Category Archives: Medicine

Possible Ebola case quarantined in Sacramento


Bear in mind that most such scares have proven negative, but. . .

From Reuters:

Possible Ebola patient in isolation at California hospital

A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is in isolation at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Linda So reports.

A patient who may have been exposed to Ebola is in isolation at Kaiser’s South Sacramento Medical Center. The CDC is testing blood samples from the patient to check for the presence of the virus. The director of hospital operations says the patient is being treated in a specially equipped negative pressure room.

SOUNDBITE: DONNA SUMMERS, KAISER PATIENT, SAYING: “I’m speechless, I had no idea, that’s crazy.” Patients leaving Kaiser say they had no idea a possible Ebola patient was being treated at the hospital. So far, the only known patients with Ebola being treated in the U.S. are Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. They remain at Emory Hospital in Atlanta after contracting the virus while working with Ebola patients in Liberia. No information has been released about where the California patient may have contracted the virus.

UPDATE: Some context, via The Wire:

Over the last three weeks, 68 people have been tested for the Ebola virus in the United States, the Center for Disease Control told ABC News.

According to the CDC, the virus has claimed more than 1,200 lives in the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria since the outbreak began. Despite recent scares, there has yet to be a confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S.

Two patients who health officials have described as ‘low risk’ are currently being held in New Mexico and California hospitals awaiting their official test results. Yesterday, WSB-TV Atlanta reported that a local man tested negative for the virus.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, global woes, toxins, nukes


Another hefty compendium of alarms and alerts about the increasingly destruction relationship betwixt people and planet, starting with that most urgent of events, the continuing Ebola catastrophe in Africa.

International Business Times covers one deadly consequence:

Ebola Outbreak: Liberian Army Ordered to ‘Shoot on Sight’ Anyone Crossing Sierra Leone Border

Liberia’s armed forces have been given orders to shoot people on sight who are attempting to illegally cross the border from Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone, according to local media reports.

The order was given to soldiers stationed in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties on the border with Sierra Leone in hope of preventing the spread of the deadly virus, deputy chief of staff, Colonel Eric Dennis said.

Liberia has the highest death toll from the disease with approximately 400 citizens killed. So far, more than 1,200 people have died from the disease, which has been described as the worst ever outbreak of the virus.

And an earlier omnibus report from Deutsche Welle:

African governments take isolation measures

  • African governments are sealing their ports and airports in an attempt to halt the spread of Ebola. But will fever checks and entry bans really make any difference?

With more than 1,100 dead and 2,100 suspected cases of Ebola, authorities in many African countries are holding their breath. Many are nervous, and some have begun to isolate themselves.

From Tuesday onwards, Kenya Airways has suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ivory Coast is no longer allowing ships from Ebola-hit countries to pass through its waters. In Nigeria, no one is allowed to board a plane unless their temperature is normal and they have passed the airport’s “fever check.”

“I think the restriction of air traffic is an expression of the helplessness of the authorities there when it comes to containing the disease,” said Dieter Häussinger, director of the Hirsch Institute of Tropical Medicine. He thinks that monitoring people’s temperature is a questionable method, because it’s impossible to separate those infected with Ebola from people who’ve got the flu.

United Press International ups the aid ante:

Food distribution to Ebola quarantine sites scaled up as death toll hits 1,200

  • The World Health Organization and the U.N.’s World Food Program have teamed up to provide needed food to quarantine sites in Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. “Providing regular food supplies is a potent means of limiting unnecessary movement,” WHO noted.

The World Health Organization issued an update Tuesday regarding the deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

As of August 16, WHO recorded 2,240 cases of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, including 1,229 deaths.

The distribution and classification of the cases are as follows:

  • Guinea, 543 cases (396 confirmed, 140 probable, and 7 suspected), including 394 deaths;
  • Liberia, 834 cases (200 confirmed, 444 probable, and 190 suspected), including 466 deaths;
  • Nigeria, 15 cases (12 confirmed, 0 probable, and 3 suspected), including 4 deaths;
  • Sierra Leone, 848 cases (775 confirmed, 34 probable, and 39 suspected), including 365 deaths.

