Though we broke out Ebola coverage for today’s earlier EbolaWatch, we have one crucial update — a demonstration once again that racism, tinged with eugenics, lies at the heart of today’s Grand Old Party. [And there’s lot of environmental news, including a series of very serious alarms.]
First, via The Hill, the deplorable:
GOP cuts funding request to fight Ebola
House Republicans indicated Tuesday that they will provide less than half of the White House’s funding request to fight Ebola in the next government spending bill.
According to a source familiar with the negotiations, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) agreed as of Tuesday morning to spend a total of $40 million to fight the epidemic in the 2015 spending bill.
This would include $25 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $15 million for the Biological Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to ramp up production of an experimental anti-Ebola drug, the source said.
The White House had asked for $88 million for Ebola in total, including $58 million for BARDA, which is involved in coordinating experimental treatments during public health emergencies.
On to that other outbreak we’ve been coverage, first with JapanToday:
81 dengue fever cases reported in 15 prefectures
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Tuesday that the number of reported dengue fever cases stood at 81 in 15 prefectures as of Tuesday morning.
The ministry is working with Tokyo metropolitan government health officials to spray insecticide in three parks in Tokyo, where the disease spread by mosquitoes, is believed to have originated, TV Asahi reported.
Since the weekend, parts of Yoyogi, Shinjuku Gyoen and Meijijingu Gaien parks have been closed to the public, resulting in the cancellation of many events.
Jiji Press notes a spread:
1st Dengue Case outside Tokyo Reported
A man in his 60s is believed to have been infected with dengue fever in Chiba, east of Tokyo, the first infection outside the capital since the first domestic case in nearly 70 years was reported last month, the health ministry said Tuesday.
This is the third infection confirmed outside Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park and surrounding areas, where most of the recent infections originated.
It remains unclear whether the man has come into contact with others infected with the virus. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases is now investigating.
And from the Mainichi, same disease, another continent, another notable development:
Brazil looks to introduce genetically modified mosquitoes to tackle dengue fever
While Japan is experiencing a domestic dengue fever outbreak for the first time in decades, the same virus claimed 603 lives in Brazil last year. The Brazilian government is implementing numerous efforts to prevent the mosquito-borne virus from spreading.
Last year, some 1.4 million people were infected with the dengue virus in Brazil. While the country had tried to eliminate dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes by spraying insecticide and informing residents about the disease, pest control could only be done in limited areas, and the effect was temporary.
Recently, the Brazilian government has focused on eliminating puddles of water where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Local governments have advised residents not to leave water in items such as empty cans, old tires and dishes under plant containers while fining home owners when mosquito larva are found on their premises.
From Environment News Service, another epidemic, one we created ourselves:
Poor European Air Quality Linked to Poor Adult Lung Health
Children who suffer poor lung health from breathing polluted air are not alone – so do adults.
In the first study of its kind, published Saturday, researchers from across Europe evaluated the correlation between air pollution and lung function in European adults and found that the harmful effects of breathing polluted air persist into adulthood.
The researchers used indicators of vehicle traffic in the area and modeled the exposure levels to different pollution measures, including nitrogen oxides (NO2 and NOx) and particulate matter (PM).
Their conclusions may seem obvious, but the study’s authors, Nicole Probst-Hensch and Martin Adam from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute based in Basel, say their findings are “crucial” as they demonstrate that air pollution is having a negative effect, not only on children, as previously demonstrated, but also on adults.
Along the same lines, via the Guardian:
South Africa’s coal-fired power stations carry heavy health costs
In the settlement of Masakhane near the Duvha plant, residents wear masks to avoid breathing in the coal dust
South Africa’s dependence on coal to generate 85% of its electricity is taking a substantial toll on human health, according to environmental groups. A report from Greenpeace (pdf) in February estimates that up to 2,700 premature deaths are caused every year by emissions from the country’s 16 coal-fired power plants.
Greenpeace released the report in the wake of an application by Eskom, South Africa’s public power utility, to postpone compliance with new minimum emissions standards aimed at reducing the damaging health impacts of air pollution.
These new standards are particularly vital for the country’s north-eastern Mpumalanga province where 12 coal-fired power plants are clustered on the western high-altitude side of the Highveld. They pump out sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM) at levels often more than double the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). As a result, levels of air pollution in Mpumalanga’s Highveld are the highest in the country and among the highest in the world, according to news reports.
From BBC News, alarms shriek:
Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984
A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures.
Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that it highlights the need for a global climate treaty. But the UK’s energy secretary Ed Davey said that any such agreement might not contain legally binding emissions cuts, as has been previously envisaged.
Reuters covers a consequence:
Climate change increases possibility of megadrought in Southwestern U.S.
- A new study finds an increased possibility of severe and long-term megadrought affecting Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States could face a decade long drought according to a new study by Cornell, University of Arizona and U.S. Geological Survey researchers.
According to lead author and Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences Toby Ault, climate change is increasing the possibility of a “megadrought” – a drought that could last over thirty years.
The study is based on historical data of previous droughts and uses current changes in precipitation patterns caused by global warming to evaluate the risks of severe droughts in the near future.
