Category Archives: Europe

EnviroWatch: Politics, fuels, species, & nukes


From the Washington Post, a momentary win:

Democrats block Keystone pipeline, but GOP vows new fight when it takes over

Senate Democrats blocked a move Tuesday to compel construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a sharp loss to one of their own, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), who had pinned her chances for reelection on approval of the measure.

The vote was a victory for environmental activists who have turned defeat of the pipeline into one of the central symbolic causes of their movement. But Republicans, who will take majority control of the Senate in the next Congress, vowed to return to the fight next year.

On a 59 to 41 roll call, Landrieu’s campaign fell one vote shy of passing legislation meant to force President Obama to approve the nearly 1,700-mile, $7.6 billion project, which would deliver 830,000 barrels of oil a day from western Canada to the American heartland. With just 14 Democrats backing it, Landrieu’s bill fell victim to a filibuster by her own party. All 45 Republicans voted for the measure.

The only person who really needed the Keystone victory in November was Landrieu, who is trying to hold off Representative Bill Cassidy in Louisiana’s run-off election on December 6. Democrats allowed Landrieu her vote on the bill, but the cold calculation that most of them made is that with the limited polling out of Louisiana showing her losing by double digits, passage of the bill—which also had Cassidy’s name on it—wouldn’t be enough to save her.

From Reuters, a video of the decisive moment:

U.S. Senate fails to pass Keystone XL pipeline bill

Program notes:

U.S. Senate votes 59-41 in favor of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline bill, narrowly lacking the 60 votes needed to pass the measure.

From the Express Tribune, an ongoing struggle:

Crippling disease: Seven new cases as N Waziristan polio drive restarts

As seven fresh polio cases surfaced in different parts of the country on Tuesday, an initiative was renewed to drive out the contagious disease from North Waziristan Agency (NWA) – which has been off limits to vaccinators for the last 30 months.

According to officials, a formal polio vaccination drive was started in four different villages of the North Waziristan’s Razmak tehsil on Tuesday and 1,349 children were vaccinated on the first day of the drive.

Meanwhile, seven new polio cases surfaced across the country on Tuesday, taking the national count for 2014 to 255. The National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed the emergence of seven new cases in a single day.

From the New York Times, Mine Kampf:

Clean Mining a Deception in Kentucky, Groups Say

In a state where coal-country creeks run red with iron, Frasure Creek Mining has been unusually clean of late: Amid tens of thousands of measurements that it submitted to Kentucky regulators in 2013 and early 2014, fewer than 400 exceeded the state’s limits for water pollution from coal-mine runoff.

Now environmental activists say they know why. In a letter released on Monday, four environmental groups said many of the monthly measurement reports that Frasure sent the state contained virtually identical data — line-for-line repeats of clean pollution reports submitted the month before.

The letter to Frasure and state and federal officials vowed to sue the company for what activists called tens of thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act unless Kentucky regulators act first. The act allows citizens to enforce

More New York Times coal coverage:

Coal Rush in India Could Tip Balance on Climate Change

“If India goes deeper and deeper into coal, we’re all doomed,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the world’s top climate scientists. “And no place will suffer more than India.”

India’s coal mining plans may represent the biggest obstacle to a global climate pact to be negotiated at a conference in Paris next year. While the United States and China announced a landmark agreement that includes new targets for carbon emissions, and Europe has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent, India, the world’s third-largest emitter, has shown no appetite for such a pledge.

“India’s development imperatives cannot be sacrificed at the altar of potential climate changes many years in the future,” India’s power minister, Piyush Goyal, said at a recent conference in New Delhi in response to a question. “The West will have to recognize we have the needs of the poor.”

Mr. Goyal has promised to double India’s use of domestic coal from 565 million tons last year to more than a billion tons by 2019, and he is trying to sell coal-mining licenses as swiftly as possible after years of delay. The government has signaled that it may denationalize commercial coal mining to accelerate extraction.

And from RT, frack off!:

No fracking, we’re German! Berlin reiterates moratorium on drilling

Germany says it is not going to loosen restrictions concerning its moratorium on fracking. A report in Der Spiegel had said the government was considering making it easier to extract shale gas and allow test drilling.

The government said on Monday it has no plans to lift the ban on fracking, Reuters reported.

Currently there are only plans to allow fracking at a depth below 3,000 meters to ensure that the water supply does not become contaminated. The effective ban is popular with Germans as the process of hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water and chemicals through drill holes at a high pressure to try and open rocks that may contain gas.

Getting the tubes tied off, via the Guardian [and, yes, we know they ain’t got tubes any more]:

Brussels targets super-sized TVs in drive for energy efficiency

  • Mega-TV screens will be forced to reduce energy use under new proposals that set the scene for ‘ecodesign’ battles to come over kettles, toasters, and hairdryers

The amount of energy that big screen TVs can use will be capped under an EU energy efficiency drive which the European commission expects will cut consumers’ energy bills by around €8bn a year.

After similar energy-saving rules for vacuum cleaners provoked a storm of criticism from UK newspapers last autumn, the planned TV rules may be a test case for new ‘ecodesign’ formulas for kettles, toasters and hairdryers, due to be announced next year.

The new TV standards, which could come into effect as early as June 2016, would set more challenging energy use requirements for larger TV screens, which currently benefit from a ranking methodology that only measures internal components for energy efficiency.

Coming clean with the Associated Press:

Dry Central California town gets portable showers

Hundreds of people living in a drought-stricken California farm town could soon be taking their first hot shower in months after county officials set up portable facilities in a church parking lot.

Residents of East Porterville in the agricultural Central Valley must bring their own towel and soap, but the hot shower is free. Until now, many have been forced to bathe from buckets and drink bottled water.

Andrew Lockman, manager of the Tulare County Office of Emergency Service, said Tuesday that officials were worried about residents taking sponge baths during the colder weather.

“The poor certainly get poorer,” he said. “We’re trying to provide a safety net, a basic quality of life as people struggle through this disaster.”

Ceaseless cetacean slaughter reduced, via the Guardian:

Japan cuts Antarctic whale quota after UN court ruling

Japan has reduced quota by two-thirds after UN court called the controversial ‘research whaling’ programme a commercial hunt masquerading as science

Japan has unveiled a plan to kill 333 minke whales in the Southern Ocean next year as part of its push to resume whaling following a legal setback instigated by Australia.

The plan, released by the Japanese government on Tuesday, sets out a 12-year program that would result in the slaughter of a total of 3,996 whales. The whales will be hunted in a vast sweep of Antarctic waters, including ocean claimed by Australia.

The 333 annual figure is a sharp reduction in the previous quota Japan awarded itself last year, when it aimed to take 855 minke whales, 50 humpback whales and 10 fin whales. Japan ended up harpooning far fewer than this amount, however, due to the disruptive tactics of anti-whaling activists Sea Shepherd.

Japan state broadcaster NHK WORLD put a different spin on the story:

Japan to resume Antarctic research whaling

Japan aims to resume its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean late next year by drastically downsizing the program.

Fisheries minister Koya Nishikawa announced a revised plan for the program on Tuesday.

Under the plan, a fleet will hunt only minke whales and the catch limit will be cut to 333. That’s about one-third of the number in the past.

Researchers will also conduct visual studies that do not involve killing whales.

Another slaughter, equally tragic, from the Guardian:

Elephants are being wiped out, but not enough people seem to care

  • Progress on wildlife poaching is slow because there is little public pressure. Let’s hope Interpol’s ‘most wanted’ eco criminals list will help

I asked a senior environmental journalist the other week what he thought was the single most under-reported environmental issue. He replied, unhesitatingly, wildlife poaching. “It’s as if the wildlife is just being hoovered out of Africa,” he said. “In the 1960s people campaigned around whales and wildlife. The Daily Mail actually put rhino poaching on their front page. But now there just doesn’t seem to be the same level of interest.” Dr Paula Kahumbu, a wildlife campaigner based in Kenya, echoes his sentiment, but adds that the UK public is still more active than most areas of the world. “Not a single African leader has spoken out on this,” says Kahumbu. “The silence is deafening.”

The scale of the “hoovering” is hard to comprehend. Take elephants, for example. In Africa, where some but not all of the poaching is concentrated, elephants are being slaughtered at a rate of 20,000-25,000 a year, from a population of just 420,000-650,000. The forest elephant population has dropped by 62% since 2002. There is a word for the killing of elephants (elephanticide) and a word for destruction of the natural world (ecocide) but oddly enough – given our magnificent form in this area – there doesn’t seem to be a word for killing off a whole species. We probably need one.

And then there are the other species we “hoover” up, from illegal logging and the dumping of hazardous waste. Taken altogether, a UN report earlier this year estimated that the cost of these crimes is $70-213bn annually. So these are not small operations, not a few farmers sneakily chopping down a few trees to augment their subsistence income, or the odd fisherman going over his quota. These are international cartels systematically and illegally stripping our natural resources and selling them on for profit. Some of them are running parallel drug and human trafficking operations. There is even evidence that some of this income is supporting terrorism.

From CCTV America, another fuel, other consequences:

US wood pellet industry stirs environmental controversy

Program notes:

Europe’s search for biofuels has led them to Americas’ southern forests and wetlands, such as the Nottoway River in Virginia. Many of the trees are logged for the sole purpose of grinding them up to later be converted into wood pellets. A clear cutting site in Waverly, Virginia was logged by the U.S. company Enviva, according to the non-profit organization, Dogwood Alliance. CCTV America’s Nitza Soledad Perez reported this story.

