Category Archives: Medicine

EnviroWatch: Disease, GMOs, fracking, & nukes


And more. . .

We begin with a tragedy within a continuing tragedy via the Los Angeles Times:

Four health workers slain in attack on Pakistan vaccination team

Gunmen shot and killed four health workers carrying out a polio vaccination drive Wednesday in the capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province, police officials said.

The deadly shooting was the latest to target polio workers — whom Islamist militants accuse of conducting espionage in the guise of vaccination campaigns — in Pakistan, one of three countries where the disease has not been eradicated.

Police said that two armed men on a motorcycle opened fire on the workers as they waited for a security escort in the southwestern city of Quetta. Three women and one man were killed while three others were wounded, authorities said.

More from Deutsche Welle:

Pakistani polio workers demand safeguards

Polio workers in Pakistan have demanded greater security before returning to work after gunmen murdered four vaccination team members. Pakistan is one of three countries where polio remains endemic.

The president of the Pakistani state’s polio workers union, Haleem Shah, said thousands of his colleagues were refusing to finish the campaign to vaccinate 300,000 children in eight districts, including Quetta.

“We are in contact with the government and we have demanded that we won’t participate in the campaign until we are provided with security,” Shah told the news agency AFP.

“The government provides security for one day and if nothing bad happens then they take the security back,” he added.

Since December 2012, more than 30 polio vaccinators have been killed in Pakistan, along with nearly 30 police and security personnel guarding them.

And a small miracle within a larger catastrophe, via the Washington Post:

Guinea, hit by Ebola, reports only 1 cholera case

The health workers rode on canoes and rickety boats to deliver cholera vaccines to remote islands in Guinea. Months later, the country has recorded only one confirmed cholera case this year, down from thousands.

The rare success, overshadowed by the Ebola outbreak that has ravaged Guinea and two other West African countries, is being cautiously attributed to the vaccinations and to hand-washing in the campaign against Ebola.

Helen Matzger of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Guinea’s experience is encouraging other countries to accept the cholera vaccine and has led the GAVI Alliance — which works to deliver vaccines to the world’s poor — to invest in a global stockpile and the U.N. World Health Organization to increase that stockpile to about 2 million doses.

Another African outbreak from the Associated Press:

Benin says Lassa fever kills 9, no Ebola found

Nine people have died in Benin from Lassa fever, a viral disease common in West Africa with symptoms similar to Ebola, the country’s health minister said.

An outbreak of Ebola is pummeling the three West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and some cases have turned up elsewhere. But so far no Ebola cases have been confirmed in Benin, Health Minister Dorothee Kinde Gazard told reporters late Tuesday.

Authorities will double-check those results with more tests, said Youssouf Gamatie, the representative for the World Health Organization in the country.

AllAfrica covers another continuing African public health woe:

Nigeria: WHO Expresses Concern Over Rising TB Cases in Nigeria

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern over the rising cases of Tuberculosis (TB) in Nigeria, which has risen to three times what was initially estimated.

Out of the estimated 3,700 TB cases per year in Nigeria, only about 500 have been placed on treatment

The WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, Rui Gama Vaz, disclosed this at the formal launch of the National Strategic Plan for TB Control (2015-2020) and Dissemination of the First National TB Prevalence Survey Report in Abuja.

An outbreak in the Mideast from the Mainichi:

Saudi Arabia: Deaths from MERS virus reach 348

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry says that a total of 348 people have died in the kingdom after contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.

The ministry’s latest figures, released late Tuesday, include two recent deaths recorded in the capital Riyadh. It brings to 810 the number of confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia since the virus was first identified in 2012.

The virus has since spread to other parts of the world, though it has mostly remained centered in Saudi Arabia. MERS belongs to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses that include both the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

CBC News covers another epidemic:

Half-million cancers worldwide linked to obesity

  • Majority of cases occur in North America and Europe, according to study

Excess body weight caused about 481,000 new cancer cases in 2012, according to a new study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization.

That works out to about 3.6 per cent of all cancers worldwide, the majority of which occur in North America and Europe, according to the study published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology on Wednesday.

The study estimates that a quarter of all obesity-related cancers in 2012 are directly linked to rising average body mass index (BMI), especially in developed parts of the world where BMI has been increasing since the 1980s.

While Science looks for the predictive:

Better wildlife monitoring could prevent human disease outbreaks

In the new study, a team lead by Isabelle-Anne Bisson, a conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C., set out to assess whether information on wildlife health could be used to predict the emergence of disease in humans. The team looked at historical records of nearly 150 pathogens known to jump from wildlife to humans. They searched through 60 years of scientific and newspaper reports to determine two things: first, whether the pathogens cause visible disease symptoms or death in wildlife, and second, whether human outbreaks were preceded or accompanied by evidence of the disease in animals.

“These pathogens are invisible to the human eye,” Bisson says. “You can’t see them moving through a landscape, but you can certainly detect them through sick and dead animals.”

The team found that out of the nearly 150 pathogens studied, 75 caused visible symptoms in animals, such as seizures, lethargy, unprovoked aggression, or death, meaning signs of the disease could be easily detected. In reality, however, only 13 of the disease outbreaks in humans were preceded by reports in wildlife. This suggests that early warning signs for 64 of the zoonotic pathogens—45% of the total—may have been missed, the team reports online this month in EcoHealth.

The Associated Press covers prosecution on behalf of a corporation:

Chinese woman denied own trial in seed-theft case

A woman accused of conspiring to steal trade secrets from U.S. seed companies and send them to China, where she’s married to the CEO of a large biotechnology firm, will be tried with another suspect despite her claims that she left the firm long before most of the alleged crimes, a federal judge ruled.

Mo Yun, 42, and her brother are among seven people facing charges for allegedly plotting to steal patented seeds from corn fields in Iowa and Illinois, and send them to China to be reproduced. Prosecutors say more than $500 million worth of intellectual property was stolen from Pioneer Hi-Bred, Monsanto, and LG Seeds.

Mo and her brother were arrested this year in the U.S and are scheduled to be tried together in Iowa. The other five suspects are believed to be in China, which has no extradition agreements with the U.S.

Her attorneys recently argued that most of the evidence alleges crimes committed after she left the company in 2008, including allegations of digging in cornfields to find seeds and shipping them out of the country in 2011 and 2012. Trying them together would allow jurors to hear evidence unrelated to Mo and could sway jurors, defense attorney Terry Bird argued.

From Grist, another GMO story:

In Oregon, GMO labeling lost by 800 votes. Now it’s getting a recount

On Nov. 6, Oregon’s initiative to label genetically engineered foods ended up only a few thousand votes away from success. Now it is down by just 812 votes — which means there will be an automatic recount.

