Category Archives: Human behavior

Chart of the day: The global demographic shift


From the Economist, a stunning shift in the human demographic is underway as birth rates slow and populations age, thanks to modern medicine. Click on the image to embiggen:

BLOG Population

EnviroWatch: Disease, climate, critters, nukes


We begin with another African outbreak, via the Guardian:

Plague kills 40 people in Madagascar

  • World Health Organisation is concerned about risk of disease spreading in the capital where two cases have been recorded

An outbreak of the plague has killed 40 people out of 119 confirmed cases in Madagascar since late August and there is a risk of the disease spreading rapidly in the capital, the World Health Organisation has said.

So far two cases and one death have been recorded in the capital Antananarivo but those figures could climb quickly due to “the city’s high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system,” WHO warned.

“The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to deltamethrin (an insecticide used to control fleas) that has been observed in the country,” it added.

And another one in Europe, from DutchNews.nl:

More cases of bird flu in the Netherlands, poultry farmers fear the worst

Three more cases of avian flu have been identified at Dutch poultry farms, this time near Kamperveen in Overijssel, the economic affairs ministry said on Friday.

The first farm, which rears broiler chickens and has around 10,000 birds on site, was identified on Friday morning. One of the other two farms had some 15,000 ducks. All three farms are being cleared.

On Thursday avian flu was found at a farm in Ter Aar. That has now been confirmed the same infectious type as on the first farm last weekend. A nationwide ban on the movement of eggs, poultry and poultry manure will remain in force, the ministry said.

While the Guardian covers taxation as an instrument of public health:

Largest American Indian reservation approves junk-food tax to fight obesity

  • A 2% increase on sales tax for food with little to no nutritional value
  • One-third of Navajos are diabetic or prediabetic
  • Obesity rate in some age groups is as high as 60%

The sales tax on cookies, chips, sodas and other junk food sold on the country’s largest American Indian reservation is going up.

Navajo nation president Ben Shelly signed legislation Friday to increase by 2% the sales tax on food with little to no nutritional value, starting next year. No other sales tax on the Navajo nation specifically targets the spending habits of consumers. It will remain in effect until 2020, but it can be extended by the Navajo nation council.

Navajos advocating for a junk-food tax said they wanted to pass a bill that could serve as a model for Indian country to improve the rates of diabetes and obesity among tribal members. Proposals targeting sugary drinks with proposed bans, size limits, tax hikes and warning labels haven’t gained widespread traction across the country.

And from AllAfrica, when one epidemic displaces another:

Liberia: Ebola Hampers HIV/Aids Care

Ebola has crippled the provision of treatment and care to people living with HIV/AIDS in Liberia, according to health workers and patients.

“We cannot get treatment normally now because of the outbreak of the Ebola disease in Liberia,” said 36-year-old Jeff Thompson, from Monrovia’s Jallah Town, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2011. “Our care centres are closed and all the health workers are scared to come to work.”

There are an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV in Liberia, according to UNAIDS.

Before the Ebola outbreak, more than 70 percent of them had access treatment via 144 HIV/AIDS care centres scattered across the country. But now, due to a shortage of health workers and fear about Ebola transmission, more than 60 percent these facilities have shut their doors, according to the National AIDS Control Program (NACP)

From Al Jazeera America, water rustlers:

California love: Water thieves just can’t get enough

  • In northern areas of the state, counties report illegal diversions from tanks, wells and streams

Something rare quickly becomes valuable. So it should come as no surprise that the latest target of thieves in a state suffering a historic drought is water.

California thieves are cutting pipes and taking water from fire hydrants, storage tanks, creeks and rivers to get their hands on several hundred gallons of the precious commodity.

They drive in the thick of night with a 1,000-gallon tank on the back of a pickup and go after the liquid gold wherever they can find it. Some have hit the same target twice in one night, filling up their tank, unloading it into storage and returning for a second fill-up.

And from CBC News, another kind of contagion:

Jelly-covered plankton multiplying in Canadian lakes

  • Low calcium levels from acid rain, logging blamed

Jelly-covered plankton that look like tapioca are multiplying in many Canadian lakes, clogging up water pipes and potentially disrupting the food chain.

