Category Archives: Development

EbolaWatch: Quarantines, panic, pols, & Africa


We begin with root causes, starting with this from the Guardian:

Ebola is a product of a destructive and exploitative global economic system

Deforestation and increasing demands on habitats to produce food don’t just wreck the environment, they are increasing the risk of global pandemics like Ebola

Like a sleepwalker roused from his dream, the world is slowly waking up to the full nightmare of the Ebola outbreak decimating west Africa. With small numbers of cases turning up in western countries, governments here are belatedly pledging action to fight the disease, which has already claimed almost 5,000 lives.

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – all countries struggling to recover from wars still fresh in the memory – have buckled under the onslaught of this horrific virus. Inadequate, creaking health services have been no match for a ruthless killer. But while the shocking poverty of these countries provides the fertile ground for the disease to spread, there are bigger issues at play that ought to cause us to think about the macroeconomic conditions that brought us to this point.

Ebola – like HIV, anthrax, Sars, avian flu and other pandemics of recent years – is a zoonotic virus, one that has crossed from animals to humans. It was first identified in 1976 during near-simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The strain of Ebola implicated in the current outbreak is thought to have originated from a mutant pathogen found in fruit bats. This is where we see a direct connection with economic development. The conflicts which have done so much damage to the affected countries have also attracted a range of activities – both legal and illicit – including logging and extractive industries like bauxite mining, which have deforested large swathes of the region.

More from The Ecologist:

Oil palm explosion driving West Africa’s Ebola outbreak

The medical response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been monstrously inadequate, writes Richard Kock. But so has been recognition of the underlying causes – in particular the explosive spread of industrial oil palm, which disrupts the ecology of forests and farms, and undermines local economy and traditional governance, leading to a ‘perfect storm’ of disease.

It is poverty that drives villagers to encroach further into the forest, where they become infected with the virus when hunting and butchering wildlife, or through contact with body fluids from bats – this has been seen with Nipah, another dangerous virus associated with bats.

The likelihood of infection in this manner is compounded by inadequate rural health facilities and poor village infrastructure, compounded by the disorganised urban sprawl at the fringes of cities.

The virus then spreads in a wave of fear and panic, ill-conceived intervention and logistical failures – including even insufficient food or beds for the severely ill.

Take for example the global palm oil industry, where a similar trend of deep-cutting into forests for agricultural development has breached natural barriers to the evolution and spread of specific pathogens.

The effects of land grabs and the focus on certain fruit crop species leads to an Allee effect, where sudden changes in one ecological element causes the mechanisms for keeping populations – bats in this case – and viruses in equilibrium to shift, increasing the probability of spill over to alternative hosts.

Next, some possibly good news from the Guardian:

Ebola may have reached turning point, says Wellcome Trust director

  • Dr Jeremy Farrar says international community is belatedly taking the actions necessary to stem the tide of the disease

Writing in the Guardian, Dr Jeremy Farrar says that although there are several bleak months ahead, “it is finally becoming possible to see some light. In the past 10 days, the international community has belatedly begun to take the actions necessary to start turning Ebola’s tide.

“The progress made is preliminary and uncertain; even if ultimately successful it will not reduce mortality or stop transmission for some time. We are not close to seeing the beginning of the end of the epidemic but [several] developments offer hope that we may have reached the end of the beginning.”

Farrar’s comments come as the World Health Organisation confirmed that the number of Ebola cases in Liberia has started to decline, with fewer burials and some empty hospital beds. But the WHO warned against any assumption that the outbreak there was ending.

“I’m terrified that the information will be misinterpreted,” said Dr Bruce Aylward, assistant director-general in charge of the Ebola operational response. “This is like saying your pet tiger is under control. This is a very, very dangerous disease. Any transmission change could result in many, many more deaths.”

Science qualifies the optimism:

Liberia’s Ebola progress real, but epidemic far from under control

The apparent decline in cases could mean that  families are hiding patients and secretly burying the dead, but it is more likely that a combination of factors has reduced the spread of the disease, said Aylward. “There was a rapid scale up in safe burial practices in the month of September,” he said, adding that many people were isolated in Ebola treatment units, further curbing spread. There also has been intensive education of communities about the disease, including how it is spread, the value of seeking care, and self-protection strategies.

The situations in Guinea and Sierra Leone, the other two hard-hit countries, have not changed as dramatically.

In a disconnect with the drop of cases in Liberia, Aylward noted that WHO has tallied 13,703 cases—a jump of more than 3000 from the figures released 25 October. He said the steep increase reflects reporting on a backlog of cases “With the huge surge in cases in certain countries, particularly in September and October, people got behind on their data,” he said. “They ended up with huge piles of paper and we knew we were going to see jumps in cases at certain times that are going to be associated with more new data coming in that are actually old cases.” He said about 2000 of the latest cases came from old data collected in Liberia, where reporting of cases continues to be a problem. “Data for Liberia are missing for 19, 20, 21, 26 and 27 October,” the latest update from WHO notes.

And from Liberia itself, another caution via The NewDawn:

Ellen warns against early excitement – Chinese military team arrives

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has warned against early jubilation over news of reduction in the infection across the country with news of less than 400 cases nationwide.

The Liberian leader is cautioned citizens and residents against a repeat of a scenario in March this year when people got “too happy too soon” over decline in Ebola infection, thereby giving room for the virus to resurface by June when preventive measures were largely downplayed.

“Yes we feel good, but we want to be cautious. We don’t want people to get happy too soon; we got to continue this fight, and we got to continue it with everything that we got,” President Sirleaf said Tuesday in Monrovia when she received an advance Chinese military delegation of 15 personnel to build ETUs here.

Judging from previous scenario, she warned, “This time we want to be careful, we’ll not be satisfied until we are declared that the last Ebola victim has been cured and is freed of this disease.” President Sirleaf’s warning comes as government prepares to conduct a mid-term election for 15 senators in December.

A video report from euronews:

Ebola: WHO announces ‘slowing rate of new cases’

Program notes:

Liberia may be experiencing a slowdown in the rate of new cases of the deadly Ebola virus according to the World Health Organization.

“We are seeing a slowing rate of new cases, very definitely,” WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward announced.

The African country has reportedly seen a drop in burials and new hospital admissions, while the number of laboratory-confirmed cases has levelled out.

While the Associated Press adds more nuance:

Top UN Ebola official: new cases poorly tracked

Authorities are having trouble figuring out how many more people are getting Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone and where the hot spots are in those countries, harming efforts to get control of the raging, deadly outbreak, the U.N.’s top Ebola official in West Africa said Tuesday.

“The challenge is good information, because information helps tell us where the disease is, how it’s spreading and where we need to target our resources,” Anthony Banbury told The Associated Press by phone from the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, is based.

Health experts say the key to stopping Ebola is breaking the chain of transmission by tracing and isolating those who have had contact with Ebola patients or victims. Health care workers can’t do that if they don’t know where new cases are emerging.

“And unfortunately, we don’t have good data from a lot of areas. We don’t know exactly what is happening,” said Banbury, the chief of UNMEER.

Meanwhile, the crisis remains both critical and costly. From Sky News:

Ebola: DEC Launches ‘Unprecedented’ Appeal

The charity group asks the public for money to halt the “explosive” virus – the first time it has done so for a disease outbreak.

The Disasters Emergency Committee is to launch a major television appeal over the Ebola crisis, the first time it has called for donations in response to a disease.

The committee, which is made up of 13 of the UK’s major aid charities, said it took the decision because the killer virus threatens to become a “catastrophe”.

The DEC described the spread of the virus as “explosive”, and said it was devastating communities, health services and people’s ability to support themselves.

Next, California joins the list of states with Ebola quarantine policies, via the San Jose Mercury News:

Ebola: California is latest state to impose 21-day quarantine for those exposed to Ebola

California on Wednesday became the latest state to order a 21-day quarantine for travelers who have been in close contact with Ebola patients.

In an attempt to avoid the criticism lodged against New York, New Jersey and Maine that had blanket quarantine orders, however, California will allow county health agencies to impose the quarantine on a case-by-case basis.

By working with county health departments to assess the individual risks, the California Department of Public Health said it “respects the individual circumstances of each traveler while protecting and preserving the public health.”

And a case at hand, via KCBS in San Francisco:

Stanford Surgeon Under ‘Modified Quarantine’ In San Mateo County After Returning From Liberia

A Stanford surgeon has been put on modified quarantine in San Mateo County after treating Ebola patients in Liberia for the past month.

Dr. Colin Bucks returned to the Bay Area on Friday, but no state or federal quarantine orders were in place at the time. Dr. Bucks is not experiencing any symptoms of Ebola, but he is the first Californian to be quarantined under the new guidelines. Bucks is considered by health officials to be at “some risk.”

The doctor contacted San Mateo County health officials. After consultation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the California Dept. of Public Health, Dr. Bucks was told to stay away from work and to stay away from others for 21 days. However, he can leave his house to go jogging by himself. He is taking his temperature every day and has not developed any symptoms.

Politics of pain, via the Los Angeles Times:

Obama urges Americans to honor aid workers fighting Ebola in Africa

President Obama on Tuesday urged Americans to set aside their fears of the Ebola virus and make sure U.S. healthcare workers who go to West Africa are “applauded, thanked and supported” when they return home.

If those workers are successful in fighting the virus at the source of the outbreak, he said, “we don’t have to worry about it here.”