What happened? Labeling advocates have scrambled to fix some of the 13,000 contested ballots — the ones voters forgot to sign, for instance. Oregon gives voters the chance to correct these mistakes.

We’ll let you know when we find out what happens! In the meantime: Just 800 votes out of 1.5 million — that’s a butterfly fart away from winning. What if Jurassic World — which features genetically modified dinosaurs this time around — had come out this year?

Climatic bad bee news from the Guardian:

Bee parasite will flourish under global warming, study warns

  • Gut parasite will increase in prevalence across northern Europe as temperatures rises, leading to honey bee losses

An exotic parasite which targets the insects is set to flourish in northern Europe if the Earth continues to warm, scientists at Queen’s University, Belfast found.

The study assessed the future threat posed by the gut parasite Nosema ceranae, which originates in Asia but can now be found worldwide.

New evidence of the parasite’s superior competitive ability and the link between its population size and climate change has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Co-author of the study and adjunct reader at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, Professor Robert Paxton said: “This emerging parasite is more susceptible to cold than its original close relative, possibly reflecting its presumed origin in east Asia.

“In the face of rising global temperatures, our findings suggest that it will increase in prevalence and potentially lead to increased honey bee colony losses in Britain.”

EcoWatch covers the incipient frack:

Maryland Governor O’Malley Is Ready to Allow Fracking in His State

Outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has frequently been mentioned as a top-of-the-list contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, should Hillary Clinton’s bid fail to materialize. But he just made himself more controversial within the party—and raised the ire of environmentalists—with his announcement that he is ready to allow fracking in the state, where it has so far been banned.

Natural gas companies have been casting a longing eye at Maryland since the fracking boom started. The state’s western panhandle sits on the natural gas-rich Marcellus shale formation, which has proved such a money-maker in Pennsylvania just to its north.

O’Malley said that energy companies that want to frack in the state will have to abide by restrictive environmental and public health regulations, including limits on drilling locations and oversight of risks to air pollution and water contamination. He said he will unveil the final regulations in mid-December before leaving office to be succeeded by Republican Larry Hogan in January. Hogan has made it clear he’s chomping at the bit to open the state to fracking, calling it an “economic gold mine,” and saying during the campaign “States throughout the country have been developing their natural gas resources safely and efficiently for decades. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against any new energy production.”

While MercoPress gets down to the nitty gritty:

Follow the sand to the real fracking boom

  • When it takes up to four million pounds of sand to frack a single well, it’s no wonder that demand is outpacing supply and frack sand producers are becoming the biggest behind-the-scenes beneficiaries of the American oil and gas boom.

Demand is exploding for “frac-sand”–a durable, high-purity quartz sand used to help produce petroleum fluids and prop up man-made fractures in shale rock formations through which oil and gas flows—turning this segment into the top driver of value in the shale revolution.

“One of the major players in Eagle Ford is saying they’re short 6 million tons of 100 mesh alone in 2014 and they don’t know where to get it. And that’s just one player,” Rasool Mohammad, President and CEO of Select Sands Corporation told Oilprice.com.

Frack sand exponentially increases the return on investment for a well, and oil and gas companies are expected to use some 95 billion pounds of frack sand this year, up nearly 30% from 2013 and up 50% from forecasts made just last year.

Pushing demand up is the trend for wider, shorter fracs, which require twice as much sand. The practice of down-spacing —or decreasing the space between wells—means a dramatic increase in the amount of frac sand used. The industry has gone from drilling four wells per square mile to up to 16 using shorter, wider fracs. In the process, they have found that the more tightly spaced wells do not reduce production from surrounding wells.

After the jump, crude oil train safety anxieties, Japan vows to continue its war on whales and call critics bigots, hue and cry kills an Idaho wolf hunt, Kenya women victimized by water mafias, profusely polluting rickshaws in Uttar Pradesh, an Amazonian deforestation rate decline, a Chinese dam stirs Indian angst, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! and a new nuclear waste incinerator, corporations socialize decommissioning debt, geriatric reactor inspections, and another reactor restart mooted, plus Swiss who eat their cats for Christmas. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Prognoses, medicine, Africa news


We begin with a prognosis from Reuters:

Ebola discoverer Piot sees long, bumpy road to ending epidemic

West Africa’s Ebola epidemic could worsen further before abating but new infections should start to decline in all affected countries by the end of this year, a leading specialist on the disease said on Wednesday.

Peter Piot, one of the scientists who first identified the Ebola virus almost 40 years ago, said the outbreak was far from over, but said that “thanks to now massive efforts at all levels” what had been an exponential growth in numbers should soon begin to recede.

The death toll in the worst Ebola epidemic on record has risen to 5,459 out of 15,351 cases identified in eight countries by November 18, latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed. Almost all those cases are in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“By the end of the year we should start seeing a real decline everywhere,” Piot, who is now director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told a meeting of public health experts, non-governmental organisations and officials.

Taking the curative effort a step closer to the source, via Bloomberg News:

Ebola Scientists Seek Cure With Ape Remedy

Program notes:

Around the world scientists are working on a solution to help the Ebola-stricken areas of western Africa. Closer to home, some British and American virologists are taking a different approach, by seeking to eradicate the disease from the usual source of transmission — apes and chimpanzees — before they pass it on.

A belated effort bearing fruit, from CBC News:

Experimental Ebola vaccine passes 1st hurdle in U.S.

  • Vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline and U.S. NIH safely tested on 20 people

The vaccine made by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is being developed to combat the Sudan and Zaire strains of the Ebola virus, the latter the one behind the current deadly outbreak in West Africa.

The trials were conducted at the NIH in Bethesda, Md., with 20 healthy participants who received doses of the vaccine.

The participants developed antibodies to Ebola, researchers said in Wednesday’s New England Journal of Medicine. But the researchers note participants’ immune responses depended on the dose and were also associated with minor side-effects.

From SciDev.Net, more funds arriving late:

Speedy Ebola test among UK projects given grant

A portable device to test bodily fluids for Ebola in under an hour and anthropological training to help foreign health workers work more effectively with local people in West Africa are among five research programmes being funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and the Wellcome Trust.

The projects were awarded money as part of an emergency call issued in August for research on Ebola supported by the Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) fund, launched last year.