The population of freshwater plankton called Holopedium has doubled in Ontario lakes between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s, reports a study published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The plankton are thriving in lakes that are low in calcium — and the calcium levels of many lakes have fallen in recent decades because of acid rain and logging.

From the New York Times, a global warming identity crisis:

Climate Change Threatens to Strip the Identity of Glacier National Park

A century ago, this sweep of mountains on the Canadian border boasted some 150 ice sheets, many of them scores of feet thick, plastered across summits and tucked into rocky fissures high above parabolic valleys. Today, perhaps 25 survive.

In 30 years, there may be none.

A warming climate is melting Glacier’s glaciers, an icy retreat that promises to change not just tourists’ vistas, but also the mountains and everything around them.

Streams fed by snowmelt are reaching peak spring flows weeks earlier than in the past, and low summer flows weeks before they used to. Some farmers who depend on irrigation in the parched days of late summer are no longer sure that enough water will be there. Bull trout, once pan-fried over anglers’ campfires, are now caught and released to protect a population that is shrinking as water temperatures rise.

From the Los Angeles Times, combinatorial crises:

‘Looming environmental crisis’ at Salton Sea prompts plea for help

The Imperial Irrigation District has sent a plea to a state water board to help avert a “looming environmental and public health crisis” at the Salton Sea.

In a letter this week to officials at the State Water Resources Control Board, the irrigation district asked that the board sponsor negotiations to get the state to fulfill its obligation to stop the deterioration of the sea caused by the sale of Imperial Valley water to San Diego County.

After a six-month negotiation period, the irrigation district wants the control board “to condition water [sales] on the state satisfying its unmet restoration obligation at the Salton Sea.”

And from the Guardian, forestalling crises?:

Polar code agreed to prevent Arctic environmental disasters

  • International Maritime Organisation committee adopts measures to protect the environment in face of predicted polar shipping rush

The international body in charge of sea safety adopted measures on Friday to protect people and the environment during a predicted shipping rush in the Arctic.

But environment groups and insurers said the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee had failed to address key issues including a proposed ban on heavy fuel oil and how to safeguard against cowboy operators.

The committee, which met in London this week, signed off on the Polar Code and various amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention. These changes, which include mandatory requirements for ship design, crew training and search and rescue protocols, are expected to be ratified by the full IMO next year and come into force in 2017.

After the jump, a wildlife crisis in Kenya, tourism threatening indigenous cultures, boosting tools to fight environmental crime, Big Coal buys Fabebook Likes, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with a radioactive water freeze trap foiled and a more concrete solution, and removal of more hot fuel commences along with exclusion zone landlocked shipwrecks, plus a radiation release in Scotland. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Tracking carbon dioxide


Well, not exactly a chart, but a computer animation of carbon dioxide emissions over the course of a year, released today by NASA Goddard:

A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2

Program notes:

An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.

Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.

The carbon dioxide visualization was produced by a computer model called GEOS-5, created by scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office.

The visualization is a product of a simulation called a “Nature Run.” The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates January 2006 through December 2006.

While Goddard scientists worked with a “beta” version of the Nature Run internally for several years, they released this updated, improved version to the scientific community for the first time in the fall of 2014.

EnviroWatch: Bird flu, toxins, climate, & nukes


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

Bird flu: Egyptian woman dies of H5N1 virus

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

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

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

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

And from Europe, via the London Telegraph:

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

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

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

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

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

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

More from BBC News:

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

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

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

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

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

And still more from DutchNews.nl:

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

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

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

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

And a Japanese case from Jiji Press:

Suspected Bird Flu Case Reported in Tokyo

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

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

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

Another critter, another ailment, via CBC News:

Sea star wasting disease likely caused by virus

  • Researchers don’t know what triggered recent deadly outbreak

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

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

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

From the Independent, a soap toxin:

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

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

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

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

Monitoring the threatened, via the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, water woes:

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

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

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

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

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

From the Guardian, pipeline resistance:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A video report from Democracy Now!:

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

Program notes:

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

From the Guardian, greasing the skids:

