Category Archives: Health

EnviroWatch: Ebola, climate, pest woes, nukes


We open with Ebola, and another alarm from the World Health Organization via the New York Times:

Ebola Could Eventually Afflict Over 20,000, W.H.O. Says

As the tally of deaths from the worst known outbreak of the Ebola virus continued its seemingly inexorable rise, the World Health Organization said on Thursday that the epidemic was still accelerating and could afflict more than 20,000 people — almost seven times the current number of reported cases — before it could be brought under control.

The dire forecast was made as the W.H.O. reported that the number of known cases and fatalities had risen once again. The organization also acknowledged that in areas of intense transmission “the actual number of cases may be two-to-four times higher than that currently reported.”

The outbreak “continues to accelerate,” the organization said.

According to the latest figures released by the W.H.O. on Thursday, the death toll has risen by more than 100, to 1,552 out of 3,069 cases in four West African countries: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, which had previously indicated that its outbreak was under control.

And from the World Health Organization itself:

WHO issues roadmap to scale up international response to the Ebola outbreak in west Africa

The aim is to stop ongoing Ebola transmission worldwide within 6–9 months, while rapidly managing the consequences of any further international spread. It also recognizes the need to address, in parallel, the outbreak’s broader socioeconomic impact.

It responds to the urgent need to dramatically scale up the international response. Nearly 40% of the total number of reported cases have occurred within the past three weeks.

The roadmap was informed by comments received from a large number of partners, including health officials in the affected countries, the African Union, development banks, other UN agencies, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and countries providing direct financial support.

It will serve as a framework for updating detailed operational plans. Priority is being given to needs for treatment and management centres, social mobilization, and safe burials. These plans will be based on site-specific data that are being set out in regular situation reports, which will begin this week.

A parallel alarm, via MercoPress:

Ebola outbreak needs an ‘unprecedented’ response to bring it under control

  • The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is going to get worse before it gets better, according to the top US public health official. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, said the epidemic would need an “unprecedented” response to bring it under control.

Mr Frieden met Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to discuss ways to fight the disease.

“The cases are increasing. I wish I did not have to say this, but it is going to get worse before it gets better,” he admitted.

“The world has never seen an outbreak of Ebola like this. Consequently, not only are the numbers large, but we know there are many more cases than has been diagnosed and reported,” he added.

From the Associated Press, a ray of hope:

US to begin safety testing Ebola vaccine next week

  • Federal researchers next week will start testing humans with an experimental vaccine to prevent the deadly Ebola virus.

The National Institutes of Health announced Thursday that it is launching the safety trial on a vaccine developed by the agency’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and GlaxoSmithKline. Beginning Tuesday, it will test 20 healthy adult volunteers to see if the virus is safe and triggers an adequate response in their immune systems.

Even though NIH has been testing other Ebola vaccines in people since 2003, this is a first for this vaccine and its trial has been speeded up because the outbreak in West Africa “is a public health emergency that demands an all-hands-on-deck response,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID.

This isn’t a treatment for the disease, but a hoped-for preventative measure. Fauci said the vaccine cannot cause Ebola in the volunteers being tested.

A parallel test in Old Blighty, via the London Telegraph:

Ebola vaccine to be tested on British volunteers next month

  • British volunteers will be injected with an experimental vaccine against Ebola in emergency trials to begin next month

Volunteers in Oxford will be given an experimental vaccine against Ebola in fast-tracked emergency clinical trials to begin in September, it has been announced.

The vaccine will use a single Ebola protein and will not infect the subjects with live Ebola virus.

At the same time that trials are beginning at Oxford University, up to 10,000 doses will be made to ensure that it can be more widely used quickly if the trials are successful.

On the ground, with the New York Times:

As Ebola Grips Liberia’s Capital, a Quarantine Sows Social Chaos

The five-month-old outbreak here in West Africa, already worse than all other Ebola epidemics combined, is for the first time spreading uncontrollably in a major city — one in which a third of Liberia’s 4.5 million people are estimated to rub shoulders, often uneasily. Though Ebola reached Monrovia three months after its appearance in the rural north, the city has become, in a few weeks, a major focal point of the epidemic.

The outbreak has overwhelmed the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has won the Nobel Peace Prize and the admiration of leaders around the world. But her management of Liberia has long drawn criticism at home, and now her handling of the Ebola epidemic has presented her with a political crisis that is galvanizing her opposition.

“We suffering! No food, Ma, no eat. We beg you, Ma!” one man yelled at Ms. Johnson Sirleaf as she visited West Point this week, surrounded by concentric circles of heavily armed guards, some linking arms and wearing surgical gloves.

BBC News prepares to quarantine:

Travel ban to Ebola affected countries, UK officials say

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office says all travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia should be avoided – unless essential, due to the Ebola outbreak.

British Airways has suspended flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia and other airlines are taking similar measures.

Such flight restrictions may make it increasingly hard for people working in these areas to leave, the FCO warns.

From Reuters, quarantine opposition:

West African states call for end to border closures over Ebola

West African states should re-open their borders and end flight bans put in place to halt the spread of Ebola, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Thursday.

The ECOWAS countries and airlines will make their own decisions on flight bans and borders, but the view of the main regional body, expressed at a meeting of ECOWAS health ministers in Ghana’s capital, is likely to prove influential.

“We must implement containment measures but we must not implement measures that will isolate or ostracise the affected countries,” Ghana President John Mahama, who is also ECOWAS’s current chairman, told the meeting.

And an alert in India via The Hindu:

One released from Ebola surveillance, 229 under watch

One passenger who travelled from Ebola-hit Sierra Leone to Tamil Nadu has now been released from health surveillance, after 30 days of monitoring.

As of Thursday, a total of 229 passengers who have travelled from the four countries where the deadly virus has broken out, are being monitored across the State, said director of public health K. Kolandaisamy. Of these, 227 passengers passed through Chennai airport and two at Madurai.

Among the 229 are 11 students from two city colleges, who had travelled to their home countries recently. However, all of them are in good health and show no signs of the virus, Dr. Kolandaisamy said.

The Associated Press covers the epidemiology:

Scientists dig into Ebola’s deadly DNA for clues

A single funeral caused many.

Stephen Gire and other health researchers on the ground in Africa had some hope that the Ebola outbreak was coming under control or at least plateauing in late May. Then came the funeral of a healer in Guinea. More than a dozen of the mourners contracted the disease there, probably by washing or touching the body, and took it to Sierra Leone, according to a new DNA mapping of the Ebola virus that scientists hope will help them understand what makes this killer tick.

“You had this huge burst after it looked like the outbreak was starting to die down,” Gire said. “It sort of threw a wrench in the response.”