The £1.34 million (US$2.1 million) jointly handed to the projects is dwarfed by the €1 billion (more than US$1.2 billion) pledged by European leaders in October for medical care and assistance in affected countries. It is also less than US$5.7 million promised last week by philanthropic organisation the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed at increasing production of experimental Ebola treatments in these countries

From the Japan Times, a belated European contingent coming:

EU arranging to send 5,000 doctors to Africa to fight Ebola: source

The European Commission called Wednesday for 5,000 doctors to be sent from EU states to combat west Africa’s Ebola epidemic, a European source said on Wednesday.

“The situation is too serious and it needs an immediate response,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP, adding that senior EU officials were in contact with central governments to mobilize the response.

“Thousands of other medical caregivers were also being called for,” the source said.

In a tweet, EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said he had so far reached 14 EU ministers, urging them to send more medical staff to Ebola-hit countries.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a call to action:

West African artists urge French-speaking nations to act on Ebola

West African artists have urged heads of state holding a French-speaking nations’ summit in Dakar this weekend to take action to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the region.

The rare tropical disease has infected more than 15,000 people in West Africa since it was first recorded in Guinea in March. More than 5,000 people have died from the virus, which causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and internal bleeding.

The theme of this year’s biannual summit of “francophonie”, a 77-strong group whose role includes promoting peace, democracy and human rights, is women and youth.

One to Sierra Leone and a sad landmark ahead, via the New York Times:

Sierra Leone to Eclipse Liberia in Ebola Cases

Sierra Leone will soon displace Liberia as the worst-hit of the West African countries ravaged by Ebola, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

More than 600 new cases of Ebola were reported in the three countries most affected — Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — in the week that ended Sunday, and more than half were in Sierra Leone, according to figures in an updated summary of cases and deaths on the W.H.O. website.

The W.H.O. update suggested that taken together, all three countries would miss the Dec. 1 target date for achieving important progress benchmarks — 70 percent isolation of patients and 70 percent of burials performed safely. Corpses of Ebola patients are extremely infectious and are an acute source of contagion.

A more optimistic take from the Associated Press:

Sierra Leone official: Ebola may have reached peak

The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has been surging in recent weeks, may have reached its peak and could be on the verge of slowing down, Sierra Leone’s information minister said Wednesday.

But in a reminder of how serious the situation is in Sierra Leone, a ninth doctor became infected Wednesday and the World Health Organization said the country accounted for more than half of the new cases in the hardest-hit countries in the past week. By contrast, infections appear to be either stabilizing or declining in Guinea and Liberia, where vigorous campaigning for a Senate election this week suggests the disease might be loosening its grip.

In all, 15,935 people have been sickened with Ebola in West Africa and other places it has occasionally popped up. Of those, 5,689 have died. The case total includes 600 new cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in just the past week, according to the WHO.

Another front line fighter falls ill, via the Washington Post:

9th Sierra Leonean doctor infected with Ebola

An official says a ninth Sierra Leonean doctor has been infected with Ebola, underscoring the devastating toll the disease is taking on health care workers.

Abass Kamara, a Health Ministry spokesman, said that Dr. Songo Mbriwa tested positive for Ebola on Wednesday. Mbriwa is a top military doctor and was working at the Hastings Ebola treatment center in the east end of the capital.

The disease is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids of the sick, putting health workers at particular risk and it has devastated their ranks. Nearly 600 of them have become infected in the West African outbreak, many in the hardest-hit countries.

From the Guardian, the down side of survival:

Ebola: ‘survivors are left alone to carry their pain and loneliness’

  • On the Ebola frontline: how life in rural Sierra Leone is unfolding for one community worker

Isaac Bayoh, 25, volunteers as an Ebola quarantine and awareness worker. He is part of a team that isolates the houses of those who have the disease, educates the family and neighbours, and monitors the patient’s progress. Here, in his own words sent via WhatsApp, he shares his experiences about how people and communities are affected

My story just like many has been a terrible experience, I have seen friends and loved ones taken away and never returned.

I have seen the most sorrowful reaction of people upon hearing of being positive with the Ebola virus or their family or a friend or a neighbour have tested positive. I have seen joy in a family being vanished away, I have seen things that my eyes cannot ever believe but yet they are fact, they are happening every day with people, with friends, loved ones, families and communities.

A woman tells me after being quarantined when her son died of the Ebola virus that her life has ended because her only son, who was her only support, is dead and it’s just a matter of time before her own symptoms begin to show. I can clearly see the fear in her eyes as we speak. That when I came in to give the psychological support, and because of what I told her, when her result came and it was positive, I saw that state of mind in her, that emotion. She is strong and [has] not given up. She is here today after surviving the virus, and she said one of her recovery methods was to stay positive no matter what. She never gave up.

Next, a video report from the World Health Organization:

WHO: field report from Koinadugu, Sierra Leone

Program notes:

Upon learning of the first Ebola cases reported in Koinadugu District, Sierra Leone in October 2014, the World Health Organization and partners acted swiftly to track new transmission chains, increase key resources on the ground, and establish remote community care centers where they could do the most good. With support from the government and traditional leaders, this coordinated, targeted response is beginning to show signs of bringing the localized outbreak under control.

In November 2014, WHO spokesperson Winnie Romeril joined WHO and partners on the ground and filed this video report.

After the jump, on to Liberia and the first healed patients form an American-built field hospital, a fatal forgery brings death to eight, a presidential appointee rejected, a Chinese hospital makes a good presidential impression, a warning about lethal semen, and a clean water NGO tackles a new task, plus school sanitation worries in post-Ebola Nigeria. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Some good Ebola new, finally


From the latest World Health Organization situation report on the Ebola outbreak, evidence of a dramatic decline in new cases in the hardest-hit country, Liberia [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Liberia

EnviroWatch: Health, coal, cowboys, oil, nukes


Plus endangered spies and lots more.

We begin with neglect via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

70 percent of Americans with HIV don’t have virus under control, study finds

Amid ongoing fears of an Ebola outbreak in the United States, Americans got a grim reminder on Tuesday about the ongoing public health threat posed by another deadly virus: HIV.

Seventy percent of Americans who have HIV do not have the disease in check, and many of them are no longer receiving treatment, according to a study published Tuesday.

The study found that of 1.2 million people who were living with HIV in the United States in 2011, fewer than three in 10 had the virus under control. Twenty percent had never even been diagnosed. And about 66 percent of those who had been diagnosed were no longer in care.

From TheLocal.no, an unwanted discovery:

Deadly Enterovirus D68 found in Norway

Cases of the potentially deadly enterovirus D68 has been found in Norway, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The virus, which can cause paralysis and is without cure, and there is no cure, has been found in a few cases affecting Norwegians, informed the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Nasjonalt Folkehelseinstitutt – FHI).