From the Associated Press, a hopeful sign in a disease that kills 90 percent of its victims:

Liberia: 3 receiving untested Ebola drug improving

Three Liberian health workers receiving an experimental drug for Ebola are showing signs of recovery, officials said Tuesday, though medical experts caution it is not certain if the drug is effective.

The World Health Organization said that the death toll for West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has climbed past 1,200 but that there are tentative signs that progress is being made in containing the disease.

The three Liberians are being treated with the last known doses of ZMapp, a drug that had earlier been given to two infected Americans and a Spaniard. The Americans are also improving, but the Spaniard died.

CBC News makes a critical note about a continent where Africans have all been treated as Big Pharma lab rats:

Ebola outbreak: Africans understandably wary about promised cures

  • Past drug trials likely affecting public suspicion in West Africa today

New concerns that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is much worse than reported are adding to the global pressure to find a solution – even if that means testing unproven drugs on desperate Africans. But medical ethicists and others in the drug-testing business say the focus on miracle cures for Ebola is misplaced.

And, in any event, Western nations owe Africans a huge debt of gratitude for even considering being the ones to try these experimental medications.

Untested drugs and vaccines are now in the spotlight after reports that three Westerners received the experimental Canadian drug ZMapp, and about the Canadian government announcing it would donate up to 1,000 doses of a potential Ebola vaccine that is in the development stage.

The Japan Times rounds up:

Liberia says all 17 runaway Ebola patients have been located

Liberia has found all 17 suspected Ebola patients who fled a quarantine center in Monrovia at the weekend and transferred them to another clinic, the information minister said on Tuesday.

“We are glad to confirm that all of the 17 individuals have been accounted for and have now been transferred to JFK Ebola specialist treatment center,” said Lewis Brown.

He also said that three infected African doctors who had received the experimental Ebola drug Zmapp were showing “remarkable signs of improvement,” quoting an assessment by the doctor overseeing their treatment.

TheLocal.fr raises aerial objections:

Air France staff object to flying to Ebola countries

Air France cabin crew are so concerned about the threat of the Ebola epidemic that unions have started a petition calling for flights to be stopped to those West African countries most affected by the disease.

A union representing Air France staff has launched a petition to try to persuade company chiefs to stop flying to Guinea and Sierra Leone until the Ebola crisis is under control.

The two countries are heavily affected by the epidemic, that has killed over 1,200 people, and staff fear their lives are in danger each time they touch down in those countries.

Latin American Herald Tribune makes ready across the Atlantic:

Mexico City Airport Prepares to Deal with Ebola

The Mexico City International Airport is ready to deal with any possible cases of Ebola, a viral disease that is spreading through West Africa, aviation officials said.

Posters informing travelers about the disease and the measures to take to avoid spreading it are being put up around the airport.

The airport “is fully complying with the regulations established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding the outbreak affecting Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, countries where people have been infected with the virus,” airport management said in a statement.

And from the Los Angeles Times, a photojournalist covers the crisis:

Ebola crisis: Photographer John Moore chronicles the outbreak in Liberia

Program notes:

Getty Images photographer John Moore travels to Liberia to cover the burgeoning Ebola outbreak in the West African country, and he describes the scene and precautions he and health workers have taken.

From TheLocal.de, a false alarm:

Stomach bug behind Berlin ‘Ebola’ scare

Around 600 people were held for several hours in emergency quarantine at a Berlin Job Centre on Tuesday after a West African woman collapsed with Ebola-like symptoms.

The emergency services cordoned off the premises in the city’s northeastern Prenzlauer Berg district after the 30-year-old collapsed. The woman then told medics she had had contact with victims of the deadly disease in her homeland.

She was immediately taken for hospital testing along with several other people who had been with her in the building.