Ebola exploded after that funeral and has now killed at least 1,552 people in West Africa. It’s probably more than that, with 40 percent of the cases in the last three weeks, according to the World Health Organization. WHO officials said Thursday the outbreak continues to accelerate and could reach more than 20,000 cases eventually.

Another genetic pursuit, via the Economic Times:

Ebola virus sequences may aid hunt for treatments

Scientists tracking the spread of Ebola across West Africa on Thursday released 99 sequenced genomes of the hemorrhagic virus, in hopes of accelerating diagnosis and treatment.

In a sign of the urgency and danger at hand, five of the nearly 60 international co-authors who helped collect and analyze the viral samples have died of Ebola, said the report in the journal Science.

“We’ve uncovered more than 300 genetic clues about what sets this outbreak apart from previous outbreaks,” said Stephen Gire, a research scientist in the Sabeti lab at the Broad Institute and Harvard University.

Reuters covers another casualty:

Doctor dies of Ebola in Nigeria’s oil hub Port Harcourt

A doctor in Nigeria’s oil hub of Port Harcourt has died from Ebola after treating a contact of a Liberian-American man who was the first recorded case of the virus in Africa’s most populous country, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said in a statement that the doctor fell ill after treating a patient who was a contact of Patrick Sawyer, who died from Ebola in Lagos after flying in from Liberia last month.

The death in Port Harcourt brings the number of Ebola fatalities in Nigeria to 6, all of whom were direct or indirect contacts of Sawyer.

From the Guardian, precaution:

CDC staffer who worked with Ebola victim monitored for symptoms

  • The staffer had ‘low-risk’ contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus in Sierra Leone, officials said

A CDC staff member who worked in close proximity to someone infected by the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa has been flown by charter jet back home to Atlanta to monitor potential symptoms, officials said Thursday.

The staffer had “low-risk” contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus in Sierra Leone, said Tom Skinner, a spokesman at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control.

“The worker is not sick, not showing symptoms, not showing any signs of illness whatsoever,” Skinner said.

Reuters covers economic impact:

Ebola causing huge damage to West Africa economies: development bank

The worst ever Ebola outbreak is causing enormous damage to West African economies as foreign businessmen quit the region, the African Development Bank said, while a leading medical charity branded the international response “entirely inadequate.”

As transport companies suspend services, cutting off the region, governments and economists have warned that the epidemic could crush the fragile economic gains made in Sierra Leone and Liberia following a decade of civil war in the 1990s.

African Development Bank (AfDB) chief Donald Kaberuka said on a visit to Sierra Leone he had seen estimates of a reduction of up to 4 percent in gross domestic product due to Ebola.

“Revenues are down, foreign exchange levels are down, markets are not functioning, airlines are not coming in, projects are being cancelled, business people have left – that is very, very damaging,” he told Reuters late on Tuesday.

Bloomberg covers another:

Country Confusion Keeps Ebola-Fearing Tourists Away From Africa

When Canadian tourist Shauna Magill posted on Facebook that she’d arrived safely in Uganda, a friend warned her to beware of “a thing called Ebola please.”

Another friend responded to that comment with a Google Maps link that showed Uganda’s capital, Kampala, and Nigeria, the closest nation affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, are 4,900 kilometers (3,045 miles) apart by road. That’s about the width of the continental U.S.

Misperceptions about Africa’s geography mean that Magill is becoming an exception among the increasing number of tourists who are canceling trips to the continent as health workers battle to contain the worst Ebola outbreak on record. Airlines have suspended routes to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the countries that are the epicenter of the disease. Flight bookings to sub-Saharan Africa may drop as much as 50 percent over the next four months, according to market research company Euromonitor International Plc. That would put the brakes on a tourism industry the World Bank says grew at the fastest pace globally over the past three years.

“Many travelers see Africa as one big country,” Paz Casal, a Spain-based travel and tourism research analyst at Euromonitor, said Aug. 26. “Ebola can damage Africa’s economic revival of recent years, resurfacing the continent’s negative stereotypes as a place of disease, famine and poverty.”

From USA TODAY, a more troublesome impact:

Ebola outbreak could lead to food crisis, U.N. says

The Ebola health crisis threatens to turn into a much broader “food crisis” in some of the world’s most impoverished countries, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program.

The program is scaling up its operations in West Africa to provide food to 1.3 million people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The food will go to people being treated for Ebola; their relatives; and those who have been quarantined by their governments, in an effort to halt the spread of Ebola.

“The food chain is threatened at many levels,” the World Food Program said in a statement. Hundreds of families have lost loved ones, many of whom were their family’s breadwinners.

After the jump, another illness spread in Japan, a climate change alarm, dangers for the world’s food crops, a sinking Louisiana coast, a rain forest victory, nuclear news from Japan and the U.S., and a smokin’ hot news for Down Under and Santa Fe. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, toxins, water, climate nukes


And a whole lot more, so let’s get right to it, first with Reuters:

Senegalese WHO doctor with Ebola arrives for treatment in Germany

A Senegalese doctor who contracted Ebola while working for the World Health Organisation (WHO)in Sierra Leone arrived in Hamburg on Wednesday for treatment at a tropical medicine unit, becoming Germany’s first patient with the disease.

At a news conference on Wednesday the clinic’s tropical medicine specialist said the man would not be given new experimental drugs such as ZMapp but that his treatment would at first focus on managing his symptoms.

The Senegalese doctor arrived in Germany on a specialist plane and was transferred to the university clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf in a special isolation ambulance, accompanied by a police guard.

CBC News adds more:

Ebola-infected WHO scientist in Sierra Leone goes to Germany, Canadians pulled

  • Public Health Agency of Canada pulls its team of 3 from Sierra Leone as precaution

The World Health Organization announced it has shut down a laboratory in Sierra Leone after a Senegalese health worker was infected with the Ebola virus.

Three Canadians from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg are among the six workers who have withdrawn to Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, Christy Feig, a WHO spokeswoman in West Africa, told CBC News.

Feig said the Canadian government made the call to withdraw its workers in consultation with the WHO.

The WHO has sent in a team to see if this was a routine, straightforward infection or if structural changes need to be made to keep health-care workers safe.

Sky News tracks contagion:

Ebola Nurse ‘May Have Caught Virus From Child’

  • William Pooley, who is being treated in a London hospital, formed a bond with a boy whose mother died from the disease

A British nurse infected with ebola in Sierra Leone might have caught it while playing with a toddler whose mother had died of the deadly disease, a colleague has said.

William Pooley was flown home at the weekend and admitted to an isolation unit at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, where he has been given the experimental drug ZMapp.