Senior physician of the Division of Infectious Disease Control at FHI, Trude Arnesen, said to NTB: “Enteroviruses are spread from excrement via hands to food, and also by coughing. Good hand and coughing hygiene will reduce the chance of infection.”

From the London Daily Mail, oops:

Bombshell report reveals a TYPO may have led 5,565 nuclear waste drums to be packed with wrong kitty litter that caused Los Alamos plutonium leak debacle

  • The New Mexico facility switched from a clay-based to a plant-based litter, which caused a drum to leak in February
  • A report from the Santa Fe New Mexican out last week details the bumbling–including an order for the wrong litter–predating the leak
  • The barrels containing the organic litter are also mislabled and say they contain inorganic litter
  • Sixteen of the barrels are believed to contain the other chemical elements that led Waste Drum 68660 to basically become a bomb

A tiny typographical error may have been what led to a plutonium waste barrel packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory to explode, leak through the ground and contaminate 22 workers early this year, says a new report.

An order to use the wrong type of kitty litter in the barrels is the likely culprit and thousands of other barrels were packed with it.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported last week the unbelievable bumbling that made a minor mixup into a massive problem at America’s only permanent nuclear waste dump.

From Xinhua, dam-nation:

China to accelerate water projects

China will step up work on major water conservation projects, especially in rural areas and central and western regions.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday that governments should accelerate 172 water conservation programs that have strong economic and social importance, during a visit to the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR).

Li prioritized central and western regions to address regional water issues, which included diversion projects, reservoirs and irrigation.

It will not only conserve water but attract investment, boost employment, improve incomes of rural dwellers, bolster industry and even stabilize the economic growth, Li said.

All projects, both under construction or still at the discussion stage, should be quickened in a bid to provide a sustainable driving force for growth.

An urban air airing from Global Times:

China’s haze directly linked to gaseous pollutants from traffic, industrial emissions: study

Severe air pollution in Beijing and other Chinese cities might be directly related to gaseous pollutants rather than particles emitted from urban transportation and regional industry, researchers from China and the United States said Monday.

Photochemical oxidation of gaseous pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), is primarily responsible for the formation of a large amount of fine particulate matter (PM), called secondary particles, during China’s severe haze pollution events, the researchers said.

The contribution from primary emissions and regional transport of PM, known as primary particles, is small, they reported in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Another cost of coal from Shanghai Daily:

24 killed in coal mine fire in NE China

A coal mine fire killed 24 workers and injured 52 others in northeast China’s Liaoning Province early Wednesday, the state-owned Liaoning Fuxin Coal Corporation told Xinhua.

The fire occurred in a coal mine under Hengda Coal, a subsidiary of Fuxin Coal, a major coal producer in the province.

Fuxin Coal said the rescue has been over and all the injured workers have been hospitalized.

From Homeland Security News Wire, an environmental impact assessment:

California’s transportation infrastructure ability to withstand a major earthquake questioned

A significant number of bridges and elevated roadways lie above or close to active fault lines, and Californians often wonder how the state’s towering interchanges and freeway network would perform during a major earthquake.The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has spent over $13 billion in the last forty years to reinforce vulnerable bridges and interchanges. Caltrans officials note that during a major earthquake, freeways are likely to sustain significant damage, but engineers feel confident that freeways will not collapse.

Californians often wonder how the state’s towering interchanges and freeway network would perform during a major earthquake. A significant number of bridges and elevated roadways lie above or close to active fault lines. “You see it looming, and as you get closer, it just gets taller and taller,” said Noel Vasquez of Whittier, as he eyes the Harbor Freeway before connecting with the 105 freeway. “You drive by and you think, ‘Man, I’d hate for that thing to break.’”

During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a double-decked portion of interstate 880 crumbled in Oakland, killing forty-two people. The 1971 magnitude 6.7 San Fernando temblor destroyed ramps linking the 5 and 14 freeways in the Newhall Pass interchange. After reopening two years later, the interchange collapse during the 1994 Northridge quake.

From Deutsche Welle, a much-needed preservation effort:

South Africa: Saving the Cape Parrots

Program notes:

There are only a thousand or so Cape parrots left. The species is in danger of extinction. The Cape Parrot Project wants to ensure its future.

Action at a distance, via Reuters:

In wake of China rejections, GMO seed makers limit U.S. launches

China’s barriers to imports of some U.S. genetically modified crops are disrupting seed companies’ plans for new product launches and keeping at least one variety out of the U.S. market altogether.

Two of the world’s biggest seed makers, Syngenta AG and Dow AgroSciences, are responding with tightly controlled U.S. launches of new GMO seeds, telling farmers where they can plant new corn and soybean varieties and how can the use them. Bayer CropScience told Reuters it has decided to keep a new soybean variety on hold until it receives Chinese import approval.

Beijing is taking longer than in the past to approve new GMO crops, and Chinese ports in November 2013 began rejecting U.S. imports saying they were tainted with a GMO Syngenta corn variety, called Agrisure Viptera, approved in the United States, but not in China.

The developments constrain launches of new GMO seeds by raising concerns that harvests of unapproved varieties could be accidentally shipped to the world’s fastest-growing corn market and denied entry there. It also casts doubt over the future of companies’ heavy investments in research of crop technology.

From the New York Times, Republican reaction anticipated:

Obama to Introduce Sweeping New Controls on Ozone Emissions

The Obama administration is expected to release on Wednesday a contentious and long-delayed environmental regulation to curb emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death.

The sweeping regulation, which would aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, would be the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama’s administration.

Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach.

After the jump, tar sands oil boom leads to Canadian cowboy shortage, a Canadian pipeline protest, the bill for British air pollution, banking on a coal funding cutoff Down Under, Big Coal and Big Power await the ruling of a mercurial court, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the latest measure to stop of escape of radioactive water, then on to British nuclear power woes, plus a massive Vietnamese haul of dead endangered turtles. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Devastation, aid, labor, & politics


We begin today’s compendium with a stunning graphic from the World Bank, revealing the extent of the devastation the disease has wrought to one country’s working class:

BLOG Ebola jobless

From the News in Monrovia, Liberia, critical context:

‘Dumpsite Food’ Eaters

Residents of a community outside Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, known as ‘Own your Own’ are said to be surviving on food from dump sites in the county.

The area is where Arcelormittal and other concession companies are operating. These companies dispose spoiled foods in the dump sites just opposite the Ebola Treatment Unit constructed by the United States Government.

Some of the citizens and residents who spoke to our reporter said the dump site has been their source for food for the past seven years.

Our reporter who recently returned from the county said most of the citizens using the dump site for survival are women and children.

