Category Archives: Environment

EnviroWatch: Carnivore costs, fuels, nukes


First up, from Kyodo News, killing to continue:

Despite IWC resolution, Japan to start “research whaling”: Suga

Japan plans to start “research whaling” in the Antarctic in fiscal 2015 despite a resolution by the International Whaling Commission against the practice, the top government spokesman said Friday.

“We will make preparations so we can start new research whaling in the Antarctic in fiscal 2015,” based on a ruling by the International Court of Justice, Suga said at a regular press conference. “It’s extremely regrettable” that the resolution was adopted, he said.

Suga said Japan’s practices are “completely in line with” the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

The Mainichi covers some of the hypocrisy:

Research whaling costs 4 bil. yen per year

Japan has insisted on resuming research whaling because, in the words of a senior Fisheries Agency official, it needs scientific data for resuming commercial whaling.

If Japan is forced to pull out of scientific whaling, the chances of resuming commercial whaling will evaporate, and even limited coastal hunts for small whales may be further scaled down.

According to an estimation made by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), there are 515,000 minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean. As there are no other whale varieties with populations this big, Japan believes it is reasonable to turn to minke whales for scientific purposes.

But scientific whaling in the Antarctic and Northwest Pacific costs about 4 billion yen a year. Japan’s nonprofit Institute of Cetacean Research is in charge of the project. It has sold whale meat gleaned from scientific whaling to help run its operations, but the number of whales it has caught in the Antarctic has been far lower than its targets due to interference from anti-whaling groups. The Fisheries Agency says the government supplements the institute’s budget with an annual subsidy of about 1 billion yen because proceeds from whale meat are not enough to fund its operations.

From Salon, crying foul on corporate factory fowls:

White House: Factory farms are putting the public at risk — but we’re not going to do anything about it

  • New executive orders aimed at staving off “the next pandemic” both acknowledge and ignore livestock’s contribution

The Obama administration is finally making serious moves toward addressing antibiotic resistance, calling up an executive task force and presidential advisory committee dedicated to the problem. The executive orders signed Thursday, the AP reports, also call for “new regulations to make sure there is appropriate oversight of the use of antibiotics in hospitals” and “encourage better tracking of antibiotic use and the development of new antibiotics and tests.”

Some experts, according to the New York Times, were impressed just that the president decided to take on this issue. But even though we’ve known about the threat of antibiotic resistance for years, warnings have recently become especially charged. This past April, the World Health Organization released a report characterizing antibiotic-resistant superbugs as a world-wide threat to public health: the bacteria that cause “common, serious diseases” bloodstream infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhea, it found, are developing resistance to the drugs needed to treat them, including those classified as “last resort.” In July, CDC Director Thomas Frieden called for immediate action to address the crisis, which he warned could lead to the “next pandemic.” Currently, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are responsible for at least 23,00 deaths in the U.S. each year. So you could also argue that the problem has become pretty much un-ignorable.

Considerably less awesome is the fact that the government will continue to ignore the abuse of antibiotics in livestock, which in the U.S. occurs at astounding rates. To give just one example of how widespread the problem is, a recent Reuters investigation revealed that the use of antibiotics at the nation’s largest poultry companies is reserved not for illness, but is instead “a standard practice over most of the birds’ lives.”

From the Independent, another climate alarm:

Greenland’s dark snow may start global warming ‘feedback loop’

Dr Jason Box, a glaciology professor, has just finished his 23rd expedition to the Danish-owned island since 1994, a series of trips that included spending a year camped on the country’s inland ice. And this time, said Dr Box, he had never seen anything like it.

“Where I took the photos I was stunned by how large an area had such a dark appearance,” said Dr Box, who works for the Geological Survey of Greenland. “This rocket ride has just gotten off the launchpad. I expect the snow and ice to continue darkening – every indication is that the Arctic climate will continue warming and the number of wildfires will keep increasing.”

Unlike the black ice found on Britain’s streets, which is clear and takes on the colour of dark surfaces underneath it, Greenland’s ice and snow really is becoming darker. Dr Fox, who co-founded the Dark Snow Project to measure the impact of the blackening ice on its ability to reflect sunlight, has calculated that the ice sheet is 5.6 per cent darker this year than last.

From the Guardian, Global Corporate University strikes again:

University of California rejects student call to divest from fossil fuels

  • Straying from the precedent set by Stanford and Harvard, university’s board of regents will continue to invest in fossil fuels

The University of California voted on Friday to maintain its investments in fossil fuels, frustrating a student-led effort to divest its portfolio in oil, natural gas and coal.

UC is among the major college endowments have been reluctant to shake up their portfolios by pulling out of fossil fuels after Stanford University, one of the most prestigious and wealthiest in America, took that step in May.

Jagdeep Bachher, UC Regent’s Chief Investment Officer, said in a presentation that UC’s fossil fuel holdings amounts to $10bn of the $91bn in the college’s investment portfolio.

Mining the same vein, but across the Pacific, via Reuters:

China power plants exempt from ban on using low-quality coal: sources

China’s bid to limit the consumption of low-quality thermal coal in major cities to help curb pollution will not apply to power plants, traders and utility sources said, exempting a sector responsible for half the country’s coal use.

China said on Monday that from 2015 it would restrict the production, consumption and import of coal with high impurity levels in a bid to fight smog, much of which is caused by using coal for heating and electricity.

The government set three new quality thresholds, with the most stringent requirement banning the use of coal with more than 16 pct ash and 1 percent sulphur content in key population centers like Beijing and the Yangtze river delta region.

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

Tainted water problems still plague Fukushima, despite some positive signs

To improve the situation, Tepco has been taking steps to reduce the daily buildup of tainted water and to empty the filled trenches running beneath it.

One of those steps, the so-called groundwater bypass, finally began showing progress this week. The bypass is designed to reduce the amount of groundwater merging with tainted water from the plant by pumping it up beforehand and discharging it into the sea.

Other steps have proved unsuccessful, including a recent effort to build ice walls between two of the flooded turbine buildings and their trenches.

The mingling of the waters is a huge headache for Tepco: 400 tons of groundwater seep into the cracked reactor and turbine buildings every day. It then mixes with highly radioactive water in the flooded basements of reactors 1, 2 and 3, which were hit by the meltdowns, and increases the overall volume.

The Asahi Shimbun encounters obstacles:

TEPCO struggling to win approval of fishermen over water-discharge plan

Local fishermen are crying foul over Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s latest plan to discharge processed contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean.

TEPCO and the central government held the first explanatory briefing over the plan on Sept. 18, seeking to win the approval of fishermen operating in southern Fukushima Prefecture.

Their explanation was apparently unconvincing. “I can’t believe anything TEPCO says,” one of the attendees said after the meeting.

The Asahi Shimbun stays the course:

Outgoing NRA commissioner insists safety screenings for reactors were fair

An outgoing commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority rejected criticism from the pro-nuclear community, saying the safety screenings for restarting the nation’s idled nuclear reactors were conducted in a fair manner.

“No part of the safety screening process was strict,” Kunihiko Shimazaki, whose two-year tenure as deputy chairman of the nuclear watchdog ended on Sept. 18, told reporters. “Everything was done in a sensible manner.”

Another commissioner, Kenzo Oshima, a former diplomat, left the post the same day.

Shimazaki, a seismology specialist, proved a thorn in the side of power utilities with his calls for reassessing the potential force inflicted by seismic waves and tsunami upon nuclear plants.