While working as a volunteer at a clinic in eastern Sierra Leone the 29-year-old developed a bond with a baby boy named Sellu Borbor, according to his supervisor Finda Josephine Sellu.

As does Uganda’s own Daily Monitor:

Man steals phone from Ebola patient, gets infected

Security and medical officials in Kibaale District have registered a case in which a man allegedly went in an isolation ward at Kagadi Hospital and stole a cellular phone from one of the Ebola patients.

The 40-year-old resident of Kyakabugahya LCI in Kagadi Town Council travelled about three kilometers to the hospital to apparently obtain a phone estimated to be valued at Shs60,000 more than two weeks ago.

The suspect allegedly broke into the isolation ward on the night of Tuesday August 14, undetected by hospital guards. The patient, who has since succumbed to the deadly hemorrhagic fever, then reported the theft to the hospital security that then embarked on tracing the alleged thief.

Police detectives began tracking him after he apparently began communicating to his friends using the phone. But as police zeroed in on him, he developed symptoms similar to those of Ebola and sought medication at the hospital.

From the Guardian, another casualty:

Ebola claims life of third doctor in Sierra Leone

  • Dr Sahr Rogers was working in Kenema when he contracted the virus, raising fresh concerns over the country’s ability to fight it

A third top Ebola doctor has died in Sierra Leone, a government official in the west African nation has confirmed. The news came as another scientist, who also contracted the disease there, began treatment in Germany on Wednesday.

Health workers are trying to work out how the scientist, whose identity and condition are being withheld for privacy reasons, contracted Ebola before his overnight evacuation to a Hamburg hospital, it has been reported.

“The international surge of health workers is extremely important and if something happens, if health workers get infected and it scares off other international health workers from coming, we will be in dire straits,” said World Health Organisation spokesman Christy Feig.

Next, a video report from Agence France-Presse:

Liberian medical crew collects suspected Ebola victims

Program notes:

Ambulance workers in the Liberian capital don protective clothing to pick up people suspected of being infected with Ebola.

BBC News announces a shutdown:

Ebola outbreak: Nigeria closes all schools until October

All schools in Nigeria have been ordered to remain shut until 13 October as part of measures to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The new academic year was due to start on Monday.

But the education minister ordered the closures to allow staff to be trained on how to handle suspected Ebola cases.

Reuters covers economic costs:

Ebola travel bans threaten Ivory Coast cocoa crop forecasts

International cocoa exporters in Ivory Coast are restricting staff movements due to the worsening Ebola outbreak on the top grower’s western borders, risking leaving traders and exporters without accurate output forecasts for the upcoming season.

Ivory Coast produced nearly 1.45 million tonnes of cocoa last season, according to International Cocoa Organization estimates, almost 37 percent of world supply. Crop forecasts by experts who visit farms to count pods are closely watched by the market ahead of the main harvest that starts in October.

Traders said there are also concerns there could be an exodus of farmers if the disease spreads to the growing regions in the west of the country.

As does the Guardian:

Ebola epidemic takes toll on business in quarantine zones and across Africa

  • Repercussions have radiated from far-flung villages to financial markets, and from rural farmers to urban dollar boys

When his neighbours began falling ill with Ebola, Sheikh Kallon felt fortunate that he was well enough to continue tending his farm deep in the forested interior of Sierra Leone. Then, one of his drinking buddies died of the disease, and Kallon’s entire family was quarantined for 21 days.

“I asked my workers to keep going to the farm, but they said they don’t want to touch money from my hands in case they get Ebola,” he said.

With his crops rotting in the fields, Kallon now spends his days sitting with his family on their porch surrounded by soldiers enforcing the quarantine. The soldiers hardly need bother: lifelong neighbours are too terrified to approach, and a few miles away an entire community that has been unable to trade altogether has run out of salt.

From People’s Daily, news of absence is not absence of news:

China reports no cases of Ebola

China’s health authorities confirmed on Tuesday that a returnee who was hospitalized as “an observation case of Ebola” has been confirmed not infected.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission told Xinhua the returnee, a translator who arrived in Beijing on Sunday from Libya, developed symptoms of vomiting and fever, and was sent to the hospital as a precaution.

The patient has since been cleared as not infected with Ebola. China currently reports no case of the disease.

From Jiji Press, absent no longer:

Japan Confirms 1st Domestic Dengue Infection since 1945

A Japanese woman under 20 has been infected with dengue fever, the first confirmed domestic infection with the tropical disease since 1945, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Wednesday.

The dengue virus is likely to have been transmitted to the woman from an infected traveler via a mosquito in Japan because she has never traveled overseas. She is in a stable condition in hospital, ministry officials said.

At a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government will identify the route of infection and collect more information on suspicious dengue cases.

From the World Health Organization, a plea:

WHO calls for stronger action on climate-related health risks

Previously unrecognized health benefits could be realized from fast action to reduce climate change and its consequences. For example, changes in energy and transport policies could save millions of lives annually from diseases caused by high levels of air pollution. The right energy and transport policies could also reduce the burden of disease associated with physical inactivity and traffic injury.

Measures to adapt to climate change could also save lives around the world by ensuring that communities are better prepared to deal with the impact of heat, extreme weather, infectious disease and food insecurity.

These are two key messages being discussed at the first-ever global conference on health and climate, which opens today at WHO headquarters in Geneva. The conference brings together over 300 participants, including government ministers, heads of UN agencies, urban leaders, civil society and leading health, climate and sustainable-development experts.

And from the New York Times, the political play:

Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty

The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.

Moving on to water woes with the Los Angeles Times:

Central California residents rely on bottled water as wells run dry

Extreme drought conditions have become so harsh for the Central Valley community of East Porterville, many of its residents dependent on their own wells have run out of water.

Roughly 300 homes have received a three-week supply of bottled water after Tulare County officials discovered their wells had gone dry.

In all, county officials distributed 15,552 1-gallon bottles of water, and have been filling a 2,500-gallon tank with nonpotable water so residents can flush toilets and bathe.

On a comparatively lighter note, this from Jim Morin, editorial cartoonist for the Miami Herald:

BLOG Envirotoon

A call for clearing the air from Newswise:

Trash Burning Worldwide Significantly Worsens Air Pollution

Unregulated trash burning around the globe is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere than shown by official records. A new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research estimates that more than 40 percent of the world’s garbage is burned in such fires, emitting gases and particles that can substantially affect human health and climate change.

The new study provides the first rough estimates, on a country-by-country basis, of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, and mercury that are emitted by the fires. Such pollutants have been linked to serious medical issues.

The researchers also estimated emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas produced by human activity.

Unlike emissions from commercial incinerators, the emissions from burning trash in open fires often go unreported to environmental agencies and are left out of many national inventories of air pollution. For that reason, they are not incorporated into policy making.