“They are doing God’s work over there,” Obama said, “and they are doing that to keep us safe.”

And a fundamental lack from the Associated Press:

Funding to tame an Ebola outbreak has fallen short

“We don’t really have a pharmaceutical response for Ebola,” said retired Air Force Col. Randall Larsen, the former executive director of the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction. “But could you imagine if there were 20,000 sick people in 10 cities and we did not have a pharmaceutical response? We would be completely overwhelmed.”

Emergency preparedness programs ramped up significantly in the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2001 anthrax scare, said Dr. Gerald Parker, a former principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Health and Human Services preparedness office. Those efforts included research and development of vaccines and anti-viral drugs.

“It was recognized that there would be a dual benefit from research on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to counter bioterror threats and emerging infectious diseases,” said Parker, now a vice president at Texas A&M Health Science Center.

But a combination of budgetary constraints and politics has delayed many of those plans.

Other quarantine news from the New York Times:

New York State Ebola Policy Allows for In-Home Quarantine

Offering the first detailed account of how New York State’s quarantine order for health care workers returning from West Africa will be put into effect, the Cuomo administration has issued guidelines that go beyond federal recommendations but seek to allow individuals to spend their enforced isolation in a location of their choosing.

The state documents, copies of which were obtained by The New York Times, show an effort by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration to portray the quarantine in a humane manner.

The protocols are meant to ensure “a respectful and supportive approach” to arriving travelers, who are supposed to be “treated with the utmost respect and concern,” according to a document prepared by the State Health Department that outlines the screening procedures.

While the Guardian covers a controversy:

Ebola: Maine deploys state police to quarantined nurse’s home

  • Kaci Hickox, who was held for days in an isolation tent in New Jersey, says she doesn’t plan on obeying home quarantine in her home state

A nurse freed from an Ebola isolation tent in a New Jersey hospital declared on Wednesday the she will not comply with a quarantine request imposed by state officials, saying the policy is not based on science and infringes on her civil liberties.

“I don’t plan on sticking to the guidelines,” nurse Kaci Hickox told the Today show from her home in Maine. “I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me, even though I am in perfectly good health and feeling strong and have been this entire time completely symptom-free.”

The governor’s office said in a statement that Maine state police would monitor Kickox’s home “for both her protection and the health of the community”. A TV reporter with the local WLBZ news channel said as of 1pm ET on Wednesday at least two police cars were parked out front of the home.

More from the Washington Post:

Maine Gov. Paul LePage is seeking legal authority to enforce Ebola quarantine on nurse

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is looking for ways to force a nurse released from mandatory Ebola isolation in New Jersey to abide by a similar 21-day quarantine in Maine.

“The Office of the Governor has been working collaboratively with the State health officials within the Department of Health and Human Services to seek legal authority to enforce the quarantine,” LePage’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “We hoped that the health-care worker would voluntarily comply with these protocols, but this individual has stated publicly she will not abide by the protocols.”

Still more from the Guardian:

Maine prepared to go to court to enforce nurse’s Ebola quarantine order

  • Officials plead with Kaci Hickox to abide by 21-day order
  • ‘I have been this entire time completely symptom-free’

Maine’s top public health official has said the state will if necessary seek a court order to ensure a nurse stays quarantined in her home after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.

Mary Mayhew, the commissioner of the state department of health and human services, pleaded with Hickox to abide by the state’s 21-day at-home quarantine order.

“We do not want to legally enforce an in-home quarantine unless absolutely necessary,” Mayhew said on Wednesday afternoon.

More quarantine politics from Reuters:

Obama sees different Ebola rules for U.S. military than for civilians

President Barack Obama on Tuesday appeared to back more rigorous procedures for dealing with soldiers returning from missions to Ebola-hit West African countries, even as he criticized moves by some U.S. states to quarantine returning civilian health workers.

Obama said that American military personnel were in a “different situation” compared with healthcare workers. While civilians may be discouraged from volunteering to help fight the Ebola if they are facing quarantine on their return, troops were sent as part of their mission and could expect such inconveniences.

“They are already by definition if they are in the military under more circumscribed conditions,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “We don’t expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians.”

More from USA Today:

Quarantine ordered for troops returning from W. Africa

U.S. troops returning from Ebola-stricken nations will be isolated for 21 days, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Wednesday, a day after the White House raised concerns about states imposing strict quarantines of health care workers returning from West Africa.

Top commanders for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps made the recommendation to Hagel on Tuesday. The Army instituted an isolation requirement for 21 days — the incubation period for the deadly virus — on Monday.

Hagel directed the isolation policy be reviewed in 45 days to see whether it was necessary to continue with it, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary.

Still more from the Guardian:

Conflicting Ebola guidelines put US defense secretary in a tough spot

  • Hagel’s choice on quarantining troops returning from west Africa involves rebuking either government scientists or military leaders

The Ebola outbreak has placed the US secretary of defense on the horns of a dilemma: whether to back the military service chiefs about a quarantine for troops or to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends no such thing.

Defense chief Chuck Hagel has received a recommendation for a “quarantine-like program” for all US servicemembers returning from Liberia and Senegal, where they are supporting civilian efforts to contain the disease, Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said on Tuesday.

The recommendation, made by the heads of the military services, would expand across the military a directive made on Monday from the army chief, General Raymond Odierno, to keep soldiers returning from Operation United Assistance in Liberia and Senegal under a 21-day period of “controlled monitoring”.

Kirby said Hagel has yet to make a decision, having received the quarantine recommendation earlier on Tuesday. But imposing a broader military quarantine for returning servicemembers goes beyond new guidance set on Monday by the CDC, which urged a home quarantine only for high-risk individuals, such as those whose body fluids have been directly exposed to Ebola. US troops have not been involved in treating Ebola patients.

And yet more from Reuters:

US isolates troops

The U.S. military has started isolating soldiers returning from an Ebola response mission in West Africa and Australia became the first rich nation to impose a visa ban on the affected countries amid global anxiety about the spread of the virus.

The latest measures, along with decisions by some U.S. states to impose mandatory quarantines on health workers returning home from treating Ebola victims in West Africa, have been condemned by health authorities and the United Nations as extreme.

The top health official in charge of dealing with Washington’s response to Ebola warned against turning doctors and nurses who travel to West Africa to tackle Ebola into “pariahs”.

From Reuters, intranational man of mystery:

In Ebola response, Obama’s ‘czar’ stays behind the curtain

It’s not often that a White House official gets mocked on both Saturday Night Live and a major daily newspaper before he makes his first public appearance.

But Ron Klain’s low-profile first week as President Barack Obama’s behind-the-scenes Ebola “czar” has become another attack point for a White House struggling to show it’s on top of the crisis.

Since starting last Wednesday, Klain has been seen only once, in a photo op on his first day, leaving health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health – and Obama himself – to be the public “face” of the response.

The White House has declined to give details about his activities, especially what role he played as governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey undermined the White House’s attempt to keep the nation calm about the risk posed by healthcare workers returning from Ebola-stricken West Africa.

More predictable politics from the Associated Press:

Jeb Bush: Obama handling of Ebola ‘incompetent’

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday criticized President Barack Obama’s initial handling of the Ebola crisis as “incompetent,” saying it gave rise to unneeded fears among the American public about the virus.

Bush, who is the latest potential Republican presidential candidate to attack the president over Ebola, also said in a wide-ranging discussion at Vanderbilt University that he supports travel restrictions for people who have been to the most severely affected countries in Africa.

Bush said Obama should have been more “clear and concise” about his plans, and lent more credibility to health officials leading the response.

“It looked very incompetent to begin with, and that fueled fears that may not be justified,” Bush said. “And now you have states that are legitimately acting on their concerns, creating a lot more confusion than is necessary.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration made a notable symbolic move sure to piss off some of Bush’s former Florida constituents, via the Associated Press:

US sends health official to Cuban Ebola meeting

The United States has sent a health official to a Cuban meeting on coordinating Latin America’s response to Ebola. The participation of the Centers for Disease Control’s Central America director is the most concrete sign to date of the two nations’ expressed desire to cooperate against the disease.

The two-day meeting that began Tuesday in Havana is sponsored by ALBA, a forum of left-leaning Latin countries founded by Cuba and Venezuela as a counterweight to U.S. influence in the region.

Cuba is sending at least 256 medical workers to West Africa to treat and prevent Ebola. The World Health Organization says it’s the largest contribution by a single government, although there may be more doctors of other nationalities who are sent by non-governmental organizations.

The U.S. has welcomed Cuba’s response.

Ebolaphobia from the New York Times:

Connecticut Child Barred From School After Trip to Africa; Father Sues

The father of a Connecticut third grader filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday, saying his daughter has been unfairly barred from school amid fears she may have been exposed to the Ebola virus while in Africa.

The daughter, Ikeoluwa Opayemi, and her family, who live in Milford, visited Nigeria for a wedding from Oct. 2 to 13, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Federal District Court in New Haven.

When the girl tried to return to the Meadowside Elementary School, she was told by the school district’s health director that she would have to stay home until Nov. 3 “due to concern from certain parents and teachers that she could transmit Ebola to other children,” according to the lawsuit.