More fuel from Kyodo News:

Tokyo to set up 80 hydrogen stations by 2025

The Tokyo metropolitan government Tuesday announced a plan to increase the number of hydrogen stations for fuel cell vehicles in Tokyo to 35 by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and to 80 by 2025.

“We would like to make a (hydrogen utilization) model first in Tokyo in the run-up to nationwide diffusion,” Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said at a meeting of the metropolitan government.

The metropolitan and central governments will provide subsidies covering 400 million yen of some 500 million yen required for building each hydrogen station.

On to Fukushimapoocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:

Radioactive water leak found at Ikata plant

Workers at the Ikata nuclear power plant in western Japan have found a radioactive water leak from the facility’s wastewater disposal system.

Officials of the plant’s host Ehime Prefecture said none of the water leaked outside the site, and that no worker was exposed to it. The plant operated by Shikoku Electric Power Company is offline.

They say workers found traces of leaked water on piping insulation in a building adjacent to the plant’s Number 2 reactor on Tuesday.

The piping is part of the disposal system for solidifying concentrated low-level radioactive wastewater by mixing it with asphalt.

German decommission deconstruction from TheLocal.de:

Government doubles nuclear waste count

Germany will have to dispose of twice as much radioactive waste as previously expected as it continues to shut down its nuclear power plants, according to parts of the government’s disposal plan that were leaked on Tuesday.

Some 600,000 cubic metres of waste will have to be placed in permanent underground storage instead of the anticipated 298,000 cubic metres, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported.

The newspaper was citing figures from a copy it obtained of the draft “National Disposal Plan” the government is currently negotiating with individual federal states.

The new projection is significantly higher because of the inclusion for the first time of 13,000 tons of waste from uranium enrichment, equivalent to around 100,000 cubic metres.

Decommission deconstruction closer to Casa esnl from the New York Times:

Nuclear Agency Rules Are Ill-Suited for Plant Decommissioning, Leader Says

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rules are not geared for supervising the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, the task that will occupy much of its time in the coming years, the head of the agency, Allison M. Macfarlane, said Monday.

Speaking at the National Press Club in a wide-ranging look at her agency and the industry before she leaves the job at the end of the year, Dr. Macfarlane said the industry had instead set itself up about 15 years ago to oversee more reactor construction, a revival that did not occur. “The industry was really expecting to expand,” she said. “The agency’s not facing the future that five years ago people envisioned.”

Instead, a plunging price of natural gas and slack demand for electricity have made some existing plants uncompetitive, and the pace of retirements has been high. But the commission’s rules on areas like security and emergency planning are geared to operating plants, she said. So shut-down plants are applying for exemptions to the rules that no longer seem to fit the risk that the reactors pose when decommissioned.

And to close, hints of our past? From BBC News:

Comet landing: Organic molecules detected by Philae

The Philae lander has detected organic molecules on the surface of its comet, scientists have confirmed.

Carbon-containing “organics” are the basis of life on Earth and may give clues to chemical ingredients delivered to our planet early in its history. The compounds were picked up by a German-built instrument designed to “sniff” the comet’s thin atmosphere.

Other analyses suggest the comet’s surface is largely water-ice covered with a thin dust layer.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, cases, treatment, angst


We begin with the latest educational video from the World Health Organization, released today:

WHO-EMRO: Animated video on Ebol

Program notes:

This two minutes and forty seconds animated video provides basic information and precautions on how to protect self from Ebola virus disease. It also outlines modes of transmission, symptoms, as well as the top-listed frequently asked questions.

Next, improv, from the Associated Press:

Hospitals improvise Ebola defenses, at a cost

On Wednesday, a U.S. Senate committee will hold a hearing on Ebola preparedness. President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $6.18 billion to fight Ebola globally, some of which could be used to strengthen domestic health defenses.

There is no tried-and-true way to build an Ebola ward, but the administrators cobbling them together have been guided by a few key principals gleaned from clinics in Africa and the few full biocontainment facilities in the U.S.

At a minimum, treatment units need a “hot” zone where patients can be isolated, a “cold” zone kept free of anything that might be tainted with the virus, and a “warm” zone where workers can peel off protective gear while spotters watch for any small break in protocol. Most hospitals have also preferred to locate their Ebola treatment areas far, far from other patients.

Global Times covers a potential breakthrough for development new treatments:

US research reports ‘weak spots’ in Ebola’s defenses

US researchers said Monday they have identified “weak spots” on the surface of the deadly Ebola virus that are targeted by the antibodies in ZMapp, the experimental drug cocktail administered to several patients during the recent Ebola outbreak.

The study, led by researchers at the Scripps Research Institute and published by the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provided a 3-D picture of how the ZMapp antibodies bind to the virus.

“The structural images of Ebola virus are like enemy reconnaissance,” said coauthor Erica Ollmann Saphire, a Scripps structural biologist. “They tell us exactly where to target antibodies or drugs.”

Using an imaging technique called electron microscopy, the new study found that two of the ZMapp antibodies bind near the base of virus, appearing to prevent the virus from entering cells.

From the New York Times, quarantined because of his. . .er:

Indian Ebola Survivor Is Under Quarantine at Delhi Airport

A 26-year-old Indian man who recovered from Ebola is being held at a quarantine facility at Delhi airport as a cautionary measure after his semen tested positive for the virus, health officials announced on Tuesday.

When he arrived at the airport on Nov. 10, the man volunteered that he had been successfully treated for Ebola in a Liberian hospital and had been released on Sept. 30.

Though tests of three blood samples came up negative, Indian officials opted to hold him because the virus can linger in other bodily fluids, like semen or urine, for as long as three months, according to a government statement carried by the Press Trust of India. Two samples of the man’s semen tested positive for the virus on Monday.

The Associated Press covers presidential caution:

Obama: West Africa not out of the woods on Ebola

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that West Africa is “nowhere near out of the woods” in its fight against Ebola despite some improvement in the three countries hardest hit by the virus. Obama said the disease remains a threat to the world, including the U.S., and he urged Congress to quickly approve his request for billions of dollars in emergency spending to combat the spread of Ebola at home and abroad.

Meeting at the White House with his Ebola response team, Obama also offered condolences to the family of Dr. Martin Salia. The surgeon contracted Ebola in his native Sierra Leone but died Monday at a Nebraska hospital after being rushed there over the weekend for specialized treatment.

Obama said it’s important to “continue to push forward until we stamp out this disease entirely in that region. Until we do, there are threats of additional outbreaks and, given the nature of international travel, it means that everybody has some measure of risk.”

“We are nowhere near out of the woods yet in West Africa,” Obama said.

Next, the latest Ebola curve from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control [PDF], which reports that as of Monday, 14.415 case have been recorded, with 5,177 ending in death:

BLOG Ebola curve

On to Africa, starting with Mali and some questions from IRIN:

Questions over Mali’s Ebola response

The failure of a top Malian hospital to detect probable cases of Ebola has raised questions about whether the country’s health system is sufficiently prepared to tackle the disease.

“We have several confirmed cases,” Samba Sow, head of the Mali’s National Centre for Disease Control (CNAM), told IRIN. “Our goal is to prevent the virus from spreading.” But the government only released an Ebola emergency plan on 30 October, a week after the first Ebola case.

In Kayes, where a two-year-old girl tested positive for Ebola on 23 October, the hospital was caught off-guard. Only two of its 160 workers had received training on how to detect and treat Ebola patients and how to protect themselves while doing so, said hospital director Toumani Konaré. “The staff had the right protective gear, but they didn’t know how to use it,” he told IRIN.

Vanguard covers mobilization:

Conflict-scarred Mali pulls out the stops to beat Ebola

The leader of the war-torn west African nation of Mali has come in person to galvanise his people as they do battle with the most elusive foe they have ever faced.

On the country’s remote southern border with Guinea, the enemy is not the armed jihadists who wreak havoc elsewhere, but the Ebola virus, which has sparked a national crisis despite just four deaths.

On a strip of dusty asphalt a cavalcade of several dozen government vehicles comes to a halt in the southern frontier town of Kouremale, which is almost perfectly bisected by the border with Guinea.

While the U.N. News Center covers the WHO response:

Efforts by UN health agency under way to step up Ebola response in Mali

The United Nations is intensifying its efforts to keep the Ebola outbreak from spreading in Mali by working to identify all chains of transmission and stepping up social mobilization campaigns to include a range of actors, from religious leaders to truck and bus drivers.

According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Mali has officially reported a total of 6 cases of Ebola, with 5 deaths. The virus was re-introduced into the country last month.

WHO is currently assisting the Government of Mali to identify and monitor contacts, and prevent the outbreak from growing. To date, 554 contacts have been identified and nearly all have been placed under surveillance.

The health agency’s focus will be to work closely with the Government to identify all potential chains of transmission and monitor the contacts so that everybody could be monitored for 21 days, after which, the transmission would hopefully stop, said WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic.

On to Sierra Leone and another healer felled, via the Associated Press:

7th doctor dies of Ebola in Sierra Leone

A top health official says a seventh doctor in Sierra Leone has died of Ebola.

Dr. Moses Kargbo, who had been a retired medical officer in the Ministry of Health, died Tuesday at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center east of the capital, Freetown, where he had been receiving treatment. He had been volunteering to help fight the spread of the virus at a government hospital in the central Tonkolili district.

Kargbo’s death was confirmed by Dr. Amara Jambai of the Health Ministry. It comes a day after that of Dr. Martin Salia, a surgeon who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone and was transported to a Nebraska hospital over the weekend for aggressive treatment.

From Reuters, still another healer stricken:

Cuban doctor in Sierra Leone tests positive for Ebola

A Cuban doctor treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone has tested positive for the disease and will be sent to Geneva for treatment, the official website Cubadebate reported on Tuesday, citing a Health Ministry statement.

