Category Archives: Health

EnviroWatch: Climate, fires, water, nukes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Activists Demand Climate Action at People’s Climate March

From the transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian covers confrontation on Wall Street today:

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

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

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

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

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

A video of the action from Mashable:

Cops, Activists Clash at #FloodWallStreet

Program notes:

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

From the Guardian, a California fire update:

Rain helps firefighters from across US contain California King fire

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

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

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

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

The Yomiuri Shimbun notes a number:

California logs 26% rise in wildfires

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

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

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

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

While USA Today offers cause for chills:

New lab incidents fuel fear, safety concerns in Congress

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

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

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

CBC News covers medicated water:

Drinking water contaminated by excreted drugs a growing concern

  • Researchers finding excreted drugs in drinking water

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

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

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

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

Fukushima cleanup going painfully slow

  • Opposition to waste storage complicates project

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

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

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

Jiji Press prepares to fire up the nuclear boilers:

Japan Sets Forth N-Reactor Restart Plan at IAEA Meeting

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

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

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

JapanToday covers the propaganda front:

Industry minister tries to convince public on need for nuclear energy

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

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

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

NHK WORLD offers belated posterior-protecting:

Japan to step up Fukushima contractors oversight

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

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

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

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

Hinkley nuclear reactor project gains EU approval, leak reveals

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

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

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

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

The world is losing the fight against Ebola


Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, discusses the tough conditions confronting physicians in the hear of Africa’s Ebola hot zone, where a combination of inadequate healthcare facilities and cultural resistance is compounding difficulties in fighting the largest and deadliest Ebola outbreak ever.

Dr. Liu tells RT’s Sophie Sheverdnadze that the difference between the current outbreak is its spread to urban areas — unlike past outbreaks, which were confined to remote locations, which they would quickly burn out.

Now with the disease spreading in cities like Monrovia, Liberia, the way is open for exponentially larger rates of contagion.

And unlike treating patients in war zones, where physicians have at least some respite during periods when firing ceases, with the Ebola outbreak there are no down times, Liu explains.

Liu also describes the three key principles of tackling the outbreak: Education, surveillance of patients and their contacts, and containment of patients until they are cleared of all symptoms. To date, she says, none of these measures has been adequately implemented.

Despite six months of effort, the outbreak continues to escalate. “We are losing the battle,” she says. And if we fail to contain the epidemic, she says, the disease will cause major loss of life and set the stage for potential global economic disruption.

From RT’s Sophie&Co.:

‘World losing battle with Ebola’ – Doctors Without Borders Chief

Program notes:

While the world is preoccupied with Islamic State or political games around Ukraine, there’s another threat emerging from the West Africa – where people are dying by hundreds, reaped by the deadliest Ebola epidemic to be ever known to mankind. Efforts to contain it end in a failure, and the vaccine is nonexistent yet. Are we seeing another pandemic slowly growing up to strike at mankind? What should be done to stop it? What does it mean to be a doctor in a place where death reigns? We try to find out this together with the head of the Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Joanne Liu is on Sophie&Co today.

EbolaWatch: Travel bans, healers felled, more


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

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

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

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

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

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

More from the Liberian Observer:

EU Assures Long Term Commitment to Ebola Affected Countries

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

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

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

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

EAC issues alert on Ebola in region

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ebola outbreak: Sierra Leone lockdown declared ‘success’

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

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

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

RT covers numbers:

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

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

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

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

The latest European response from Deutsche Welle:

EU health ministers meet on Ebola response

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

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

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

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

And a companion video report from Deutsche Welle:

Epidemiologist: Germany is well-prepared for Ebola

Program notes:

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

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

El País covers another European rescued:

Ebola patient brought to Madrid hospital

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

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

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

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

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

Gambia announces new restrictions on Ebola nations

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

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

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

Punch Nigeria covers restrictions ended:

FCT schools resume, comply with Ebola prevention directives

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

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

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

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

A video report from Reuters:

Nigeria schools reopen after Ebola break

Program notes:

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

The Liberian Observer covers another casualty:

Ebola Hits Gibi District, Chief Prayer Man, Pastor Dies

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

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

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

The Liberian Observer again, with another casualty:

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

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

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

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

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

A plea from the Monrovia Inquirer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ebola Affects More Men Than Women

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

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

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

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

Tom Toles: Name your poison


From the editorial cartoonist of the Washington Post, reflecting on new research showing those sugar substitutes may be just as bad for you as the real thing:

BLOG Toles

EnviroWatch: Soaring carbon, water woes, nukes


We begin with a diagnosis from the Guardian:

Record CO2 emissions ‘committing world to dangerous climate change’

  • Global greenhouse gas emissions on course to reach record high of over 40bn tonnes in 2014, study in Nature Geoscience says

Children born today will see the world committed to dangerous and irreversible levels of climate change by their young adulthood at current rates, as the world poured a record amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere this year.