More from Ebolaphobics from Science:

Been to an Ebola-affected country? Stay away from tropical medicine meeting, Louisiana says

Ebola fears are interfering with the world’s premier scientific meeting on tropical diseases. Today, Louisiana state health officials asked anyone who has traveled to Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea in the past 21 days, or has treated Ebola patients elsewhere, to stay away from the annual meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), which begins on Sunday in New Orleans.

ASTMH doesn’t know exactly how many scientists will be affected, but there are several, says incoming president Christopher Plowe, including representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “They are quite disappointed,” says Plowe, a malaria researcher at the University of Maryland. ASTMH sent all meeting registrants an email today containing a letter from Kathy Kliebert, secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health & Hospitals, and Kevin Davis, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, that outlines the state’s position. ASTMH referred registrants to the state’s health department for further information.

“Given that conference participants with a travel and exposure history for [Ebola] are recommended not to participate in large group settings (such as this conference) or to utilize public transport, we see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans to simply be confined to your room,” the letter says.

After the jump, an infectious lie, a sole supplier, North Korean Ebolaphobia, Hong Kong preparedness, fast-tracking a vaccine, anger at Aussie exclusion, Japanese angst leads to a task force, then on to Africa and vigilance in the newest addition to the ranks of the stricken while a border remains open, a study of who survive in Sierra Leone, Tokyo lends mobile assistance, Brits train “Ebola warriors,” missing funds, and survivors are shunned, then on to Liberia and the crisis personified, the healthcare worker’s painful conundrum, another blow to overstretched police resources, long overdue pay for healthcare workers, a cultural belief hampering prevention efforts with specific voices heard, Christian leaders call a three-day fast, a Christian tradition invoked, a change in command of American boots on the ground, and a presidential birthday is deferred, thence to Nigeria and an unanticipated arrival, followed by a precipitous tourism decline in Kenya. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ills, climate, critters, & nukes


With begin with an enigma, via the Atlantic Monthly:

The Mysterious Polio-Like Disease Affecting American Kids

  • Doctors are stumped about the condition’s origins—and its treatment

More than 100 cases of a polio-like syndrome causing full or partial paralysis of the arms or legs have been seen in children across the United States in recent months, according to doctors attending the annual meeting of the Child Neurology Society.

Symptoms have ranged from mild weakness in a single arm to complete paralysis of arms, legs, and even the muscles controlling the lungs, leading in some cases to a need for surgery to insert a breathing tube, doctors said.

The outbreak, which appears to be larger and more widespread than what has largely been previously reported by medical and news organizations, has neurologists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scrambling to find out what is causing these cases and how best to treat it.

“We don’t know how to treat it, and we don’t know how to prevent it,” said Keith Van Haren, a child neurologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “It actually looks just like polio, but that term really freaks out the public-health people.”

And another outbreak spreads, via MercoPress:

France reports four cases of chikungunya locally acquired infections

On 21 October 2014, WHO was notified by the National IHR Focal Point for France of 4 cases of chikungunya locally-acquired infection in Montpellier, France. The cases were confirmed by tests conducted by the French National Reference Laboratory for arboviruses on 20 October 2014. This is the first time that locally-acquired transmission of chikungunya has been detected in France since 2010.

The 4 cases of chikungunya infection occurred within the same family, with symptoms onset between 20 September and 12 October. The cases live in Montpellier in the vicinity of a chikungunya case imported from Cameroon. The cases have no history of travel out of their district of residence in the 15 days prior to the onset of symptoms.

Big Agra, deep pockets, via the Guardian:

Pro-GM labelling campaign hugely outspent in Colorado and Oregon ballot

  • Industry giants are spending more than $25m to defeat campaigns for mandatory GM food labelling in the two states, in the runup to next month’s vote

Biotech and supermarket giants are spending more than $25m (£15.6m) to defeat ballot initiatives in two western states that would require labelling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.

In Colorado, Dupont and Monsanto food companies are outspending supporters of mandatory labelling by 22-1 ahead of the 4 November vote, according to state campaign finance records.

In Oregon, meanwhile, industry is outspending supporters of the ballot measure by about 2-1.

The heavy industry spending resembles the last-minute infusions of cash for television ads, direct mail, and campaign staff that helped defeat earlier campaigns for mandatory GM labelling in California and Washington state.

From the Los Angeles Times, the first of two California Scorched headlines:

A parched farm town is sinking, and so are its residents’ hearts

Beneath this small farm town at the end of what’s left of the Kings River, the ground is sinking.

Going into the fourth year of drought, farmers have pumped so much water that the water table below Stratford fell 100 feet in two years. Land in some spots in the Central Valley has dropped a foot a year.

In July, the town well cracked in three places. Household pipes spit black mud, then pale yellow water. After that, taps were dry for two weeks while the water district patched the steel well casing.

In September, the children of migrant farmworkers who usually come back to Stratford School a few weeks late, after the grape harvest, never came back at all. By October, there were new faces in the drought relief line in front of the school, picking up boxes of applesauce, canned tomatoes, peanut butter, rice.

And the second, via the Los Angeles Times:

For Sierra resident, the well runs dry — along with her options

Things were bad enough for Rochelle Landers before her well went dry. No job. No money for eye glasses or dentures. And now, for the last month and a half, no water.

Landers, a onetime school secretary, does not live in the parched heart of the state: the San Joaquin Valley, where some people get sand when they turn on the faucet.

She has an acre in the Sierra foothills, in a sparsely populated town an hour northeast of Sacramento with a seemingly abundant water supply despite the drought. Except for one thing: Her water comes from a well. And her well, which is shallow, has gone dry.

Last month, when her faucet stopped working, Landers thought her water pump was broken. What did she know? She’d purchased her dilapidated home 18 months earlier, moving back to California after a stint in Virginia. Four men from the drilling company slid the heavy concrete cover off her well and peered inside.

“Can you believe it?” she said. “They charged me $150 to tell me it was dry.”

Going, going, and how soon gone? From the Washington Post:

Collapse of Antarctic ice sheet is underway and unstoppable but will take centuries

The collapse of the giant West Antarctica ice sheet is underway, two groups of scientists said Monday. They described the melting as an unstoppable event that will cause global sea levels to rise higher than projected earlier.

Scientists said the rise in sea level, up to 12 feet, will take centuries to reach its peak and cannot be reversed. But they said a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions could slow the melt, while an increase could speed it slightly.

Warm, naturally occurring ocean water flowing under the glaciers is causing the melt. “We feel it is at the point that it is . . . a chain reaction that’s unstoppable,” regardless of any future cooling or warming of the global climate, said Eric Rignot, a professor of Earth science at the University of California at Irvine. He was the lead author of a NASA-funded study that was one of the two studies released Monday.

The only thing that might have stopped the ice from escaping into the ocean and filling it with more water “is a large hill or mountains,” Rignot said. But “there are no such hills that can slow down this retreat,” he added.

And on a parallel note, via the Ecologist:

Experts ‘stunned’ at how fast oceans are warming

Southern hemisphere oceans are warming at double the expected rate, a new study has found. This may explain why surface warming has slowed over the last decade – the oceans have absorbed the ‘missing’ heat.

Southern Hemisphere ocean temperatures have been rising much more quickly than previously thought, so much so that global ocean warming may have been underestimated by as much as 24 – 55%, according to a new study.

Published by the journal Nature Climate Change and carried out by researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the study sought to determine just how much we’ve underestimated long-term upper-ocean warming given the scarcity of data collected on Southern Hemisphere ocean temperature increases.

“It’s likely that due to the poor observational coverage, we just haven’t been able to say definitively what the long-term rate of Southern Hemisphere ocean warming has been”, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Paul Durack.

Likewise, via VICE News:

Here’s How San Francisco is Bracing for Sea Level Rise Estimated to Impact $48 Billion in Assets

San Francisco’s Capital Planning Committee (CPC) has adopted what is being called the most comprehensive guidelines in the nation for preparing for the impacts of sea level rise on a city’s infrastructure.

“This is the first time that I’ve seen a city really actively assessing the risks to new public investments,” Jessica Grannis of Georgetown’s Climate Center told VICE News.

The guidelines assume sea level rise of 11 inches, plus or minus 4 inches, by 2050 and as much as 66 inches by 2100.

San Francisco’s Pacific coastline, the Embarcadero, a roadway and pedestrian promenade along the city’s eastern and northern coastline, the Port of San Francisco, and the San Francisco International Airport already experience periodic flooding.

From CCTV America, a battle for the land:

Indigenous groups fight Illegal logging in Peru

Program notes:

In Peru, officials estimate that nearly 80 percent of the country’s timber exports are harvested illegally. Often this takes place on the lands of local populations where indigenous residents are not only intimidated, but sometimes killed.

Invaders digging in Down Under, via the Guardian:

Biosecurity gaps led to 36 invasive species entering Australia since 2000

  • Invasive Species Council says Australia has not heeded lessons from decision to introduce cane toad in Queensland in 1935

Large gaps in Australia’s biosecurity regime have led to 36 invasive species entering the country since 2000, with potentially ruinous consequences for the environment, documents lodged with the Senate have warned.

Creatures such as the yellow crazy ant, the red-eared slider turtle and the smooth newt have either established themselves in Australia or threaten to do so, while Mexican feathergrass and Myrtle rust pose a threat to Australia’s plant life.

The Invasive Species Council has warned that Australia has not heeded the lessons from the decision to introduce the cane toad in Queensland in 1935, a move that has proved disastrous for native mammals and snakes in northern Australia.