NHK WORLD disposes:

Govt. aims to begin waste transport in January

Japan’s environment minister says the government wants to start transporting radioactive waste produced by the Fukushima nuclear accident to interim storage facilities in Fukushima next January as scheduled.

Yoshio Mochiduki said on Friday that the government wants to proceed with preparations for the transport quickly, and it has no plan to change the target date.

The government started studying transportation routes and negotiations with landowners after the Fukushima government agreed earlier this month to build the facilities in the prefecture.

For our final item, NHK WORLD opposes:

Towns vote to block radioactive waste dumps

The assemblies of 2 towns north of Tokyo have voted unanimously to block or limit the construction of final disposal sites for radioactive waste in their towns.

Kami Town in Miyagi Prefecture and Shioya Town in Tochigi Prefecture have both been named by the central government as candidate sites for the facilities.

Sludge, ash, and other waste containing more than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive materials per kilogram are to be permanently stored at the sites.

The government plans to build such facilities in 5 prefectures near Fukushima, where the 2011 nuclear accident occurred.

EbolaWatch: Dire scenarios, complications, aid


Lots of ground to cover today, so we begin with a dire warning, via Bloomberg:

Ebola Worst-Case Scenario Has More Than 500,000 Cases

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa could spread to hundreds of thousands more people by the end of January, according to an estimate under development by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that puts one worst-case scenario at 550,000 or more infections.

The report, scheduled to be released next week, was described by two people familiar with its contents, who asked to remain anonymous because it isn’t yet public.

The projection, which vastly outstrips previous estimates, is under review by researchers and may change. It assumes no additional aid or intervention by governments and relief agencies, which are mobilizing to contain the Ebola outbreak before it spirals further out of control in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

And a complication, via Reuters:

Killings in Guinea show mistrust in Africa Ebola fight: WHO

The killing in Guinea of eight people trying to educate locals about Ebola showed how much rural populations in West Africa mistrust authorities after years of instability and conflict, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Eight bodies were found after an attack on a team visiting remote southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said on Thursday, showing the dangers faced by health workers fighting the deadly virus that is surrounded by suspicion and stigma.

Guinea was crippled by decades of corruption and political instability, and the other countries worst hit by the outbreak, Sierra Leone and Liberia, suffered civil wars in the 1990s. The legacy of these traumas now poses a risk to health workers battling Ebola, WHO expert Pierre Formenty said.

“This population in the forested area has really suffered a lot in the last 20 years. They are in a post-conflict behavior, there is lack of trust obviously between these populations and the different governments for the three countries,” Formenty told a news briefing in Geneva upon return from Liberia.

A further complication, via CCTV Africa:

Africa’s Food Security: FAO issues alert for Ebola affected countries

Program notes:

One in nine people — suffer from hunger. The latest UN report shows a decrease in world hunger, but fresh conflicts and the Ebola crisis is slowing down Africa’s efforts. Maria Galang has more.

Yet another, via Vice News:

Left to Die: Liberia’s Ebola Victims Have Nowhere to Turn as Treatment Centers Overflow

With the onset of Ebola, Liberia’s healthcare system is completely overstretched. People are dying of treatable diseases because they can’t get into hospitals, and pregnant women are giving birth in the street. Everything is collapsing.

An official familiar with the peace-building commission at the United Nations, which includes Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, said that one of the dangers of the current situation is that in fragile countries like Liberia, which is still recovering after 14 years of civil war, is that all problems in a country coming out of conflict are exacerbated: mistrust of state institutions, poverty, security issues, and distrust in government. “You’re looking at food prices going up and schools closed, wages not being paid, businesses wrecked,” said the official.

“Rightly so everyone is focused on the health crisis, but once the disease is halted, all these problems are going to need to be dealt with, and it’s things these countries were making progress with and all that progress is turned back,” he said.

From Bloomberg, yet another complication:

Ebola Is Katrina Moment for WHO’s Chan Hobbled by Budget

When Margaret Chan was elected to lead the World Health Organization, she said the agency’s priority was to improve the health of people in Africa.

Eight years later, the 67-year-old Chan is under attack for letting an Ebola outbreak there spiral beyond control, and this week her group found itself eclipsed as the leader of humanitarian efforts to control the epidemic.

The United Nations said it would create a separate Health Mission to coordinate care in West Africa, and the U.S. announced it would send 3,000 troops to build hospitals there. Those plans come after Chan delayed designating the outbreak as a global emergency until thousands were infected in three countries, and in the wake of complaints her agency had done too little to manage the response. Now, the WHO is in the awkward spot of being little more than a voice in the crowd, critics suggest, and Chan is seen by some as being partly to blame.

Punch Nigeria issues a plea:

UN seeks support for Liberia, others over Ebola

Mrs Jane Giogh, United Nations Children’s Education Fund representative in Nigeria, has appealed to countries with adequate human resources capacity to assist Liberia and Sierra-Leone to fight Ebola disease.

Giogh made the call in Port Harcourt on Friday in a chat with newsmen.

She said Liberia, Sierra-Leone and Guinea that were being ravaged by the disease had less human and financial capacities.

Star Africa News covers aid arrival:

First shipment of US military response to Ebola arrives in Liberia

A US military aircraft arrived in Liberia on Thursday with the first shipment of US military equipment and personnel for the anti-Ebola fight, in line with the promise made by President Barack Obama in his September 16 speech at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

According to a press statement received by APA Friday, the cargo included a heavy duty forklift, a drill set and generator and a team of 7 military personnel, including engineers and airfield specialists. The personnel are here to quickly assess the payload and stability of airport runways and the forklift will be used to offload incoming supplies.

The statement said an additional large military aircraft transporting more personnel and supplies, are expected to arrive in Monrovia in the coming days.

It adds that Major General Darryl Williams, in his capacity as Commander of US Army Africa and Operation United Assistance, has been in Liberia since Tuesday, meeting with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other senior Liberian government officials to discuss the stepped up US response to the Ebola crisis.

CCTV Africa covers a second mission:

Ebola: AU to Send Second Medical Team to West Africa

Program notes:

The African Union is set to send a second Ebola response team to West Africa. This will be part of the organisation’s larger efforts to deploy experts over a six month period. However funding still remains a concern. Here’s CCTV’s Girum Chala with more details on that story.

From the Los Angeles Times, yet another complication and a profound moral issue:

A looming problem: How to ration Ebola vaccines and medicines

For doctors and public health officials trying to contain the Ebola epidemic, the dearth of drugs and vaccines is only part of the problem. Once these medicines become available, there certainly won’t be enough of them to go around.

So experts are devising ways to ration the precious products — and that forces them to ask some difficult questions:

Is the life of a physician worth more than a truck driver? Is a foreign aid worker more deserving of a vaccine than a nurse who lives in West Africa? Is it fair to turn thousands of at-risk people into clinical trial guinea pigs?

“It’s hard to know what’s the right thing to do,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor at Vanderbilt University.

Reuters covers drastic measures:

Ebola lockdown brings Sierra Leone capital to a halt

Streets in the capital of Sierra Leone were deserted on Friday as the West African state began a contested, three-day lockdown in a bid to halt the worst Ebola outbreak on record.

President Ernest Bai Koroma urged people to heed the emergency measures, and only vehicles driven by police and health workers took to the normally bustling roads of Freetown.

Radio stations played Ebola awareness jingles on repeat and encouraged residents to stay indoors.

Nearly 30,000 health workers, volunteers and teachers aim to visit every household in the country of six million people by Sunday to educate them about the disease and isolate the sick.