Carmichael mine: environmental impact will be unknown for years

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

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

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

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

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

Headline catastrophes: A spell of bad journalism


Though we’re no fan of spellcheckers, the London Telegraph obviously needs to run one on their headlines given that the obvious errors in the subhead should’ve leapt off the page under an editor’s gaze:

BLOG Tel-tale

And then there’s this particularly egregious typo, from today’s London Daily Mail homepage:

BLOG Typo

EbolaWatch: Hope, fear, aid, drugs, & more


Lots of ground to cover as we’ve been under the weather, so we begin on the lighter side with a report from AJ+:

An Anti-Love Song To Ebola

Program notes:

A collective of all-star African singers, including Amadou and Mariam, wrote an awareness song about Ebola. Many artists come from counties with the virus like Guinea, Senegal and now Mali, which just confirmed its second Ebola death. The song encourages listeners to take Ebola seriously and to trust doctors: an important message for communities that are skeptical of western medicine and don’t believe in the disease. The crew includes Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, Kandia Kora, Mory Kante, Sia Tolno, Barbara Kanam and rappers Didier Awadi, Marcus and Mokobe.

Next, via the Guardian, America’s newest Ebola case is faring badly:

Ebola doctor at Nebraska hospital, ‘critically ill’ and sicker than other US patients

  • Martin Salia, from Sierra Leone, is a permanent US resident
  • Hospital spokesman: doctor may receive experimental therapy

A surgeon who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone is in critical condition and possibly sicker than any patient to arrive in the US from the disease-ravaged region of west Africa, a spokesman from the Nebraska hospital where he is being treated said on Saturday.

Dr Martin Salia, a permanent US resident, arrived in Omaha on Saturday afternoon, having left Freetown on Friday by air ambulance. He was immediately transported to Nebraska medical center, where he will undergo treatment. An update on his condition was expected later on Saturday evening, spokesman Taylor Wilson told the Guardian.

“He is critically ill, a good deal sicker than our previous patients, and perhaps sicker than any patient that has been transported from west Africa,” Wilson said earlier.

The Hill confronts an enigma:

CDC still mystified by Ebola infections in Dallas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still unsure how two nurses in Dallas contracted Ebola from their patient, according to early findings from the agency’s investigation.

CDC officials interviewed nearly 150 healthcare workers in Dallas while trying to learn how the disease spread from the first patient, Thomas Eric Duncan.

The investigation was ordered by President Obama about one month ago after CDC said it did not know how two of Duncan’s nurses became infected while wearing government-approved protective gear. Both nurses had no “reported exposures” in their gear.

The report, which was released Friday, provides little new information about the cases.

From Reuters, a mixed report:

Mali rushes to contain Ebola outbreak, Liberia signals progress

Mali is rushing to impose tougher measures to contain the spread of Ebola after recording a new case of the disease in the West African nation’s capital, health officials said on Thursday.

The world’s worst epidemic of the haemorrhagic fever on record has killed at least 5,160 people since it erupted in March in West Africa, a region dogged by poverty and poor healthcare. It has ravaged Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and spurred a global watch for its spread.

Liberia, the country hardest hit by the outbreak, announced it would not renew a state of emergency, highlighting at least some recent progress in neutralising the virus there.

Numbers from StarAfrica:

Mali: At least 5 dead, 256 quarantined in second Ebola wave

At least five people have died from Ebola in Mali with one health professional currently being treated and 356 people under observation, according to the latest assessment report of the situation issued Friday by the Malian Health and Public Hygiene minister. Three of deaths are related to contact with 66-year-old Guinean Ebola-affected who succumbed to the deadly virus late October in Bamako-based clinic Pasteur where he had been admitted for kidney insufficiency.

Prior to that a two-year-old girl, the first Ebola confirmed case in Mali died in the Kayes region, where she had been taken from Guinea by her grandmother for treatment.

Those currently isolated include 22 United Nations peacekeepers suspected of getting in touch with the Guinean patient at the Clinic Pasteur.