Annual carbon dioxide emissions showed a strong rise of 2.5% on 2013 levels, putting the total emitted this year on track for 40bn tonnes. That means the global ‘carbon budget’, calculated as the total governments can afford to emit without pushing temperatures higher than 2C above pre-industrial levels, is likely to be used up within just one generation, or in thirty years from now.

Scientists think climate change is likely to have catastrophic and irreversible effects, including rising sea levels, polar melting, droughts, floods and increasingly extreme weather, if temperatures rise more than 2C. They have calculated that this threshold is likely to be breached if global emissions top 1,200 billion tonnes, giving a “carbon budget” to stick to in order to avoid dangerous warming.

Action from BBC News:

Climate change summit: Global rallies demand action

Street protests demanding urgent action on climate change have attracted hundreds of thousands of marchers in more than 2,000 locations worldwide.

The People’s Climate March is campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York next week.

In Manhattan, organisers said some 310,000 people joined a march that was also attended by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Earlier, huge demonstrations took place in Australia and Europe.

The New York Times covers a sellout:

Rockefellers, Heirs to an Oil Fortune, Will Divest Charity From Fossil Fuels

John D. Rockefeller built a vast fortune on oil. Now his heirs are abandoning fossil fuels.

The family whose legendary wealth flowed from Standard Oil is planning to announce on Monday that its $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is joining the divestment movement that began a couple years ago on college campuses.

The announcement, timed to precede Tuesday’s opening of the United Nations climate change summit meeting in New York City, is part of a broader and accelerating initiative.

From RT, another outbreak:

500,000 people ill with mosquito-borne virus in Dominican Republic

The mosquito virus chikungunya has left almost 500,000 people ill, and 109 of them are newborn babies, according to an official in the Dominican Republic hit by the disease.

The newborns contracted the illness from their mothers, who were ill while giving birth, Carmen Adames, the Health Ministry’s coordinator dealing with the outbreak, told AP. None of the children have died, she added.

The symptoms of the disease take three to seven days to appear, and include high fever, severe headaches and joint pain that can render a person virtually immobile for months. Research in the Indian Ocean islands has demonstrated that patients can suffer joint pains for as long as two years, depending on their age.

There is no vaccine for the illness at the moment, and no specific cure as well; on the positive side, it has rarely been deadly.

From News Corp Australia, Down Under torture by Alexion, a U.S.-based drug maker:

Patient nearly dies after being denied access to life-saving drug

A DRUG company denied a critically ill woman access to a life-saving drug this month because it wanted to ramp up pressure on Health Minister Peter Dutton to subsidise its $500,000 per patient per year medicine.

Mr Dutton had to intervene to pay for the medicine Soliris to save the woman’s life. The furious Health Minister told News Corp: “I won’t tolerate patients being used as pawns”.

Melbourne woman Toula Lockley, 42, suffers from a rare disease called aHUS that sees tiny blood vessels blocked, cutting off the blood supply to major organs.

From the Associated Press, California still ablaze:

32 structures destroyed in California wildfire

Officials say nearly three-dozen structures have been destroyed in an expanding wildfire in Northern California.

Capt. Tom Piranio, a fire information officer, says 10 residences and 22 outbuildings have been destroyed in the King Fire, according to preliminary figures released Sunday. Assessment teams were going back in dangerous conditions to survey more damage.

Smoky conditions from the fire also forced the cancellation of the popular Ironman Triathlon event in nearby Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

The fast-moving blaze located about 60 miles east of Sacramento has grown to more than 128 square miles. It has kept 2,800 people from their homes and remains 10 percent contained. About 100 people have been allowed to return home.

Context from the Christian Science Monitor:

Burning money: Cost of fighting wildfires robs funds to prevent them

The cost of fighting wildfires and protecting life and property from harm has exceeded $1 billion every year since 2000, eating into agency resources for forest management and fire preparedness – programs meant to prevent wildfires before they start

News from California this week made it seem as if half the drought-stricken state was ablaze with wind-whipped wildfires, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate, wrecking some vacation plans for Yosemite National Park, and torching hundreds of structures – including 143 homes in the small town of Weed.