The Guardian covers a critical clinical trial:

Sierra Leonean doctors to start clinical trial using blood of Ebola survivors

  • Convalescent serum therapy trial will test whether antibodies from plasma of 200 survivors can help infected fight disease

Doctors in Sierra Leone are to start their own clinical trial, using the blood of Ebola survivors, to speed up the search for a cure for the disease, which has so far killed more than 5,000 people in west Africa.

The trial, organised by a global group of Sierra Leonean medics, will take place in parallel with similar trials announced last week by Médecins Sans Frontières to be run in Guinea in December.

The Sierra Leone Action Group has some 200 survivors registered as possible donors, and hopes to start banking their blood plasma in mid-December after receiving equipment donated by a US medical devices firm. Scientists hope that the antibodies in the blood of people who have recovered from the disease will help other patients fight the infection.

From Agence France-Presse, ancillary impacts:

Spike in pregnancies and abuse in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone

Program notes:

In Ebola-hit Sierra Leone aid workers and health professionals worry that the epidemic is giving rise to a darker trend — spiralling teenage pregnancies and violence against women.

While Vanguard covers action from the top:

S’ Leone leader punishes uncle for breaking Ebola laws

Sierra Leone’s president has suspended his uncle from a prestigious position as a tribal chief for flouting laws designed to contain Ebola, officials said on Tuesday.

Amadu Kamara, the head of the northern village of Yeli Sanda, is accused of covering up secret burials of victims who are supposed to be reported by their families to the authorities.

Bombali District Council, the local authority, said President Ernest Bai Koroma had handed his uncle an “indefinite suspension and fine of 500,000 leones ($115, 92 euros)”.

And on to Liberia, with good numbers from the capital via the NewDawn:

Monrovia’s Ebola cases drop to 25

The World Health Organization says while the number of Ebola cases appears to be declining, with reported cases in Monrovia falling from 75 to 25 daily, a mixed picture emerges in different counties across the country.

The head of the Ebola Response team at the WHO Dr. Bruce Aylward, paid a four- day visit to Liberia to get a better understanding of the Ebola response activities on the ground.

In a press statement, WHO says the transmission of Ebola virus disease is consistently high in Montserrado County while there are declines in Lofa County where zero cases have been reported for more than a week, according to Dr. Aylward. WHO report as of 8 November says Liberia reported a total of 6,822 cases including 2,836 deaths.

FrontPageAfrica voices some healthy skepticism:

Zero Ebola Cases by X-Mas? Complacency Compounds Reality

Amid the optimism many fear that the political atmosphere and people’s perception that the worst has passed Liberia is giving rise to complacency in some quarters, even as infections in Bong County remained stagnant for the past three weeks and Cape Mount and Montserrado report new cases.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director General for Polio and Emergencies who was in Liberia last week, urged Liberians not to begin relaxing the measures aimed at stopping the transmission of the Ebola virus disease that has ravaged Liberia and its two neighbors, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The reality, is according to Dr. Bruce Aylward, there are still traces of the virus popping up in a number of areas across the country and any change in attitude in relation to the Ebola fight could be devastating to the population.

According to the latest Ministry of Health and Social Welfare case tracker, new Ebola cases are springing up in Bong, Grand Cape Mount, and Rivercess Counties. Montserrado has seen at least 24 new cases, Rivercess 14, Grand Bassa 3, Bong 5 and 1 new cases in Cape Mount. In contrast, the rest of the country is seeing zero number of cases in the past weeks with Lofa, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, Bomi, Sinoe, River Gee, Grand Kru, Maryland, Nimba, and Gbparpolu have all reported zero case of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) for the past four weeks, a positive signal that the Christmas goal is within reach.

Dr. Aylward agrees that Liberia stands a good chance to record zero new case in the coming months, but this will only become a reality if Liberians maintain those measures put into place by health authorities to fight the Ebola virus disease. More importantly, person to person transmission has dropped from 45% to 18%.

While the NewDawn covers curious behavior by Asian helpers:

Chinese discriminate at SKD

A Chinese team building a hundred bed Ebola Treatment Unit in Paynesville has been complained to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for “shutting off” power and water supplies to counterparts that are also building another 200-bed capacity ETU at the SKD Sports Stadium in the same community.

But President Sirleaf has told Mr. Liangquan Fu, Managing Director for CICO’s West Africa Headquarters that the Chinese team should cooperate with its colleagues as one team because they are doing the same work for the same people.

During President Sirleaf visit at ETUs in Monrovia Tuesday, November 18, 2014, a local architect working on the World Food Program ETU that will be run by IRC and German Red Cross, Mr. Bennie D. Tickey, said UNICEF “is exploring digging another well” after being shut off by the Chinese.

“We want you to negotiate because they say you cut their water off; you cut the light off. They had people sleeping in an empty place; you say no they must move. You need to cooperate – one team because the same work you are doing for the same people; that are the same objective, so your need to work together,” the Liberian leader urged the Chinese.

From AllAfrica, a plea for days to come:

Liberia: Chief Karwor Requests Land for Post-Ebola Farming

The Chairman of the National Traditional Council of Liberia, Chief Zanzan Karwor, is urging the Ministry of Internal Affairs to request local officials in each county to provide 250 acres of land for farming after Ebola is kicked out of Liberia.

He said the Ministry should instruct County Superintendents to liaise with Statutory District Superintendents to prepare the land for citizens to grow food to avert any post-Ebola food shortages.

Chief Karwor observed that after Ebola is wiped out of Liberia, hunger will be the next to attack the country.

“The hunger that is in this country is too high and if we don’t do something now, after Ebola is gone, the next attack on the citizens will be hunger,” Karwor told the Liberia News Agency at the administration building in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County Tuesday.

While the Associated Press finds a hopeful symptom:

Liberian couples marry, a sign of less Ebola fear

“It is absolutely premature to start being optimistic,” Birte Hald of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Monday in Brussels. She noted that the virus “is flaring up in new villages, in new locations.”

In Monrovia, though, ordinary life is resuming and there are some signs of normalcy that were all but absent during the height of the crisis here. Washing hands before entering is no longer enforced in many shops. Radio stations are not playing anti-Ebola jingles as often as they did two months ago.

And on Sunday, a small park near the Ministry of Health was full of cameramen jostling for space to get the best shots of the newly wedded.

Jordan Jackson, 36, and his bride Jacquelyn, 33, were married on Sunday after more than a decade together. The couple already has three children — 10, 7 and 5 years old — who took part in the ceremony along with them.

“The feeling I am leaving this park with this afternoon is that Liberia is returning to normalcy and things are getting better,” the groom said.

And from AllAfrica, another cautionary note:

Liberia: Unchecked Migration of Ebola Patients Troubling MoH

An official of the Ministry of Health has expressed concern that the migration of Ebola patients from Monrovia to other parts of Liberia is leading to the rapid spread of the virus.

Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services Tolbert Nyenswah blamed the recent emergence of few hotspots of the Ebola virus in Grand Bassa and Bong counties on the movement of Ebola patients to those areas.

He made the statement Tuesday at the Ministry of Information daily Ebola press conference held at the ministry in Monrovia.

InSecurityWatch: Threats, war, cops, hacks, Asia


We begin with the New York Times:

Governor Activates Missouri National Guard

Anticipating protests after the grand jury’s decision in the death of Michael Brown, Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri activated the National Guard on Monday.

The governor said the National Guard will play a limited role as it did during protests in August, providing security at command posts, fire stations and other locations.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Governor Nixon said in a statement.

Under the executive order, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will operate as a unified command, with the St. Louis County police responsible for security in Ferguson.

And then there’s this from the Independent:

Terrorism fuelled by state violence, extra-judicial killings and ethnic tensions

Terrorism has become dramatically more deadly and more widespread across the globe with a 60 per cent rise in the number of deaths and countries affected by major attacks, a study has found.

Fatalities from terrorist incidents rose from just over 11,000 in 2012 to nearly 18,000 last year, while the number of countries which experienced more than 50 deaths from terror attacks rose from 15 to 24, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).

The authors of the comprehensive annual survey of terrorist incidents and trends said that the vast majority of the bloodshed was restricted to five countries – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – where groups such as Isis (also known as Islamic State or Isil) adhering to extreme Wahhabist interpretations of Islam are leading attacks.

From the Los Angeles Times:

CIA intelligence gap hinders counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, Iraq

“It’s a black hole,” one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in discussing intelligence, on the challenge of tracking terrorists and assessing casualties in a war zone that is in effect off-limits to U.S. personnel.

U.S. counter-terrorism officials have identified about a dozen Americans fighting with militants in Syria or Iraq, for example, including some who have joined Islamic State. But U.S. intelligence analysts have struggled to develop a complete picture of their movements or what roles they play in the militant groups.

U.S. intelligence agencies have poured resources into the war since the spring, and the CIA has set up a training camp in Jordan for Syrian fighters. They also rely on information gathered from U.S.-backed rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army.

Nordic suspicions from TheLocal.se:

Isis sleeper cells suspected in Sweden

A defector from the rebel group Isis has told a Scandinavian broadcaster that his former organization has terrorist sleeper cells in Sweden awaiting orders.

The man told Norwegian news network NRK: “There are cells awaiting orders, and there is more than one group.” NRK met the defector at a secret location in Turkey, near the border to Syria.

The man claimed to have a background as a special soldier for Isis (also known as the Islamic State or IS) and said he had defected from the terror group a few months ago.

From Homeland Security News Wire:

Terror financiers operate freely in Qatar: U.S.

