” and walk on.

In West Africa the normal thing to do would be to stop, reach out one hand, or even two, shake warmly and then embrace. This is followed by much backslapping, more handshaking on points of agreement and even the odd high five.

It’s what children do, it’s what men do, it’s what elderly ladies do.

Well, not any more. Ebola is spread by contact with bodily fluids, so these days people shun contact with others – including handshakes.

Pacific Standard cautions:

Why Science Won’t Defeat Ebola

  • While science will certainly help, winning the battle against Ebola is a social challenge

Ebola is different. It’s unusually deadly and extremely rare. That combination makes it difficult to develop and test safe and effective treatments. That there are even experimental Ebola drugs available during this current, record-breaking outbreak is a lucky coincidence; researchers have worked on their development for decades, despite Ebola’s historically small threat.

In fast, scientists have been interested in treatments for Ebola since it was first discovered in 1976. But because Ebola is so rare, and conventional methods to control it are generally effective, the virus is easily overshadowed by much larger public health threats in Africa. Between 1976 and 2012, there were fewer than 3,000 cases and 1,600 deaths caused by Ebola outbreaks. Compare this with the 5,000 deaths caused by African meningitis in just one year, the half-million or more malaria deaths annually, or the nearly 25 million Africans infected by HIV, and Ebola seems much less threatening. If we care about saving lives, then medical research to develop effective vaccines for HIV and meningitis or to combat the difficult problem of drug-resistant malaria should clearly take higher priority than Ebola treatments.

On the other hand, as we’re seeing now, Ebola outbreaks can quickly get out of control and wreak havoc on fragile economies and social institutions in developing countries. Without an effective response, the number of cases could swell to tens of thousands within a month. Because of Ebola’s pandemic potential, the U.S. boosted funding for research on the virus in 2002 as part of its effort to prepare for bioterrorism. With this funding, researchers have developed several candidate drugs and vaccines over the past decade, but these are only just now reaching the point where human clinical trials can even be considered. The most promising drug, the ZMapp antibody cocktail, was just recently shown to be effective in monkeys. ZMapp is the latest version of a drug that has been in development for years; previous versions weren’t nearly as effective as the current one.

To close, from Radio Africa, a famous Liberian theatrical troupe provides Ebola education in their own unique style:

Cultural performance by the Flomo Theater Cultural Troupe.

Program note:

Flomo theater cultural troupe dramatize the severity of the deadly Ebola virus.

Chart of the day: The kiddie cultural divide


From the Pew Research Center [PDF], the profound cultural divide in America reflected in the values parents want their children to learn:

BLOG Children