On the wrong track, from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Facing lawsuit, California oil train terminal to shut down

A legal victory in California this week over crude oil operations could have a spillover effect, emboldening critics of crude-by-rail shipments to press their concerns in other jurisdictions.

EarthJustice, a San Francisco-based environmental group, won its battle to halt crude oil train operations in the state as InterState Oil Co., a Sacramento fuel distributor, agreed to stop unloading train shipments of crude oil next month at the former McClellan Air Force Base.

Sacramento County’s top air quality official said his agency mistakenly skirted the state’s environmental rules by issuing a permit for the operation.

EcoWatch covers the inevitable:

Outrage Continues at Susan G. Komen’s ‘Frack for the Cure’ Pinkwashing Campaign

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in what seems to be getting to be a regular occurrence, it’s bringing unwanted awareness to the activities of Susan G. Komen for the Cure (SGK), the behemoth of breast cancer charities, founded in 1982.

Charges of “pinkwashing”—slapping their pink-ribbon logo on hundreds of items manufactured in their signature hot pink—reached a whole new level earlier this month when a story came out that the foundation had made a deal with Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes to launch a “Doing Our Bit for the Cure” campaign. The centerpiece of the campaign is painting 1,000 fracking drill bits hot pink and packing them with information about breast cancer which presumably the mostly male oilfield workers will devour eagerly. “Baker Hughes supports Susan G. Komen’s Mission to End Breast Cancer Forever,” the campaign website proclaimed.

“For the second consecutive year, Baker Hughes is donating $100,000 to support Susan G. Komen, the world’s leading breast cancer organization,” said Baker Hughes. “The year-long partnership with Komen is an extension of the company’s participation each year in the Komen Houston Race for the Cure, where Baker Hughes sponsors the Survivor Pin Celebration. This year, the company will paint and distribute a total of 1,000 pink drill bits worldwide. The pink bits serve as a reminder of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening and education to help find the cures for this disease, which claims a life every 60 seconds.”

From RT, the perfect transition to Fukushimapocalypse Now!:

Insulated undies: Radiation-proof, sperm-friendly boxers launched

While harm from cell-phone rays has so far been lacking sufficient scientific proof, a US firm wants men to take no chances with radiation – at least when it comes to the most precious of male body parts.

Boxer shorts made with the use of thin silver textile “absorb radiation” will help “protect men’s reproductive organs and maintain fertility health,” according to their producer, Manhattan-based Belly Armor company.

It only launched its male underwear sales this week, but among the company’s earlier products are radiation-proof blankets, belly bands and tops for pregnant women and nursing mothers.

From Reuters, yeah, what could be wrong with that?:

Japan’s Suga: See no problem with trade minister holding Tepco shares

Japan’s top government spokesman said on Friday he does not see any problem with the trade minister holding shares of Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that newly appointed trade minister Yoichi Miyazawa is following the appropriate procedures for holding the shares during his tenure based on rules for ministers.

Miyazawa said on Thursday that his political support group spent funds at a sado-masochism-themed bar in his home district and that he owned shares in the power company, known as Tepco.

Miyazawa said earlier on Friday that there is no change in his stance towards Tepco despite his owning shares in the firm.

Protesting with Jiji Press:

Radioactive Waste Facility Surveys Put Off Again in Miyagi

The Environment Ministry, again on Saturday, failed to begin drilling surveys in three candidate sites in Miyagi Prefecture for a final facility to store radioactive waste produced by the March 2011 nuclear accident.

As was on Friday, a survey team in the town of Kami, where one of the candidate sites is located, was blocked from entering the site by some 60 protesters.

Also in the city of Kurihara and the town of Taiwa, the ministry refrained from taking soil samples to study geographic conditions.

In the northeastern prefecture, the ministry selected government-owned land tracts in the three municipalities as candidate sites to dump waste tainted with fallout from the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Reuters foreshadows:

Japan warns of increased activity at volcano near nuclear plant

Japan warned on Friday that a volcano in southern Japan located roughly 64 km (40 miles) from a nuclear plant was showing signs of increased activity that could possibly lead to a small-scale eruption and warned people to stay away from the summit.

The warning comes nearly a month after another volcano, Mt Ontake, erupted suddenly when crowded with hikers, killing 57 people in Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years.

Ioyama, a mountain on the southwestern island of Kyushu, has been shaken by small tremors and other signs of rising volcanic activity recently, including a tremor lasting as long as seven minutes, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s volcano division said.

For our final item, NHK WORLD hedges its bets:

Japan to ratify nuclear compensation treaty

The Japanese government decided at a cabinet meeting on Friday to seek Diet approval for a treaty to share liability with other countries in compensation for nuclear accidents.

The government will ask the Diet to approve the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage during the current session.

Five countries, including the United States, have signed the treaty. The pact will take effect once it is ratified by Japan.

The treaty obliges each signatory to set aside at least 430 million dollars in the event of a nuclear accident.

If the cost of paying compensation for an accident in Japan exceeds that reserve, the other signatories would provide an additional 65 million dollars.

EnviroWatch: Oil spoils, toxins, nukes


A short compendium today. . .

First, via the Guardian:

Former oil mogul confirmed as EU climate and energy commissioner

  • Environmentalists outraged as Spanish conservative Miguel Arias Cañete is given top clean energy job in parliamentary horse trade

The Spanish conservative Miguel Arias Cañete was confirmed as the EU’s new climate and energy commissioner on Wednesday after a deal between centre-left and right parties in the European Parliament, despite protests from environmentalists.

The centrist pact saw Liberal former Slovenian prime minister, Alenka Bratušek, overwhelmingly rejected by MEPs as the commission’s new energy union commissioner, but the words ‘sustainability, climate action and energy’ added to the portfolio of Cañete’s boss, the Dutch socialist, Frans Timmermans.

MEPs had demanded this caveat as a condition for supporting Cañete, a former director of two oil companies. But after more than half a million people signed an Avaaz petition calling for Cañete’s rejection, environmentalists were left fuming at a perceived democratic deficit in the EU.

Victorious action in a toxic legacy from the Japan Times:

Asbestos victims win landmark legal battle as state faulted for poor ventilation

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court said Thursday the government acted illegally in failing to mandate ventilation to protect workers at asbestos mills, holding the state liable for ¥330 million in compensation.

It is the first time the top court has indicted the state for asbestos-linked health problems. The ruling is likely to influence similar lawsuits in the future.

It also ends an eight-year struggle for justice by several dozen sufferers from Osaka Prefecture who uncovered divisions between different layers of the judiciary in assessing the state’s culpability.

A victory for indigenous people via BBC News:

Chilean Supreme court orders halt to mine

Chile’s supreme court has halted the development of a gold and copper mine owned by the Canadian conglomerate, Goldcorp, until indigenous communities are consulted.

The court upheld an appeal filed on the El Morro mine by the Diaguita community in northern Chile.

The community said the mine, worth almost $4bn, could pollute a local river.

Several recent mining projects in Chile were blocked after local opposition.

From MIT Technology Review, a notable achievement:

Norwegian Factory Aims to Solve Cement’s Carbon Problem

The waste heat in cement production can drive technologies that can grab at least 30 percent of a plant’s carbon dioxide emissions

A Norwegian cement factory has shown that it’s able to capture much of its own carbon dioxide. If the approach were to become widespread, it could have a significant impact, since cement production is responsible for more than 5 percent of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

The Norcem Brevik cement works, tucked into a scenic harbor south of Oslo, has used waste heat to drive a process called amine scrubbing that, at test scales, removed between 30 and 40 percent of the total emissions from the plant’s flue gases.

“We think we are the first project that is testing technology in real cement-plant conditions,” said Liv-Margrethe Bjerge, project manager for the test at Norcem, which owns the Brevik plant. “It’s the only cement project doing post-combustion capture.”

Next, a Fukushimapocalypse Now! concern from Jiji Press:

Locals Voice Concerns over Restart of Sendai N-Reactors

Local residents voiced concerns Thursday about a possible restart of the operations of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Kagoshima.

At a meeting with locals, which was held in the city of Satsumasendai in the prefecture, officials from the Nuclear Regulation Authority made an explanation about its screenings of the power firm’s measures to protect the nuclear power station in the city from possible disasters such as earthquakes, tsunami and volcanic eruptions.

One of the participating residents asked the NRA whether Kyushu Electric has a measure to protect the plant in the event storm surge and tsunami occur at the same time.

Our final item, via the Asahi Shimbun:

Group to start ‘adoption’ parties for abandoned pets in Fukushima Prefecture

Abandoned pets that were left behind when their owners evacuated after the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will soon be the guests of honor at a monthly party by a local volunteer group.

The group, Lysta, which was set up in September 2011, plans to hold the first adoption party on Oct. 12 in hopes of finding “foster parents” for the animals.

Lysta is currently keeping 11 dogs and 70 cats, including those that were born after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis. Of the 81 animals, two-thirds were taken in near the No. 1 nuclear plant.

EnviroWatch: Fire fears, critters, chemicals


Another short compendium today, though not for lack of searching. We begin with this from the Ecologist:

California burning points to more intense wildfires

As the forest fires burn on in the western US, writes Kieran Cooke, a new report predicts that climate-led temperature rise will lead to millions more acres across the world being burned to the ground, especially in southern Europe and Australia.

Smoke from fires burning at present in northern California has been detected as far north as Canada.