Qatar’s massive financial support of the most extreme Jihadist movements in the Middle East and North Africa is not exactly a secret – notwithstanding the sheikhdom rulers’ half-hearted denials, and the nominal membership of Qatar in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.

Qatar, with a small territory, about 250,000 citizens, and a lot of oil money – some derisively call it “a bank, not a country” — some years ago made the strategic decision that, in order be taken seriously as a regional actor, it had to do things differently. It could not compete with regional power-houses such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, so it decided to undermine and weaken both countries by undermining and weakening their rulers and their allies in the region.

Qatar has been doing so in two ways.

In November 1996 Qatar has launched Al Jazeera, which, in addition to some mainstream news reporting and relatively open studio debates and call-in shows, has been a tool of the Qatari government in its propaganda and disinformation campaign to undermine the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, other Gulf Sheikhdoms, and other moderate states in the region (note that this applies to Al Jazeera in Arabic. The English-language Al Jazeera operates in a manner which is largely similar to Western news outlets).

The other way Qatar has sought to weaken moderate government in the region is by providing massive financial aid to Jihadist groups in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories.

Notable, from the Los Angeles Times:

Putin vows to protect Ukraine separatists from defeat

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to prevent the defeat of allied separatists in eastern Ukraine while clinging to his insistence that Russia hasn’t been involved in the deadly, 7-month-old conflict.

In an interview with Germany’s ARD television, Putin repeated his claim that ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine are in danger of repression by a Kiev leadership he suggested was plotting to oust them en route to creating a fascist state.

“We are very concerned about any possible ethnic cleansings and Ukraine ending up as a neo-Nazi state,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin news service account of the interview. “What are we supposed to think if people are bearing swastikas on their sleeves? Or what about the SS emblems that we see on the helmets of some military units now fighting in eastern Ukraine?”

A shotgun wedding from Taiwan’s Want China Times:

US makes ‘fatal mistake’ driving China and Russia closer: Duowei

The United States is making a “fatal mistake” by antagonizing both China and Russia and forcing the two primary opponents closer together, says Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news website.

Washington turned against Moscow following the start of the Ukraine crisis in February this year, leading the European Union and Japan in imposing heavy sanctions against Russia. The increasing distrust between the two countries has been apparent, with Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama coming into contact for only 20-30 minutes during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit in Beijing last week, with neither leader having much to say to the other.

Putin also berated the US shortly before the ensuing G20 in Australia, accusing Washington of undermining the very trade institutions it created by imposing sanctions on Russia, a “mistake” that it said went against international law and trade agreements.

Trackin’ pistol-packin’, from MIT Technology Review:

Police in California and Texas Test Networked Guns

  • A chip that tracks how a police officer’s gun is being used could prove useful in investigations and court cases

When a police officer draws a firearm he or she often doesn’t have an opportunity to radio for backup.

YardArm, a California-based company, is building technology that will automatically alert headquarters in such situations. The company makes a chip that goes into the handle of a regular firearm and transmits data over a cell-phone network connection. The data transmitted includes the location of a gun and whether it has been unholstered or discharged. The company is also working to track the direction in which a gun is pointing. The data can be fed to a police dispatch system or viewed on a smartphone.

Founded in 2013, YardArm started out making a consumer product for monitoring a firearm’s location. But since many American gun owners object to technology or policies aimed at regulating firearms, it did not find many customers.

The despicable, enabling the despicable, via the New York Times:

Indictment of Ex-Official Raises Questions on Mississippi’s Private Prisons

In 1982, Christopher B. Epps, a young schoolteacher, took a second job as a guard at the facility known as Parchman Farm, the only prison operated at the time by the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Eventually he had to choose a path. “It worked out that I was making more as a correctional officer than as a teacher,” Mr. Epps would later recall in an interview for a corrections newsletter.

By the time he spoke those words in 2009, Mr. Epps was being feted as Mississippi’s longest-serving corrections commissioner. The state inmate population had quadrupled, five private prisons had been built to help house them, and, according to a federal grand jury indictment, Mr. Epps had found a new, secretive way to bolster his income.

The 49-count indictment, unsealed last week, accuses Mr. Epps of receiving more than $1 million in bribes from a former Mississippi lawmaker named Cecil McCrory, beginning in 2007. In exchange, the indictment charges, Mr. Epps helped secure lucrative corrections department contracts for private prison companies owned or represented by Mr. McCrory.

More penal despicability, via the Miami Herald:

Detention at Guantánamo grinds on: 13 years and counting, 148 captives remain

It’s the first Tuesday in November, just another day as Guantánamo grinds on toward the detention center’s 14th year as the most expensive prison on earth with no end in sight. President Barack Obama ordered it emptied in 2009, on his second day in office, and people here are dubious that it will be done before his last.

It will close “a year from now, six months from now, 10 years from now — I don’t know,” says Zak, a Pentagon employee who has served as the prison’s Muslim cultural adviser since 2005.

“My focus is to ensure that I have operationally effective and safe facilities for a mission with an indeterminate end date,” says Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, the 14th commander of the prison operation.

Bobby despicability, via the London Telegraph:

A million crimes reported by public left out of police figures

  • Watchdog warns that police are failing to record one in five crimes because of the ‘target culture’ in forces

Almost a million crimes a year are disappearing from official figures as chief constables attempt to meet targets, a study by the police watchdog has disclosed.

Its report exposed “indefensible” failures by forces to record crime accurately, and said that in some areas up to a third of crimes are being struck out of official records.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said violent crimes and sex attacks were particularly vulnerable to being deleted under “inexcusably poor” systems.

Although the report stopped short of accusing police of widespread “fiddling” it said there was an “undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces” and “wrongful pressure” by managers.

From Network World, a criminal marketing twist:

New ransomware CoinVault allows users to decrypt one file for free

Cybercriminals behind a new ransomware program called CoinVault are trying out a new psychological tactic to convince users to pay up—freebies.

The new threat was discovered by security researchers from Webroot and is similar in functionality to more prevalent ransomware programs like CryptoWall. It uses strong 256-bit AES encryption with keys stored on a remote server, it kills the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service so that users can’t use it to recover their files and only supports Bitcoin as a payment method.

Users are asked to pay 0.5 bitcoins—around $200 at the current exchange rate—in order to receive the key that decrypts their files, but the cost increases every 24 hours.

One aspect that sets CoinVault apart from other file-encrypting ransomware programs is that it allows users to see a list of encrypted files on their computer and choose one they can decrypt for free.

SecurityWeek covers more criminal despicability:

Research Finds 1 Percent of Online Ads Malicious

One percent does not sound like a lot, but multiple it by the right number, and it can be.

Such is the case when it comes to malicious advertising. In research recently presented at the 2014 Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver, a team of security experts from Ruhr-University Bochum, University College London and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) examined more than 600,000 online advertisements on 40,000 websites over a three-month period and used multiple detection systems to assess whether they were good or bad. The end result: one percent of the ads were found to be involved in suspicious or malicious activity such as drive-by downloads and link hijacking.

“While this is bad news for the advertising networks, advertisers and Internet users who are all under attack from the malware producers, the good news is there are several things available today that can stop malvertising,” said Giovanni Vigna, co-founder and CTO of Lastline, one of the members of the team that worked on the research. “One of these is the use of the sandboxing attribute in iframes within HTML5. None of the 40,000 websites we observed leveraged this mechanism, even though it could stop the link-hijacking that is by far the most prevalent method by which miscreants are getting past other security measures in order to distribute malware through advertisements.”

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Britain, attacks on immigrant housing in Germany, a Columbian general captured by rebels and a massive manhunt ensues, a disillusioned Mossad agent speaks out, Pakistani police thuggery, a killer Indian medical mob, illegal student protests in Myanmar, a crackdown on Hong Kong Occupy camp nears, more repercussions from the election of an Okianawa govenor opposed to a U.S. base move as activists work to expose the toxic legacy of Vietnam War-era Agent Orange exposures on the island, and a unique Californian match made in prison. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Bird flu, toxins, climate, & nukes


We begin with a series of reports on the global spread of avian flu outbreak, first with BBC News:

Bird flu: Egyptian woman dies of H5N1 virus

An Egyptian woman has died after coming into contact with birds infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

The 19-year-old woman died in hospital in the region of Assiut in the south of the country.

It was the second death in Egypt this year out of a total of seven confirmed cases, said Egyptian health officials.

It comes after several cases of birds infected with different types of the virus were discovered in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

And from Europe, via the London Telegraph:

Emergency measures announced to contain bird flu in Britain and the Netherlands

  • The European Commission announces measures including culling and banning sales of poultry products from affected areas

Emergency measures to contain outbreaks of bird flu in Britain and the Netherlands have been announced by the European Commission.

It comes after Environment Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that a virus found at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire was the ‘’highly pathogenic’‘ H5 strain of avian flu.

The transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands was banned after an outbreak of the H5N8 bird flu strain was confirmed at a chicken farm in the central province of Utrecht.

Neither outbreak involved the H5N1 version of the virus which has caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.

More from BBC News:

Bird flu: ‘Robust action’ on Yorkshire duck farm case

“Immediate and robust action” is being taken to stamp out bird flu following a confirmed case at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire, the environment secretary has told the Commons.

Tests are yet to establish the strain, but the H5N1 form, deadly to humans, has been ruled out, Liz Truss said.

About 6,000 birds will be culled from Tuesday as a precaution and a 10km (6 mile) exclusion zone is in place.

Ms Truss repeated reassurances that there was no food safety risk.

And still more from DutchNews.nl:

Migrating birds blamed for spreading bird flu, two other Dutch farms declared healthy

Poultry experts from the European Commission believe the three cases of bird flu at farms in the Netherlands, Germany and Britain are due to migrating birds, news agency ANP says on Monday.