The latest numbers, via the World Health Organization:

BLOG Ebola cases

From AllAfrica, about damn time:

U.S. Proposes Major Debt Relief for Ebola-Hit Countries

The United States proposed Tuesday that the international community write off 100 million dollars in debt owed by West African countries hit hardest by the current Ebola outbreak. The money would be re-invested in health and other public programming.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will be detailing the proposal later this week to a summit of finance ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) industrialised countries. If the idea gains traction among G20 states, that support should be enough to approve the measure through the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where the United States is the largest voting member.

“The plan is for that money to be re-invested in social infrastructure, including hospitals and schools … to deal with the short-term problem of Ebola but also the long-term failure of the health systems that allowed for this outbreak.” — Jubilee USA’s executive director Eric LeCompte.

From StarAfrica, a plea to high places:

G20 leaders petitioned over Ebola crisis

Several international NGOs and charity organizations have issued a joint petition calling on world leaders at the G20 summit in Australia to act immediately to mobilize a robust intervention and roll back the spread of the Ebola epidemic.Friday’s petition from Amnesty International, Oxfam International, Plan International, Save the Children and WaterAid said the G20 must ensure that all the personnel, equipment and funding required to halt the outbreak are made available without any discrimination.

The five organizations have been active in efforts to rein in the epidemic in the three worst affected countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia where the outbreak has killed over 5000 people since March.

The petition has been signed by 165,490 people around the world to demonstrate solidarity with communities affected by the Ebola outbreak while warning G20 leaders that the window to stop the outbreak from spiralling out of control is closing fast.

Jiji Press covers subsequent lip service:

G-20 Leaders Resolved to Contain Ebola Crisis

The Group of 20 world leaders issued a joint statement on Saturday expressing their determination to contain the Ebola crisis in West Africa as they began a two-day gathering here the same day.

The G-20 members, including Japan and the United States, are “committed to do what is necessary to ensure the international effort can extinguish the outbreak and address its medium-term economic and humanitarian costs,” the leaders said in the statement.

Noting that they are “deeply concerned” about the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the leaders applauded the contributions from nations worldwide and such organizations as the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

A pledge, via the Guardian:

IMF to provide $300m in extra funding to help fight Ebola

  • G20 summit reaffirms commitment to fighting crisis in west Africa as IMF says Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia will receive help in form of loans, debt relief and grants

The G20 has welcomed a commitment from the IMF to provide $300m (£190m) in extra funding to help fight Ebola in the three worst-affected west African countries.

The IMF money for Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia will come through “a combination of concessional loans, debt relief, and grants”, according to a statement issued by the world leaders’ summit, being held in Brisbane.

The G20 also claimed to be “committed to do what is necessary to ensure the international effort can extinguish the outbreak”, while pointedly urging “governments that have yet to do so to join in providing financial contributions, appropriately qualified and trained medical teams and personnel, medical and protective equipment, and medicines and treatments”.

Another pledge, via the Liberia News Agency:

West Africa: EU Commits Support to Eradicating Ebola in the Region – Pledges 600 M

  • Monrovia — Euros To Ebola Fight in West Africa

The European Union has pledged an initial €600 million to scale-up to about €1 billion by the end of this year its assistance to contain the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

This was disclosed Thursday by the EU Director of Humanitarian and Civil Protection Operations (DG ECHO), Jean-Louis DE Brower who is heading a delegation dispatched to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to get from the governments and partners an update on the Ebola outbreak. The EU delegation also informed governments of the affected countries and the global community on building upon the interventions already in place.

The delegation made the disclosure Thursday during discussions held with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry office in Monrovia.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, not-so-innocent bystanders:

As Ebola fight grows, some countries are noticeably absent

One international aid group, Oxfam, this week launched a name-and-shame campaign that calls out powerful nations that haven’t contributed to the efforts.

Shannon Scribner, Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy manager, named Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as nations that hadn’t contributed. Other countries that have donated but “could do more,” Scribner said, include France, Italy, India, Japan, Russia and Brazil.

“It’s really unacceptable,” Scribner said Wednesday on a media conference call arranged by InterAction, an umbrella group for humanitarian nonprofits. “A lot of pledges, but that doesn’t help people on the ground unless it turns into commitments.”