After the jump, a Reefer Madness recantation Down Under, Japanese whaling intransigence, [including dumps, price tags, and dislocation numbers], an American nuclear green light, offshore drilling anxieties in California and Spain, an Aussie coal mining investment review, water-splitting, and Superfund gentrification. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, toxins & nukes


Today’s compendium of headlines about the relationship between Homo sapiens and Planet Earth opens, as usual these days, with the latest of the Ebola front, first with a three-alarm screamer from News Corp Australia:

Peter Piot says ‘perfect storm’ has allowed Ebola to spread in West Africa

PETER Piot, the Belgian scientist who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, on Tuesday said a “perfect storm” in West Africa had given the disease a chance to spread unchecked.

“We have never seen an (Ebola) epidemic on this scale,” Piot was quoted by the French daily paper Liberation as saying. “In the last six months, we have been witnessing what can be described as a ‘perfect storm’ — everything is there for it to snowball,” he said.

The epidemic “is exploding in countries where health services are not functioning, ravaged by decades of civil war.”

The Associated Press raises another alarm:

Ebola has ‘upper hand,’ says US official

The Ebola virus may have the “upper hand” in an outbreak that has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa but experts can stop the virus’ spread, a top American health official said at the start of his visit to the hardest-hit countries.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was in Liberia on Tuesday, and later plans to stop in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Nigeria also has recorded cases, but officials there have expressed optimism that its spread can be controlled.

“Lots of hard work is happening, lots of good things are happening,” Frieden told a meeting attended by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday. “But the virus still has the upper hand.”

Nikkei Asian Review covers economic impacts:

Ebola crisis starting to affect economies across Africa

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak is hurting not just the countries in West Africa where the disease has been found, but the entire continent.

Neighboring countries have banned their citizens from traveling to the Ebola-stricken countries. Some international airlines have suspended some flights. And many countries on other continents have become wary about any travel to Africa, even if it is to countries far away from those with outbreaks.

All this could hurt future business investment in the continent, as disease experts say it will take considerable time to bring an end to the current Ebola outbreak.

Reuters covers the aid front:

WHO says sending supplies for Ebola outbreak in Congo

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday it has sent protective equipment for medical staff to Democratic Republic of Congo, where authorities have confirmed two cases of Ebola in a remote area.

“The ministry of health has declared an outbreak and we are treating it as such,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in Geneva in response to a query.

The current Ebola epidemic, which has killed at least 1,427 people, has focused on Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone with several cases also in Nigeria.

And from Quartz, compounding tragedy:

African survivors of Ebola have to deal with stigma, too

West Africa is still reeling from the worst-ever Ebola epidemic: at least 2,615 people have contracted the virus, and 1,427 have died from it. And while the Westerners who are being repatriated and treated at home are saluted as heroes, many African survivors are met with skepticism and face stigma in their own communities.

Displaying reactions that recall the AIDS epidemics, people are afraid of touching Ebola survivors. As Liberian doctor Melvin Korkor—who contracted Ebola while tending to patients and subsequently recovered from it—says that on his return on Cuttington University campus, where he teaches, he was only greeted from a distance. FrontPage Africa reports that students were afraid he may still be contagious:

“We want to hug our doctor, but fear we would come in contact with the virus [...] I will greet him from a distance.”

“I am happy doctor Korkor has returned, but I am totally not convinced he is Ebola-free. I will shake his hands after 21 days.”

Next, an African Ebola  video report from Down Under, with SBS Dateline via Journeyman Pictures:

Ebola Outbreak Becomes International Health Emergency

Program notes:

Ebola’s Epicentre: As the DRC becomes the latest country to be hit by Ebola, the situation at the outbreak’s epicentre in Sierra Leone is increasingly desperate.

The Ebola outbreak is claiming around a hundred victims a week and spreading fast. With the death toll rising daily, we head to the heart of the crisis to reveal the human tragedy behind the headlines.

“I’m doing the right thing, but people are ungrateful for my efforts. People are afraid of me”, says a ‘dead body worker’. He is one of many locals helping foreign NGOs like Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders to tackle the ebola epidemic. Yet it is a scramble to contain and treat the virus in makeshift facilities and as they desperately try to get control of this killer disease, locals remain suspicious. “They were claiming we were taking parts of the corpse to do rituals.” At a government hospital in Kenema a dirty ebola screening tent sits alongside a maternity ward. As chaos reigns, patients are free to wander in and out. Over 20 nurses have died at the contaminated hospital; one doctor warns, “don’t touch the walls”. Volunteers are travelling across Sierra Leone’s vastly dispersed population to educate communities in rural areas about the symptoms and prevention methods. “We have these charts which we use to display to the people and tell them what to do and what not to do.” Yet fear and distrust are spreading as fast as the virus. As one villager says simply, “We are totally afraid. This is the main point”.

The London Telegraph offers yet another fortunate European story:

British Ebola sufferer William Pooley given experimental drug ZMapp and sitting up in bed

  • William Pooley being given the same drug that was credited with saving the lives of two American missionaries

The British Ebola sufferer William Pooley is being given the experimental drug ZMapp and is sitting up, talking and reading in his hospital bed, his doctors have revealed.

Mr Pooley, 29, is being given the same drug that was credited with saving the lives of two American missionaries earlier this month and was described today as a “resilient and remarkable young man”.

It had been thought that supplies of ZMapp had run out, but doctors at the Royal Free Hospital managed to get hold of some from abroad and Mr Pooley was given the first dose on Monday. Further doses are expected to be given to him “in due course”.

From TheLocal.it, ditto:

Italian woman cleared of Ebola in Turkey

An Italian woman who was hospitalized in Turkey last week does not have the deadly Ebola virus and will return home soon, Italian media has reported.

The Italian woman became ill on a flight to Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Friday and was taken to hospital for tests.

She has now been cleared of the Ebola virus, which as of Friday had killed an estimated 1,427 people in West Africa. The Italian woman has also been cleared of malaria, Tgcom24 said.

While The Hill covers the American political front:

Pryor cites Ebola scare to attack Cotton

A new ad from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) cites the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to hit GOP opponent Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for cuts to medical and emergency programs.

The 30-second spot opens with news reports of the current outbreak, the worst in the history of the disease. The ad accuses Cotton of voting against preparedness measures that could help prevent the virus from spreading to the U.S.

“Congressman Cotton voted to cut billions from our nation’s medical disaster and emergency programs,” says a narrator. “Instead Cotton voted for tax cuts for billionaires funding his campaign,” adds another voice.