All of that is happening and continues to happen as firefighters battle what fire officials say are 23 active wildfires around the state – 17 of those described as “uncontained large fires.”

So far this year, there have been slightly more wildfires (39,927) than there were in 2013 (38,208). But the total acreage burned so far in 2014 (3,002,842 acres) is significantly less than last year (4,006,080 acres).

From the Associated Press, California still dry:

Some California wells run dry amid drought

Hundreds of domestic wells in California’s drought-parched Central Valley farming region have run dry, leaving many residents to rely on donated bottles of drinking water to get by.

Girl Scouts have set up collection points while local charities are searching for money to install tanks next to homes. Officials truck in water for families in greatest need and put a large tank in front of the local firehouse for residents to fill up with water for bathing and flushing toilets.

About 290 families in East Porterville — a poor, largely Hispanic town of about 7,000 residents nestled against the Sierra Nevada foothills — have said their shallow wells are depleted. Officials say the rest of Tulare County has many more empty wells, but nobody has a precise count.

Other Central Valley counties also report pockets of homes with wells gone dry and no alternative water service.

Another water woe, this time from south of the border in Hermosillo, via the Associated Press:

Western Mexico state reports new mine spill

Authorities in northern Mexico have issued a new alert of a river spill from a copper mine operated by Grupo Mexico, the state director of civil protection said Sunday.

The agency is urging people to avoid using the water from after local municipalities complained of a toxic plume, said Carlos Arias, civil protection director for the border state of Sonora, where the spill occurred.

Arias said the tributaries affected drain into the Bacanuchi River. A flyover of the area shows an abnormal orange stain, he added. He said his department is taking measures to ensure people don’t come in contact with the water until it can be tested.

Bone dry in Old Blighty too with the Independent:

UK weather: Britain must be prepared for ‘worst droughts in modern times’

The UK must prepare for “the worst droughts in modern times” experts will warn this week at a major international conference to discuss the growing global water crisis.

As the population continues to grow and water is increasingly scarce, suppliers across Britain simply “cannot afford to fail”, according to Trevor Bishop, the Environment Agency’s deputy director. “We need to have more resilience, we need to be able to deal with tougher situations, and we cannot afford to fail. The consequences of failure would be very substantial,” he said.

“In the past we have planned for our water resources to cope with the worst situation on record but records are only 100 years long,” he explained. “We may get a situation that is worse than that – with climate change that is perfectly possible.”

Star Africa News covers African water woes:

Water shortage hits Somali regions

People and animals in the Galgagud, Hiran and Mudug regions of central Somalia have been hit by an acute shortage of water after almost a year without proper rainfall.The Commissioner of Mahas district in Hiran region, Mumin Mohamed Halane told the African Press Agency on Sunday that hundreds of rural people have flocked to towns in search of drinking water for them and their animals.

He said wells, waterholes and pools which whole communities had depended on to water their animals have dried up.

According to him, the situation has worsened in areas where al-Shabaab militants forcibly took away water generators from villages in an apparent scorch earth tactic against government troops and African Union peacekeepers.

And from the Express Tribune, water woes in the Subcontinent:

Uneasy neighbours: Pakistani experts to discuss water dispute in India

A three-member Pakistani delegation, led by Indus Water Commissioner Mirza Asif Baig, left for India on Saturday amid hopes that the two arch-rivals would work out a solution to the decades-old water issues that have been bedeviling their bilateral relations.

“We are hopeful that India will show some flexibility on [Pakistan’s] reservations over the building of new dams in India,” Baig told reporters at Wagah border before crossing into India. During the five-day trip, the delegation will also visit four controversial sites on the Chenab River where New Delhi is planning to construct new dams. Reiterating that Pakistan’s objections over the design of Kishanganga dam were logical, Baig said that some serious doubts pertaining to the controversial project – particularly regarding the Neelum distributary point – and other dams on the Chenab River have already been allayed.

Experts, however, believe there is little or no hope of a breakthrough in talks as India is unwilling to entertain any Pakistani demands. Islamabad would have to move the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle the dispute, they say. Baig said that his delegation would try their best to resolve all issues during their stay in India. But at the same time, he admitted that Islamabad would have no choice but to approach the ICJ if New Delhi did not entertain their ‘fair’ demands.

Last week, a 10-member delegation from India visited Pakistan to discuss the thorny water issues between the two nations. The talks, however, failed to make any headway as the Indian side refused to accept Pakistan’s demand for changing the design of Kishanganga dam.