“We cannot afford to let up, and we cannot afford to do this alone,” Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said Thursday at a congressional hearing on the Ebola response. “Containment will fail in the absence of a robust international effort. Other donors and the U.N. need to step up, just as we’re stepping up.”

From the Guardian, self-criticism:

Ebola: Médecins Sans Frontières critical of its own delays

  • Aid group’s vaccine appeal came too late and its reliance on past strategies was inadequate, says internal thinktank

The emergency aid group’s response to the epidemic, which has so far killed more than 5,000 people, has been praised by governments and the World Health Organisation. While western donors dithered and other aid groups pulled out, MSF deployed hundreds to the Ebola “hot zones” and treated more than 3,000 patients.

But the group relied too much on strategies it developed during smaller previous Ebola outbreaks, leading it to make mistakes as this year’s epidemic pushed it to its limits, said Jean-Hervé Bradol, a member of MSF’s internal thinktank.

“Our response was too orientated toward the management of previous outbreaks,” Bradol, of the Paris-based Centre For Reflection on Humanitarian Action, told Reuters, adding that MSF’s public appeal for vaccine development in September came months too late.

On to the pharmaceutical front, first with the Associated Press:

WHO sees few promising Ebola drugs in pipeline

A top official with the U.N. health agency says few experimental therapies are currently under development that could effectively treat Ebola.

Dr. Martin Friede, who is in charge of the World Health Organization’s work toward finding an Ebola drug, says scientists have proposed lots of experimental interventions but none has been thoroughly evaluated yet.

“We don’t have a lot of drugs in our pipeline that look promising,” said Friede, program leader for WHO’s technology transfer initiative. His comments follow a WHO-sponsored meeting of medical experts this week on how to test potential Ebola drugs in Africa.

Friede told reporters Friday in Geneva that “people are using all kinds of therapies” for the deadly virus without evidence they’re effective or safe.

From Nikkei Asian Review, thar’s gold in them thar ills:

Fujifilm has a lot riding on a flu drug it says is effective against Ebola

A Fujifilm Holdings influenza drug appears to be effective in fighting Ebola, the virus that has been wreaking havoc in West Africa and freaking out people all over the world.

The Japanese company best known for its photographic film diversified into the medical business six years ago.

Toyama Chemical, now a Fujifilm group company, is rushing to deliver additional shipments of Avigan, also known as favipiravir. It has a stockpile of the drug for 20,000 Ebola patients and aims to produce an amount sufficient for 300,000 people within this month.

Digital cameras began disrupting the photographic film business, and Fujifilm realized it had to diversify into new fields. It set its sights on the drug business even though it knew it could not compete with major pharmaceuticals by copying their business models. Fujifilm decided to focus on three illnesses — cancer, dementia and infectious diseases — and began searching for novel treatments.

Testing profitably, via CBC News:

Ebola vaccine clinical trial in Halifax overwhelmed with volunteers

Study looking for healthy people between the ages of 18 and 65 and will pay over $1,100

A clinical trial for Canada’s Ebola vaccine will take place in Halifax and there is no shortage of people wanting to participate.

The federal government announced Friday the experimental vaccine will be tested on a small group of people to assess its safety, determine the appropriate dosage and identify side effects.

The IWK Health Centre in Halifax was looking for 40 generally healthy people between the ages of 18 and 65, the hospital told CBC News.

And from the London Daily Mail, snake oil venom salesmen:

EXCLUSIVE: Homeopaths sent to deadly Ebola hotspot to treat victims with ARSENIC and SNAKE VENOM

  • Team spent days in remote Liberian hospital to prove that remedies work
  • They planned to treat victims with ‘rattlesnake venom’ and ‘Spanish Fly’
  • Boasted of the ‘unique opportunity’ presented by deadly Ebola outbreak
  • Claimed they would treat all European victims after proving success

Ebola victims in one of the hardest-hit parts of Liberia have been treated by homeopaths who are determined to prove that arsenic, rattlesnake venom and the aphrodisiac Spanish Fly can cure Ebola.

The homeopaths arrived in Liberia to use the deadly outbreak to prove their controversial theories and have already spent two weeks in the country with patients in a hospital in Ganta, in the north of the country near to the epicentre of the outbreak.