Meanwhile, returning American sailors smile through quarantine, via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Seabees’ morale high despite long Ebola quarantine, congressman says

There were no hugs or handshakes just in case Ebola germs lurked, but Rep. Steven Palazzo found 15 Navy Seabees from Mississippi in “good spirits” Friday as they waited out a 21-day isolation period at Virginia’s Langley Air Force Base after a seven-week stint building treatment facilities in disease-ravaged Liberia.

“Everybody had a smile on his face,” Palazzo said.

The Seabees “were nowhere near any of the Ebola victims or the medical personnel that were treating them” while working in Monrovia and even had “limited involvement” with Liberians in the community who had been found free of the disease, he said.

While Reuters covers critical quarantine questions:

US quarantine moves hurting Ebola response in Africa -Harvard

Moves by some U.S. states to isolate medical workers returning from fighting Ebola in West Africa could worsen the global health crisis by discouraging badly needed new volunteers, according to health experts at Harvard University.

Ebola has killed more than 5,450 people in West Africa since March in the disease’s worst outbreak on record, striking hardest in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which are among the world’s least developed countries.

“By far and away what is needed most in West Africa are care providers who can help,” Paul Biddinger, director of the Harvard School of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program, said during a panel discussion about the disease on Tuesday.

But “because of a fear of stigma, of being involuntarily quarantined … people don’t want to necessarily subject themselves to this, and that is tragic.”

From Agence France-Presse, a video about a video:

African celebrities in Ebola campaign video

Program notes:

African celebrities have called for action against Ebola in a video produced by the ONE Campaign.

Next, a warning from the United Nations Development Program:

Ebola crisis may result in more hunger: UNDP study

Wild price swings caused by the Ebola health crisis are making it more difficult for households to feed themselves and make a stable living, according to a new study by the UN development programme.

“Border closures, movement restrictions and a slowdown in farming activity are shaking food  markets badly,” said Ayodele Odusola, Chief Economist at the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“This could have a disastrous impact on households, both because farmers are unable to make a living and because families are finding very different prices on the local market from one day to the next. People living in rural and remote areas are feeling the impact of reduced purchasing power more than their urban counterparts,” he added.

Since the onset of the Ebola crisis, buying power went down by 20 percent in Sierra Leone and by more than 25 percent in Liberia. The study also found rural communities were worst affected, due to more expensive transport costs and dependency on declining farming incomes.  Reduced traffic has been observed in more than two-thirds of Liberia’s counties, for instance.

As a result, in October, Monrovians paid $17.5 for 25 kilograms of rice, while people in the Southeast paid $21.3 for the same quantity. Because Liberia and Sierra Leone depend on Guinea for food imports, their situation is particularly serious.

PCWorld covers another development:

Ebola speeds up educators’ embrace of tech in Sierra Leone, Liberia

The deadly Ebola outbreak has sparked some creative thinking among academic institutions and private education initiatives determined to reach out to students who have been hunkering down for months in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Faced with a raging epidemic, the University of Sierra Leone plans to upload lecture notes on its website, send learning material through email and engage students through social media platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook. The 2014/2015 session, which should have begun Oct. 1, was postponed due to the Ebola outbreak.

Sierra Leone is one of the countries worst hit by the disease, which has already claimed over 5,000 lives in West Africa. Just last week, Sierra Leone recorded 435 new confirmed cases of Ebola and 110 confirmed deaths.

On to Mali with the Associated Press:

Mali confirms eighth Ebola case

Mali has confirmed a new case of Ebola, bringing to eight the number of people who have fallen ill with the deadly disease in the West African country.

A government statement issued Monday night said the patient had been placed in a treatment center.

All of Mali’s Ebola cases can be traced back to a 70-year-old imam who was brought to the country from Guinea, where the epidemic first began.

Six of Mali’s eight Ebola patients have died. The government said Saturday that another patient who tested positive was also receiving treatment and had been isolated.

From Voice of America’s TV2Africa, a video report on the course of the disease in Mali:

Mali Ebola

Program notes:

Almost a month after a 70-year-old Guinean Imam sought treatment at a clinic in Bamako, Mali is scrambling to stop a potential outbreak. Five people have died so far. A sixth related Ebola case was confirmed Saturday. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.

On to Liberia, first with FrontPageAfrica and another campaign launched:

Initiative Spearheads Setting up of Ebola Force on Reducing Denial

UNDP /Ministry of Health Community Based Initiative in the West Point Community District #4, has organized a meeting with the elder Council, the new Commissioner and the youth of West Point.

The meeting was part of efforts by Active Case Finders and Contact Tracers of West Point to facilitate the establishment of an Ebola Task Force to help mitigate the resurging denial of the Ebola Virus, stigma, and hiding of the sick.

An earlier meeting held with the elder council indicated that the people of West Point were hiding their sick because it was popularly believed that those who went to the ETUs never came back to their families. As a way of dispelling this belief, Active Case Finders providing services in the Community, identified 12 survivors from the West Point Community and presented them to the elder council.

The Inquirer covers a return:

Catholic Hosp. Reopens

The St. Joseph Catholic Hospital yesterday opened its doors to the public following months of closure as a result of the deadly Ebola virus outbreak which victimized a number of medical staff and missionaries.

The hospital’s re-opening was attended by a number of international Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Catholic Church in Liberia and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

The Human Resources Manager of the hospital, Mr. Joel N. Williams said the hospital attended to 23 patients yesterday but did not admit any because the reopening process will be carried out on a gradual basis.

Mr. Williams said the hospital is beginning its operations on a gradual basis by first reopening its Maternity ward with eight beds which will be increased on a weekly basis with the sponsorship of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

From the NewDawn, laying down the law:

MoH issues Ebola regulations

The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has set up anti-Ebola regulations to govern all citizens irrespective of status or affiliation.

Outgoing Health Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, has mandated that all video clubs, night clubs or restaurants should have chlorinated water placed at the entrances of those businesses for hands washing, and everyone’s temperature should be taken, stressing that anyone with 37.5 degree Celsius should be denied entrance and considered an Ebola suspect.

Minister Gwenigale has also instructed that vehicles in Liberia should continue to carry three persons at the back seat until Ebola is eradicated here. He said no community should allow visitors from various counties, especially when the person is sick, adding that if any community has such case, it should be reported to community leaders, who will immediately inform health authorities.

From FrontPageAfrica, another hot zone:

Ebola Hotspot: Rural Rivercess Towns Ravaged by Virus Outbreak

Deplorable roads, lack of food and adequate awareness are massive challenges affecting efforts to contain the deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 13 persons in Kinkayah Chiefdom, Nyorwein Administrative District in Rivercess County.