This infectious form of bird flu is more common in Japan and Korea and has probably been spread by infected birds, the experts say. There is no connection between the three farms where bird flu has been identified. In addition, two farms close to the Dutch farm where the disease was found at the weekend have been given a clean bill of health.

The movement of poultry, eggs and bird manure has been halted throughout the Netherlands for 72 hours following the discovery of a highly infectious variant of bird flu at a chicken farm in Hekendorp, south of Utrecht.

And a Japanese case from Jiji Press:

Suspected Bird Flu Case Reported in Tokyo

An avian influenza virus has been detected in a genetic test on the body of a common pochard collected in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, the Environment Ministry said Monday.

A further test will be carried out to examine whether the migratory bird was infected with a highly pathogenic bird flu virus. This would be the first bird flu case in Tokyo.

The ministry has designated a 10-kilometer radius of where the bird body was found as a priority monitoring zone. “There is little likelihood that humans get infected with bird flu in ordinary life,” a ministry official said.

Another critter, another ailment, via CBC News:

Sea star wasting disease likely caused by virus

  • Researchers don’t know what triggered recent deadly outbreak

Scientists have isolated a virus they are pretty sure is causing the mysterious disease that has killed millions of sea stars on the Pacific Coast from Southern California to Alaska by causing them to lose their limbs and eventually disintegrate into slime and piles of tiny bones.

A study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says a variety of densovirus is the likely cause of wasting syndrome among sea stars, also known as starfish. Varieties of densovirus are used as a biological control on cockroaches, and include the parvovirus that infects dogs.

Cornell University marine microbiologist Ian Hewson says they found larger amounts of the virus in sick sea stars than healthy ones, and the amount of virus increased as the disease progressed. Also, injecting material from sick sea stars that was filtered to concentrate virus-sized organisms caused healthy sea stars to get the disease.

From the Independent, a soap toxin:

Triclosan: Soap ingredient can trigger liver cancer in mice, warn scientists

A chemical ingredient of cosmetics, soaps, detergents, shampoos and toothpaste has been found to trigger liver cancer in laboratory mice, raising concerns about how safe it is for humans, scientists said.

Triclosan, a commonly used anti-bacterial agent added to bathroom and kitchen products, promotes the growth of liver tumours in mice fed relatively large quantities of the substance, a study has found.

The research is the latest to link triclosan with cancer and liver disease, but other scientists have urged caution over the findings suggesting that they do not prove a direct causal link between the chemical and the ill health of people exposed to it.

Monitoring the threatened, via the Guardian:

More than 22,000 species feature in conservationists’ ‘under threat’ list

  • Japanese yen for Pacific bluefin tuna, climate change and demand for minerals from animals’ habitats put species at risk

A fluorescent pink slug and one of the world’s most expensive fish are among the species included in an update to the list of the world’s most threatened animals.

Mankind’s demand for the wood, stone and oil where the species live, as well as using them for food, is blamed for pushing many towards the brink of extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said in its authoritative Red List update.

The Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis), a meaty fish prized in Japan that was previously listed as a species of least concern, has seen numbers decline by up to a third over the past two decades leading it to be reclassified as vulnerable. The main threat to the species is its value as sashimi – one fish can fetch more than $100,000 (£64,000).

The appetite for sashimi is also blamed for the decline of the Chinese pufferfish (Takifugu chinensis), one of the world’s most toxic fish. It is now classified as critically endangered, the Red List’s most severe listing and the final step before extinction.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, water woes:

EPA administrator: Surprise at focus of backlash to clean-water rule

The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was taken aback by parts of the response to a proposed clean-water rule that has riled agriculture interests nationwide.

In a wide-ranging Monday morning roundtable discussion sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she expected some of the push-back on what is known as the “ Waters of the United States” proposal. But not all of it.

The rule came about because the 1972 Clean Water Act pretty clearly cover rivers, lakes and year-round wetlands – but other waters aren’t so obvious, such as wetlands that dry up some months of the year.

U.S. farm interests reacted strongly to the proposal, saying it would vastly increase the EPA’s authority – something the agency disputes. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other farm groups were part of a deluge of nearly 500,000 comments that came in on the rule, as of last count; the EPA and Army Corps hope to finalize the rule next year.

From the Guardian, pipeline resistance:

South Dakota Sioux tribe calls Keystone XL pipeline approval ‘act of war’

  • Pipeline’s prospective route runs through Rosebud reservation
  • Tribe president: ‘I pledge my life to stop these people harming our children’

A Native American tribe in South Dakota has called a congressional vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline an “act of war” and vowed to close the reservation’s borders if the US government tries to install a pipeline there.

The prospective route for the pipeline, which would connect Canadian tar sands fields to the Gulf coast, runs through the 922,759-acre (1,442 sq mi) Rosebud Sioux reservation in south-central South Dakota. The House of Representatives voted 252-161 on Friday to approve the pipeline.

“I pledge my life to stop these people from harming our children and our grandchildren and our way of life and our culture and our religion here,” the tribe president, Cyril Scott, said on Monday. He represents one of nine tribal governments in the state.

Scott said he will close the reservation’s borders if the government goes through with the deal, which is scheduled to come up for a Senate vote on Tuesday.

A video report from Democracy Now!:

Naomi Klein: Reject Keystone XL Pipeline, We Need Radical Change to Prevent Catastrophic Warming

Program notes:

House lawmakers passed legislation Friday to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline to bring carbon-intensive tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. The Senate is expected to vote this week on a similar pro-Keystone bill backed by Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. Landrieu is facing a tough battle to keep her seat in a runoff next month against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who also happens to be the sponsor of the pro-Keystone bill in the House. Landrieu spoke last week about her support for Keystone. We speak to Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.”

From the Guardian, greasing the skids:

Carmichael mine: environmental impact will be unknown for years

  • Government backdown means Indian owners won’t be required to replace razed critically endangered habitat until two years into the project

Construction of Australia’s largest ever mine will be well underway before its impact upon the environment is known, with a requirement to replace critically endangered habitat razed by the project pushed back by two full years after a backdown by the federal government.

Documents seen by Guardian Australia show that the government scaled back its initial environmental conditions for the Carmichael mine in central Queensland following a request by Adani, the proponent.

The changes effectively mean the $16.5bn mine’s impact on crucial groundwater supplies, beyond the 297bn litres it will extract from aquifers, will be largely unknown until the project is at an advanced stage.

After the jump, Peru’s bloody forest wars, more African tribes displaced ads their lands are seized, a calamitous polar bear population decline as attacks on humans rise, a presidential confrontation over Aussie climate reticence, the long trail of safety violations before a deadly Tex pesticide plant leak, a most-wanted list for environmental criminals, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with those with endlessly leaking tunnels and gubernatorial pleas for waste disposal consultations and for closure or yet another plant. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Dancing, death, angst, and hope


And the latest from the African media. . .

We’ll begin with the latest poll of American healthcare concerns from Gallup, with Ebola now ranking number three, above cancer and heart disease:

BLOG Ebola

Next, and on the lighter side, a video report from Agence France-Presse:

Health workers in Sierra Leone dance to cheer up Ebola patients

Program note:

Staff tackling the Ebola virus at a treatment centre in Sierra Leone face death every day but that doesn’t mean they can’t look on the brighter side. They’ve taken to dancing to cheer up their patients.

What’s next? Dancing with the SARS?

And on the very serious side, this from the Associated Press:

Red Cross officials: Ebola flaring anew in Africa

Red Cross officials helping to lead the fight against Ebola in West Africa said Monday the virus is still spreading, and they’re having trouble recruiting health care workers to combat it.

Antoine Petitbon of the French Red Cross said that it’s easier for him to recruit people to go to Iraq, despite the security hazards there. He said the French Red Cross is facing an unprecedented problem: Sixty percent of people it signs up to work in the Ebola zone subsequently back out due to pressure from families and friends.

Birte Hald, head of emergency operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that after a recent surge of optimism that the virus was coming under control, especially in Liberia, it “is flaring up in new villages, in new locations.” On Monday, Hald said, a team of international experts was being set to Mali to assist that nation’s health authorities in stemming an outbreak of Ebola there.

From the Los Angeles Times, Californians prepare to head to the hot zone:

California National Guard prepares for Ebola mission in West Africa

A unit of the California Army National Guard has been ordered to mobilize for possible deployment to West Africa to support U.S. and international efforts to stem the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The linguist detachment of the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion is among six National Guard battalions nationwide ordered for involuntary mobilization under an order signed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The others are in Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Iowa and Kansas.

None of the approximately 1,200 soldiers from the battalions will provide direct medical care to Ebola patients, the Army National Guard said in its announcement Sunday. Another 900 Army reservists are also being mobilized for what the Pentagon calls Operation United Assistance.

The Guard soldiers and reservists will provide training on Ebola and malaria prevention and also medical readiness, the Army said.

A reminder from the National Journal:

Why It’s Too Early to Forget About Ebola

The Ebola outbreak is far from over in West Africa. Pay attention, America.

Americans are googling Taylor Swift more than they’re googling Ebola.

The panic that gripped the country following four diagnoses of the virus in the United States seems to have faded into a collective amnesia following a three-week period with no new Ebola cases.

But the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach ignores the crisis that continues to plague West Africa. Funding for the international response has lagged, and positive developments in Liberia have resulted in premature optimism about a situation that we still don’t fully have a grasp on. Health experts have said all along that the only way to eliminate the risk of infection in the U.S. is to end the outbreak there—and we’re still far, far away from the finish line.