On to another virus and another continent with South China Morning Post:

Number of new HIV cases in Hong Kong set to reach record high for fourth year running

  • Government consultant warns number could pass 600 this year for the first time

The number of new cases of HIV infections in Hong Kong is set to hit a record high for the fourth year running, says a government consultant who predicts this year’s figure could pass 600.

Some 304 new cases were diagnosed in the first half of this year, well up on the 262 new cases reported in the same period last year.

“It is worrying. It is likely that the annual figure will surge past 600, which will be the highest figure in Hong Kong history,” Dr Wong Ka-hing, a Department of Health consultant, said on Tuesday.

The accompanying graphic:

BLOG AIDS

And from the New York Times, back to Africa:

AIDS Progress in South Africa Is in Peril

Though few Americans or even South Africans realize it, the nation owes much of its success to a single United States program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, started in 2003 under President George W. Bush. It has poured more than $3 billion into South Africa, largely for training doctors, building clinics and laboratories, and buying drugs.

Now that aid pipeline is drying up as the program shifts its limited budget to poorer countries, so the South African government must find hundreds of millions of dollars, even as its national caseload grows rapidly.

The country has six million infected and 370,000 new infections a year. That is seven times as many new infections as in the United States, which has six times the population. Condom use is dropping, according to a new survey, and teenage girls are becoming infected at alarming rates.

Next up, water woes, first via the Associated Press:

Drought leaves California homes without water

Hundreds of rural San Joaquin Valley residents no longer can get drinking water from their home faucets because California’s extreme drought has dried up their individual wells, government officials and community groups said.

The situation has become so dire that the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services had 12-gallon-per person rations of bottled water delivered on Friday in East Porterville, where at least 182 of the 1,400 households have reported having no or not enough water, according to the Porterville Recorder (http://bit.ly/1rsgwsZ ).

Many people in the unincorporated community about 52 miles north of Bakersfield also have been relying on a county-supplied 5,000-gallon water tank filled with non-potable water for bathing and flushing toilets, The Recorder said.

Motherboard offers a grim prognosis:

There’s a Good Chance the Southwest Will See a 35-Year Megadrought This Century

This probably isn’t what residents of the parched American Southwest want to hear right now, but there’s a good chance that the region is headed for a decades-long megadrought.

As if climatologists’ forecasts for a warming world weren’t dire enough, a new paper published in the American Meteorological Society concludes that current climate models “underestimate the risk of future persistent droughts.”

The study, spearheaded by Cornell’s Toby R. Ault, suggests that there is an 80 percent chance the region will be hit with a decade-long drought by the end of the century, a 20-50 percent chance it will weather a 35 year megadrought, and that the prospect of a severe dry spell afflicting the region for half a century is, I quote, “non-negligible.”

While the Guardian covers water woes in Old Blighty:

Abandoned landfills polluting UK rivers, research finds

  • More than 27 tonnes of ammonium leaches from an Oxford wetland into the River Thames every year, reports the Natural Environment Research Council

Abandoned landfill sites throughout the UK routinely leach polluting chemicals into rivers, say scientists.

At Port Meadow, on the outskirts of Oxford, about 27.5 tonnes of ammonium a year find way from landfill into the River Thames. The researchers say it could be happening at thousands of sites around the UK.

In water, ammonium breaks down into nitrogen. The extra nitrogen can trigger excessive plant growth and decay, damaging water quality and starving fish and other aquatic organisms of the oxygen they need to survive.

And ditto from Down Under with RT:

Danger to food chain? Microplastic contaminates found in Sydney Harbor

Scientists in the first study of its kind have found microplastic contamination at the bottom of Sydney Harbor, which may pose a threat to the food chain, Australian media reported.

The research by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science tested 27 sites across the harbor, with researchers finding up to 60 microplastics per 100 milligrams of sediment. This was a higher volume than expected even in the cleanest and best-flushed reaches.

Microplastics are tiny fragments and threads of plastic, which are less than five millimeters long. Professor Emma Johnston from the Sydney Institute, who leads the study, told ABC Australia microplastics represent the “emergence of a new contamination in our harbors.”

After the jump, a call for old school ag, sacrificing grain for oil, mercury troubles, Mexican mining anxieties, Icelandic eruption, California nuclear opposition, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Two Napa earthquakes: A video and a story


First up, some footage of Sunday morning’s disastrous Napa Valley earthquake, now estimated to has caused at least a billion dollars in damage to one of the planet’s most scenic places.

The dramatic footage was shot by videographer Evan Kilkus using a quadropter drone as a demonstration of the potential of drones to document damage from natural disasters. Pay close attention to those shots of parking shelter roof collapses at an apartment building, especially the very last ones.

We’ll explain after the video.

From Evan Kilkus:

Napa Earthquake 2014 Quadcopter Test Video

Program notes:

These are aerial clips showing a unique look at the major damage in downtown Napa caused by the earthquake on August 24, 2014.

Pretty impressive, no?

The quake sent scores to the emergency and critically injured three people, one a small child.

We were living in Napa when the last significant quake hit the valley.

It hit just after 1:30 a.m. one September 2000, and we were sitting in a recliner in a second floor apartment in the building with those collapsed parking roofs, and our own car used the last structure shown in the video.

Fortunately for us, the roof held in that 2000 quake, a 5.2. shaker compared to last weekend’s 6.0.

But less fortunately, we found ourselves suddenly alone in the dark, and feeling damn sore as we’d been struck repeatedly the instant the lights went out. Fortunately, we always keep a flashlight within reach, and once we managed to locate it in our chairside table, we discovered that the assault had been the result of books hurled across the room from our 140-year-old walnut wardrobe, the sharp end of which had come to rest on the elevated leg rest of our recliner. Just a few minutes earlier, we’d crossed our legs in our lap. Otherwise we’d have had two broken femurs to contend with [it’s a heavy wardrobe].

Since the phones were out and we lacked a cell phone [ah, blissful days], once we cleared a path through the detritus [stereo compents and our 32-include tube television also took a dive when the earth moved] me made our way to our car and headed up the road to the house where the ex and our two daughters lived.

They and the house were fine, so we headed back to the apartment, and found ourselves profoundly shaken because our ever-so-carefully arranged library had been scattered across the floors of three bedrooms, while most of our bookcases [made of plastic-connector-fused reinforced wire square grids] had collapsed into their components.

For a depressed and jobless writer and bibliophile who had read each of those thousand-plus volumes, the sudden and profound disorder [plus breakage of some antiques and antiquities held in trust for progeny] simultaneously shocked and dismayed.

Restoring order would take weeks, possibly months.

On 20 October, seven weeks after the earthquake, we were sitting in the same chair in the same room, when the second blow came, in the form of a painful cramping sensation in the neck and jaw. It’ll pass, we decided. But it didn’t, and the pain wasn’t just a cramp, but a wholly different thing altogether. Could it be a heart attack? No, we thought, that’s when you feel something similar, but in the left arm.