And another kind of water woe from RT America:

Microbeads gumming up Lake Erie, your body

Program notes:

While cleaning patients’ teeth, a Phoenix dental hygienist discovered that Crest toothpaste contains tiny plastic “microbeads.” After a public backlash, Crest and many other companies are now removing the environmentally degrading ingredient from their products. RT’s Lindsay France takes a look at why consumers should be worried.

After the jump, China sends carbon soaring, Fukushima-damaged rice genes, other nuke-zone food heads to the market, a Japanese reactor complex shutdown contemplated, an Abe appointee pushes for restarts, underground reactors mulled, hot water testing, and a global reactor slowdown. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Lockdowns and street sweepers


We begin with two video reports, first from the London Telegraph:

God help us: a day on duty with Liberia’s doctors fighting Ebola

Program notes:

Liberia’s exhausted doctors are struggling to cope with the number of Ebola cases, which has far outstripped the capacity of the country’s war-ravaged health service.

Nearly half the patients admitted to Liberia’s JFK Ebola clinic in Monrovia die. A grim statistic by normal clinic standards, it is considerably better than the 70-90 per cent rates reported at the start of the outbreak, thanks to more people coming forward in the early stages of symptoms.

While treatment is simply a matter of keeping patients fed and hydrated in the hope that they fight the virus off, clinics like this are overwhelmed by demand. In this 35-bed facility, doctors are currently treating 69 people. Half of them are on the floor.

“There isn’t even adequate corridor space for us to walk between them. But if we turn them back into the community, they will infect other people,” says Dr J Soka Moses, the hospital’s clinical director.

Of the 2,200 Ebola deaths across West Africa so far, 40 per cent have been in Liberia. Aid agencies warn that up to 20,000 West Africans could have the virus by the end of the year.

On Tuesday, Washington announced it would be sending 3,000 US troops to Liberia in coming weeks to boost the medical effort.

Video by Will Wintercross

Next, from the American government’s Voice of America comes grim prognostication:

Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Program notes:

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA’s Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.

On to a countrywide lockdown with the Associated Press:

Sierra Leone reaches final day of Ebola lockdown

Frustrated residents complained of food shortages in some neighborhoods of Sierra Leone’s capital on Sunday as the country reached the third and final day of a sweeping, unprecedented lockdown designed to combat the deadly Ebola disease, volunteers said.

While most residents welcomed teams of health care workers and volunteers bearing information about the disease, rumors persisted in pockets of the city that poisoned soap was being distributed, suggesting that public education campaigns had not been entirely successful.

The streets of the capital, Freetown, were again mostly deserted on Sunday in compliance with a government order for the country’s 6 million residents to stay in their homes.

And as the lockdown neared the end of its third day, Sky News had numbers to report:

Ebola Lockdown: 92 Bodies Found In Sierra Leone

  • A three-day lockdown in Sierra Leone to combat the ebola epidemic leads to the identification of dozens of new infections

Ninety-two bodies and at least 56 new infections have been discovered in Sierra Leone during a nationwide ebola lockdown.

The three-day lockdown came into effect on Friday and is aimed at stemming the worst ebola epidemic on record. The country’s six million residents have been ordered to stay indoors as volunteers circulate to educate people about the outbreak and isolate the sick.

Stephen Gaojia, head of the Emergency Operations Centre which leads the ebola response, said the lockdown is likely to be extended. “There is a very strong possibility it will be extended,” Mr Gaojia said.

But some questions remain about whether or not the lockdown continues, since the Associated Press is reporting that it’s over

Sierra Leone concludes nationwide Ebola lockdown

Frustrated residents complained of food shortages in some neighborhoods of Sierra Leone’s capital on Sunday as the country reached the third and final day of a sweeping, unprecedented lockdown designed to combat the deadly Ebola disease, volunteers said.

While most residents welcomed teams of health care workers and volunteers bearing information about the disease, rumors persisted in pockets of the city that poisoned soap was being distributed, suggesting that public education campaigns had not been entirely successful.

The streets of the capital, Freetown, were again mostly deserted on Sunday in compliance with a government order for the country’s 6 million residents to stay in their homes.

And Star Africa News offers advice:

Sierra Leone official urges another lockdown

The deputy head of a Sierra Leone government agency responsible for attitudinal change Sunday called for another round of national lockdown to deal with the Ebola epidemic.Ms Nanette Thomas, Coordinator of the Attitudinal and Behavioral Change (ABC) Secretariat, who is second in command in the office, said another round of a nationwide shutdown will help build on the
shortfall of the September 19 – 21 exercise.