Thousands of firefighters are battling to contain blazes that together cover nearly 300,000 acres of forest and shrub wood. And it looks like things are going to get worse.

And now a new report by the US-based Cost of Carbon Pollution project forecasts that such fires are going to become ever more intense in the years ahead – not just in the western US, but elsewhere round the world, and particularly in areas of southern Europe and in Australia.

Next, an overdose from the Atlantic Monthly:

The FDA Says Farmers Are Giving Animals Too Many Antibiotics

Overuse of the drugs has increased over the past few years. That’s not good for human health.

A piece of bad news from the Food and Drug Administration: In the war against antibiotic overuse, the antibiotics are winning.

The amount of antibiotics given to farm animals in the United States increased by 16 percent between 2009 and 2012, the agency announced in a new report, and nearly 70 percent of those used are considered “medically important” for humans. That’s trouble for us as much as it is for our four-legged friends, who consume the majority of antibiotics in the U.S.—as much as 80 percent are given to the chickens, pigs, and cows bound for our grocery-store shelves, both to spur more rapid growth and to proactively protect them from disease.

Such widespread use of antibiotics has led to bugs that are getting tougher and tougher to treat. Worldwide, strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis and gonorrhea are on the rise. In the U.S., antibiotic resistance caused more than two million illnesses in 2013, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and an estimated 23,000 deaths, adding up to more than $20 million in healthcare costs.

From the Guardian, beguiled by the long green?:

WWF International accused of ‘selling its soul’ to corporations

  • Pandaleaks writer says conservation group has forged links with business which is using it to ‘greenwash’ their operations

WWF International, the world’s largest conservation group, has been accused of “selling its soul” by forging alliances with powerful businesses which destroy nature and use the WWF brand to “greenwash” their operations.

The allegations are made in an explosive book previously barred from Britain. The Silence of the Pandas became a German bestseller in 2012 but, following a series of injunctions and court cases, it has not been published until now in English. Revised and renamed Pandaleaks, it will be out next week.

Its author, Wilfried Huismann, says the Geneva-based WWF International has received millions of dollars from its links with governments and business. Global corporations such as Coca-Cola, Shell, Monsanto, HSBC, Cargill, BP, Alcoa and Marine Harvest have all benefited from the group’s green image only to carry on their businesses as usual.

The Independent sounds a death knell:

Elephants and rhinos ‘could be extinct within two decades’ because of ivory poaching

Elephants and rhinos could be extinct within the next two decades, conservation campaigners are warning.

Wildlife campaigners say an estimated 35,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos are killed each year as demand for ivory and rhino horn drives increasing poaching rates.

This demand means both species could potentially be wiped out within the next 20 years.

From the Jakarta Globe, capital critter conservation:

US Reduces Indonesian Debt in Exchange for Wildlife Protection

The United States has struck a deal to reduce Indonesia’s debts in exchange for Jakarta pledging about $12 million for programs to protect endangered species and their habitats on Sumatra island, conservationists said Friday.

The move adds to a similar agreement in 2009, under which the Indonesian government pledged $30 million for increased protection of Sumatra’s forests, said NGO Conservation International, which helped broker the deal.

The agreement, which was inked this week, will provide additional funds for environmental groups to improve programmes aimed at protecting the Sumatran low-land rainforests as well as efforts to increase populations of threatened animals.

The New York Times looks at the C-word in Brazil:

Clashing Visions of Conservation Shake Brazil’s Presidential Vote

From the podium at the United Nations to declarations on the campaign trail, President Dilma Rousseff is celebrating Brazil’s protection of the Amazon. But satellite data released last month shows that Brazil’s annual deforestation rate in the Amazon has climbed again after years of declines, rising 29 percent, leaving her vulnerable to attacks in this nation’s acrimonious presidential race. The vote is on Sunday.

“The mantra in Brasília is that they have deforestation under control, but the evidence on the ground shows this is not true,” said Philip M. Fearnside, a prominent researcher at the National Institute for Amazon Research in Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city.

Beyond alarming scientists, who note the importance of the vast rain forest to the world’s climate and biodiversity, the sparring over the Amazon symbolizes clashing visions of Brazil’s future. Both Ms. Rousseff and her top rival, Marina Silva, an environmental leader, say they want forest conservation, but the president’s model seeks economic growth by tapping into the Amazon’s natural resources, including huge mining projects and dams.

And our final item, via the Mainichi, mutating munchies:

Food safety commission recognizes snack food compound can cause gene mutations

The Cabinet Office’s Food Safety Commission called acrylamides, a chemical compound found in snack foods like potato chips, a carcinogen that can cause gene mutations, in a draft it released on Oct. 3.

The draft marks the first official evaluation of acrylamides’ alleged carcinogenic properties by Japanese authorities. In other countries, these properties have been recognized since the early 2000s based on various research studies, and those countries have been warning consumers about them. The Japanese food safety commission team has been independently looking into the substance’s properties since December 2011.

Based on animal experiments in Japan and in other countries, the team determined that acrylamides are carcinogens that can mutate genes and chromosomes and therefore even have effects on the subsequent generation.

EnviroWatch: Climate, water, eruption, fuels


First up, a fait accompli from the Guardian:

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

  • Evidence from around the world supports scientists’ assertion that global warming is already happening

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet’s warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country’s president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. “He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating,” Tony de Brum, the islands’ foreign minister, revealed recently.

From the Associated Press, water woes in parched California:

California’s water agencies look to budget water

As California’s severe drought continues, state and local agencies are looking at budgeting water use by creating a daily water allocation for each household.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1xsETsi ) that under such a scheme, a household would be allotted a certain number of gallons for indoor water use and another for outdoor water use.

The amount allocated is calculated using census data, aerial photography and satellite imagery to determine a property’s efficient water usage amount. Those using above their designated amount would pay extra.

Such a system is already in use or being considered by several municipalities statewide.

A similar crisis half a world away from the Los Angeles Times:

Iran prays for rain amid acute water shortage

Concern is mounting about dwindling water supplies across Iran, from the densely populated, smog-ridden capital and its parched suburbs to provincial towns and cities to far-flung corners of the nation, much of which is desert. Lakes and rivers have been drying up, reservoirs are at historic lows and water supplies have been cut in some areas. The annual snowmelt from the mountains is on the decline.

On the streets here, people grumble about cuts in water service. Many buildings have tanks on the roofs to collect rainwater. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rained in months. Bottled water is available, but many Iranians have little excess income for purchasing it. Most Iranians rely on tap water for both drinking and washing.

“On some days of the week, our tap water is cut for seven or eight hours,” said Akbar Aziz, 40, a printing-house employee who lives in the capital’s working-class Khorasan district. “We are consuming as little as possible,” said Aziz, a father with young daughters. “We shower only two times a week. So we are not responsible for the water shortages.”

Environmental Health News covers another water woe:

Fish still contaminated with phased-out Scotchgard chemical

A persistent chemical formerly used in Scotchgard still contaminates most fish in U.S. rivers and the Great Lakes despite a phase-out a dozen years ago, a new federal study shows.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency researchers found perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in all of the 157 fish sampled from nearshore waters in the five Great Lakes and in 73 percent from 162 rivers.

The study, the largest of its kind in freshwater fish, suggests that eating bass, trout, walleye and catfish could be a major source of exposure for anglers and their families. The chemical remains widespread in wildlife, people and water around the world.

From BBC News, a body count:

Japan volcano: Mt Ontake rescue teams find 31 bodies

The bodies of 31 hikers have been found near the top of Japan’s Mount Ontake a day after a sudden volcanic eruption.

The hikers were not breathing and their hearts had stopped. The search for a total of 45 missing climbers has now been called off for the night.

The volcano, about 200km (125 miles) west of Tokyo, erupted without warning on Saturday, spewing ash and rocks. About 250 people were trapped on the slopes of the popular beauty spot, but most got down safely.

Deutsche Welle covers the story:

Hikers killed in Japan earthquake

Program notes:

More than 30 people have been killed after a volcano in Japan erupted unexpectedly. Mount Ontake continues to spew ash and smoke into the air, creating difficulties for rescue teams attempting to reach hikers still stranded on the slopes. Experts were taken by surprise by the eruption; they say there were no warning signs in the preceding hours.

From BBC News, Big Oil taps an arctic vein:

Rosneft and Exxon discover Arctic oil

Russian energy giant Rosneft says it has discovered oil with its US project partner Exxon Mobil at a controversial well in the Arctic. Drilling was completed in record time, it said, but questions remain about how quickly the well can be developed.

Exxon has said it will “wind down” the project following US sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Environmentalists have campaigned hard against drilling for oil in the pristine region.

“Rosneft successfully completed the drilling of the northernmost well in the world – the Universitetskaya-1 well in the Arctic,” the company said in a statement.

Big Oil fracks your British basement, via the Guardian:

Fracking trespass law changes move forward despite huge public opposition

  • Ministers reject 40,000 objections to allow fracking below homes without owners’ permission

Fracking will take place below Britons’ homes without their permission after ministers rejected 40,000 objections to controversial changes to trespass laws.

The UK government argued that the current ability for people to block shale gas development under their property would lead to significant delays and that the legal process by which companies can force fracking plans through was costly, time-consuming and disproportionate.