Then we got up.

Promptly falling to the floor.

We got up on knees, painfully making our way two knee-moves to the phone to punch in 911.

When the operator asked the nature of the emergency, we said we were probably having a heart attack. Three minutes later, paramedics were at the door. Minutes later we were in the same emergency room that handled this weekend’s earthquake victims.

We got a stent in the left anterior descending artery, the one the paramedics had called “The Widowmaker,” then spent two or three days in the ICU before heading home with prescriptions we’ve been swallowing since.

Subsequent research directly links earthquakes with increased heart attacks in a 16-week period after the temblor itself [with a major spike on the day of the quake itself as well], and we were convinced ourselves that the lingering effects of the quake-caused disorder in our physical environment had significantly prolonged the quake’s impact.

So when we see the impact of the weekend Napa quake, including the devastating caused at the apartment where we’d once lived, we feel a particular sense of empathy with those whose lives where literally and psychologically profoundly shaken by a reminder of the fundamentally contingent nature of our carefully ordered personal universes.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, ills, critters, water, nukes


Today’s compendium begins, once again, with that latest on the health crisis consuming a continent, opening with this from the Guardian:

Ebola outbreak: Congo becomes fifth country with confirmed cases

  • Health minister says up to 15 people may have died but virus is not linked to epidemic that has spread through west Africa

The World Health Organisation has sent protective equipment for medical staff to the Democratic Republic of the Congo after it became the fifth African country this year to suffer a deadly outbreak of Ebola.

“The ministry of health has declared an outbreak and we are treating it as such,” Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesman, told Reuters in Geneva on Monday.

Congo declared on Sunday that Ebola had been identified in its northern Équateur province after two patients tested positive for the virus, but the health minister, Felix Kabange Numbi, denied any link to the epidemic raging in west Africa.

Officials believe Ebola has killed 13 other people in the region, including five health workers. Kabange said 11 were ill and in isolation and 80 contacts were being traced, and the Djera area would be placed under quarantine. Djera is about 750 miles (1,200km) from Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, and 375 miles from the provincial capital, Mbandaka.

From Deutsche Welle, a graphic representation:

BLOG Ebola

And the accompanying story from Deutsche Welle:

Ebola outbreak in DRC: same virus, but different

  • New cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are spreading fears that the virus will spread further across Africa. Yet, the variety found in Central Africa might be of a different kind.

The Ebola River is a small stream running through the forests of the Equateur province in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is in this region that the deadly disease was first recognized by Belgian scientists, who named the worm-looking virus after the river in 1976. Now, the virus has once again returned to the Equateur province with two confirmed cases of people who died from Ebola.

“In this region especially, the Ebola virus is circulating and has caused some smaller and larger outbreaks in the past”, says Dr. Schmidt-Chanasit, head of the viral diagnostic unit at Hamburg’s Bernhard-Nocht-Institute. “So this outbreak, most probably, is not associated with the outbreak in West Africa.

“Case fatality rate is much lower when we compare this to West Africa – it’s around 20 percent,” says Schmidt-Chansit. “So it might be possible that this is a different strain of the Ebola virus that is less pathogenic.”

The London Daily Mail covers a controversial policy:

Quarantined at gunpoint, desperate and hungry, the ordeal of the West African towns in quarantine because of Ebola epidemic

  • Volunteers are being paid four pounds a day to sterilize and bury bodies of Ebola victims in Kenema, Sierra Leone
  • Rigorous quarantine measures being used to stop the virus spreading, as those affected reaches 2,615 worldwide
  • In Liberia, soldiers have created weapon-guarded blockades to ensure thousands of residents stay in quarantine
  • Some 20,000 have been left desperate for food as they wait for rationed deliveries to arrive from the government
  • The enforced quarantines have created ghost towns around the area, as authorities try to stop spread of the virus

CBC News offers a critique:

Ebola outbreak: Why Liberia’s quarantine in West Point slum will fail

  • A relic of the Middle Ages, quarantines do more harm than good

Medical experts say that mass quarantine is rarely if ever effective in stemming the spread of a contagion like Ebola, and the move by Liberia to cordon off a sprawling slum is likely to do more harm than good.

“It’s a measure that basically goes back to the Middle Ages. It’s a reflection really of ignorance and panic,” said Dr. Richard Schabas, formerly chief medical officer for Ontario and now in that role in Hastings and Prince Edward counties.

“Mass quarantine of this kind really has no place at all in disease control”

More from the Independent:

Ebola is inspiring irrational fears that are potentially more damaging than the disease itself

  • We need to look beyond the stigma that attaches to those who have been infected

The bigger danger is the irrational fear which has infected families, communities, towns and cities across West Africa. As the virus has spread so have wild rumours about its cause, which have been variously attributed to witchcraft, a Western plot, and a conspiracy by African governments said to have introduced the disease in order to extract multi-million pound payments in aid from the West.

Irrational fear is posing as a great a threat to the countries affected as the virus itself. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the two worst affected countries, hospitals and clinics have closed, leaving patients with other diseases such as malaria with nowhere to go for treatment. The official toll of 1,427 deaths and 2,615 cases in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone is certain to understate the real total, as many people with ebola in rural areas will have died and been buried without their ever reaching hospital. But even the real figure is likely to dwarfed by collateral deaths caused by the collapse of the countries’ health systems.

A clinic and quarantine centre in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia,  was attacked a week ago and 29 suspected ebola cases fled while an angry mob looted medical items, instruments and soiled bedding. They were heard chanting that ebola was a hoax by the Liberian president to get money.

And from the New York Times, a video report on those charged with burying the victims:

The Gravediggers of Ebola | Virus Outbreak 2014

Program note:

In Sierra Leone, a group of young men take on the dirtiest work of the Ebola outbreak: finding and burying the dead. Produced by: Ben C. Solomon

From the World Health Organization, another side of the crisis:

Unprecedented number of medical staff infected with Ebola

The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in west Africa is unprecedented in many ways, including the high proportion of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who have been infected.

To date, more than 240 health care workers have developed the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and more than 120 have died.

Ebola has taken the lives of prominent doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia, depriving these countries not only of experienced and dedicated medical care but also of inspiring national heroes.

Several factors help explain the high proportion of infected medical staff. These factors include shortages of personal protective equipment or its improper use, far too few medical staff for such a large outbreak, and the compassion that causes medical staff to work in isolation wards far beyond the number of hours recommended as safe.

The Associated Press covers a casualty:

Liberia: Doctor given experimental Ebola drug dies

A Liberian doctor who received one of the last known doses of an experimental Ebola drug has died, officials said Monday, as Canada said it has yet to send out doses of a potential vaccine that the government is donating.