“The Ebola focus we had over the past month really has been largely on that in the U.S.; many of us kept saying, ‘Don’t take the eye off the ball in West Africa,’ “ said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “[But] the interest and concern has focused on a few cases in the U.S. This is not surprising—people think, ‘Am I going to contract Ebola? If it’s over there, it’s not my problem.’”

The Guardian registers a protest:

Kaci Hickox accuses governors of exploiting Ebola fears for political gain

  • Nurse says Chris Christie disregarded science and constitution
  • ‘Politicians who tell lies … will hopefully never make it to the White House’

Kaci Hickox, the nurse who found herself in the middle of a political storm when she was quarantined on her return from west Africa despite testing negative for Ebola, has launched a blistering attack on two “overzealous” state governors, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Paul LePage of Maine, whom she accused of seeking to advance their careers at her expense.

Of the former, who is widely seen as a possible Republican nomination for president in 2016, she said: “Politicians who tell lies … will hopefully never make it to the White House.”

Writing for the Guardian, Hickox said: “I was quarantined against my will by overzealous politicians.”

“My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear. Christie and my governor in Maine, Paul LePage, decided to disregard medical science and the constitution in hopes of advancing their careers.”

From the Washington Post, lending a hand:

In Ebola fight, private foundations provide critical financial aid

The U.S. emergency response team working on Ebola in Kemena, Sierra Leone, was stuck. The vehicle they had been using to transport patients, deliver oral rehydration packets and do other critical work had two flat tires. It was early October, a time when things seemed to be spiraling out of control in the epicenter of the crisis, and there wasn’t a moment to waste.

The stranded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers knew just where to call for help: a little-known nonprofit — the CDC Foundation — that received millions of dollars in donations in recent months from Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and other philanthropists.

Within the hour, the organization authorized enough money for the staff to make the repairs. And within the week, it had ordered, paid for and shipped to the region about 200 additional pickup trucks and four-wheel-drive cars — $5 million worth.

And from New York Times, the latest press-attracting casualty:

Doctor Being Treated for Ebola in Omaha Dies

A surgeon who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, Dr. Martin Salia, died Monday while being treated in a biocontainment center in Omaha.

“We used the maximum amount of supportive care and every advanced technique available in an effort to save his life,” said Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“We are reminded today that even though this was the best possible place for a patient with this virus to be, that in the very advanced stages, even the most modern techniques that we have at our disposal are not enough to help these patients once they reach the critical threshold,” Dr. Gold said.

More from the Washington Post:

A doctor’s mistaken Ebola test: ‘We were celebrating. . . . Then everything fell apart’

When Martin Salia’s Ebola test came back negative, his friends and colleagues threw their arms around him. They shook his hand. They patted him on the back. They removed their protective gear and cried.

But when his symptoms remained nearly a week later, Salia took another test, on Nov. 10. This one came back positive, sending the Sierra Leonean doctor with ties to Maryland on a desperate, belated quest for treatment and forcing the colleagues who had embraced him into quarantine.

“We were celebrating. If the test says you are Ebola-free, we assume you are Ebola-free,” said Komba Songu M’Briwa, who cared for Salia at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center in Freetown. “Then everything fell apart.”

Salia is now in critical condition at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, his family left to wonder what would have happened if he had received earlier treatment.

Al Jazeera America covers blowback to celebrity tragedy traipsing:

‘We got this, Bob Geldof, so back off’

  • As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it’s a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good

The original campaign, and similar well-meaning Western efforts, have led to an image of an Africa full of countries, and people, unable to help themselves and constantly looking to foreigners for help.

When it was announced last week that, in response to Ebola, Geldof was planning to record a song he thinks is terrible for the fourth time, there was an eruption of criticism from Africans on Twitter and elsewhere.

Though the original song was recorded to raise money for Ethiopia, African critics say the stigma its simplistic message left behind affected not only that country, but a continent of 54 hugely-varied nations.

Detractors say an unintended legacy hinders investment, hurts tourism and inspires the sort of aid that has a negative impact.

NHK WORLD covers more Japanese preparations:

Govt., city to discuss safety steps for Ebola lab

The government and a city within Tokyo Metropolis will start drafting safety measures for an advanced laboratory of infectious diseases to handle possible Ebola cases.

Health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki on Monday visited a branch of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Musashimurayama City.

The facility’s laboratory is capable of analyzing the Ebola virus and other highly dangerous pathogens as well as developing vaccines for them.

From BBC News, more help on the way:

New Zealand to send Ebola medics to W Africa

New Zealand’s government has approved the deployment of 24 medical workers to West Africa to help fight Ebola.

The volunteers, backed by an investment of NZ$2m (£1m; $1.6m), will be based at the new 100-bed clinic being set up by Australia in Sierra Leone.

New Zealand also committed NZ$1m to a WHO fund to help Pacific nations prepare for a potential outbreak there.

On to the pharma front, first with Voice of America:

Researchers Turn to Deadly Tobacco for Ebola Cure

Notorious for its cancer-causing properties, the nicotine-rich product could soon prove to be effective in treating Ebola. A biopharmaceutical company in Guelph, Canada, called PlantForm, is currently testing a trial drug with the hopes of having it on the market in three to four years.

The company’s president and CEO, Don Stewart, said these are exciting times for the tobacco industry, long seen as a threat to good health.

“The possibility of creating, at very low cost, drugs for Ebola, is an exciting opportunity for us all.”

Next, via Reuters:

No safety concerns yet in trials of GSK’s Ebola vaccine

Almost 200 people have received GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental Ebola vaccine in trials in the United States, Britain, Mali and Switzerland, and the safety data so far are “very satisfactory”, scientists said on Monday.

The trials, which began just over two months ago, have been using healthy volunteers, rather than patients with Ebola, to test whether the vaccine is safe for humans.

The experimental shot uses a single Ebola virus gene from a chimpanzee virus to generate an immune response. Because it doesn’t contain any infectious virus material, it can’t infect those being vaccinated.

A plea, via the Liberian Observer:

“Ebola Must be Isolated, not the people”

European Union Ebola Coordinator and Commissioner for Humanitarian and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides has urged countries unaffected by the Ebola Virus Disease not to discriminate against or isolate people of Ebola affected countries, but isolate the disease itself.

Commissioner Stylianides’ statement comes in the wake of isolation and discriminatory measures by many countries including Morocco, Australia and Canada to prevent people of Ebola affected countries from entering their countries.

Speaking at a brief press conference on November 14 at the EU’s Mamba Point office, Mr. Stylianides reiterated that “we want to isolate the disease, not the people.  We must not allow fear to dictate our actions.  This is the foundation of our commitment and solidarity.”

Commenting further on strategies to curb the disease and take precautionary measures to prevent future outbreaks, the EU Commissioner said now is the time to begin thinking about a plan to build infrastructures, especially the healthcare delivery system on a long-term basis, noting that success cannot be assured without a long-term plan.

And from the Associated Press, an upbeat assessment:

Hagel credits US military with Ebola progress

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday there are encouraging signs of progress against the Ebola virus in West Africa, and he said the U.S. military can take some credit for containing it.

Hagel told a group of 101st Airborne Division soldiers Monday that it is too early to say when the U.S. military’s Ebola mission in Liberia and Senegal will be finished.

“We’re not at the end yet,” he said.

Hagel toured the pre-deployment training that is given to soldiers before they go to West Africa. The soldiers are providing logistics and other support there but are not in direct contact with people infected with the virus. Nevertheless, soldiers are required to undergo 21 days of quarantine upon their return.

After the jump, its on to Africa and an Ebola blackout in the Sudanese press, Ebola fears in the Cote d’Ivoire, on to Mali and a critical time ahead, hundreds monitored for symptoms, and a presidential visit to the border, next to Guinea and villages reluctantly opened and a French clinic readied, then on to Liberia, with accommodations for survivors, a plea to reform responsiveness, a legislator’s call for permanent hospitals rather than mobile emergency treatment units, and Chinese help arrives, plus the woes of the pregnant in Sierra Leone. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, crime, hacks, cops, zones


First, via the Guardian, one of those responsible warns of collapse:

David Cameron warns that second global crash is looming

  • PM says ‘red warning lights are flashing’ against a backdrop of instability and uncertainty, as G20 summit draws to a close

David Cameron has issued a stark message that “red warning lights are flashing on the dashboard of the global economy” in the same way as when the financial crash brought the world to its knees six years ago.

Writing in the Guardian at the close of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Cameron says there is now “a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty” that presents a real risk to the UK recovery, adding that the eurozone slowdown is already having an impact on British exports and manufacturing.

His warning comes days after the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, claimed a spectre of stagnation was haunting Europe. The International Monetary Fund managing director, Christine Lagarde, expressed fears in Brisbane that a diet of high debt, low growth and unemployment may yet become “the new normal in Europe”.

From the Guardian again, boots ahoy:

Western combat troops may be needed to defeat Isis, says Lord Dannatt

  • Former army chief says west may have to ‘think the unthinkable’ and engage forces on ground to counter Islamic State

British combat troops could be required to fight in Iraq and Syria to eradicate the threat posed by Islamic State (Isis), a former army chief has said.

Lord Dannatt said western leaders might have to “think the unthinkable” and send in troops if the combination of air strikes and local forces was unable to counter the jihadis.

The former chief of the general staff said the British government should think again about whether to join in air strikes against Isis targets in Syria, but that ultimately bombing missions may not be enough.

From the New York Times, fanning flames:

U.S. Believes ISIS Video Shows Peter Kassig, American Hostage, After Beheading

The Islamic State released a video Sunday showing a black-clad executioner standing over the severed head of a man it identified as the American aid worker Peter Kassig, a former Army Ranger who disappeared over a year ago at a checkpoint in northeastern Syria while delivering medical supplies.