There were a total of 40,647 responses to a consultation on the move to give oil and gas companies underground access without needing to seek landowners’ permission, with 99% opposing the legal changes. Setting aside the 28,821 responses submitted via two NGO campaigns, 92% of the remaining responses objected to the proposals.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore signals a major nuclear [power] proliferation:

India turns to nuclear as energy crisis deepens

  • Energy-starved India relies on coal to produce two thirds of its electricity, and it is now looking at nuclear options to ease a power crisis

India’s new prime minister is turning to nuclear energy to ease a power crisis made worse by the cancellation of hundreds of coal mining permits, but he faces scepticism both at home and abroad.

Energy-starved India relies on coal to produce two thirds of its electricity, but power blackouts are common and demand is rising quickly as the economy and middle class expand.

On Wednesday (Sep 24), the Supreme Court cancelled over 200 coal mining permits because the licensing process was deemed illegal, making the need for alternative energy sources yet more pressing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made nuclear a priority as he seeks to fulfil his campaign pledge to kickstart the country’s flagging economy.

Want China Times takes seaborne nuclear power in a whole new direction:

China ready to construct floating nuclear power plant

The 719th Research Institute of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation was appointed to establish China’s first R&D center for floating nuclear power plants in central China’s Hubei province, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a contract with president Xi Jinping of China during his visit to Shanghai in May for the two nations to collaborate in constructing such a plant. As China Shipbuilding Industry Corp’s website writes, the floating plant will be used to provide electricity to Chinese facilities in the disputed South China Sea.

Equipped with a smaller nuclear reactor, some vessels can also be used to exploit the natural resources beneath the sea floor. When natural disasters and accidents strike, emergency assistance can be deployed from the floating station. If China gathers experience in operating such plants, they will be able to construct nuclear reactors for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the future.

And for our final item, a nuclear reminder from the Mainichi:

Ex-mayor raps gov’t before 15th anniv. of Japan’s 1st criticality accident

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 was brought about as the government neglected to learn lessons from Japan’s first criticality accident that occurred 15 years ago, the former mayor of the affected village said Sunday.

Speaking before an audience of some 350 people who gathered for a public meeting ahead of the accident’s 15th anniversary, Tatsuya Murakami, who served as mayor of Tokaimura in Ibaraki Prefecture until last year, said despite the accident Japan has persisted to maintain a “safety myth.”

“Japan was caught up in a ‘safety myth’ that a serious nuclear accident would not happen in this country when the criticality accident occurred at a nuclear fuel processor in this village” on Sept. 30, 1999, he said.

The myth and the failure to firmly clarify the cause of the accident eventually led to the Fukushima meltdown, he said.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, pleas, claims, & help


We begin with numbers from Punch Nigeria:

Ebola death toll more than 2,900 –WHO

The World Health Organisation has announced that the number of people killed by the Ebola Virus Disease has reached at least 2,917.

According to the global health body, the increasing casualty figure is driven by the continuing rapid spread of the disease in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The New York Times reported that the UN agency made the announcement on Thursday.

At least 2,909 people have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 6,242 reported Ebola cases over all, according to the latest report of the UN health agency. Nigeria and Senegal have recorded a total of eight deaths and 21 cases of infection.

More from Punch Nigeria:

… kills 200 people each day, says Ban

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has said the Ebola Virus Disease kills more than 200 people every day.

Ban made the statement on Thursday at a high-level meeting on EVD in the United States of America. Present at the meeting were President of the Republic of Guinea, Alpha Conde; President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Koroma; and the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The UN secretary-general called the world’s attention to the ravaging impact of the Ebola outbreak, saying that despite the “valiant efforts of local communities, health systems are buckling under the strain.”

The McClatchy Washington Bureau conveys pleas:

West Africa pleads for faster help to fight Ebola virus

The presidents of three West African nations pleaded Thursday for much faster help from the world in battling a deadly Ebola outbreak that’s killed nearly 3,000 people and might infect more than a million others in the coming months as the virus continues to spread.

“Partners and friends, based on understandable fears, have ostracized us,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said at a meeting on the Ebola crisis at the United Nations. “The world has taken some time to fully appreciate and adequately respond to the enormity of our tragedy.”

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, who took the drastic step Thursday of putting more than a million people under quarantine, said the disease his nation was fighting was “worse than terrorism.”

The president of Guinea, Alpha Conde, attended in person, while the presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone stayed in their countries and participated by video.

A video report from Reuters:

West African leaders call for more aid for Ebola at UN

Program note:

Discussions on combating the spread of the Ebola virus are dominating much of the talks at the United Nations, where the affected countries are demanding more aid. Nathan Frandino reports.

Sky News covers tragic resistance:

Ebola: Roadblocks To Stop Health Workers

  • More disease ‘hotspots’ are put under quarantine amid reports that locals are putting up barricades to stop health teams

Roadblocks have reportedly been set up by residents in ebola-hit Guinea in a bid to stop health teams entering the area.

The number of people to die from deadly virus in West Africa has risen to nearly 3,000 – almost half of those so far infected – and further ‘hotspots’ were put under quarantine in an attempt to halt its spread.

But in some areas of Guinea, where an ebola team was killed last week, there was still resistance to such efforts, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.  There are reports from the Fassankoni area that locals were setting up barricades to intercept ebola response teams trying to enter the region, WHO said.

Star Africa News covers the arrival of tangible help:

U.S donates Ebola protective gears to Liberian govt

The United States government Thursday turned over the first batch of 9,000 home protection kits to the Liberian government.

The presentation of the items was made by a representative of the US International Agency (USAID) to Information Minister Lewis Brown. It is part of a batch of 50,000 home protection kits the US government promised Liberia for its fight against the spread of the Ebola virus at the level of homes.

In remarks, Information Minister Lewis Brown commended the Americans saying the kits are intended to help Liberians prevent themselves from contracting the virus.

Star Africa News again, with boots on the ground:

Liberia receives additional US military personnel, supplies for anti-Ebola war

Another C-17 aircraft carrying 39 US military personnel and equipment have arrived in Liberia as part of efforts to help in the anti-Ebola fight in West Africa.

The 39 military personnel including 15 US Navy SeaBees and 24 Operation United Assistance (OUA) Headquarters personnel arrived in Liberia on Tuesday, according to a US embassy release issued here Thursday.

The SeaBees make up the US Navy Construction Battalion. The SeaBees will be conducting site assessments and providing mentorship for the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) construction teams, which will be charged with building additional Ebola Treatment Units (ETU). Discussions are underway on the sites for ETUs and how many will be built.

The release said the C-17 US military aircraft also brought in a tactical truck, a tent system and three pallets of medical supplies.

From the Independent, another facet of reality on the ground:

Ebola virus outbreak: ‘Just two doctors’ available to treat 85,000 people in Liberia county

There are just two doctors available to treat 85,000 people in the Bomi County of Liberia, one of the countries hardest hit by the deadly outbreak of Ebola.

The World Health Organisation said 2,917 people have died of Ebola out of 6,263 cases in the five West African countries affected by the disease. There were 99 deaths in Liberia between 17 and 21 September.

Recent worst-case estimates suggest a staggering 1.4 million people could be infected with Ebola by January in Liberia and Sierra Leone – more than ten per cent of their combined populations.

Similar problems in Nigeria from Punch Nigeria:

‘Only 13 pharmacists in Kwara’

Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Kwara State chapter, Mr. Francis Olayiwola, has said that the state government has only 13   pharmacists employed in 31 health institutions across the state.

Olayiwola said the level of pharmacist staffing in the state was “dangerously low.”

He said the situation had done harm to the people of the state and that it would do greater harm if not addressed urgently.

He spoke in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Thursday during a media briefing to mark the World Pharmacy Day.

Star Africa News wins support:

Liberia in $52m contract with UN agencies

The government of Liberia has signed a $52 million contractual agreement with four agencies of the United Nations to implement emergency Ebola response projects.The grant to support the intervention of the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Food Program and the United Nations Office for Project Services, was provided by the
World Bank in the amount of $52 million.

In remarks at the signing ceremony held Thursday in the capital Monrovia, Finance Minister Amara Konneh, who represented government, said the World Bank $52 million grant will be used to underwrite the operational cost of existing Ebola Treatment Units (ETU’s) for the next six months.

He further disclosed that the grant under the emergency Ebola response projects will also finance the construction of additional ETU’s as well as provide medical personnel and patients various necessities to combat the Ebola virus.

From Star Africa News, righteous anger:

Sierra Leone: Angry youths protest delay in burial of the dead

Some angry youths disrupted traffic in a part of the Sierra Leonean capital on Wednesday as a protest against delays in of burial of the dead by relatives.
Because of a state of emergency declaration, Sierra Leoneans have been banned from burying anyone, regardless of the cause of their deaths, unless with an official approval to do so.

This, the government said, is to ensure that all Ebola cases are identified and internment done properly, but also so that necessary quarantine measures are put in place.

As a result, dozens of bodies have been piling up across the country because of the inability of the relevant authorities to respond timely to suspected Ebola cases or dead bodies.

In some cases, bodies have spent over three days, and sometimes longer, awaiting a burial team. This poses serious health risk to not just the immediate family of the victims but the neighbours.

From BBC News, expanding the hot zone:

Sierra Leone widens Ebola quarantine to three more districts

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma has widened a quarantine to include another one million people in an attempt to curb the spread of Ebola.

The northern districts of Port Loko and Bombali, and Moyamba in the south, will in effect be sealed off immediately.

Mr Koroma’s announcement follows a three-day nationwide lockdown that ended on Sunday night.