MercoPress covers another:
Antarctica sea levels rising faster because of fresh water from melting glaciers, say researchers
- Sea levels around Antarctica are rising faster than anywhere else in the southern ocean. The global average rise in ocean heights in the last 19 years has been 6cms, but the rise in seas around Antarctica is 2cms higher.
This seemingly counter-intuitive finding is certainly a consequence of melting ice in the Southern Ocean, but the connection with global warming is, for the moment, tenuous. The agency that is behind the rising sea levels is simply an excess of fresh water from melting glaciers – about 350 billion tons of it.
“Fresh water is less dense than salt water, and so in regions where an excess of fresh water has accumulated we expect a localized rise in sea level,” says Craig Rye, an oceanography researcher at of the University of Southampton in the UK, who, with colleagues, has published the findings in Nature Geoscience.
From New Europe, yet another:
Spain sees increased damage by forest fires in 2014
Forest fires in Spain burned a total of 39,410 hectares of land in the first eight months of 2014, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment said Monday.
The amount of damage to the nation’s forests has increased by 15 percent, compared to the 34,268 hectares burned down during the same period in 2013, data showed.
2014 has seen a 40.5 percent rise in the number of fires burning an area of over a hectare. This implies that fires have been able to both become established and to spread faster this year than in 2013.
And yet another, via the Guardian:
North America’s key birds facing extinction, study finds
- 314 species, including the bald eagle and 10 state birds of US at risk from climate change
Half of North America’s bird species, from common backyard visitors like the Baltimore oriole and the rufous hummingbird to wilderness dwellers like the common loon and bald eagle, are under threat from climate change and many could go extinct, an exhaustive new study has found.
Seven years of research found climate change the biggest threat to North America’s bird species.
Some 314 species face dramatic declines in population, if present trends continue, with warming temperatures pushing the birds out of their traditional ranges. Ten states and Washington DC could lose their state birds.
And from RT, more anthropogenic environmental havoc:
Lake Baikal, world’s deepest body of freshwater, turning into swamp – ecologists
The world’s oldest and deepest body of freshwater, Lake Baikal, is turning into a swamp, Russian ecologists warn. They say that tons of liquid waste from tourist camps and water transport vehicles is being dumped into the UNESCO-protected lake.
One of the natural wonders and the pearl of Russia’s Siberia, Lake Baikal has recently been a source of alarming news, due to an increased number of alien water plants which have formed in the lake waterlogging it, ecologists said at a roundtable discussion recently held in the city of Irkutsk.
A recent scientific expedition discovered that 160 tons of liquid waste are produced every season in Baikal’s Chivyrkui Bay, said the head of Baikal Environmental Wave, one of Russia’s first environmental NGOs, according to SIA media outlet.
From BBC News, another tragedy:
Four Peruvian anti-logging activists murdered
Four Peruvian tribal leaders have been killed on their way to a meeting to discuss ways to stop illegal logging.
The men from the Ashaninka community were attempting to travel to Brazil when they were murdered. Campaigners say the men had received several death threats from illegal loggers, who are suspected of being behind the killings.
Correspondents say indigenous people have felt under increasing threat from deforestation in recent years.
An optimistic note from Business Insider:
The End Of Fracking Is Closer Than You Think
Canadian geologist David Hughes has some sober news for the Kool-Aid-drinking boosters of the United States’ newfound eminence in fossil fuel production: it’s going to go bust sooner rather than later.
Working with the Post Carbon Institute, a sustainability think-tank, Hughes meticulously analyzed industry data from 65,000 US shale oil and natural gas wells that use the much-ballyhooed extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as fracking. The process involves drilling horizontally as well as vertically, and then pumping a toxic cocktail of pressurized water, sand, and chemicals deep underground in order to break apart the rock formations that hold deposits of oil and gas.
Hughes found that the production rates at these wells decline, on average, 85 percent over three years. “Typically, in the first year there may be a 70 percent decline,” Hughes told VICE News. “Second year, maybe 40 percent; third year, 30 percent. So the decline rate is a hyperbolic curve. But nonetheless, by the time you get to three years, you’re talking 80 or 85 percent decline for most of these wells.”
But if you really want some to worry about, consider this from RT America:
Yellowstone supervolcano eruption to be a countrywide disaster
Although the odds are low for a major eruption happening anytime soon, a new study is once again raising fears over the Yellowstone supervolcano. A paper in the “Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems” journal lays out the suffering the US would undergo in a worst-case scenario disaster, predicting most major cities in the US being covered in layers of potentially deadly volcanic ash. RT’s Lindsay France takes a look at the study and breaks down its findings.
And for our final item, today’s lone Fukushimapocalypse Now! event, via the Guardian:
Fukushima fallout continues: now cleanup workers claim unpaid wages
- Last month Tokyo Electric Power was ordered to pay $500,000 compensation, now workers sue for promised danger money
The legal net has started to tighten around the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as victims of the accident, and those responsible for clearing it up, take their grievances to the courts.
Last week, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said it would not contend a court ruling ordering it to pay almost $500,000 in compensation to the family of a woman who killed herself two months after being forced to flee her home near the plant.
That claim, which could pave the way for similar suits, has been followed by a unprecedented attempt by four Fukushima Daiichi workers to sue the utility for unpaid wages.