However, doctors said that Ebola was unlikely and that the woman was probably suffering from an acute stomach bug.

TheLocal.at covers another false alarm:

All-clear given on suspected Ebola cases

Austria’s health ministry gave the all-clear Tuesday evening after regional authorities earlier reported two suspected cases of Ebola in two men recently returned from Nigeria.

“The test results in both cases were negative,” the health ministry said.

The news came hours after the governor of Upper Austria province, Josef Pühringer, said two men who returned last Wednesday from Lagos had been hospitalised on suspicion of carrying the deadly disease.

Blood samples were sent to a laboratory in Germany, which announced late Tuesday that the results were negative, Pühringer later said.

On to another environmental front with Newswise:

World’s Primary Forests on the Brink

An international team of conservationist scientists and practitioners has published new research showing the precarious state of the world’s primary forests.

The global analysis and map are featured in a paper appearing in the esteemed journal Conservation Letters and reveals that only five percent of the world’s pre-agricultural primary forest cover is now found in protected areas.

Led by Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, the authors are experts in forest ecology, conservation biology, international policy and practical forest conservation issues.

Representing organisations such as the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, the Geos Institute and Australian National University, they conclude that primary forest protection is the joint responsibility of developed as well as developing countries and is a matter of global concern.

Primary forests – largely ignored by policy makers and under increasing land use threats – are forests where there are no visible indications of human activities, especially industrial-scale land use, and ecological processes have not been significantly disrupted.

From the Guardian, another global alarm:

Earth sliding into ‘ecological debt’ earlier and earlier, campaigners warn

  • World has already exhausted a year’s supply of natural resources in less than eight months, Global Footprint Network says

Humans have used up the natural resources the world can supply in a year in less than eight months, campaigners have warned.

The world has now reached “Earth overshoot day”, the point in the year when humans have exhausted supplies such as land, trees and fish and outstripped the planet’s annual capacity to absorb waste products including carbon dioxide.

The problem is worsening, with the planet sliding into “ecological debt” earlier and earlier, so that the day on which the world has used up all the natural resources available for the year has shifted from early October in 2000 to August 19 in 2014.

Al Jazeera America covers a consequence of perverted appetites:

Ivory poachers killing elephants faster than they are being born

  • Study says tipping point reached as poachers kill 7 percent of African elephants annually; birth rate is 5 percent

African elephants are being pushed over the tipping point, a new study said, with more being killed by poachers for their ivory than are born each year.

“We are shredding the fabric of elephant society and exterminating populations across the continent,” said the study’s lead author, George Wittemye of Colorado State University. The peer-reviewed report was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Poaching has killed 7 percent of the continent’s elephant population annually from 2010-2013, but their birth rate is just 5 percent, according to the report. At those rates the animals could be wiped out within 100 years, and conservationists are worried.

After jump, tainted food, metallic toxins, catastrophic mine leaks, fracking protests, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, and one for the birds. . . Continue reading

Charts of the day II: Deadly tallies for aid workers


From Aid Worker Security Report 20214 [PDF] from Humanitarian Outcomes, the rising death toll for aid workers:

BLOLG Deaths

And the locations of their deaths:

BLOG Death locales

From a Guardian story about the report:

Last year was the most dangerous on record for humanitarian workers, with 155 killed, 171 seriously wounded and 134 kidnapped as they attempted to help others in some of the world’s most dangerous places, new research has shown.

The study, released to mark World Humanitarian Day, also reveals that 79 aid workers have died so far this year, making the first eight months of 2014 deadlier for the humanitarian community than the whole of 2012.

The 2013 statistics, compiled by the Humanitarian Outcomes partnership, show a 66% rise in fatal attacks on the previous year, with Afghanistan – where 81 aid workers were killed – remaining the most dangerous place to operate.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, toxics, nukes, solar kill


Once again, we open with Ebola news, first with a perhaps needless tragedy via CBC News:

Dying Sierra Leone Dr. Sheik Umar Khan never told Ebola drug was available

  • Just days later, same experimental drug given to U.S. doctor, missionary

The story of Sierra Leone’s “hero doctor” does not have a happy ending.