In letters and messages seen by Mail Online they revealed that the aim of their mission was to prove that homeopathy could treat Ebola.

Asian preparations from NHK WORLD:

Nurses participate in Ebola training workshop

Nurses in Japan have learned what to do if a patient suspected of being affected with Ebola visits a hospital.

No Ebola case has been confirmed in Japan, but there have been people who received health checks upon their arrival at Japanese airports from West Africa.

A training workshop was held in Tokyo on Friday. About 50 nurses and other medical workers took part. An infectious disease specialist explained what should be done if the hospital received a patient who has visited West Africa.

After the jump, on to Africa with the downside of survival and a border reopening, Liberia next and a warning from the UN, two new disease epicenters, negative economic consequences of the state of emergency and a official plea to continue emergency measures despite their official end, Chinese helpers arrive, a politician proposes a Liberian version of FEMA, and a European Union promise to rebuild the country’s shattered healthcare system thence to Sierra Leone and schools on the air, two superb video reports from a British journalist, and a local journalist is freed after he was jailed for criticizing the government’s handling of the crisis, an official end declared to the Democratic Republic of the Congo outbreak, and the curious case of con man hired to clean up after New York’s only Ebola case. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Cold War 2.0, hacks, zones


And so much more.

First up, Cold War 2.0, from BBC News:

Russian planes to patrol in Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico

Russia has said its air force will conduct regular air patrols from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Russia had wound down such long-range missions after the end of the Cold War.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said there was a plan to provide long-range aviation maintenance for the flights.

Amid renewed tensions over Ukraine, Western analysts say Russia has been returning to methods used to test Nato defences during the Cold War. On Wednesday, Mr Shoigu said “long-range aviation units” would fly along the borders of the Russian Federation and over the waters of the Arctic Ocean.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

NATO says fresh columns of Russian armor and troops entering Ukraine

NATO’s top commander said Wednesday that the alliance has seen columns of Russian troops, armored vehicles and heavy guns entering eastern Ukraine over the last two days.

U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove told reporters during a visit to Bulgaria that the border between Ukraine and Russia where Moscow-backed separatists are in control is now “completely wide open” to infusions of foreign fighting power into the conflict area.

“We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air-defense systems and Russian combat troops entering Ukraine,” Breedlove said.

He said NATO didn’t have a firm number on the invading vehicles but said they were in “multiple columns.”

Still more Cold War 2.0 hype from News Corp Australia:

Russian warships ‘heading to Australia’

A CONVOY of heavily armed Russian war ships, including at least one high powered missile cruiser, are cruising international waters to Australia’s north, Defence has confirmed.

Defence is monitoring the fleet of four ships, which include a cruiser, a destroyer a tug boat and a refueller, which were believed to be in the Coral Sea, south of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on Wednesday evening.

Australian ships HMAS Parramatta and HMAS Stuart were ordered to “crash sail” to the Coral Sea earlier this week in a bid to “greet” the Russian fleet. It is believed HMAS Parramatta arrived last night and HMAS Stuart was a day away.

From the New York Times, depends on what the meaning of is is, as in torture:

U.S. Tells U.N. Panel of Steps to Revise Policy on Interrogation

The Obama administration told a United Nations panel in Geneva on Wednesday that the United States had tortured terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks, but that it had since taken steps to prevent any future use of unlawful, coercive interrogation techniques.

“The United States is proud of its record as a leader in respecting, promoting and defending human rights and the rule of law, both at home and around the world,” Mary McLeod, the acting State Department legal adviser, told the panel. “But in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we regrettably did not always live up to our values.”

The panel addressed by Ms. McLeod monitors compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture. In her testimony, she formally introduced a new position by the United States government on whether a provision of that treaty, which prohibits “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” imposes legal obligations on its conduct abroad. The George W. Bush administration contended that it applied only on American soil.

From the Guardian, sins of omission?:

Doubt cast over US torture investigation as more CIA detainees come forward

  • Lawyers for men allegedly tortured by the CIA say their clients were never interviewed as part of a major criminal investigation concluded in 2012

More lawyers for men allegedly tortured by the CIA are coming forward to say that the major US criminal investigation into torture never interviewed their clients.