From Businessweek, context:

Sierra Leone Ebola Burial Teams Struggle as Bodies Decompose

Ebola burial teams in Sierra Leone can’t keep up with the rising number of dead, and some bodies are left to decompose at home for days as test results for the virus are slow to arrive.

“We are overwhelmed as we bury between 20 to 30 corpses a day,” Sas Kargbo, head coordinator for Sierra Leone’s burial teams, said in an interview in the capital, Freetown. “We want capacity to determine the cause of death in 24 hours so that those who did not die of Ebola will be buried with dignity.”

President Ernest Bai Koroma on Aug. 7 ordered that corpses can’t be buried without the Ministry of Health’s authorization. The measure was meant to stop the virus from spreading by preventing people from organizing funerals for relatives. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected patient, including a deceased person, according to the World Health Organization.

BBC News lends a hand:

Ebola aid donated by UK to Sierra Leone

The UK is donating hundreds of hospital beds to Sierra Leone as it fights to contain the Ebola virus.

Of the 700 beds to be donated, 200 are “in the pipeline”, with the remaining 500 to be handed over in coming months. British army engineers will also identify sites in Sierra Leone where treatment centres can be built.

Vickie Hawkins, executive director of the main Ebola aid agency in West Africa, Medecins San Frontiers, welcomed the “increased commitment of resources from the UK government”.

From the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, measures to protect a huge gathering with participants from around the globe:

Hajj & Ebola: Pilgrims from Ebola infected countries will not attend

Program notes:

The Hajj Board says Ghana will not be used as a transit point for would-be pilgrims from any of the Ebola infected countries that have been denied visas into Saudi Arabia. This comes on the heels of the refusal by Saudi Arabia to grant visas to prospective pilgrims from Ebola-affected countries for fear of transmitting the virus. GBC visits the Hajj Village in Accra to find out whether any of the citizens from these infected countries have made their way into Ghana to travel to Mecca.

From Reuters, a reprieve:

Senegal says no risk of Ebola spreading from imported case

Senegal’s health minister said on Friday there was no further risk of Ebola spreading in the West African country, following the end of a quarantine period for those who came into contact with an infected Guinean man.

“The risk of the Ebola virus spreading from the imported case is non-existent for our country,” Awa Marie Coll Seck told a news conference.

Another clearance, from Punch Nigeria:

Lagos clears last Ebola suspect

The Lagos State Government on Friday said the last suspected case of the Ebola Virus Disease in the state had been cleared having tested negative after surveillance.

Gov. Babatunde Fashola disclosed this while giving an update on the virus at the Secretariat Central Mosque, Alausa, where he observed Jumat Prayers.

The governor said the development meant that the state was now Ebola free and that it was safe enough for schools to resume on Sept. 22.

Punch Nigeria with another clearance of sorts:

Ebola: Rivers, Oyo schools to resume Oct 6

The Rivers and Oyo states governments have declared October 6, 2014 as the resumption date for all public and private primary and secondary schools.

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sampson Parker, who disclosed this on Friday while speaking with journalists in Port Harcourt, the capital city, said schools in Rivers would not resume on September 22, 2014 as earlier announced by the Federal Government as a result of the ongoing surveillance of some Ebola contacts.

He said, “We currently have 253 contacts under surveillance and we hope that by weekend, the number would have come down significantly. We expect that quite a number of those under surveillance would have been discharged in batches.

For our final item, the Washington Post offers qualified reassurance for the other side of the Atlantic:

Ebola outbreak in the U.S.? Probably not happening.

If the deadliest outbreak in history continues at its current pace, the probability of an exportation of Ebola to the United States by the end of September is between 3 and 15 percent, according to Alessandro Vespignani, a Northeastern University professor whose team has been continuously updating its model.

That range, Vespignani said, reflects the the best- and worst-case scenarios.

“These are relatively small probabilities,” Vespignani said in an interview this week. “If we have very good screening procedures, then the probability could be less. If we consider the worst-case scenario, we have basically a 15 percent probability.”

EnviroWatch: Illness, fires, toxins, Fukushima


First, via Al Jazeera America, a biological bubble enlarging:

World population growing, not slowing

  • New methodology reverses earlier predictions, projects Africa population will quadruple this century

The possibility that the world’s population will climb to 11 billion by the end of the century is gaining traction now that demographers are using probability methods for their projections.

A paper published online on Thursday in the journal Science details new methodology that shows that most of the world’s anticipated growth is in Africa, where population is projected to quadruple from about 1 billion today to 4 billion by 2100.

“For the last 20 years, prevailing opinion was that world population would go up to 9 billion and level off in the middle of the century and maybe decline,” said Adrian Raftery, one of the paper’s lead authors and a professor of statistics and sociology at the University of Washington. “Population is going to keep growing. We can say that with confidence.”

From the London Daily Mail, another outbreak closer to home:

Cases of rare and severe infant respiratory illness enterovirus 68 confirmed in 14 states as it spreads quickly among children across America

  • As of Wednesday both Minnesota and New Jersey have confirmed cases of the severe virus enterovirus 68
  • Officials say Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania together have 130 lab-confirmed cases
  • There are also suspected cases in Georgia, Michigan, Ohio and Utah
  • A child in Minnesota told Children’s chief nursing officer Roxanne Fernandes it felt like he had ‘an elephant sitting on his chest’
  • The virus has caused no deaths but has put some children in intensive care and on life support

And from Science, malpractice certain to feed the ISIS media mill:

Sixteen children in Syria die in measles immunization campaign

Sixteen children, all or most under age 2, have died after receiving an injection in a measles immunization campaign in an opposition-held area of northern Syria. Up to 50 more children were sickened.

Details are hazy, says a World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Geneva, Switzerland, but at this point the cause looks like a “very bad human error,” in which a strong muscle relaxant was administered instead of the measles vaccine. The tragic deaths threaten to undermine all vaccination efforts across Syria, where childhood immunization rates have dropped precipitously after years of civil war.

WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have dispatched an investigation team but for now are dependent on secondhand information from nongovernmental organizations and other partners in northern Syria, says WHO’s Christian Lindmeier. (For security reasons, neither organization has staff on the ground in Idlib, where the deaths occurred.) Until the cause is confirmed, rumors will continue to circulate, he warns; various press accounts are alleging a plot by the government of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or perhaps the terrorist group ISIS.

According to Lindmeier, the children died almost immediately on Tuesday after receiving the shot, part of a measles immunization campaign under way in Idlib and Deir al Zour, two governorates of Syria.

Reuters covers a burning issue:

New evacuations ordered as California wildfire doubles in size

More residents of Northern California mountain communities were told to leave their homes on Thursday after an out-of-control wildfire doubled in size overnight, scorching more than 100 square miles of drought-parched timber and brush.

Nearly 3,700 firefighters struggled to stop the forward march of the King Fire, the largest and most dangerous of 11 major wildfires raging across California, but had managed to cut containment lines around just 5 percent of the flames as of Thursday morning, officials said.

The blaze raced across some 43,000 acres of forest land late on Wednesday and early on Thursday and has now burned more than 70,000 acres of state land in the El Dorado National Forest northeast of Sacramento.

The Associated Press covers a culprit:

Man arrested in fast-growing California wildfire

A man with a lengthy criminal history has been charged with deliberately starting a Northern California wildfire that has shown explosive growth and driven nearly 2,800 people from their homes, authorities said Thursday.

Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, was arrested late Wednesday in Placerville and booked into El Dorado County Jail, where he was being held on $10 million bail.

Huntsman faces a forest-land arson charge, along with a special allegation of arson with aggravating factors because the blaze east of Sacramento put a dozen firefighters in serious danger, forcing them to deploy their fire shields. They all escaped unharmed.

From Environmental Health News, another menace:

Kids exposed in the womb to plasticizers more likely to have asthma

New York City children exposed in the womb to moderate levels of two plasticizers had a 72 to 78 percent higher chance of developing asthma, according to a new study published today.

The study is the first to link childhood asthma, which has been increasing in recent decades, to prenatal exposure to phthalates.

“These results suggest that phthalates may be one of the factors associated with that increase,” said Robin Whyatt, a Columbia University environmental health scientist who led the study. She added, however, that more studies are needed to understand how important a risk factor these chemicals may be.

Phthalates, used in the manufacture of vinyl and some cosmetics, have been connected to a number of health effects in lab animal and human studies, including airway inflammation, altered male genitalia, attention and learning problems and premature births.

Environmental Health News again, with another menace:

Mass murder by botulism: Surge in Great Lakes bird deaths driven by invaders

The nonnative creatures have been driving a deadly surge in avian botulism in the Great Lakes over the past 15 years, killing an estimated 80,000 birds, including loons, ducks, gulls, cormorants and endangered piping plovers. Now scientists are searching for what has triggered this change in intensity of the disease: If they can unravel where and why the lethal toxin is building up in food webs, they can predict which shorelines are death traps for birds.

The botulism bacterium “is the most toxic natural substance on Earth. Just one gram could kill off like 2 million people,” said Stephen Riley, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “And for these birds it’s essentially just widespread food poisoning.”

Outbreaks were first documented in the Great Lakes in the 1960s, but they ebbed and flowed until 1999, when they intensified on Lakes Erie, Huron, Ontario and Michigan.

Common Dreams covers another controversy:

USDA’s Greenlighting of ‘Agent Orange’ Crops Sparks Condemnation

  • Following widespread outcry, Dow’s new genetically engineered corn and soybeans get approval.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision this week to approve two new genetically engineered crops is being denounced by watchdog groups as a false solution to herbicide-resistant weeds and a move that threatens human and environment safety alike.

The crops are Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist corn and soybeans, engineered to be resistant to its Duo herbicide, which contains 2,4-D, a component of the notorious Agent Orange. 2,4-D has been linked to Parkinson’s, birth defects, reproductive problems, and endocrine disruption. Dow states that the new system will address the problem of weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s widely-used Roundup.

Food and environmental safety groups, however, say that it speaks to the failure of the genetically engineered crops strategy that fosters herbicide expansion—profitable for the chemical companies—and ignores the paradigm shifted needed in the industrial agriculture system.

From Al Jazeera America, on the rise:

Canary in a coal mine: Extreme weather, rising seas plague atoll nation

  • Marshall Islands president issues a call to action ahead of international climate summit next week hosted by the UN

As global leaders gear up to meet at next week’s United Nations Climate Summit in New York, the president of a small Pacific island nation vulnerable to rising seas caused by global warming said the future of his people depends on creating a carbon-free world by 2050.

“Out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, climate change has arrived,” Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak said in a video address to his fellow heads of state. “Our atoll nation stands at the front line in the battle against climate change.”

In the video, Loeak stands in front of a sea wall he built to protect his home and family from rising seas which have already engulfed several of the nation’s atolls — making them disappear forever.

After the jump, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, including a decontamination claim, skeptical fishermen, a radioactive waste disposal plan, uncovering a hidden agenda, a major loss of seismic expertise, and rising chances for yet more reactors worldwide. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Drugs, warnings, murders, more


The news remains grim, and we’ll start with a critical factor, via Jiji Press:

Profit motive big hurdle for Ebola drugs — experts

Until this west African epidemic, Ebola was not a public health problem and (was) a really rare disease, says Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976.

There was very little interest in all quarters, not just pharma, Piot said in an email to AFP. Things have changed now, and two major companies are investing in a vaccine — GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) and (Johnson & Johnson subsidiary) Janssen.

Sylvain Baize, in charge of the Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers Reference Centre at France’s Pasteur Institute, said Ebola had claimed fewer than 2,000 lives in almost 40 years, a minute toll compared with other diseases.

If these 2,000 deaths had occurred in industrialised countries, things may have been different, but it was 2,000 dead in the middle of Africa, so nobody cared very much, Baize said sardonically. Ebola’s extraordinary lethality was another reason why it never became a top target for research, he said.

From Reuters, the latest death total:

U.N. to deploy Ebola mission as death toll reaches 2,630

The United Nations unveiled plans on Thursday for a special mission to combat the worst Ebola epidemic on record in West Africa, as the death toll hit 2,630 and France became the latest Western nation to step up its support.

French President Francois Hollande announced the deployment of a military hospital to remote Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, where the outbreak was first detected in March.

Since then the virus has infected at least 5,357 people, according to World Health Organization (WHO), mostly in Guinea, neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. It has also spread to Senegal and Nigeria.

More from Al Jazeera America:

WHO: 700 Ebola cases emerge in one week

  • Sierra Leone shuts down as number of West Africans believed to have died from the virus tops 2,600

In a sign that West Africa’s Ebola crisis is worsening, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that more than 700 new cases of the deadly virus were confirmed in the last week for which data is available.

The news was announced as citizens of Sierra Leone prepared for a three-day nationwide shutdown, during which the country’s 6 million people will be confined to their homes while volunteers search house-to-house for Ebola victims in hiding and hand out soap in a desperate bid to slow the accelerating outbreak.

The number of people killed by the Ebola virus is now more than 2,600, an increase of roughly 200 from the last estimate, WHO said. Most of the deaths have been in Liberia, the hardest-hit of West African nations plagued by the virus.

And Channel NewsAsia Singapore sounds the alarm:

Ebola threatens world peace, says UN Security Council

The UN Security Council on Thursday (Sep 18) adopted a resolution declaring the Ebola outbreak a threat to world peace and security, and calling on countries to provide urgent aid.

The resolution was adopted unanimously after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the number of Ebola infections was doubling every three weeks, in particular in Liberia.

The council heard a desperate appeal from Liberian medical aid worker Jackson Naimah for assistance to beat back the epidemic that has left about 2,600 dead and over 5,000 others severely ill in West Africa.

“Please send your helicopters, your centres, your beds and your expert personnel,” said Naimah, speaking on video link from Monrovia. “We do not have the capacity to respond to this crisis. If the international community does not stand up, we will be wiped out.”

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Senior U.N. System Coordinator for Ebola Dr. David Nabarro, said the outbreak is doubling in size every three weeks, and urged a “massively scaled up” response.

Speaking from Monrovia, Liberia, Dr. Jackson Naimah of Medicins San Frontieres, an organization that has been an outspoken critic of the U.N. and other organizations it feels have been too slow to mobilize against Ebola, painted a grim picture on the ground.

Patients are dying at the front gates of the hospital where he works, Naimah said, begging to be let in to the overflowing treatment center.

One boy, whose father had died of Ebola, approached the gate, his mouth bloodied, but there was no space to take him in, Naimah said.

“I thought to myself, that this boy is going to take a taxi, and he is going to go home to his family … infect his family, and also other people,” Naimah told the assembly via a live video feed, and added that the future of his country “is hanging in the balance.”