In recent days, American intelligence agencies received strong indications that the Islamic State had killed Mr. Kassig. But without a body or other corroborating evidence, officials could not be certain.

After the video was released and intelligence analysts were able to conduct an initial assessment, one senior American official said Sunday that the government was increasingly convinced that the video was authentic and that Mr. Kassig was dead.

While Al Jazeera English spun differently:

ISIL beheads Syria troops and US aid worker

  • US confirms footage showing killing of at least 12 Syrian military officers and US aid worker Peter Kassig is authentic

The US has said a video circulated online showing members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group beheading several Syrian soldiers and US aid worker Peter Kassig is authentic.

The footage, released and confirmed by Washington on Sunday, showed the beheading of at least 12 people whom ISIL said were pilots and officers in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military.

From Reuters, more fuel for flames:

Lieberman tells German Foreign Minister no limits on East Jerusalem settlements

Rebuffing international criticism, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his German counterpart point-blank on Sunday that Israel will not stop building homes for Jews in East Jerusalem.

His remarks were likely to compound Western frustration over Israeli settlement policy on occupied land that Palestinians seek for a state.

“We won’t accept any limitations on building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem,” Lieberman told a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The Associated Press covers business as usual:

Prosecutors troubled by extent of military fraud

In a period when the nation has spent freely to support wars on multiple fronts, prosecutors have found plentiful targets: defendants who bill for services they do not provide, those who steer lucrative contracts to select business partners and those who use bribes to game a vast military enterprise.

Despite numerous cases that have produced long prison sentences, the problems have continued abroad and at home with a frequency that law enforcement officials consider troubling.

“The schemes we see really run the gamut from relatively small bribes paid to somebody in Afghanistan to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of contracts being steered in the direction of a favored company who’s paying bribes,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in an interview.

In the past few months alone, four retired and one active-duty Army National Guard officials were charged in a complex bribery and kickback scheme involving the awarding of contracts for marketing and promotional materials. A trucking company driver pleaded guilty to bribing military base employees in Georgia to obtain freight shipments — often weapons which required satellite tracking — to transport to the West Coast.

A Foggy Bottom shutdown, via the Guardian:

State Department shuts down email system after suspected hacker attack

  • ‘Activity of concern’ occurred at same time as attack on White House
  • Entire unclassified email system closed to repair possible damage

The State Department has taken the unprecedented step of shutting down its entire unclassified email system as technicians repair possible damage from a suspected hacker attack.

A senior department official said Sunday that “activity of concern” was detected in the system around the same time as a previously reported incident that targeted the White House computer network. That incident was made public in late October, but there was no indication then that the State Department had been affected. Since then, a number of agencies, including the US Postal Service and the National Weather Service, have reported attacks.

The official said none of the State Department’s classified systems were affected. However, the official said the department shut down its worldwide email late on Friday as part of a scheduled outage of some of its internet-linked systems to make security improvements to its main unclassified computer network. The official was not authorised to speak about the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

So you thought you were keeping secret? From the Stack:

81% of Tor users can be de-anonymised by analysing router information, research indicates

Research undertaken between 2008 and 2014 suggests that more than 81% of Tor clients can be ‘de-anonymised’ – their originating IP addresses revealed – by exploiting the ‘Netflow’ technology that Cisco has built into its router protocols, and similar traffic analysis software running by default in the hardware of other manufacturers.

Professor Sambuddho Chakravarty, a former researcher at Columbia University’s Network Security Lab and now researching Network Anonymity and Privacy at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in Delhi, has co-published a series of papers over the last six years outlining the attack vector, and claims a 100% ‘decloaking’ success rate under laboratory conditions, and 81.4% in the actual wilds of the Tor network.

When iGnorance isn’t bliss, via PandoDaily:

Apple downplays Masque Attack, but don’t be fooled: It’s a problem

It’s true that there isn’t much more Apple can do to protect consumers from Masque Attack. Its software already warns them against installing third-party applications, and tells people when they’re trying to launch software from an untrusted developer for the first time. Masque Attack is only a problem because some people might be too stupid not to use third-party apps anyway.

But that doesn’t mean that the feature doesn’t make people vulnerable to attack, like some have argued. Apple could at least make it easier for people to remove information from their smartphones, like it should have done already, or limit third-party downloads to consumers who enable the feature on their own. Not knowing how to fix a problem isn’t an excuse for not at least trying to solve it.

To repeat the ribcage metaphor: there are obvious advantages to the design we have now, and it seems like it’s worked out for us in the past. But that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t wish their bodies were a little different when something slides through their ribs — the same idea applies to users whose personal data was stolen because they mistakenly used masquerading malware.

From Salon, compromising:

Google’s secret NSA alliance: The terrifying deals between Silicon Valley and the security state

  • Inside the high-level, complicated deals — and the rise of a virtually unchecked surveillance power

Google took a risk forming an alliance with the NSA. The company’s corporate motto, “Don’t be evil,” would seem at odds with the work of a covert surveillance and cyber warfare agency. But Google got useful information in return for its cooperation. Shortly after the China revelation, the government gave Sergey Brin, Google’s cofounder, a temporary security clearance that allowed him to attend a classified briefing about the campaign against his company. Government analysts had concluded that the intrusion was directed by a unit of the People’s Liberation Army. This was the most specific information Google could obtain about the source of the intrusion. It could help Google fortify its systems, block traffic from certain Internet addresses, and make a more informed decision about whether it wanted to do business in China at all. Google’s executives might pooh-pooh the NSA’s “secret sauce.” But when the company found itself under attack, it turned to Fort Meade for help.

Up in the air, junior birdmen, via the Verge:

Drones over US soil: the calm before the swarm

An explosion of advanced flying vehicles is about to hit the skies, but regulation lags way behind technology

The Federal Aviation Administration expects there to be more than 30,000 UAVs over our skies by the year 2020 doing work for private companies and law enforcement. Add in the the number of highly advanced vehicles being flown by hobbyists, and that number gets much higher. “I would guess there are already forty or fifty thousand aircraft in the hands of civilians capable of autonomous flight,” says Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, who recently left the magazine to focus full time on his drone company, 3D Robotics, and community, DIY Drones. “That’s far more than our best estimates of what the military has, and the number is going to grow rapidly over the next few years.”

How have things changed so fast? “10 years ago, drones were military industrial technology, extremely expensive and some of it classified,” says Anderson. “What happened over the last decade is that the revolution in your pocket, has made that technology so cheap, and easy, and ubiquitous that regular people could do it.”

Once-rare components like accelerometers, magnetometers, gyroscopes, and GPS trackers have all been driven down in cost by the explosion of mobile devices. “A lot of the technologies to pilot a drone used to be covered under what’s called export control, which is to say they were regulated as military technology,” explains Anderson. That meant you couldn’t simply order these technologies online or find them at your local hobby shop. “But there is a provision in the export control laws that exempts public domain.” In other words, once all these parts became readily available in the smartphones you could pick up at Best Buy, they were no longer banned for civilian use. “Because the stuff became so easy and so cheap, suddenly regular people could do the stuff only defense contractors could do before.”

From the New York Times, junior G-men:

More Federal Agencies Are Using Undercover Operations

The federal government has significantly expanded undercover operations in recent years, with officers from at least 40 agencies posing as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors or ministers to ferret out wrongdoing, records and interviews show.

At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice.

At the Internal Revenue Service, dozens of undercover agents chase suspected tax evaders worldwide, by posing as tax preparers, accountants drug dealers or yacht buyers and more, court records show.

At the Agriculture Department, more than 100 undercover agents pose as food stamp recipients at thousands of neighborhood stores to spot suspicious vendors and fraud, officials said.

After the jump, killer cops in Brazil, looking at it from Putin’s angle, Egyptian students face a military court over campus protests, environmentalists versus Big Oil in a Congo park, hints that Obama nears an Iranian nuclear deal, another alliance forms to challenge Russia, Hong Kong cops preapre to evict Occupy encampments, Jaspanese election deals setback to Obama/Abe, the dynamic duo draws closer nonetheless while the Okinawa deal grows more elusive, while Obama and Abe partner with the Aussies against China. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Health, pollution, nukes, & more


We begin with sins of the past, via the Guardian:

Thalidomide: how men who blighted lives of thousands evaded justice

  • Newly exposed files show how victims were betrayed by political interference in trial – and how the pill has remained on sale

What should have happened for justice to prevail was for the government to support the families while the criminal court tracked liability for an enormous crime. That was demanded by the West German Social Democratic party in opposition in 1962, but they forgot about it in government.

Instead, while the witnesses testified and endured cross-examination in noisy, angry scenes in the courthouse, the real action was elsewhere. The large number of private documents newly discovered in German state archives by the researcher for the UK Thalidomide Trust speak to government interference in the judicial proceedings.

On July 21, 1969, the documents show, Grünenthal directors and their lawyers met in secret with the federal health ministry. The principal defendant in the criminal trial had been excused attendance in court for health reasons, but he was there at this and other meetings: Grünenthal’s founder, Hermann Wirtz, a 71-year-old father of five, a member of a devout Catholic family socially prominent as philanthropists in Aachen. No victims or their representatives were present, nor were they advised of the meeting.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, barfing aboard:

Norovirus sickens 172 on Pacific cruise ship

More than 170 passengers and crew on a US cruise ship in the Pacific have contracted Norovirus, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Sunday (Nov 16).

The highly-contagious stomach virus infected 158 of 3,009 passengers and 14 of 1,160 crewmembers, the CDC said in an investigation report.