The Justice Department inquiry, concluded in 2012 without charging anyone involved in the CIA’s Bush-era network of secret prisons, is receiving new scrutiny thanks to a United Nations committee hearing in Geneva this week examining US compliance with international anti-torture law.

Looking at US conduct on torture for the first time since 2006, the committee on Wednesday specifically asked a US delegation about the defunct investigation, conducted by John Durham, an assistant US attorney in Connecticut.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers an urgent impulse:

Senate to vote on NSA overhaul bill

The Senate could vote as early as Friday on a bill that would revamp the way the National Security Agency collects telephone data in its domestic spying program.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed a motion Wednesday to end debate on the USA Freedom Act, a measure authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., that would essentially end the agency’s bulk collection of so-called metadata.

Broad searches, either through a particular service provider or by a broad geographic region or zip code, would be stopped under the bill, Leahy said in an outline of the bill. The government wouldn’t be able to collect all information relating to a particular service provider or broad geographic region under the bill.

From the Guardian, silent but deadly:

Watch out: the US government wants to pass new spying laws behind your back

  • Dangerous cybersecurity legislation would allow Google and Facebook to hand over even more of your information to the NSA and FBI

Now, as the post-election lame-duck session opens on Wednesday in Washington, the Senate might try to sneak through a “cybersecurity” bill that would, as the ACLU puts it, “create a massive loophole in our existing privacy laws”. The vague and ambiguous law would essentially allow companies like Google and Facebook to hand over even more of your personal information to the US government, all of which could ultimately end up in the hands of the NSA and the FBI.

The House already passed a version of this bill earlier in the year, and the White House, despite vowing to veto earlier versions, told reporters an “information sharing” cybersecurity bill was on its list of priorities for the lame-duck session (while NSA reform is not).

Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein says she’s willing to make privacy compromises to get the bill to the floor, but did not elaborate – at all – on what those were. And given the sleazy tactics of House permanent select intelligence committee member Mike Rogers in pretending he had the support of privacy groups when the House passed its version of the bill, it’s hard to take anything the intelligence committees say in the area of privacy on good faith.

The Register Googles irony:

Who will save Europe’s privacy from the NSA? Oh God … it’s Google

  • Sucking up everyone’s data? That’s our freakin’ job!

A Google lawyer says Europeans spied on by the NSA should get the same rights as Americans – such as the right to sue the US government for privacy invasions.

David Drummond, chief legal officer for the information-harvesting monster (Google), published a blog post on Wednesday titled “It’s time to extend the US Privacy Act to EU citizens.”

The European Commission has been calling for such a move ever since ex-NSA techie Edward Snowden blew the lid off Uncle Sam’s global internet spying last year. New Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova is in Washington this week to try to negotiate such a deal.

According to Drummond, who was in Brussels last week as part of Google’s “right to be forgotten” roadshow, there is an “urgent need for surveillance reform” to repair severely damaged relations between the US and Europe.

From the Intercept, hush money:

Secret Cash Pays for U.S. Drone Mistakes

A Yemeni family was paid $100,000 for the death of relatives in a U.S. drone strike in 2012, according to a remarkable story yesterday from Yahoo News. Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a 56-year-old who works at Yemen’s environmental agency, has been on a mission to find out why his innocent nephew and brother-in-law were killed in a strike that also took out three suspected militants. He made it to Washington D.C. last fall, he told journalist Michael Isikoff, where he met with two White House national security aides. They listened, but said little in response.

Then, this summer, Jaber was given a bag of “freshly minted” bills by a Yemeni security official. The money, he was told, came from the U.S. government.

Jaber’s account adds to the piecemeal picture of how the U.S. responds to wrongful deaths in the remote air war in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. In Afghanistan, the military has set up systems to pay cash to the families of civilians it kills or injures. But when it comes to drone strikes, the administration has been far less open about if and when it compensates civilian casualties.

Hacking above the cloud with the Washington Post:

Chinese hack U.S. weather systems, satellite network

Hackers from China breached the federal weather network recently, forcing cybersecurity teams to seal off data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses, officials said.