Residents in the area where authorities of the county have quarantined since the virus surfaced killing 13 people told FrontPage Africa they desperately need food in other to have the quarantine remain in force and at the same time support efforts to contain the virus in the area.

“Since the outbreak on October 21, the people abandon their farms and the whole chiefdom is being quarantine and there’s no food for them,” Augustus T. Yarpah, Speaker of the County Traditional council told FPA. He said MSF is doing well for the quarantine communities by giving treatment to people who are sick, but one of the problems is the lack of food for people in the whole of Kinkayah (Kayah for short) chiefdom especially in Gozohn Town.

After the jump, more from Liberia, including an instance of either irrationality or crime, good news from one region, quarantine for a banker, and the World Bank boosts its emergency funds to Monrovia, then on to Sierra Leone and quarantine regulation, emergency workers stage a gruesome job action and retribution follows, Nigerian medics head to Freetown, the extra burden faced by disabled students, and a crucial diagnosis is made. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ills, climate, water, fuel, GMOs


And more, but we open with more tragedy in Pakistan via the Express Tribune:

Swat reports its first polio case in five years

The first polio case in five years from the scenic Swat valley was confirmed on Monday, which, along with a fresh case from Sindh, raised the national tally to 262.

According to an official of the ministry of health, the cases were confirmed after being tested for polio virus at the National Institute of Health (NIH).

The victim was identified as 21 month-old Abu Takha, son of Noor Muhammad from UC Khwaza Khela of Tarogay Village in the Swat Valley. The second polio case confirmed on Monday was that of Sumaira, daughter of Qadir Bux, from UC Humayon in Hadi Bux Bakhrani, Sheikhupura.
refused drops for their child.

The two cases raise the total number of cases reported in Pakistan this year to 262. These include 163 from Fata,  55 from K-P, 27 from Sindh, three from Punjab and 14 from Balochistan.

The Express Tribune charts the course of polio in Pakistan over recent years [and click on it to enlarge]:

BLOG Pak polio

From the Guardian, another look at another outbreak we’ve been covering;

Chikungunya: Ebola pushes South American epidemic out of the spotlight

  • With global media attention focused on the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the spread of the Chikungunya virus has largely gone unnoticed outside of Latin America

The Americas are experiencing an epidemic that has been largely ignored by the rest of the world as it focuses on west Africa’s Ebola outbreak.

The debilitating mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus has infected almost one million people since it first emerged in South America and the Caribbean less than a year ago. The virus has rapidly spread across the Americas, causing huge pressure on health services in some of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere.

The Dominican Republic, the most popular Caribbean island for tourists last year with 4.7 million visitors, has recorded 500,000 cases. A third of the population lives on 80 pence ($1.25) a day. Central America has also been affected, with 123,000 cases in El Salvador.

The epidemic has failed to attract international media attention amid the Ebola crisis, as deaths from Chikungunya are relatively rare: . About 150 people have died among nearly 931,000 cases in the Americas – the US has had more than 1,830 cases.

From MintPress News, a classic case of the corporate war on public health:

Worldwide, Tobacco Regulators Monitoring Philip Morris Lawsuit Against Uruguay

  • The tobacco giant’s lawsuit against Uruguay is a key example of the growing trend of multinational companies using trade agreements and mechanisms to circumvent national legislation — even legislation meant to protect public health

The issue goes back to new regulations passed by the Uruguayan government in 2009 regarding tobacco product packaging and sales. First, the government required that 80 percent of individual cigarette packs be covered by graphic health warnings, an increase from 50 percent previously.

Second, manufacturers would be allowed to market only a single variation of their brand’s product, and also had to remove language on their packaging that appeared to differentiate different types of cigarettes (“low tar,” for instance). Critics say these practices mislead consumers into believing that the negative health effects of some cigarettes are lower than others.

Philip Morris, which notes that it supported Uruguay’s pre-2009 regulations, says the new rules forced the company to remove seven of its 12 products from the country. The maker of Marlboro is seeking $25 million for costs incurred.

The company also claims that the new 80-percent requirement for cigarette packaging infringes on trademark guarantees included in a trade agreement between Uruguay and Switzerland, where Philip Morris International is based. The case is being heard before an arbitration panel here in Washington, the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

And from the Associated Press, criminals by desperate necessity:

Chilean moms growing support for medical marijuana

Paulina Bobadilla was beyond desperate. The drugs no longer stopped her daughter’s epileptic seizures and the little girl had become so numb to pain, she would tear off her own fingernails and leave her small fingers bleeding.

Bobadilla was driving on a mountain road with Javiera, intent on ending it all by steering their car off a cliff.

“All I wanted to do was to die along with her,” the 34-year-old mother recalled of that day in April 2013. “I told her: ‘This is it.’ But then she said, ‘Mommy, I love you.’ I looked at her and I knew I had to continue fighting.”

Bobadilla’s desperation to ease her daughter’s condition is an emotion familiar to other Chilean parents who say medical marijuana can help their children and who, rather than wait for Congress to act, have taken matters into their own hands.

Despite the risk of jail time, about 100 parents have formed a group, Mama Cultiva or “Mama Grows,” to share knowledge about cultivating marijuana to extract cannabis oil for their seizure-stricken children.

BBC News covers green thumbs in the ‘hood:

Global importance of urban agriculture ‘underestimated’

Urban agriculture is playing an increasingly important role in global food security, a study has suggested.

Researchers, using satellite data, found that agricultural activities within 20km of urban areas occupy an area equivalent to the 28-nation EU. The international team of scientists says the results should challenge the focus on rural areas of agricultural research and development work.

The findings appear in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

“This is the first study to document the global scale of food production in and around urban settings,” explained co-author Pay Drechsel, a researcher for the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

From the Ecologist, more plutocratic “benevolence” at the expense of the commons:

Why is Bill Gates backing GMO red banana ‘biopiracy’?

The Gates Foundation has sunk $15 million into developing GMO ‘super bananas’ with high levels of pre-Vitamin A, writes Adam Breasley. But the project is using ‘stolen’ genes from a Micronesian banana cultivar. And what exactly is the point, when delicious, popular, nutritious ‘red bananas’ rich in caroteinoids are already grown around the tropics?

Among the controversial projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the development and testing of a biofortified GMO banana developed to boost its iron, Vitamin E and pro-Vitamin A content.