Ebola has left more than 1,400 people dead across West Africa, underscoring the urgency for developing potential ways to stop and treat the disease. However, health experts warn these options have not undergone the rigorous testing that usually takes place before drugs and vaccines are approved.

The experimental vaccines are at still at a Canadian laboratory, said Patrick Gaebel, spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, who declined to speculate how many weeks it could be before those are given to volunteers.

Jiji Press lends a hand:

Japan to Offer Relief Goods to Ebola-Hit Liberia

Japan will provide emergency relief goods worth 30 million yen, including tents and blankets, to Liberia in response to a request from the West African country hit by Ebola hemorrhagic fever, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The relief goods will be sent through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the ministry said.

In Liberia, the number of people who were confirmed or suspected to have the Ebola virus stood at 1,802 as of Wednesday while the death toll came to 624, according to the World Health Organization.

And CBC News covers another Japanese contribution:

Ebola outbreak: Japan offers anti-influenza drug for treatment

  • Ebola and influenza viruses are the same general type

Japan said Monday it is ready to provide a Japanese-developed anti-influenza drug as a possible treatment for the rapidly expanding Ebola outbreak.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan can offer favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., at any time at the request of the World Health Organization.

The drug, with the brand name Avigan, was developed by Fujifilm subsidiary Toyama Chemical Co. to treat new and re-emerging influenza viruses, and has not been proven to be effective against Ebola.

Meanwhile, the Times of India covers prevention:

Mumbai airport to screen Indians coming from Ebola-hit Liberia

Elaborate precautionary arrangements have been put in place at the Mumbai airport here to screen the 112 stranded Indians, who are expected to arrive on Tuesday by various flights from and around the Ebola-hit Liberia, authorities said here on Monday.

“As part of the tentative plan, the aircraft will be first taken to a remote bay and all passengers will be screened at the step-ladder exit after the arrival of flights at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA),” Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) said here.

Besides, while the passengers without any symptoms will be cleared and shifted to terminal for immigration and customs clearance, those coming from Liberia with symptoms suggestive of EVD, will be directly shifted to designated hospital in ambulance from the bay, it said.

From the Guardian, another cause for anxiety, this time Down Under [in both senses]:

‘Sex superbug’ fears over powerful new drug resistant strain of gonorrhoea

  • Sexual health clinics on alert after patient treated in Cairns found to have the highest level of drug resistance reported in Australia

Concerns are mounting over a powerful new form of gonorrhoea after a patient was found to have the highest level of drug resistance to the disease ever reported in Australia.

It is understood the patient, a tourist from central Europe, contracted the “sex superbug” in Sydney and was eventually treated in Cairns.

The discovery of the case in Australia, which resulted in a health alert in July, has also prompted warnings in New Zealand, where sexual health clinics are on high alert amid fears the new strain will spread there.

While in Pakistan, the Express Tribune covers another threat:

Health and safety: KMC to survey 2,000 houses to check for Congo

At least 2,000 houses surrounding the house of a man who died due to the Congo virus on Thursday are being surveyed to check for possible threats of the virus being present in the area.

Muhammad Kashif was a 24-year-old butcher and a resident of Azizabad who contracted the virus and passed away at a private hospital.

This is the first reported case of the Congo virus in the province this year and it has forced the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to initiate an epidemiologic and demographic survey to gather details of the area the patient resided in.

On to another environmental threat, this time from BBC News:

‘Widespread methane leakage’ from ocean floor off US coast

Researchers say they have found more than 500 bubbling methane vents on the seafloor off the US east coast.

The unexpected discovery indicates there are large volumes of the gas contained in a type of sludgy ice called methane hydrate. There are concerns that these new seeps could be making a hitherto unnoticed contribution to global warming.

The scientists say there could be about 30,000 of these hidden methane vents worldwide.

From the Guardian again, more methane:

Labour attempts to strengthen regulation of UK fracking industry

  • Opposition party to table amendments to Lords infrastructure bill that would tighten rules for companies drilling for shale gas

The Labour party believes the rules covering fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – for gas are not tight enough and will attempt to strengthen regulation of the controversial drilling method by tabling a series of amendments to the infrastructure bill in the House of Lords on Tuesday.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) says there are adequate safeguards covering drilling for shale gas under existing rules or voluntary agreements. However, Tom Greatrex, the shadow energy minister, believes current agreements do not go far enough.

The opposition wants to see well-by-well disclosure of the fracking fluid being pumped into the well, baseline monitoring of methane levels in the groundwater and environmental impact assessments for all fracking sites.

And from Vocativ, the new methane frontier:

What’s the North Pole Worth, Anyways? We Did the Math

  • It’s more valuable than the entire U.S. economy. No wonder the battle for Arctic is fierce

Natural resources are like catnip for power-hungry governments, which is why rich countries have battled over the North Pole for decades. Beneath the frozen tundra bordered by Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States lies some 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of its untapped oil.

And each of those countries is hell-bent on getting the biggest slice of the pie. Perhaps the most hotly contested area is the Lomonosov Ridge, which spans 1,800 miles and divides the Amerasian and Eurasian basins. Both Canada and Russia claim that resource-rich ridge is a natural extension of their continental shelves. Meanwhile, Russia’s 2001 claim to the ridge was rejected by the United Nations (the governing body that decides such matters), but that didn’t stop the country from planting its flag on the North Pole in 2007.

It is the Canucks, though, who have made the most recent play for the North Pole. In December, Canada filed an application with the U.N. arguing that the North Pole falls within Canadian territory, and this month it launched two ice-breaking vessels to gather more scientific data to support its claim. The Canadian government has reportedly spent nearly $200 million in expeditions as part of its quest for Arctic sovereignty.

More from Yale Environment 360:

A New Frontier for Fracking: Drilling Near the Arctic Circle

Hydraulic fracturing is about to move into the Canadian Arctic, with companies exploring the region’s rich shale oil deposits. But many indigenous people and conservationists have serious concerns about the impact of fracking in more fragile northern environments.
by ed struzik

Among the dozens of rivers that flow unfettered through the Canadian North, the Natla and the Keele may be the most picturesque and culturally important. They are especially significant to the Dene people of the Sahtu region, which straddles the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. Both of the rivers flow crystal clear out of the Mackenzie Mountains along the Yukon/Northwest Territories border before coming together in their final course to the Mackenzie River.

For hundreds — if not thousands — of years, the Mountain Dene people have been traveling upstream to salt licks that draw caribou, moose, and mountain sheep down from the high country in the early fall. For the Dene, it is the best opportunity to stock up on wild game, fish, and berries for the long winter.