A number of people have complained about the slow response to emerging issues, including burial of dead bodies discovered during the last two days.

There were also reports of delays in response to the emergency 117 call to collect sick people.

A video report on the lockdown from CCTV Africa:

More Ebola Victims Discovered following Sierra Leone’s 3 day Lockdown

Program notes:

The third and last day of lockdown is under way in Sierra Leone. Thousands of health workers are going door to door to educate people about Ebola and hand out soap. The lockdown’s also been put in place so new victims can be identified, and it looks like it’s yielding results. CCTV’s Susan Mwongeli reports

And from Star Africa News, another unfortunate consequence:

There is absolutely no price stability in Sierra Leone, a sorry legacy of the destructive civil war. But the Ebola epidemic has taken it to new heights.

The government’s defence has always been that the country is operating a liberal economy and so it cannot regulate prices, leaving businessman to go for the kill.

Commodities as common as pepper have increased in prices by 300 percent within the last few months. The price for a small cup of pepper used to be Le2000 ($0.4). Now it fetches for as high as Le 10, 000 ($2) a cup.

The lowest quality rice that used to cost Le 130, 000 ($30) per 50Kg bag, now costs Le160, 000 ($37). Higher qualities of rice cost as much as Le 300000 ($70).

On a regional level, officials of the 16-member Economic Community Of West African States are rethinking their strategy for handling the outbreak, reports Punch Nigeria:

ECOWAS seeks fresh approach to tackle Ebola

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, has called for a fresh approach to deal with the spread of the Ebola disease.

In line with this approach, he cautioned member states against taking unilateral actions capable of thwarting regional efforts to contain the spread of the disease.

Ouedraogo gave the warning at a dinner with media representatives, in Abuja, on Friday night.

From the Washington Informer, more concerns:

Ebola Weakens Already Fragile Nations

As the Ebola virus decimates their beloved country, Liberian ambassador to the United States Jeremiah C. Sulunteh and Marion Parker Cassell Nelson watch with horror and growing concern.

Since March, the tiny West African country has emerged as ground zero for Ebola, with the vast majority of cases and fatalities occurring there. According to the World Health Organization, the outbreak has infected more than 4,900 West Africans and killed 2,400.

Over the last several days, WHO senior officials have warned that the virus will continue to spread exponentially in Liberia, as thousands of new cases are expected to come to light over the next three weeks.

“Some time in March, the government was able to discover Ebola that we understand started in Guinea,” said Sulunteh during a Sept. 13 interview. “With porous borders, Ebola spread to Lofa County. Liberian people were still in a state of denial. A lot of people took it for granted, didn’t take it seriously.”

An unusual front line regiment honored, from Punch Nigeria:

LASG commends street sweepers for Ebola containment

The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, says the government was able to contain the Ebola Virus Disease as a result of the high standard of environmental sanitation in the state.

Fashola, who spoke on Saturday at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos, added that the result was due to the contribution of the state’s street sweepers who had been keeping the state clean in the last six years.

The governor, at the 6th Annual Training Workshop for Street Sweepers, noted that the state had no previous experience of what to do with EVD in an urban centre as all other experiences had happened in rural areas.

He said, “But you (street sweepers) were our first line of defence for our Ebola resistance. You are our sanitation ambassadors and this is the work you have continued to do.

“But for the high standard of environmental sanitation that you have helped us to achieve over the last six years, the battle to contain Ebola would have been more difficult. As of midnight on Thursday, September 18, 2014, Lagos became Ebola-free.”

Punch Nigeria again, with school bells silenced:

Ebola: No school resumption today in Lagos, 14 other states

Pupils in at least 15 states in the country will not return to their classrooms today as directed by the Federal Government.

This is because in most of the states, teachers are insisting that safety measures must be put in place to protect them and their pupils from contracting the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.

In some of the states like Lagos and Ogun, the governments opted not to comply with the September 22 date until necessary Ebola safety kits were put in place in their schools. Also, the gates of the 104 Unity Schools in the country will be shut from today as their teachers commence an industrial action.

The other states where normal academic activities will not resume   are Rivers, Oyo, Ekiti, Osun, Benue, Niger, Zamfara, Adamawa, Kano, Kwara, Kogi, Akwa Ibom and Ebonyi states.

Teachers in Lagos will be on duty today but pupils will remain at home until October 8.