To this end the Foundation, via its Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative, has so far given $15 million to Queensland University of Technology for the program run by Professor Dr James Dale, with a latest tranche of $10 million handed over this year.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the tune of $15 million, and currently in Iowa undergoing human feeding studies, the GMO banana human feeding trials appears have been designed for marketing purposes. Certainly Scientific American calls them simply “market trials”.

From Want China Times, water woes in the world’s most populous nation:

Water pollution recognized as a huge problem for China

Water safety has become a serious problem in China. Half of the nation’s 10 largest water systems are polluted, 40% of major lakes have pollution problems and 17 of the country’s 31 large freshwater lakes are polluted, the People’s Daily Online reports, citing various provincial research reports.

In Hebei province, Beijing and Tianjin, average water resources stand at just 286 cubic meters per capita, far below the international standard for extremely dry levels at 500 cubic meters per capita, while one-third of the region’s groundwater is already polluted.

The region’s major streams are all also heavily polluted, with third-level polluted waters exceeding 60%, according to a 2013 survey.

“Water safety problems have become the scourge of the nation,” said Lu Zhongmei, dean of Hubei University of Economics, who conducted research on environmental law for 30 years.

The Diplomat covers a successfulcorporate conquest where an army was defeated:

Vietnam, Agent Orange, and GMOs

  • An Agent Orange maker is being welcomed back to Vietnam to grow genetically modified organisms

Vietnam continues to roll out the red carpet for foreign biotech giants, including the infamous Monsanto, to sell the controversial genetically modified (GM) corn varieties in the country. Critics say that by welcoming Monsanto, Vietnam has been too nice to the main manufacturer of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used during the Vietnam War that left a devastating legacy still claiming victims today.

According to Vietnamese media reports, in August that country’s agriculture ministry approved the imports of four corn varieties engineered for food and animal feed processing: MON 89034 and NK 603, products of DeKalb Vietnam (a subsidiary of U.S. multinational Monsanto), and GA 21 and MIR 162 from the Swiss firm Syngenta.

The Vietnamese environment ministry has to date issued bio-safety certificates for Monsanto’s MON 89034 and NK 603 corn varieties and Syngenta’s GA 21, meaning farmers can start commercially cultivating the crops. The ministry is considering issuing a similar certificate for the other variety, MR 162. Given the current political landscape, it seems that approval is just a matter of time.

Some rare good polar news from the Guardian:

Antarctic ice thicker than previously thought, study finds

  • First of its kind robotic survey of underside of sea ice floes reveals denser ice fringing the continent

Groundbreaking 3D mapping of previously inaccessible areas of the Antarctic has found that the sea ice fringing the vast continent is thicker than previous thought.

Two expeditions to Antarctica by scientists from the UK, USA and Australia analysed an area of ice spanning 500,000 metres squared, using a robot known as SeaBed.

The survey discovered ice thickness average between 1.4m and 5.5m, with a maximum ice thickness of 16m. Scientists also discovered that 76% of the mapped ice was ‘deformed’ – meaning that huge slabs of ice have crashed into each other to create larger, denser bodies of ice

And from teleSUR English, a look at the roots of fracker power:

Interviews from Washington DC – Fracking industry money and Congress

Program notes:

Today’s program looks at how the fracking industry uses its financial power to influence Congress. Jorge Gestoso interviews Melanie Stone, a recognized expert on the issue, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and author of the recently released report “How the fracking industry fuels Congress”. The increase in fracking activity has been accompanied by a massive 231% growth from 2004 to 2012 in the industry’s campaign contributions to congressional and senatorial candidates from districts and states home to such activity, from about US$2.1 million to US$6.9 million. Such cash contributions is money well spent and has effectively bought the silence of many legislators.

And from EcoWatch, frenetic fracker thirst:

‘Monster’ Fracking Wells Guzzle Water in Drought-Stricken Regions

The fracking industry likes to minimize the sector’s bottomless thirst for often-scarce water resources, saying it takes about 2-4 million gallons of water to frack the average well, an amount the American Petroleum Institute describes as “the equivalent of three to six Olympic swimming pools.” That’s close to the figure cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well.

But a new report released by Environmental Working Group (EWG) located 261 “monster” wells that consumed between 10 and 25 million gallons of water to drill each well. Among the conclusions EWG teased out of data reported by the industry itself and posted at fracfocus.org is that between April 2010 and December 2013, these 261 wells consumed 3.3 billions of water between them, a average of 12.7 million gallons each. And 14 of the wells topped 20 million gallons each.

“It’s far more relevant to compare those figures to basic human needs for water, rather than to swimming pools or golf courses,” said EWG’s report. “The 3.3 billion gallons consumed by the monster wells was almost twice as much water as is needed each year by the people of Atascosa County, Texas, in the heart of the Eagle Ford shale formation, one of the most intensively drilled gas and oil fields in the country.”

After the jump, GOP Arctic drilling aspirations, a Canadian author funds pipeline foes, Canary Islands offshore drilling opposition, a toxic Canadian mine threatens to take another dump, World Bank goes green with its green, Massive giraffe die-off underway, and some good news for the Monarch butterly. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Politics, aid, fears, & deadlines


We begin with an interesting story from the New York Times:

Notable Absence of New Ebola Quarantines at New York Area Airports

A day after a doctor who had returned from Guinea about a week earlier became New York’s first Ebola case, the governors of New York and New Jersey announced that they would begin quarantining travelers who had been in contact with Ebola patients in West Africa.

The move, which went beyond federal policy, drew protests from medical aid groups and the Obama administration, who said it would penalize people who were trying to contain Ebola and discourage others from doing so.

But since Kaci Hickox, a nurse, flew into Newark’s airport on Oct. 24 and was kept at a hospital for three days, no one else has been caught up in the quarantine dragnet at the New York and New Jersey airports.

The absence of quarantines is striking, not only because both governors emphatically defended the policy as a necessary precaution, but also because most people returning from Ebola-stricken countries arrive in the United States through Kennedy and Newark Liberty International Airports. Several aid organizations have American health care workers in West Africa, a handful of whom return every week. But New York and New Jersey officials say no one coming through the two airports since Ms. Hickox has reported direct contact with Ebola patients.

From the Associated Press, another European patient evacuated:

Italian doctor with Ebola returning for treatment

An Italian doctor who has been working in Sierra Leone has tested positive for the Ebola virus and is being transferred to Rome for treatment, the health ministry said Monday. It is Italy’s first confirmed case of Ebola.

The doctor, who was not identified and who works for the non-governmental organization Emergency, is scheduled to arrive overnight in Italy for treatment at the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome.

Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said in a statement that the doctor experienced a fever and other symptoms overnight, but he was well enough to eat breakfast and drink beverages. The ministry said all measures are being taken to ensure the safe transport of the patient following biohazard protocols.