USA Today covers the first concrete result:

U.N. announces medical corps to fight Ebola

Six months into the West African Ebola epidemic, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to create a special medical mission to respond to the disaster. The force should be on the ground in West Africa by the end of the month.

“Ebola matters to us all,” said Ban Ki Moon, U.N. secretary-general, who oversaw the U.N. Security Council’s first meeting on the Ebola outbreak, the largest epidemic in the disease’s history. “We cannot afford delays. The penalty for inaction is high. We need to race ahead of the outbreak and then turn and face it with all of our energy and strength.”

The United Nation Mission for Ebola Emergency Response would be on the ground in West Africa by the end of the month. The world has been racing against an outbreak growing at an exponential rate, but always falling behind. To get ahead of the epidemic, the world will have to scale up its response by about 20-fold, Ban said. That will require about $1 billion.

The Monrovia [Liberia] Inquirer despairs:

“Ebola Is Winning”…CSO Expresses Great Frustration

The Chairperson of the Liberian Civil Society Taskforce on Ebola, Mr. Oscar Bloh says the deadly Ebola virus is winning and International response to Ebola outbreak has been slowed.

Mr. Bloh disclosed that the many hospitals in the country are over-run and under- staffed with fear and panic sparking serious violence while borders have also been closed and ships prevented from coming to the country. He said Liberia is running out of food and other essential things.

According to Mr. Bloh, after months of inaction in recent days, donor pledges had been made ,but Liberians still have the fear that it will take too long for government promises to translate into hands to help.

Another measure from the Liberian Observer:

AU to Deploys 200 Health Workers in Ebola Affeted Countries

The African Union (AU) is expected to deployed 200 health workers and other professionals,including nurses and doctors to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to help combat the deadly Ebola virus in the sub-region.

Africa Union’s Special Representative to Liberia, Amb. Toyin Solaja,said the deployment is a part of a joint AU-led military and civilian humanitarian mission code named African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA).

He puts the cost of the operation to more than 25 million United States Dollars. The Ambassador said a total of two hundred (200) professionals are expected to be deployed in the three countries.

According to Amb.Solaja, additional professionals from across the continent are undergoing training in the Ugandan Capital, Kampala, to form part of the operation which aim is to ensure that Ebola is put under control.

Reuters covers one tragic consequence of mounting fear:

Eight bodies found after attack on Guinea Ebola education team

Eight bodies, including those of three journalists, were found after an attack on a team trying to educate locals on the risks of the Ebola virus in a remote area of southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

“The eight bodies were found in the village latrine. Three of them had their throats slit,” Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters by telephone in Conakry.

However, Guinea’s Prime Minister Mohamed Saïd Fofana, speaking in a television message that had been recorded earlier, said 7 bodies of 9 missing people had been found.

He said six people have been arrested following the incident, which took place on Tuesday in Wome, a village close to the town of Nzerekore, in Guinea’s southeast, where Ebola was first identified in March.

Meanwhile, via RFI, another patient from the North wins favored status:

First French Ebola patient to be airlifted home

A French volunteer for the Doctor Withouth Borders (MSF) NGO, infected by the Ebola virus in Liberia, was to be airlifted to Paris on Thursday. The woman is the first French national working in affected areas, to contract the virus .

“She will be repatriated to France in conditions of maximum security in a specially dedicated air ambulance,” said the French health ministry without giving further details about when exactly the patient would be airlifted.

French authorities have readied several hospitals in Paris and the rest of the country to take charge of any potential patients.

While a non-European patient is rebuffed, via BBC News:

Ebola outbreak: Malta rejects ship carrying suspected case

Maltese authorities have turned away a ship travelling from Guinea to Ukraine over fears one person on board may be infected with the Ebola virus.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the captain of the ship had made a request for assistance for a sick Filipino passenger on board.

The decision to turn the ship away was “morally and legally correct”, Mr Muscat said.

From the Independent, fearful anticipation:

The powerhouse of West Africa waits for Ebola to strike

If Ebola reaches Ivory Coast, the powerhouse of French-speaking West Africa, the economic consequences could be huge. The country exports 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa – the raw material for chocolate – and supplies its landlocked neighbours with everything from rice to fuel. The country is therefore taking the kind of aggressive anti-infection measures which its poorer, smaller western neighbours were slow to adopt. Handwashing stations have appeared at government buildings and office towers in Abidjan. People have also abandoned the traditional three-kiss greeting.

The government has sent mass text messages to the public and children, exposed to warnings on radio and television, quarantine their classmates in a playground game they call “Ebola”. “It’s without precedent,” said Daouda Coulibaly, who is leading the effort. “We started back in March to explain to people that this is a real disease. It must be taken seriously.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already warned that several neighbouring countries are at risk. With the outbreak gathering pace, the WHO has said a $1bn international response will be needed to keep the number of those infected within the “tens of thousands”.

After the jump, screening pilgrims to Mecca, a Liberia presidential plea, a shutdown delayed in Sierra Leone and a video report on the shopping rush in anticipation, tragedy in one Liberian town and more healthcare workers dead, food aid for liberal, educational programs in Liberia and Nigeria [including an educational video], and an emerging black market. . .
Continue reading

Cal drought: Once again it’s a case of SNADU


That acronym is for Situation Normal, All Dried Up, with no change from last week’s ongoing rain-deprived condition of Exceptional Drought [the government's most critical level] prevailing in nearly 60 percent of the Golden State, with the remainder in less degrees of dryness, and nowhere approaching normal levels.

From the United States Drought Monitor [and click on it to embiggen]:

BLOG Drought

EnviroWatch: Fires, climate, toads, fuels


We begin in the Golden State, and the latest disaster from a very dry state with the Los Angeles Times:

California wildfires: Thousands evacuated, fires explode in size

Thousands of residents who live near the American River in the Eldorado National Forest in Northern California remained evacuated Wednesday as a fast-moving wildfire exploded by 6,000 acres overnight.

The King fire continues to threaten thousands of homes and structures as winds drive it east, west and north over mountain and ridges and through deep canyon troughs.

The fire has become one of the largest and most unruly of 11 major wildfires burning across California, mainly in the central and northern parts of the state.

Much smaller fires, however, have proved to be extremely destructive.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Climate change may add billions to wildfire costs, study says

As wildfires burned in California, a study by several major environmental groups estimated that climate change could mean that future blazes will be much larger and add billions of dollars to already costly losses.

The 46-page study released Tuesday, titled “Flammable Planet: Wildfires and the Social Cost of Carbon,” is part of an ongoing project by three groups to examine what it calls the missing risks, such as wildfires, that climate change can make more expensive. The groups are the Environmental Defense Fund, the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

U.S. wildfires cost as much as $125 billion annually, but climate change could add as much as $60 billion to the bill by 2050, the study said. The projected cost increase is attributed to an expanding area in which wildfires burn — estimated to be 50% to 100% larger by 2050. California “could experience a 36% to 74% increase in area burned by 2085 under a high emissions path,” the study said.

From the New York Times, water woes inside the Beltway:

Climate Report Details Flood Risk to Sites in Washington

The nation’s capital is likely to see record flooding by 2050, putting about $7 billion worth of property, three military bases and parts of the National Mall at risk as a result of climate change that is raising sea levels all over the world, according to a report released Tuesday by the research group Climate Central.

That is one of the group’s more conservative estimates in a report titled “Washington, D.C., and the Surging Sea.”

In the worst case, the group draws an end-of-the-century picture of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials as islands in a flooded Potomac River, and Fort McNair, the Washington Navy Yard and parts of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling completely under water.