The intrusion occurred in late September but officials gave no indication that they had a problem until Oct. 20, according to three people familiar with the hack and the subsequent reaction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service. Even then, NOAA did not say its systems were compromised.

Officials also said that the agency did not notify the proper authorities when it learned of the attack.

From Nextgov, a story with implications for the far-sighted:

DHS Drafts Blueprints for Self-Repairing Networks as Hacks Mount

The Department of Homeland Security is working with industry to automate cyber defenses inside the government, which will ensure operations continue during and after hack attacks, DHS officials said Wednesday.

Enterprise Automated Security Environment, or EASE, could give rise to something like a self-repairing network, Philip Quade, chief operating officer of National Security Agency’s information assurance directorate, told Nextgov last week.

Hacks are inevitable, many security professionals say. Resiliency is the key to preventing the attackers from finding sensitive information or disrupting activities, they add.

So what’s a couple of decades, right? From CBC News:

Microsoft patches ‘significant vulnerability’ in Windows

  • 19-year-old bug lets attacker remotely take over Windows computers

Microsoft Corp issued patches on Tuesday to fix a bug in its Windows operating system that remained undiscovered for 19 years.

The bug, which is present in every version of Microsoft Windows from Windows 95 onward, allows an attacker to remotely take over and control a computer.

IBM Corp’s cybersecurity research team discovered the bug in May, describing it as a “significant vulnerability” in the operating system.

“The buggy code is at least 19 years old and has been remotely exploitable for the past 18 years,” IBM X-Force research team said in its blog on Tuesday.

Cops behaving badly in the Big Easy, from the New York Times:

New Orleans Special Crimes Detectives Routinely Ignored Cases, Report Says

An scathing report on a New Orleans Police Department unit has found that in nearly 1,300 sex crime-related calls fielded by fives detectives over a three-year period, 86 percent showed no record of having been investigated beyond an initial report, with the substantial majority being simply classified as miscellaneous.

The report, compiled by the city’s Office of Inspector General, examined every call that came to the five detectives, in the police department’s special victims unit, between 2011 and 2013. During that time, 1,290 calls for service were assigned to these detectives, who are not named in the report. In only 450 cases did the detectives fill out an initial report, and in 271 of those cases, no further reports were made at all.

Michael Harrison, who was permanently appointed as the city’s new police superintendent last month, said in a news conference that the five detectives and their supervisors had been assigned to other departments and that the department’s public integrity bureau was investigating the officers’ actions and re-examining their caseload. He suggested that some of what the detectives did might go beyond neglect of duty to potential criminal action, such as the altering official paperwork to make it appear that work had been done.

More of the same, this time in Old Blighty, via BBC News:

Police handling of child abuse intelligence to be investigated

Three police forces face an inquiry over alleged failures to act on tip offs about potential paedophiles.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will examine how Essex, North Wales and North Yorkshire handled information from Canadian police passed to the UK in 2012.

Around 2,000 names were sent by Toronto Police to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

The three forces referred themselves to the IPCC for investigation.

And from United Press International, oops:

Police mistakenly shoot 911 caller thinking he was gunman

Police in Washington state mistakenly shot a good samaritan who reported suspicious activity on Halloween, thinking he was the gunman they were chasing.

The police mistook him for 59-year-old John Kendall, who allegedly shot his neighbor Abigail Mounce in the face and the drove to the woods where he shot himself in the head. The man who found the car reported it to police and remained at the scene.

The VPD officers reportedly did not know the person who called 911 was there and fired on him, shooting him in the leg.

After the jump, Google battles a Memory Hole mandate, hard times intolerance in Rome, major kidnapping arrests in Mexico, FARC apologies for tribal murders, Israeli cops arrested for killing Palestinian teens, U.S. swabbies attacked in Turkey. Azerbijanis shoot down an Armenian chopper, Nigerian anger at American munitions restraints, on to Hong Kong and more violence at the Occupy camp as the courts refuse to halt a potential eviction, the to Japan and a fatal protest of resurgent militarism and strong political opposition to a military base move. . . Continue reading