From the Associated Press, anticipation of cash registers ringing [or beeping, or booping, or whatever]:

Merck, Iowa firm sign Ebola vaccine licensing deal

Merck & Co., one of the world’s top developers and sellers of vaccines, has entered a partnership with a small drug developer to research and manufacture a potential Ebola vaccine now in initial patient testing.

The exclusive deal involves a vaccine candidate called rVSV-EBOV that’s under early development by BioProtection Systems, the vaccine-development subsidiary of NewLink Genetics Corp. of Ames, Iowa.

The vaccine was originally created in labs of the Public Health Agency of Canada, which in 2010 signed a deal giving BioProtection Systems an exclusive license for the vaccine and the technology involved in producing it.

Under the new deal, Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, gets exclusive rights to the vaccine and any follow-up products.

On to Africa, starting in Mali with Voice of America:

Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms.

Mali is scrambling to do the same now, almost a month after a 70-year-old Guinean imam sought treatment at a clinic in Bamako. Five people have already died. Mali confirmed a sixth related Ebola case Saturday; a female relative of a nurse who treated the imam.

Every day, twice a day, teams are checking just over 300 people around Bamako. All of these contacts are linked to the Guinean imam who died of Ebola at a private clinic October 27, two days after he had arrived for treatment.

From the U.N. News Center, the U.N. acts:

Top UN health officials take joint mission to Mali in support of Ebola response

The Executive Director of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Michel Sidibé and the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, have visited Mali in a joint mission to support the country in its efforts to curb the spread of Ebola, as authorities there announced one new case and that two more suspected patients were being tested.

“The next 15 days are critical for ending Ebola in Mali,” where at least 5 people have died from the virus, UNAIDS said in a press release issued today. “The coordination of action and strategic communication are key to success, as are immediate international funding and technical assistance.”

The UN is ramping up support on many fronts to support both the preparedness and response efforts of the Malian Government, including with the announcement on Friday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) would establish an office in the country. That office is scheduled to formally open an office in Mali on Wednesday.

Next, on to Liberia with FrontPageAfrica and a shocking allegation:

Ebola Stigma at Firestone: Orphans Thrown to Wolves – An Inhumane Act By A Heartless Company

A DAILY MAIL report suggesting that the Tyre giant Firestone has ordered the children of workers who died from Ebola to leave their homes on its plantation in Liberia is very troubling.

ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, Firestone which is part of the Bridgestone group which last week announced sales for the first nine months of the year totaling £14.5 billion – has told the families they cannot stay on in worker housing and will not get pensions. “At least 57 people have died on Firestone’s giant plantation near the national capital Monrovia since the start of the outbreak in March,” according to the report.

FIRESTONE, like most expatriate and concession companies abandoned Liberia at the height of the outbreak, leaving behind families and workers who labored the plantation in search of rubber which the company then export for profits.

IT IS SAD THAT a company as large as Firestone would throw children in the streets after surviving such a horrific virus.

Next, from the News in Monrovia, police preparations:

Police Ready To Enforce Anti-Ebola Regulations

The Liberia National Police is said to be gearing up for robust enforcement of the government’s anti Ebola and other safety regulations during the pending special senatorial election.

Police Director Chris Massaquoi said the LNP has been ordered to ensure the enforcement of the Ministry of Health and National Elections Commission (NEC) regulations during the election.

Speaking Friday at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing in Monrovia, Director Massaquoi said pursuant to the power granted the Ministry of Health under the Public Health Law, the police will also ensure that all beaches in Liberia remain closed during holidays.

He called on parents, religious leaders and others to warn their children and relatives against going to beaches during holidays.

The LNP Director also stated that except for the political campaign rallies, all public rallies, demonstrations and gathering in public areas will be strictly prohibited until Liberia is declared Ebola free.

However, Director Massaquoi said all political campaign rallies are expected to also be held in keeping with the guidelines and regulations of NEC and the Ministry of Health.

Reuters covers an upbeat assessment:

“Dramatic improvement” in Ebola outlook in Liberia -U.S. general

A U.S. general in the force helping Liberia fight the Ebola epidemic reported on Monday a dramatic improvement in the situation there and confirmed the cancellation of two planned treatment facilities.

Brigadier General Frank Tate, deputy commanding general of U.S. Operation United Assistance, said the drop in the number of cases in the country was all the more encouraging given recent improvements in reporting capacity.

He said new daily cases have fallen to around 20 from close to 80 when the operation was announced in September. Ebola is still spreading in other parts of West Africa.

While FrontPageAfrica covers a contrarian view:

‘Wishful Thinking’: Politics & Ebola Dampens Ebola End by X-Mas

U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac’s description of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s goal of eradicating Ebola by Christmas as “Wishful Thinking”, heralds a key challenge many health experts fear could keep the virus around for quite some time, especially for those contemplating voting in a time of Ebola.

That goal is being compounded by an upcoming senatorial election, many say would be a crucial test of the government’s message against Ebola and Liberia’s reaching a turning point in the outbreak: Avoiding touching, kissing and a large gathering of people can be a hard sell for a nation historically noted for daring conventions.

At the headquarters of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change last Thursday, for example, it was hard not to notice partisans and supporters of senatorial candidates hugging and holding hands as sweat poured amid the celebration.

And StarAfrica covers worrisome numbers:

Liberia: Resurgence of Ebola in Bong County

Reports from central Bong County say the county health team has reported 22 new cases of Ebola over a period of one week, despite huge reduction in the number of cases across the country.Media reports Monday quote the Bong County Health Team Administrator Fatorma Jusu as saying 10 of the 22 cases are confirmed, one probable and eleven suspected.

Jusu attributed the emergence of new Ebola cases in the county to the outbreak in Taylor-ta that has now crossed over to Bomota and Gbatala, all of which are adjacent to Taylor-Ta in Yelequelleh District, Bong County.

Addressing the regular Ebola response Taskforce briefing Monday on Phebe Compound on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Gbarnga, Jusu attributed the new outbreak to the breach of quarantine rules by residents of Taylor-ta, and stressed the need for urgent redress of the situation.

After the jump, a new aid shipment arrives, new treatment centers — one American-built, the other Chinese — open, an economic lament, fears of another flare-up, reintegrating the healed in healing roles, journalists’ ethics challenged, a chief calls on fellows chiefs to join the Ebola fight, American medical missionaries lauded, then on to Sierra Leone where a worsening epidemic thwarts a U.N. goal, a mayor makes a plea, plus a bitter harvest. . . Continue reading