From the Guardian, similar woes Down Under:

Rising sea levels a ‘sleeping giant’ that could cost $226bn, report says

  • Analysis by the Climate Council finds Australia is likely to experience rises of 0.4m to 1m, putting infrastructure at risk

Rising sea levels are a “sleeping giant” issue that will put at risk coastal infrastructure worth up to $226bn, a new report has found.

Analysis by the Climate Council found Australia was likely to experience a sea level rise of 0.4m to 1m by the end of the century, with a “high end” scenario of 1.1m possible if the world warmed by about 4C compared with pre-industrial temperatures.

In this worst-case scenario, $226bn in property, including houses, schools, hospitals and ports, would be exposed to flooding and erosion, making much of it unviable.

BBC News covers climate change on a loftier plane:

Austria’s Alps hit by climate change

Austria, with its sensitive Alpine regions, has been particularly hard hit by climate change, a major survey says.

The Austrian Climate Change Assessment Report 2014 says average temperatures in Austria have risen by almost 2C since 1880. This is compared with a global rise of 0.85C in the same period.

The document says that the changes in temperature are mainly man-made and caused by “emissions of greenhouse gases”.

The report was put together by more than 200 scientists and presented in Vienna by Austrian Environment Minister Andrae Rupprechter.

From the Guardian, poles apart in more senses than one:

Antarctic sea ice set for record high as Arctic heads for sixth lowest extent

  • Antarctica poised for record high as figures show Arctic sea ice was millions of square kilometres below long-term average

The extent of sea ice in Antarctica is set to reach a record high, scientists said on Tuesday, as they announced that Arctic sea ice appeared to have shrunk to its sixth lowest level ever.

The NSIDC said that satellite data was expected to shortly confirm whether the maximum extent of sea ice at the opposite pole, in Antarctica, had set a new record.

“Antarctic sea ice is poised to set a record maximum this year, now at 19.7 million sq km (7.6m sq m) and continuing to increase,” the centre, considered one of the world’s top authorities on sea ice data, said in a statement.

Another cost of cleaner air continents apart via the Guardian:

China’s ban on ‘dirty’ coal could cost Australian mining almost $1.5bn

  • Australia exports about 50m tonnes of thermal coal each year to China and the ban is expected to reduce exports by 40%

China’s ban on “dirty” coal could cost Australia’s mining industry almost $1.5bn and force companies to find other markets or face prohibitively high processing costs, according to a leading resources economist.

Under new Chinese regulations, the use of coal with ash content higher than 16% and sulphur content above 1% will be restricted in the main population centres of the country from 1 January, 2015.

There will be a ban on mining, sale, transportation and imports of coal with ash and sulfur content exceeding 40% and 3% respectively. For coal that will be transported for more than 600 km from production site or receiving port, the ash content limit will be 20%.

The move, aimed at helping lift the smog that envelops Chinese cities such as Beijing, is likely to hurt Australian producers, who typically export coal with ash content above 20%. Australia exports around 50m tonnes of thermal coal each year to China and the ban is expected to reduce exports by 40%, a cost of $1.46bn at the current price of $73 a tonne.

BBC Worldwide covers another Australian woe:

Invasion Of The Deadly Cane Toads – Australia with Simon Reeve

Program note:

Simon is on a mission to find Australia’s most destructive creature, but it’s not be quite what he was expecting.

From the Guardian, anthropocentric arrogance at work:

Whaling opponents and pro-whaling nations, led by Japan, remain at odds

  • Diplomats at International Whaling Commission try to find compromise as New Zealand pushes to curb “scientific whaling”

Diplomats were preparing for one last push to find a compromise capable of bridging the divide between whaling nations and their opponents at the biennial International Whaling Commission summit in Slovenia.

A narrow majority of delegates have lined up behind a proposal from New Zealand to curb Japan’s “scientific whaling” ambitions by enforcing strict oversight on the number of whales that it may cull, and the scientific justifications for this, particularly the availability of non-lethal means for conducting research.

As a voluntary body, the IWC cannot compel Japan to stop whaling, but stepping outside its aegis would be undesirable for Tokyo and frantic last-minute attempts are being made to find a consensus deal that could pass without a divisive vote.

And from the Japan Times, consummation:

Japan tells IWC it will resume whaling despite international court’s halt order

Japan told an International Whaling Commission meeting Wednesday that it will resume its so-called research whaling in the Antarctic next fiscal year, while vowing to improve the transparency of the activities over which it lost an international court case earlier this year.

After the International Court of Justice ordered in March that the whaling be halted, ruling it was not for scientific research purposes as claimed by Tokyo, Japan canceled its annual Antarctic whaling voyage for fiscal 2014.

During the meeting in Slovenia, a Japanese official said the ICJ ruling did not deny research whaling in itself and Japan will propose a new whaling plan by taking heed of what the ICJ said in the ruling. Japan also said it will continue its “research whaling” in the Northwestern Pacific, which is not covered by the ICJ order, on a reduced scale.

For our final item, the latest in Fukushimapocalypse Now! from NHK WORLD:

Further step for frozen soil walls approved

Japan’s nuclear regulator has approved a further step in creating frozen soil walls around the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The underground walls are aimed at preventing groundwater from entering reactor and other buildings, and reducing the amount of radioactive water generated there.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company began building parts of the walls in June. But the work has been limited due to difficulty in dealing with contaminated water in tunnels and pipes around the plant.

The firm later compiled measures to prevent radioactive water leaks from the tunnels and pipes on a side of the plant facing a hill.

EbolaWatch: Politics, woes, and warnings


We begin with high politics from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

U.S. submits Ebola draft to UNSC

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations has presented to U.N. Security Council members a draft of a Security Council resolution on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, calling for a coordinated international response to the deadly virus.

The draft of the resolution obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun on Tuesday calls on nations to provide urgent aid and lift travel restrictions that could isolate the Ebola-infected region.

The United States seeks to hold an emergency Security Council session on the Ebola outbreak on Thursday and have the resolution adopted at the meeting.

It is unusual for the Security Council to adopt a resolution on public health.

A video report covers some of the reasons for the finally aroused anxieties of the North, via CCTV America:

WHO assessing which countries can deal with Ebola virus

Program notes:

There are worrying reports for Ebola–Free African nations. The World Health Organisation has been assessing which African countries could handle in case there’s an outbreak. As CCTV America’s Jane Kiyo reports, apparently only two countries are up to the challenge.

Star Africa News has one nation’s death toll:

Liberia Ebola-related deaths at 1,424 – Report

Liberia’s Ebola-related deaths since the epidemic began in the country in March has reached 1, 424, according to a report by the Ministry of Health.

The report released on Wednesday showing the latest update on the situation of the epidemic in the country, said the figure concerns deaths in confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola.

The report entitled the Ebola Situation Report covers March 22 through September 13, 2014.

And from France 24, we get the all-too-usual emphasis on non-Acfrican sufferers:

French MSF volunteer contracts Ebola in Liberia

A French volunteer working for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in Liberia has contracted the Ebola virus, the medical charity said in a statement on Wednesday.

This is the first confirmed case of a French national catching the disease in the current outbreak. The volunteer was put in quarantine on Sept.16 when the first symptoms of the illness appeared.

She will be evacuated to a specialised treatment centre in France.