And from Punch Nigeria again, vigilance:

Ebola: All eyes on borders, ports

Two months after the late index case, Mr. Patrick Sawyer sneaked into Nigeria, the last patient has been discharged from the Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos, and the cameras are clicking away. Cheering news that more secondary contacts of the index case are also being discharged from surveillance has given Nigeria a little reprieve. However, stakeholders are warning that eternal vigilance is mandatory if the nightmare is not to happen again.

Only last week, the World Health Organisation reported 700 new cases from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The development has raised concerns from stakeholders who have opined that it is not time yet to shout eureka.

Speaking at a recent media parley, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said the country could not afford to be complacent as long as a single case of the disease existed in any part of the world.

Reuters covers another European evacuated:

Spain to repatriate from Sierra Leone priest diagnosed with Ebola

Spain on Sunday sent a military plane to Sierra Leone to repatriate a Spanish Catholic priest working in the African country who has tested positive for the Ebola virus, the government said.

Spain’s health ministry said in a statement that Manuel Garcia Viejo, a member of the Hospital Order of San Juan de Dios, worked in the Western city of Lunsar.

He is the second Spanish priest to be diagnosed with Ebola after Miguel Pajares, also a member of San Juan de Dios, who died last month after being brought back to Spain from Liberia.

And from DutchNews.nl, good news/bad news for another European:

Dutch ebola doctor actually has malaria

One of the two doctors brought back to the Netherlands after coming into connect with ebola patients in Sierra Leone actually has malaria, a spokesman for the public health institute RIVM said on Sunday.

‘The doctor was admitted to hospital with a temperature on Saturday evening – which is a sign of both ebola and malaria,’ the spokesman said. ‘Tests have shown he has malaria.’

The two doctors worked for the Lion Heart Foundation at a hospital in Sierra Leone. They arrived back in the Netherlands a week ago.

Want China Times offers diagnostic assistance:

Portable Ebola testing kits developed in China

A Chinese health researcher said on Friday that China has successfully produced portable kits to help with Ebola virus testing.

The kits use a diagnostic method based on viral RNA detection. They will be easier to use compared to lab testing, according to Li Dexin, a research fellow of the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chinese researchers have worked with France’s Pasteur Institute and conducted tests on the product, which has the ability to test for the Ebola virus through viral RNA, antigen and antibody detection methods and will be used in Sierra Leone.

And the Guardian covers social adjustment:

‘Ebola makes you a risk to yourself: touching your face can infect you’

As Sierra Leoneans endure a lockdown to contain the virus, Monica Mark reports from Freetown on her own anxiety visiting hospitals and villages, and the key role of charities in fighting the epidemic

In a country where more than 500 have died after six months of Ebola – which is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids – the “no touching” rule has become the norm. At the beginning of my 10-day trip to Sierra Leone, I went to shake a friend’s hand. He threw himself back against the wall with a panic that would have been comical if not for the fear on his face. Such reactions soon became as routine as having my temperature taken at road checkpoints and washing my hands in buckets of chlorinated water found everywhere.

I had only one more lapse. On my third day I was at the Médecins Sans Frontières treatment centre with my sister Katie, a documentary film-maker who was accompanying me, when I reached out to tuck a wisp of her hair that had come loose. The act was so natural, I didn’t even think about it. Suddenly a medic yelled across the field hospital: “No touching!”

The paranoia that seized me then didn’t leave until I returned home. Unlike other hostile situations I’ve covered over five years in west Africa – riots, wars and natural disasters – in this case people I cared about were the enemy. Ebola makes you a risk even to yourself: touching your eyes, nose or mouth can infect you. Now a stranger in a hospital was hugging me.

Finally, from Star Africa News, hopeful news in an isolated outbreak:

Ebola epidemic losing potency – DRC gov’t

The Ebola epidemic plaguing Djera, in the Equateur province northwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo is on the verge of being contained, government spokesman Lambert Mende claimed.Speaking after Saturday’s cabinet meeting held in Kinshasa under the leadership of President Joseph Kabila, Mr. Mende said some success has been registered by the Congolese government and its partners to contain the epidemic where it was first detected 1200 km from the capital with a reduced infection rate.

Over the past ten days, no new cases of Ebola have been detected in Djera, Mende noted.

DR Congo has recorded 40 deaths since the Ebola outbreak in the area as of September 17, he added.

Chart of the day: Health care in Ebola region


From Gallup, evidence that West Africans in the heart of the Ebola outbreak were already burdened by a deeply inadequate healthcare system as reflected in satisfaction rankings [though Central Africa fared even worse in the pre-epidemic survey]:

BLOG Africa healthcare