Even though Dr. Sheik Umar Khan was an experienced virus warrior, and hemorrhagic fevers were his specialty, he tested positive for Ebola on July 22 and died in seven terrible days.

His friends and colleagues from around the world are sick with grief, and a haunting question hangs in the air. Did doctors make the right decision in refusing to treat him with an experimental drug?

From Reuters, border-crossing carriers:

Guinea reopens Ebola clinic as sick spill over border

Guinea said on Saturday it will reopen an Ebola clinic in its remote southeast as sick nationals living in Liberia and Sierra Leone spill over the borders in search of better treatment.

West Africa’s Guinea, the first country in the region to be affected by the deadly virus which has killed more than 1,100 people, says it has brought the outbreak under control. But it is worried that a poor response to the epidemic from its neighbors will reverse its progress.

“We are concerned about the length of the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia, specifically in Macenta and Pamelap,” said Sakoba Keita from Guinea’s Health Ministry, referring to border towns.

The Associated Press covers another aspect:

Ebola health workers battle death, heat, rumors

Doctors and nurses fighting Ebola in West Africa are working 14-hour days, seven days a week, wearing head-to-toe gear in the heat of muddy clinics. Agonizing death is the norm. The hellish conditions aren’t the only problem: Health workers struggle to convince patients they’re trying to help them, not hurt them.

Rumors are rife that Western aid workers are importing Ebola, stealing bodies or even deliberately infecting patients. Winning trust is made harder by a full suit of hood, goggles, mask and gown that hides their faces.

“You want to say so much … because they’re in so much pain,” said nurse Monia Sayah, of Doctors Without Borders. “They suffer so much, but they can only see your eyes.”

The outbreak has hit three of the world’s poorest countries, where health systems there were already woefully understaffed and ill-equipped. In Liberia, there is only one doctor for every 100,000 people, while in Sierra Leone there are two, according to the World Health Organization; there were no statistics available for Guinea. The figure is 245 for the United States.

The Associated Press covers a call:

UN urges exit screening for Ebola at some airports

Ebola-affected countries should immediately begin exit screening all passengers leaving international airports, sea ports and major ground crossings, the U.N. health agency said on Monday.

The agency didn’t spell out which countries should start screening passengers, but noted that the Ebola outbreak involves transmission in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leona and a “small number of people in Nigeria.”

All countries, even those unaffected by the outbreak in West Africa, need to strengthen their ability to detect and immediately contain new cases without doing anything that unnecessarily interferes with international travel or trade, the agency said. But countries don’t need to impose travel restrictions and active screening of passengers if they do not share borders with Ebola-affected countries, it said.

More from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

WHO sets up Ebola task force with global airline and travel sector

The World Health Organisation said on Monday (Aug 18) that it had set up a task force with the global airline and tourism industry in an effort to contain the spread of Ebola.

The UN agency said it was working hand in hand with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the World Tourism Organization, Airports Council International (ACI), the International Air Transport Association and the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The goal, it said in a statement, was to “support the global efforts to contain the spread of the disease and provide a coordinated international response for the travel and tourism sector”. It added that the task force would “monitor the situation and provide timely information to the travel and tourism sector as well as to travellers”.

Still more, via Businessweek:

Airlines Urged to Keep Flying in West Africa Amid Ebola Outbreak

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has reached crisis proportions but poses no particular risk to air travelers, according to health officials and airlines—and air service should continue to serve affected areas to help combat the disease. That’s the message the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for global airlines, is pressing, bolstered by the World Health Organization, which says there’s no need for travel bans over the virus.

“Ebola is a terrible disease, but it is not easy to contract,” IATA’s vice president for Africa, Raphael Kuuchi, said today at an aviation conference in Johannesburg. “It can only be caught through contact with bodily fluids. It is almost impossible to be infected by someone on a flight.”