From Joel Pett, editorial cartoonist of the Lexington Herald-Leader, anxieties expressed:

BLOG Cartoon pett

Reuters covers preventative efforts:

West African powerhouse Ivory Coast battles to keep out Ebola

The worst recorded outbreak of the virus has killed over 2,400 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, wreaking havoc on their fragile economies, and has also spread to Nigeria and Senegal.

If it reaches Ivory Coast, the powerhouse of French-speaking West Africa, the economic consequences could be yet worse. The country of 20 million people exports 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, the raw material for chocolate, and supplies its landlocked neighbors with everything from rice to fuel.

Ivory Coast is taking the kind of aggressive anti-infection measures that its poorer, smaller western neighbors were slow to adopt. Hand washing stations have appeared at the entrances of government buildings and office towers in Abidjan, the bustling economic capital. People have abandoned the traditional three-kiss greeting.

The Guardian covers a radical measure:

Ebola lockdown in Sierra Leone: nationwide three-day curfew

  • Unprecented national shutdown, with health workers going house-to-house to identify Ebola cases; MSF raises concerns about capacity to cope

Residents across Sierra Leone, one of three countries at the centre of the biggest ever Ebola outbreak, scrambled on Wednesday to prepare for a three-day, unprecedented nationwide “lockdown” in a radical step intended to curb the spread of the killer virus, but which some health experts believe could worsen the epidemic.

Citizens will not be allowed to leave their homes from Thursday until Sunday. Known as “ose to ose” in the widely-used local Krio, health workers will also go house-to-house identifying cases and raising awareness. More than 2,300 have died across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the nine-month epidemic that the World Bank warned this week could lead to deaths in the “tens of thousands” if unchecked by the end of the year.

Some 21,000 people have been recruited to enforce the lockdown, bulking up thousands of police and soldiers already deployed to quarantine districts in the worst-hit regions near the border with Guinea. But some international health experts have advised against the move, citing both practical concerns and disastrous attempts at the mass quarantine of the biggest slum in neighbouring Liberia.

Ghana lends a hand, via the Liberian Observer:

Accra to Serve as Transit Point for Flights

  • President Mahama Discloses; Frowns on Isolation of Ebola-affected Countries

The President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, has been in consultation with the United Nations secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, to allow Accra to serve as a transit center for international flights that might be bringing in logistics, medicines and other relief items for the affected countries.

Accra is the capital of Ghana, but President Mahama said his consultation is in his capacity as chair of the regional body, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This is a  demonstration of how Ghana is prepared to help affected the countries.

He spoke on Monday September 15, when he paid a one-day solidarity visit with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia.

The New York Times covers financial alarms:

Ebola Could Devastate West African Economies, World Bank Says

The three West African countries most affected by Ebola could experience a “potentially catastrophic blow” to their economies because of the epidemic, the World Bank Group warned Wednesday.

The outbreak could cut gross domestic product by nearly 12 percent in Liberia and nearly 9 percent in Sierra Leone in 2015 if it is not curbed, according to the report. The impact to Guinea would be less severe, at around 2 percent.

A fear of contagion and what the bank referred to as “aversion behavior” is driving most of the economic losses. Places of employment are being closed, transportation is being disrupted, and vital links with other nations by air and sea are being cut, the analysis found.

Reuters hints at purse strings loosening:

IMF proposes $127 million for three Ebola-hit countries in West Africa

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could receive an additional $127 million from the International Monetary Fund to help them deal with the worst-ever outbreak of the Ebola virus, the IMF said on Wednesday.

The funds, which must still be approved by the IMF’s executive board, would help cover an estimated $300 million financing gap in the West African countries over the next six to nine months, when the IMF expects the impact of the outbreak to be most acute.

“The Ebola outbreak is a severe human, social and economic crisis that requires a resolute response from the international community,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a statement. “The governments of the three countries have requested additional IMF support to help cover the acute financing needs they are facing as a result of the outbreak.”

The IMF on Wednesday proposed a $40 million loan for Guinea, $48 million for Liberia and $39 million for Sierra Leone. It has said economic growth in Liberia and Sierra Leone has been hurt in particular by the epidemic’s impact on agriculture, mining and the services sectors.

Punch Nigeria precludes:

World Bank excludes Nigeria from $105m W’African fund

The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a $105m grant to finance Ebola-containment efforts in West African countries infected with the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease.

A statement issued by the bank in Washington on Wednesday to announce the development, however, excluded Nigeria as a beneficiary of the fund.

The bank said the fund would help families and communities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to cope with the economic impact of the Ebola crisis as well as rebuild and strengthen essential public health systems in the three worst-affected countries to guard against future disease outbreaks.

The Hill covers cash-inducing anxiety:

Congress worries Ebola could hit US, become more contagious

Lawmakers are increasingly concerned about the spread of Ebola and worry that it could jump to the United States and become more contagious.

President Obama on Tuesday unveiled new plans to surge U.S. support to West Africa that includes sending thousands of U.S. military personnel to the region and establishing a command-and-control center, and new hospitals to aid in the fight.

But lawmakers worry the president’s efforts might not be enough to contain the outbreak. Already, an estimated 2,400 have died from the disease, and the United Nations estimates $1 billion could be necessary to limit the epidemic.

And from Sky News, another vaccine trial, held in the North:

Former Nurse Tests Experimental Ebola Vaccine

  • A former NHS nurse has become the first person to be injected with an experimental ebola vaccine.

Ruth Atkins was given the jab in her arm and then carefully monitored by doctors for any side effects.

She is the first of 60 healthy volunteers to take part in a clinical trial at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute.

She was paid just £380 – not for the risk, but for any loss of earnings.

A video report from the London Telegraph:

British woman first to test Ebola vaccine

Program notes:

Ruth Atkins becomes the first volunteer to be injected with a potentially life-saving new vaccine that scientists hope will tackle Ebola

Another wake-up call received, via TheLocal.de:

Merkel promises help for Liberia in Ebola fight

Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised that Germany will send help to Liberia to tackle the Ebola crisis in response to a personal appeal by the country’s president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

“We will act quickly and stand ready with everything we have available,” Merkel told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday. “The situation in Liberia is in fact very dramatic.”

German help to the stricken West African nation could include air transport, secure return flights for doctors and other workers from international organizations, help building hospital wards and support for the World Health Organization (WHO).

A Merkel spokeswoman said earlier that the German army was also examining what kind of help it might be able to offer Liberia.

African boots on the ground from the Liberian Observer:

AU to Deploys 200 Health Workers in Ebola Affeted Countries

The African Union (AU) is expected to deployed 200 health workers and other professionals,including nurses and doctors to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to help combat the deadly Ebola virus in the sub-region.

Africa Union’s Special Representative to Liberia, Amb. Toyin Solaja,said the deployment is a part of a joint AU-led military and civilian humanitarian mission code named African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA).

He puts the cost of the operation to more than 25 million United States Dollars. The Ambassador said a total of two hundred (200) professionals are expected to be deployed in the three countries.

More from Star Africa News:

Namibia gives $1m to Ebola countries

The Namibia government says it is contributing $1 million as a solidarity support to the West African countries currently battling the Ebola outbreak, the permanent secretary in the ministry of information Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana announced on Tuesday.

Ua-Ndjarakana told journalists that the contribution will be channeled through the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the African Public Health Emergency Fund for the containment of Ebola in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Namibia is heeding the call made by the African Union to its member states and the international community to make contributions in cash or kind to assist its fight against the Ebola outbreak in some West African countries,” Ua-Ndjarakana said.

WHO needs an estimated $I billion to bring the epidemic under control, its officials said in Geneva earlier on Tuesday.