Two eastern districts have been isolated since the beginning of August and the extension of the indefinite quarantine means more than a third of Sierra Leone’s 6.1 million population now finds itself unable to move freely.

From CCTV Africa, help from China:

Ebola: Over 60 Chinese Medics Working in Sierra Leone

Program notes:

China was among the first countries to send in medics to the Ebola-hit region. In recent days, it’s provided more help with nearly 60 medical personnel flying into Sierra Leone. They’ve rushed to set up a much-needed testing facility just outside the capital, Freetown. It’s due to begin operations this weekend. CCTV’s Nina DeVries reports

More Chinese help from Xinhua:

China vows to stand alongside Africa in fight against Ebola

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday said the people of China will always stand beside the African people in the fight against Ebola.

Wang made the pledge while addressing a high-level meeting on response to the outbreak of Ebola virus disease on the sidelines of the annual UN General Debate.

“The epidemic may be merciless, but people with love help each other,” said Wang. “The Chinese government has provided instantly drugs, medical equipment and other disease prevention and relief materials to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau.”

Star Africa News covers a funding increase:

W/Bank raises $400m for anti-Ebola effort

The World Bank on Thursday announced that it would nearly double its funds to Ebola-hit West Africa to $400 million to help address the emergency situation in the region and build stronger health systems for the future.The original funding by the World Bank was $230 million but a further $170 million has been cleared for the Ebola nations of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

“The global community is now responding with the urgency and the scale needed to begin to turn back this unprecedented Ebola crisis,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who was speaking on Thursday at a special session on the Ebola crisis at the United Nations in New York.

“The real challenge now is to bring care and treatment to the most remote areas as well as the cities and then to build a stronger health care system,” he added.

More help from Kyodo News:

Japan to boost aid for Ebola fight nearly 10-fold to $45 mil.

Japan will increase its aid to help West African countries fight the Ebola outbreak nearly tenfold to $45 million while also providing more protective equipment, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday.

Japan, which already provided some $5 million to help contain the virus, made the fresh offer at an emergency U.N. meeting that Secretary General Ban Ki Moon convened as the death toll topped 2,900 in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Abe said Japan will increase the supply of protective equipment including goggles for people fighting Ebola to 500,000 items, up from 20,000 decided earlier this month.

The Washington Post covers another Northerner healed:

Third American with Ebola, Richard Sacra, discharged from Nebraska hospital

Richard Sacra, the third American aid worker evacuated to the United States from West Africa to be treated for Ebola, has been discharged from the hospital.

Sacra was treated at Nebraska Medical Center after contracting the deadly virus in Liberia while he worked to deliver babies. He was not treating Ebola patients.

Two other Americans have been discharged after they were successfully treated for Ebola in the United States, including another medical doctor, Kent Brantly, who later donated a unit of blood, or convalescent serum, to Sacra.

From Punch Nigeria, the first of two origins stories:

Ebola: A death courier from unclear source

THERE is no known cure for Ebola. That is about a common knowledge now. But where did Ebola come from? The source of this messenger of death is apparently unknown too.

In some parts of Africa, myths that Ebola was brought to the regions by health care workers have hurt the ability of workers to respond to the outbreak. But where did Ebola really come from?

The true reservoir for Ebola — that is, where the virus hides when it’s not causing outbreaks in people — is not known for sure, but experts say that bats are the likely source of the deadly virus.

“There’s a strong circumstantial case, but we haven’t actually got a total smoking gun,” said Derek Gatherer, a bioinformatics researcher at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.

And the second, from RT America:

Accused: The US manufactured Ebola

Program notes:

The Liberian Daily Observer, which is the largest newspaper in Liberia, just published an article on their front page with the headline, “Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DoD?” The article basically accuses the US of manufacturing this Ebola outbreak in what they call an American Military-Medical-Industry scheme to use Africa as a testing ground for bioweapons. The Resident discusses.

The story in question is here.

For our concluding item, we would also note this story from the same paper:

2-Month-Old Baby Turns Into ‘Full Grown Man’

Residents of Foquelleh in Panta District in Bong County were said to have been in unbelievable shock when a two-month-old baby, identified by family members as Smith Freeman, Tuesday, September 23, morning grew into a full grown man and escaped into the bush with his mother’s lappa.

According to the mother of the child, Lorpu Kollie, 16, on Tuesday she and the child were on their way to the farm when the child on her back tied in lappa spoke to her and told her to put him down.

She told the Daily Observer that as they approached the crossroad, the child repeated his call on the mother to untie her lappa and put him down.   As soon as she put the baby down, she continued, the two-month-old boy instantaneously began to grow into a full grown man!

Lorpu Kollie narrated that the child informed her that he (the child) was on his way back home since his grandmother, Lorpu Kollie’s mother, was in the constant practice of raining insult at him.  He even threatened bring incense and garlic into the home.

EbolaWatch: Hope, warnings, attacks, & more


First from Canada’s The National, a good overview of the Ebola crisis to date in the form of a panel discussion that hits most of the key points. Panelists include physicians Danielle Martin, Doctors Without Borders physician Tim Jagatic, and Ahmed Tijan-Sie of the University of North Carolina:

Ebola Checkup Panel

Program note:

Our health panel looks at the Ebola outbreak that has turned into a global crisis.

Next, from CCTV Africa, Kenyan physician Esther Waithira Wanjiru describes her experiences in helping to battle the outbreak in Sierra Leone:

Ebola: Kenyan Doctor returns From Sierra Leone

Program notes:

Health services in the Ebola hot zone have been overwhelmed. But medics from across Africa are answering the call for help. Among them is a young Kenyan who asked for her family’s permission to go. CCTV’s Jane Kiyo reports

And on to the days’ hard news, starting with a positive development from Star Africa News:

Ebola vaccines accessible by year’s end – WHO

The World Health Organisation has said that vaccines to treat the deadly disease Ebola ravaging West Africa may be more accessible by the end of 2014.
In a statement seen by APA on Wednesday, the WHO said the more vaccines are made available to the three worst affected countries the better it will be to contain the epidemic which has killed over 1, 660 people in the region since March.

Up till now there has been no certified vaccine to treat Ebola, which is mostly contracted by contact with victims’ body fluids.

Tests are already at an advanced stage for two types of vaccines which may be certified for use.

And the first item of grim news comes from BBC News:

Ebola-hit nations may ‘face collapse’

The Ebola outbreak threatens to become a political crisis that could unravel years of effort to stabilise West Africa, a think tank has warned.

“The worst-hit countries now face widespread chaos and, potentially, collapse,” the International Crisis Group (ICG) said.

The world’s largest outbreak of Ebola has caused 2,811 deaths so far, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Punch Nigeria delivers a plea:

Ebola: More hands needed in the battle

Nigeria may be out of the woods in the current outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, but the increasing number of cases in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has ensured the country cannot yet sleep with two eyes closed. Only last week, 700 new cases of the virus were confirmed by the World Health Organisation in Liberia and Sierra Leone, a development which has sent jitters across the region.

Hundreds more cases may be unearthed in the coming weeks. Findings from a joint study by officials of the WHO and the Imperial College, London, released on Monday warned that there might be more than 20,000 cases of the virus by November. To contain future outbreaks in Nigeria, however, a director of the Yale World Fellows Programme, Dr. Michael Capello, has offered to train 150 health workers on the management of the disease.

Capello, who is also a Professor of Paediatrics, Microbial Pathogenesis and Public Health, will be working in conjunction with the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, a body which coordinates private sector intervention in the management of the EVD.

From Nextgov, turning to the digital:

Scientists Turn to Computer Models to Predict Ebola’s Next Move

In the early stages of the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and other aid organizations concentrated their efforts on the ground. They tried to convince patients to go to hospitals or let aid workers set up quarantine areas in their homes. Unfortunately, these and other interventions did little to slow the outbreak. According to the WHO, the number of cases has nearly doubled in the last three weeks, prompting Sierra Leone’s government to enforce a three-day lockdown over the weekend.

On September 17, WHO director general Margaret Chan said there are now at least 5,357 reported cases, including 2,630 deaths, in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal. “None of us experienced in containing outbreaks has ever seen, in our lifetimes, an emergency on this scale,” she said. She has previously said the numbers are an underestimate, as there are many unreported cases. On September 16, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the outbreak the world’s first Ebola epidemic.

As the speed of this outbreak increased, experts planning the response started relying more heavily on computer models, says Dr. Martin Meltzer. Meltzer is a senior health economist at the CDC, where he leads the Health Economics and Modeling Unit. On August 4, Meltzer started building the CDC’s Ebola models, called EbolaResponse.

From the Associated Press, another assault:

Red Cross team attacked while burying Ebola dead

A Red Cross team was attacked while collecting bodies believed to be infected with Ebola in southeastern Guinea, the latest in a string of assaults that are hindering efforts to control West Africa’s current outbreak.

One Red Cross worker is recovering after being wounded in in the neck in Tuesday’s attack in Forecariah, according to Benoit Carpentier, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Family members of the dead initially set upon the six volunteers and vandalized their cars, said Mariam Barry, a resident. Eventually a crowd went to the regional health office, where they threw rocks at the building.

The attack is the most recent in a series that have plagued teams working to bury bodies safely, provide information about Ebola and disinfect public places. The most shocking was the abduction and killing last week in Guinea of eight people, health workers educating people about Ebola and the journalists accompanying them.