Researchers believe the virus cannot be transmitted through the air. “Because the risk of Ebola transmission on airplanes is so low, WHO does not consider air transport hubs at high risk for further spread of Ebola,” Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response, said in an Aug. 14 news release.

On to climate change and future woes for the Napa Vally via Want China Times:

Climate change may mean China could be top wine producer by 2050

Warmer temperatures caused by climate change may mean that the south of France will no longer be able to produce high-quality wine in the future, which may present new wine-producing opportunities for northern Europe and China in the future, reports Shanghai-based China Business News.

A report published in 2005 by Professor Gregory Jones and his coworkers compared the temperatures at 27 wine-producing regions during grape-growing seasons over 50 years and concluded that the south of France will likely be unsuitable for producing wine by 2050. Li Yangang, one of ten Chinese nationals who has received a Level 4 certificate from the world renowned wine education institute WSET, said the region may still be able to produce wine but it would be of a lower quality

The future of major wine producers in Spain, Italy, the United States and Australia has been threatened by climate change. Jones’ research team predicted that between 2000 and 2049, the average temperature during grape’s growing system will increase 2.04°C, which would be devastating for wine producers who will have a hard time finding enough water for their vineyards.

Sky News covers ecocrisis:

Trains Carrying Toxic Chemicals Crash Head-On

Hundreds of people are evacuated after the trains smashed into each other and exploded into flames in northeast Arkansas.

Two freight trains carrying toxic chemicals have crashed head-on in the US, killing two people and injuring two others. Firefighters spent seven hours extinguishing the fire as diesel and chemicals on board burst into flames.

Around 500 people were evacuated from the crash scene in Hoxie, a small town in northeast Arkansas.

From Shanghai Daily, we’ll have the unleaded, please:

Lead found in baby cereal from Heinz

Heinz baby products are at the center of a health scare after food safety authorities in east China’s Zhejiang Province sealed 614 boxes of cereal made by the US food giant.

Excessive levels of lead were found in 400-gram boxes of “AD Calcium Hi-Protein Cereal” with batch number 20140413 during a regular food inspection, the Zhejiang Provincial Food and Drug Administration said yesterday.

Food safety staff launched a special inspection of 303 food vendors in the province. The sealed products were 483 boxes from two trade companies in Hangzhou, the provincial capital, and 131 from retailers.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a homecoming invitation from the Asahi Shimbun:

Second group of Fukushima residents given OK to return home in evacuation zone

Some residents of this village who lived within the 20-kilometer restricted zone surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were told on Aug. 17 that they can soon return home, only the second time the right of return has been granted.

The lifting of the evacuation order will allow the return of 275 residents living in 139 households in the eastern area of the village of Kawauchi.

The government made the announcement during a meeting with residents of the village on Aug. 17.

The Mainichi adds a critical element:

Gov’t decides to lift evacuation order on Fukushima village despite residents’ protests

An evacuation order for the eastern part of this village that has been in place since the Fukushima nuclear disaster will be lifted on Oct. 1, government officials agreed on Aug. 17, despite residents protesting that it is too early to lift the order.

The order covers an area with 139 households where 275 people live within 20 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Also on Oct. 1, a stricter evacuation order covering 18 households where 54 people live will be lowered in severity to allow more access.

The agreement was reached by Senior Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kazuyoshi Akaba and Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo. Akaba is also head of the national government’s local nuclear disaster-response headquarters.

And from the Asahi Shimbun, a nuclear payoff proposal:

TEPCO, Tohoku Electric to ‘donate’ 200 million yen more to village hosting nuclear reprocessing complex

Embattled Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co. will make a final combined 200 million yen ($1.95 million) “donation” to a village hosting the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, despite industry ministry criticism, The Asahi Shimbun has found.

The payment, which the two utilities have made annually since fiscal 2010, will go to assist the local fisheries industry in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture.