Updating a patient from the North with the Associated Press:

Doctors expect Nebraska Ebola patient to recover

An American aid worker infected with Ebola who’s being treated in Nebraska is now expected to make a full recovery, his doctors said Wednesday.

The medical team treating Rick Sacra also said it’s optimistic that the 51-year-old from Worcester, Massachusetts, will soon be able to leave the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

“However, we are still somewhat cautious because of the severity and unknown factors of this disease,” said Dr. Angela Hewlett, associate medical director of the isolation unit housing Sacra, who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia. “We know from experience how other patients look as their condition improves, but since we have so little experience treating patients with Ebola, that tempers our optimism a little bit.”

The Independent covers another extraordinary measure up North:

Ebola outbreak: Survivor William Pooley flown to US to give doctor with virus emergency blood transfusion

William Pooley, the British nurse who was cured of the Ebola, has been flown to America on a life-saving mission to give blood to a new victim of the deadly virus.

Mr Pooley has travelled to Atlanta for an emergency blood transfusion which could save the life of a doctor who contracted the disease while working in Sierra Leone.

The 29-year-old, who became the first Briton to contract Ebola, could help the US victim fight off the virus because his blood carries antibodies for the disease, the Evening Standard reports.

Mr Pooley was put on a flight on Friday night, paid for by the World Health Organisation, to Atlanta where the doctor is being treated in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital.

Evangelicals ignoring border bans, with Star Africa News:

Batswana disregard travel ban to Ebola nations

Botswana citizens are defying a ban imposed by the Ministry of Health on travel to countries affected by Ebola, an official said Wednesday.Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Diadi Mmualefe told private radio station Gabz FM that some Batswana continued to visit West Africa despite warnings by the Ministry of Health against travelling to Ebola-affected countries.

He revealed that two Batswana travelled on Tuesday night to Nigeria where they want to attend a church service at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) led by televangelist TB Joshua.

Botswana is one of southern African countries that have banned travel to Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia that are at the epicentre of an Ebola outbreak that has so far killed more than 2,000 people in the region since March.

From Agence France-Presse, a graphic look inside an Ebola treatment center, based on a plan from Medicine sans Frontieres:

BLOG Ebola center

From the Guardian, a protest from Down Under:

$7m Ebola contribution is not enough, says Australian Medical Association

  • Brian Owler says additional $7m in Ebola aid should be bolstered by deployment of Australian health workers

Australia’s contribution to fighting the Ebola virus is still inadequate despite the promise of another $7m, the head of the Australian Medical Association has warned.

Brian Owler said last week that the government’s commitment of $1m to the World Health Organisation to control the outbreak in west Africa was inadequate, and on Wednesday the government pledged an extra $7m.

WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières will each receive $2.5m, while $2m will be given to Britain to help combat the disease in Sierra Leone, the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said.

Punch Nigeria covers classroom concerns:

Ebola: Senate urges schools to take precautionary measures

The Senate on Wednesday urged all schools in Nigeria to take precautionary measures to contain the spread of the Ebola virus.

The Senate also appealed to the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States to create regional and continent wide containment programmes to avoid further spread of the deadly virus.

The Senate made this appeal as part of resolutions reached after a debate on a motion, entitled, “The Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria,” sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and 106 others.

Punch Nigeria again, with more classroom concerns:

Ebola outbreak: Parents still worry about possible outbreak

All appears set for the September 22 resumption date as directed by the Federal Government. But, in spite of the dramatic change of mind exhibited by the Nigerian Medical Association, parents and guardians are still apprehensive of a possible outbreak and the devastating effects it would have on children and teenagers.

While the NMA said its latest decision that pupils could go back to schools was based on the fact that no confirmed case of EVD in the country again, the Nigerian Union of Teachers has directed its members not to report to work unless safety gadgets are provided for them though it remained to be seen how far the union could go in view of the fact that the government in some states have asked the schools to reopen on Sept 22.

Parents who spoke with our correspondent on Wednesday expressed diverse opinions on the resumption date.

Punch Nigeria again, with still more:

Niger to reopen schools October

THE Niger State Government has decided that all schools in the state will reopen for the new academic year in October, contrary to the Sept 22 date declared by the Federal Government.

The Federal Government had shifted the resumption dates for all private and public schools in the country to next Monday as a result of the recent outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

However, in announcing the new resumption date for public schools in the state on Wednesday, the Niger State Government said it had taken into account the forthcoming Eid-el Kabir Muslim festival expected to hold worldwide in the first week of October.

And for our final Nigerian school item, again from Punch Nigeria, a union call:

Sept 22: Ekiti NUT tells teachers to stay away

The Nigeria Union of Teachers in Ekiti State has asked its members to comply with the directive of its national body to shun the September 22 resumption date for the 2014/2015 academic session.

Chairman of the union in Ekiti, Samuel Akosile, on Wednesday, said his members would not resume work until certain preventive measures capable of curtailing the Ebola Virus Disease had been put in place .

He urged government to organise seminars and workshops on Ebola for teachers in the state, saying “This will broaden their horizons on what the virus is all about and precautions to be taken to engender safety.”

The NUT chairman urged the state government to procure Infra-red thermometers and provide pipe-borne water and sanitisers in all the state-owned primary and secondary schools in order to give the assurances that government was committed to safety in school environments.

Next, from the Liberian Observer, a growing phenomenon:

Orphaned by Ebola

September 15, 2014, an unidentified toddler is seen standing unaware of the commotion going on around her. She and her gravely sick mother had just disembarked few minutes ago, from a taxi cab. Her mother struggled to take few steps, she collapsed and died. The innocent child was pulled away from her. The woman’s “lifeless body” was immediately dumped over other dead bodies already in a pickup truck waiting to transport the dead either for burial or to the crematorium.

She’s still unidentified.

According to witnesses standing in front of Redemption Hospital, which has quite recently become an Ebola holding center, the little girl and her said mother came to the hospital for treatment.

“Just how they arrived, the mother died in the car and her body was added to the bodies that were being taken out of the hospital today,” stated an LNP officer, who asked not to be named.

And for our final item, Defense One covers the American national security perspective:

Africa Needs the US Military To Fight Ebola

Both civilian and military public health experts understand how to contain highly transmissible infectious diseases, such as SARS, avian influenza, the MERS Coronavirus, and other pandemic-prone diseases. These diseases are threats to global security that could lead to outbreaks with significant costs including massive loss of life, a weakened work force, geopolitical instability, and economic disruption and losses. But given the relative successes in responding to these diseases, it has been surprising and disappointing that collective international actions against Ebola have thus far proven largely unsuccessful.

As Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, rightly points out, Ebola won’t be stopped with principles of global solidarity and earnest appeals. Disjointed and erratic funding efforts, dozens of volunteer health workers, and closing national barriers in West African states is either too little, too late, or too ineffective. Like Heracles slaying the many-headed Hydra, cutting off the beast’s individual heads was not enough; only by cauterizing the stumps was he able to contain the threat. Like Heracles, we must evaluate our futile tactics and engage an asymmetric advantage to bring to a halt this unprecedented yet containable Ebola outbreak.

Changing the dynamics of the West African outbreak requires behavioral changes including adjustments to burial practices and sanitation issues that are particularly conducive to the spread of Ebola. The consumption of bushmeat—that is, animal meat from the wild rather than domestically farmed—is also a significant risk factor. On a societal level, there are more broad-based cultural factors at play including a serious mistrust of health aid workers and the national government.