Star Africa News covers a major break in an earlier and deadlier attack:

Guinea rounds up 27 suspects in massacre of anti-Ebola sensitizers

Guinea’s Justice Minister, Cheikh Sacko has announced the arrest of at the least 27 persons suspected to be involved in the violence in the town of Wome in the Forestry Guinea region during which eight people who were sensitizing the population over Ebola were killed, official sources disclosed here Wednesday.

According to the minister, the main suspect in the affair, Labile Haba was arrested in a village called Yomou near the border with Liberia.

Two other suspects were also rounded up by the security forces as they had been attempting to flee to Cote d’Ivoire to join another suspected co-author of the deadly massacre of the anti-Ebola crusaders.

Furthermore the minister has confirmed the apprehension of 22 more suspects who have already appeared before a judge.

From the Guardian, more numbers from a nationwide lockdown:

Ebola epidemic: house-to-house search in Sierra Leone reveals 358 new cases

  • Teams of volunteers also find hundreds of unburied corpses, according to leaked email from senior American diplomat

Door-to-door searches during a three-day curfew in Sierra Leone identified more than 350 suspected new cases of Ebola, according by the top US diplomat in the country.

Charge d’affairs Kathleen Fitzgibbon said teams of volunteers had also discovered 265 corpses, of which 216 have since been been buried, in an email to organisers of the curfew that has been seen by the Guardian.

Fitzgibbon said the home visits had identified a preliminary 358 new suspected cases, with 85 patients sent to treatment centres.

Although there had been some “challenges” during the curfew, which saw the normally chaotic streets of the capital Freetown replaced by eerie silence after the government ordered everyone to stay in doors, it could be seen as the “beginning of the end” of the Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 2,800 people, primarily in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The Independent covers the despicable:

4Chan’s latest, terrible ‘prank’: Convincing West Africans that Ebola doctors actually worship the disease

The message-board 4chan has been rightly blamed for many unsavory Internet things: the celebrity nude scandal, the dangerous “bikini bridge” meme, the brief virality of the self-harm hashtag #cuttingforBieber.

Now, the denizens of one of the Internet’s least-principled places are attempting to propagate another tasteless meme: She’s called Ebola-chan, and she’s some cross between a prank, a witless joke and a truly vile strain of racism.

“Have you welcomed her into your heart yet?” Asks one post on 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board, /pol/. “I’m talking, of course, about Ebola-Chan. The viral goddess of love and Afrocide … Our shrines and incantations give her strength.”

Ebola-Chan is not, needless to say, a goddess anywhere outside of 4chan’s diseased imagination: The character is a /pol/ invention, a cartoon mascot for the virus that could infect half a million people within the next four months.

Liberian Observer has more new numbers — and troubles:

Ebola Weakens Liberia Food Security

Liberia has been the hardest hit country in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) with more than 3000 cases, Voice of America (VOA) reports.

With this latest development, it is reported that 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties have been affected. Some of the first cases in Liberia were reported in northern Lofa County. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (ANFAO) said, the outbreak has had a big effect on food security in the country.

The FAO has just completed a four-day assessment of Lofa County, where a three-man team visited the towns of Foya and Barkedu. The far northern area is close to the border with Guinea. That’s where the World Health Organization (WHO) reports the Ebola outbreak probably began early this year with the case of a two year old boy.

BuzzFeed covers another Liberian development:

Liberia Opens New Ebola Wards But They Won’t Be Nearly Enough

A new rural facility brings hope to the country hardest-hit in the Ebola outbreak, but experts warn Liberia could see as many as 10,000 cases in a matter of months

For once, there’s good news in rural Liberia.

Last week, the International Medical Corps opened Liberia’s newest Ebola treatment center, in rural Bong County. It’s one of only a handful of treatment centers in the country hardest-hit by West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, and it’s the first treatment center to open since the disease spread from Liberia’s two key epicenters to most of the rest of the country.

The treatment center came too late for its first two patients — a 45-year-old man and his stepson, both of whom who died — but it’s an irrefutable mark of progress in a response that has been hampered by delays and malaise.

“Every week that goes by that an Ebola treatment unit doesn’t open up, we probably need to add another one or two [treatment units] on the back end. The growth is exponential now, so if there’s a delay, that means the scale of the response has to grow,” Sean Casey, the International Medical Corps’ Ebola emergency response team director, told BuzzFeed News by telephone from Bong County.

From Al Jazeera English, another complication:

Senegal gold miners hit by Ebola measures

Thousands of miners stranded as government imposes trade restrictions to contain Ebola outbreak in West Africa

The government of Senegal has placed restrictions on gold trade to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Thousands of informal gold miners living along the Senegal-Guinea border are now stranded, with no money to leave.

Punch Nigeria covers a reasonable demand:

Union demands insurance cover for nurses

The National Union of Allied Health Professionals on Tuesday demanded Personal Protective Equipment and comprehensive health insurance for its members.

The union said the first victim of the Ebola Virus Disease after the index case was a Nigerian nurse, hence nurses and other heath workers were more exposed to hazards than medical doctors.

This was contained in a communique issued by the NUAHP after its National Executive Council meeting in Abuja. President and Secretary of the union, Mr. Felix Faniran and O.C Ogbonna, respectively signed the communiqué.

Businessweek lays some blame to the North:

How the U.S. Screwed Up in the Fight Against Ebola

Since appearing in Guinea in December, Ebola has spread to five West African countries and infected 5,864 people, of which 2,811 have died, according to the World Health Organization’s Sept. 22 report. This number is widely considered an underestimate. The CDC’s worst-case model assumes that cases are “significantly under-reported” by a factor of 2.5. With that correction, the CDC predicts 21,000 total cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone by Sept. 30.

A confluence of factors has made it the biggest Ebola outbreak yet. For starters, West Africa has never seen Ebola before; previous outbreaks have mainly surfaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. The initial symptoms of Ebola—fever, vomiting, muscle aches—are also similar to, and were mistaken for, other diseases endemic to the region, such as malaria.

Then, when officials and international workers swept into villages covered head to toe and took away patients for isolation, some family members became convinced that their relatives were dying because of what happened to them in the hospitals. They avoided medical care and lied to doctors about their travel histories. Medical staff at local hospitals became scared and quit their jobs. Aid workers trying to set up isolation units or trace infected people’s contacts were attacked by angry villagers. With these countries short on resources, staff, medical equipment, and basic understanding of the disease, Ebola took hold and spread.

The San Francisco Chronicle covers consciousness-raising in an unlikely setting:

Nurses simulate Ebola deaths on Vegas Strip

U.S. hospitals aren’t ready for an Ebola outbreak, according to nurses who staged a “die-in” Wednesday outside a Las Vegas Strip resort where they are holding a union convention.

A union spokesman pointed to a recent case of a patient tested for Ebola at a northern California hospital and said nurses don’t believe U.S. hospitals have the training, equipment and isolated areas where patients with the deadly virus could be quarantined.

“If there’s disaster plans in hospitals, the people who are supposed to implement them aren’t aware of them,” said Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee.

Many protesters in the crowd of perhaps 1,000 wore bright red T-shirts, and several hundred wore suits resembling hazardous materials gear as they crossed Las Vegas Boulevard from the Planet Hollywood to Bellagio resorts.

And the Guardian warns:

US hospitals ‘unprepared’ to safely handle infectious Ebola waste

  • Waste management companies refusing to haul waste citing federal guidelines requiring special packaging for Ebola waste

US hospitals may be unprepared to safely dispose of the infectious waste generated by any Ebola virus disease patient to arrive unannounced in the country, potentially putting the wider community at risk, biosafety experts said.

Waste management companies are refusing to haul away the soiled sheets and virus-spattered protective gear associated with treating the disease, citing federal guidelines that require Ebola-related waste to be handled in special packaging by people with hazardous materials training, infectious disease and biosafety experts told Reuters.

Many US hospitals are unaware of the regulatory snafu, which experts say could threaten their ability to treat any person who develops Ebola in the US after coming from an infected region. It can take as long as 21 days to develop Ebola symptoms after exposure.

From People’s Daily, more assistance:

China offers Ebola prevention materials to Benin

The Chinese government has offered Benin materials worth 840,000 U.S. dollars for the prevention of Ebola virus, an official source in Cotonou has said.

An agreement in this regard was signed on Monday in Cotonou between Benin’s Foreign Minister Arifari Bako Nassirou and China’s ambassador to Benin Tao Weiguang.

Besides this gesture by the Chinese government, the ambassador announced that the Chinese Embassy will give 10 million CFA Francs (20,000 U.S. dollars) to Benin Red Cross to help it prepare to fight against Ebola.

And for our final item, Reuters reassures:

Scientists see risk of mutant airborne Ebola as remote

The Ebola virus raging through West Africa is mutating rapidly as it tears a deadly path through cities, towns and villages, but the genetic changes are for now not giving it the ability to spread more easily.

Concern that the virus could gain capability to transmit through the air – creating a nightmare scenario of the disease being able to spread like a flu pandemic, killing millions – was fueled by a top infectious disease expert in the United States.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in an opinion article he believed the risk of airborne Ebola is real, and warned: “Until we consider it, the world will not be prepared to do what is necessary to end the epidemic.”

Yet many other virus and infectious disease specialists say that while the prospect of an airborne Ebola virus is not impossible, it is extremely remote.