Water woes from Want China Times:

Drought affects half a million in Xinjiang

A prolonged drought in northwest China’s Xinjiang has left about 200,000 people in need of emergency aid, including drinking water, said the region’s civil affairs department Saturday.

In seven counties of the Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Ili in northern Xinjiang, more than half a million people and 3.46 million head of livestock have been affected. Some 7,700 cattle have died. Rainfall since May in the Ili valley has been about 50% less than in previous years.

Herders are concerned how their livestock will survive the winter due to the destruction of fodder by the drought. Over 4.3 million mu (287,000 hectares) of crops and 22.8 million mu of pastures have suffered, with direct economic losses of 4.3 billion yuan (US$700 million).

More water woes, this time from Yale Environment 360:

Mideast Water Wars: In Iraq, A Battle for Control of Water

Conflicts over water have long haunted the Middle East. Yet in the current fighting in Iraq, the major dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are seen not just as strategic targets but as powerful weapons of war.

There is a water war going on in the Middle East this summer. Behind the headline stories of brutal slaughter as Sunni militants carve out a religious state covering Iraq and Syria, there lies a battle for the water supplies that sustain these desert nations.

Blood is being spilled to capture the giant dams that control the region’s two great rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. These structures hold back vast volumes of water. With their engineers fleeing as the Islamic State (ISIS) advances, the danger is that the result could be catastrophe — either deliberate or accidental.

“Managing water works along the Tigris and Euphrates requires a highly specialized skill set, but there is no indication that the Islamic State possesses it,” says Russell Sticklor, a water researcher for the CGIAR, a global agricultural research partnership, who has followed events closely.

After the jump, a radical solution to save the world’s wildlife, saving China’s cranes, an ecological/economic crisis in Southern Europe, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, an American nuclear mystery, and life-saving cannabis news. . . Continue reading

InSecurityEnviroWatch: A very slow news day


We’re not sure why, but it’s been a very slow news day, so we’re combining topic, starting with an Ebola story from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

First WHO worker infected by Ebola, Briton evacuated

The UN’s World Health Organisation on Sunday (Aug 24) announced a first Ebola infection among the health experts it has dispatched to battle the raging epidemic in West Africa that has killed at least 1,427 people with few signs of abating.

Also on Sunday, the first Briton to be infected with Ebola was being flown out of Sierra Leone on Sunday, headed to an isolation ward in a London hospital.

The WHO gave no details about the age, sex or nationality of its infected health worker but said the person had been deployed to Sierra Leone.

Next, our lone Fukushima item, via the Asahi Shimbun:

Thyroid cancer diagnosed in 104 young people in Fukushima

The number of young people in Fukushima Prefecture who have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer, a disease often caused by radiation exposure, now totals 104, according to prefectural officials.

The 104 are among 300,000 young people who were aged 18 or under at the time of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and whose results of thyroid gland tests have been made available as of June 30. They were eligible for the tests administered by the prefectural government.

However, government officials in Fukushima say they do not believe the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people are linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

From TheLocal.se, a culture clash:

Ten injured at Malmö anti-Nazi demonstration

A planned manifestation against the neo-Nazi Party of the Swedes spiralled out of control on Saturday in Malmö as police and protesters clashed leading to several injuries.

Ten people were taken to hospital, five with serious injuries with one of them requiring treatment in the emergency room. Police arrested six people and took scores more into custody.

An estimated 1,500 people gathered in Limhamn square to protest against a planned appearance by the leader of the Svenskarnas parti (party of the Swedes) who was due to make a speech.

The Washington Post covers a gap:

U.S. strikes in Syria against Islamic State would be hindered by intelligence gaps

A U.S. offensive in Syria against the radical Islamist group that beheaded an American journalist would likely be constrained by persistent intelligence gaps and an inability to rely on fleets of armed drones that have served as the Obama administration’s signature weapon against terrorist networks elsewhere, U.S. officials said.

The Pentagon has conducted daily surveillance flights along Iraq’s border with Syria in recent weeks as part of a push to bolster U.S. intelligence on the Islamic State without crossing into Syrian airspace and risking the loss of aircraft to that nation’s air defenses, officials said.

The CIA has also expanded its network of informants inside Syria, largely by recruiting and vetting rebel fighters who have been trained and equipped at clandestine agency bases in Jordan over the past two years, U.S. officials said.

From Deutsche Welle, a drone alert:

Iran ‘downs Israeli drone’ over nuclear site

Iran claims it has shot down an Israeli stealth drone over one of its nuclear sites. Israel has refused to comment on the authenticity of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards’ statement.

“A spy drone of the Zionist regime (Israel) was brought down by a missile… This stealth drone was trying to approach the Natanz nuclear zone,” the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) said on Sunday.

The IRGC’s public relations office said the intruding drone was intercepted by a surface-to-air missile.

The Natanz facility is situated 300 kilometers (185 miles) south of the capital Tehran. It is the country’s main uranium enrichment site, housing more than 16,000 centrifuges.

And from China Daily, a Chinese countermeasure:

Chinese OS expected to debut in October

After concerns about US surveillance and a monopoly probe of Microsoft, there is some good news for China’s homegrown operating system (OS): a desktop version may be ready in October.

Ni Guangnan of the Chinese Academy of Engineering told the People’s Post and Telecommunications News that the OS will be first seen on desktop devices and later expanded to smartphones and other mobile devices.

Ni heads an OS development alliance established in March. There are still problems in the program, including a lack of research funds and too many developers pulling in different directions.

From the Mainichi, our first Game of Zones story:

4 Chinese gov’t ships intrude into Japanese waters near Senkakus

Four China Coast Guard vessels intruded into Japanese territorial waters Sunday morning near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea for the first time since Aug. 12, the Japan Coast Guard said.

The vessels, identified as the Haijing 2102, 2113, 2146 and 2305, left the waters about two hours later. Japanese patrol ships warned the vessels to leave the waters, with one of the Chinese ships responding with a message that the waters belong to China, according to the coast guard.

The Japanese-administered uninhabited islets, located in the East China Sea about 400 kilometers west of Okinawa’s main island, are claimed by China and Taiwan, which call them Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.

And for our final item, NewsOnJapan has another insular tale:

GSDF holds annual drills to protect remote islands

Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force has shown reporters its annual live-fire drills at the foot of Mt Fuji.

The GSDF held the exercise on Sunday at the Higashi-Fuji training camp in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan.

The drills were based on the scenario that a remote Japanese island was under attack. The set-up was the same as last year’s. About 80 vehicles and 20 aircraft took part.

Chart of the day: Ebola’s relative deadliness


From Al Jazeera America, a graphic representation of the relative deadliness of a variety of plagues that afflict humanity.” Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Deadly