This is the second time Princess Cruises “Crown Princess” has had an outbreak of Norovirus this year. More than 150 passengers caught the virus during a cruise in April.

TheLocal.dk covers an outbreak of a drug-resistant menace:

Second Danish death attributed to MRSA

A second person has died in Denmark from swine MRSA, the latest report from the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI) has revealed.

According to SSI’s third quarter report, a patient was hospitalised with a hardening of the arteries and underwent several procedures before dying within 30 days of being infected with MRSA CC398, a variant that can be transmitted from livestock to humans.

“There were three new incidences [of MRSA] in the third quarter, one of which ended in death. Throughout all of 2014 there have been six cases of toxaemia in total, two of which ended in death with 30 days,” SSI spokesman Robert Skov told DR.

Two leading experts said in August that between 6,000 and 12,000 people are currently infected with MRSA CC398 in Denmark. It has also been found that at least 13 babies whose parents work in the swine industry have been infected with MRSA.

From the New York Times, a dangerous complication:

Rare Vaccine-Derived Polio Discovered in 2 Countries

Cases of paralysis caused by mutating polio vaccine have been found in South Sudan and Madagascar, the World Health Organization said Friday. New rounds of vaccination will be conducted in December in both areas. The two paralysis cases in South Sudan were in a displaced-persons camp where revaccination is relatively easy, the W.H.O. said, while testing suggests that the one case in Madagascar did not spread far. “Vaccine-derived polio paralysis” is a rare but small risk inherent in oral vaccine, so the polio eradication campaign is trying to introduce injectable vaccine wherever it is safe and practical. The injectable vaccine contains a “killed” virus that cannot mutate. But it provides less protection than the live, weakened virus in oral vaccine, is more expensive and is much harder to give. Only 279 cases of polio have been detected in the world this year, almost all of them in Pakistan or in Pakistani families in Afghanistan.

And the Los Angeles Times ponders another public health woe:

As Ebola scare dies down in U.S., infectious disease preparations wane

Hospitals seek a balance between preparation and overreaction when planning for the possibility of an outbreak of a deadly virus like Ebola, the spread of a pandemic flu or the emergence of another little-known infectious disease, according to hospital and healthcare officials.

In an era of high costs, constrained budgets and tight profit margins, many hospitals struggle to determine what resources they can spare to prepare for an epidemic that may never come.

“You have to walk that fine line between an event happening and not saying the sky is falling all the time,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti, head of infection prevention at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. Her hospital helped isolate and test one of the first suspected Ebola cases in the country in July.

From Reuters, another outbreak:

EU Commission to adopt urgent measures to contain Dutch bird flu outbreak

The European Commission will on Monday likely adopt urgent interim protective measures to contain an outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu in the Netherlands, it said on Sunday.

“The Commission is expected to adopt tomorrow, Monday 17 November, a decision with urgent interim protective measures in relation to this outbreak,” said Ricardo Cardoso, spokesman for the Commission.

The decision will describe the zones established by the Dutch authorities around the infected poultry farm where it will be forbidden to sell live poultry, eggs, poultry meat and other poultry products to other European Union member states and third countries.

Modern Farmer covers consequences of killing insects with neurotoxins:

Landmark 20-Year Study Finds Pesticides Linked to Depression In Farmers

A landmark study indicates that seven pesticides, some widely used, may be causing clinical depression in farmers. Will the government step in and start regulating these chemical tools?

Earlier this fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health finished up a landmark 20-year study, a study that hasn’t received the amount of coverage it deserves. About 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers were interviewed since the mid-1990s to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression, a connection that had been suggested through anecdotal evidence for far longer. We called up Dr. Freya Kamel, the lead researcher on the study, to find out what the team learned and what it all means. Spoiler: nothing good.

“There had been scattered reports in the literature that pesticides were associated with depression,” says Kamel. “We wanted to do a new study because we had more detailed data than most people have access to.” That excessive amount of data includes tens of thousands of farmers, with specific information about which pesticides they were using and whether they had sought treatment for a variety of health problems, from pesticide poisoning to depression. Farmers were surveyed multiple times throughout the 20-year period, which gives the researchers an insight into their health over time that no other study has.

There’s a significant correlation between pesticide use and depression, that much is very clear, but not all pesticides. The two types that Kamel says reliably moved the needle on depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants, which increase the farmer’s risk of depression by a whopping 90% and 80%, respectively. The study lays out the seven specific pesticides, falling generally into one of those two categories, that demonstrated a categorically reliable correlation to increased risk of depression.

These types aren’t necessarily uncommon, either; one, called malathion, was used by 67% of the tens of thousands of farmers surveyed. Malathion is banned in Europe, for what that’s worth.

A more lethal encounter with pesticide chemicals in La Porte, Texas, from KHOU-TV in Houston:

4 workers killed in DuPont chemical leak

  • Company officials said a valve somehow failed on a container of methyl mercaptan, a chemical used to make insecticide

Four DuPont workers are dead and another is in the hospital following a chemical leak at its facility here Saturday morning.

DuPont company spokesman Aaron Woods said a valve somehow failed on a container of methyl mercaptan, a chemical used to make insecticide, around 4 a.m. Officials are still investigating why the valve failed.

Workers were able to get it under control by around 6 a.m. At that point, five workers had already been exposed to the gas, four of whom died inside the unit. The fifth was transported and is recovering in an area hospital.

Complications from another Big Ag chemical addiction from PBS NewsHour:

Increased immunity in weeds may threaten U.S. crops

Program notes:

On Saturday, NewsHour Weekend traveled to Iowa to explore the widespread issue of herbicide-resistant and hard-to-control weeds.

Millions of acres of farmland have been affected, rendering some fields unable to be farmed.The EPA recently approved a new Dow herbicide that the industry says could help the problem. Opponents have sued claiming it could possibly harm the environment and human health.

From StarAfrica, a report of a growing number accounting for 3.4 percent of the population in a country with a total population of 174 million:

Six million Nigerians living with diabetes – official

No fewer than six million Nigerians are living with diabetes and the number could increase because of predisposing factors in the country, Mr Peter Ujomu, Executive Director, Health Matters Inc, said in a statement in Abuja on Sunday.Ujomu’s statement issued on the sidelines of activities to mark the 2014 World Diabetes Day (WDD), said, “Like every other statistics in Nigeria, there is always controversy about the number but right now, we believe about six million people are living with diabetes in this country.”

Some of the factors are the kind of foods consumed, culture, lifestyle and other things, he added.

“These are all signposts of an imminent danger in the increase of the number of people living with diabetes” Ujoma pointed out.

And an unusual tale from the Guardian:

The new strain of cannabis that could help treat psychosis

Although widely seen as a potential trigger for schizophrenia, marijuana also contains an ingredient that appears to have antipsychotic effects. Tom Ireland visits the UK’s only licensed cannabis farm and meets the man responsible for breeding a plant that might be of benefit to millions

In high doses, THC can induce temporary schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, delusions, anxiety and hallucinations. Yet cannabis also contains a cannabinoid known as CBD (or cannabidiol), which appears to have almost the exact opposite effect.

Purified CBD has been shown to have antipsychotic and anti-anxiety effects, and can lessen the psychotic symptoms normally experienced by people given high doses of THC. Research by University College London also suggests that people who smoke cannabis rich in CBD are less likely to experience “schizophrenia-like symptoms” than those who smoke cannabis containing only THC.

Unfortunately for the mental health of many young cannabis users, the chemical profile of the drug has changed drastically over the past three decades. Not only does modern cannabis contain more than twice as much THC as it did in the 1960s, it also now contains hardly any of the “neuroprotective” cannabinoid CBD.

A global-warming-enabled aquatic pest proliferation from the Daily Climate:

‘Explosion’ of gill lice besets Wisconsin’s beloved fish

  • As streams warm, a gruesome parasite is gaining the upper hand against Wisconsin’s iconic brook trout – and anglers bemoan the loss

Creepy critters are leaching onto the gills of Wisconsin’s brook trout and choking off their oxygen, stoking fears in anglers that the iconic fish may be on the outs in many streams.

Biologists fear warming waters may be behind the parasites’ recent surge, further hampering a cold-water fish already beset by a host of environmental changes.

“I would say it looks like little minute rice attached to their gills,” said Len Harris, a law enforcement retiree and outdoor writer who has been fishing Wisconsin streams for about 50 years. “

Gill lice aren’t aquatic versions of head lice, the bane of any elementary school teacher. They’re tiny crustaceans that attach to trout and char gills. They make breathing difficult, impede development and can slow sexual maturation – none of which is good news for fish. Worse, warmer water appears to give gill lice a boost. For the state’s only native trout, the brook trout, evidence points to yet another climate change concern.

The Contra Costa Times covers an amphibian action:

Oakland Zoo joins mission to raise and save endangered frog

In a quest to save an endangered California mountain frog from extinction, the Oakland Zoo is seeking to build a tougher tadpole.

Zoo staffers, borrowing a strategy that worked with the California condor, are caring for 26 adult Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs and 18 tadpoles captured in Alpine lakes and streams where fungus and planted fish have devastated the frog population.

The goal: to rear tougher tadpoles with stronger immunities so they can return to their home waters.

After the jump, a fish in decline to feed a Japanese hunger, Spanish boats ram Greenpeace activists, global-warming-enabled terrestrial gas-passing, an Aussie climate change retreat, Japan ups its climate fund ante, an ancient African tribe’s lands sold out from under them for a oil sheikhdom’s private royal hunting preserve, testing for a China Syndrome event in Japan?, the high costs of global decommissioning, and those 80 million bacteria swapped in the tongue tango. . . Continue reading