An Asahi Shimbun investigation into the village’s financial data and interviews with local officials showed that the Rokkasho government sent a document requesting financial assistance to TEPCO and Tohoku Electric on July 14.

And the cold shoulder, from NHK WORLD:

Town rejects plans to build radioactive waste site

The mayor of Shioya, in Tochigi Prefecture north of Tokyo, has demanded that the government retract its plan to build a permanent radioactive waste storage site in his town.

The Environment Ministry is seeking to construct facilities in 5 prefectures within the Tokyo metropolitan area and northern Japan. The facilities will permanently hold sewage sludge, incinerated ash, and other debris contaminated with more than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive materials. The highly radioactive waste was incurred by the nuclear accident in Fukushima in March 2011.

Last month, the ministry decided to use state-owned land in Shioya to build one of the facilities. The ministry wants the town’s cooperation in field surveys in the area. But the town is opposed to the construction. Town Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata and the speaker of the local assembly visited the ministry on Monday.

Kyodo News exports:

Japan resumes exporting Fukushima rice after 2011 nuclear crisis

Exporting of rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture has resumed after it was halted in the wake of the nuclear crisis in 2011 and concerns about radiation contamination, a national agricultural cooperative said Monday.

Three hundred kilograms of the Koshihikari brand of rice produced in Sukagawa City, Fukushima, has arrived in Singapore, and will be sold at a supermarket from Friday after clearing customs, according to the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations.

Fukushima Prefecture, a major producer of rice, had exported some 100 tons of rice in the year to March 2011 to such regions as Hong Kong, before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear accident in the prefecture.

Meanwhile, another troublesome fuel gets a legal thumbs up, via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Court rejects challenge to big tar sands oil pipeline

A federal judge on Monday rejected environmentalists’ challenge to a nearly 600-mile pipeline designed to carry tar sands crude oil between Illinois and Oklahoma.

In a 48-page decision, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson concluded the Flanagan South Pipeline could proceed without further federal study.

“This much is clear,” Jackson wrote. “A private company is constructing the FS Pipeline project largely on privately-owned land; the federal agencies that have been consulted about aspects of the pipeline project have control over only a small portion of the land and waterways that the pipeline traverses; and no statute authorizes the federal government to regulate or oversee the construction of a domestic oil pipeline.”

And for our final item, via the Associated Press, green maybe, but also medium rare:

BrightSource solar plant sets birds on fire as they fly overhead

  • Death estimates range from 1,000 to 28,000 per year

Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the concentrated beams of solar energy focused upward by the plant’s 300,000 mirrors — “streamers,” for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Federal wildlife investigators who visited BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one “streamer” every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, fracking, nukes


One again, we open today’s collection of environmental news stories with nature’s own pushback against human encroachment, first with BuzzFeed:

Mob Destroys Ebola Center In Liberia Two Days After It Opens

Fear and denial of the deadly virus are pervasive in Liberia. The mob exponentially increased the risk in one of the country’s biggest Ebola hot spots.

A mob descended on the center at around 5:30 p.m., chanting, “No Ebola in West Point! No Ebola in West Point!” They stormed the front gate and pushed into the holding center. They stole the few gloves someone had donated this morning, and the chlorine sprayers used to disinfect the bodies of those who die here, all the while hollering that Ebola is a hoax.

They ransacked the protective suits, the goggles, the masks. They destroyed part of Tarplah’s car as he was fleeing the crowd.

Jemimah Kargbo, a health care worker at a clinic next door, said they took mattresses and bedding, utensils and plastic chairs. “Everybody left with their own thing,” she said. “What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.”

Sky News has an update:

Ebola Spread Feared As Sufferers Flee Mob

Seventeen ebola sufferers flee a clinic raided by looters who steal blood-stained sheets – sparking fears the virus will spread.

At least 17 ebola patients have fled a quarantine centre in Liberia after it was attacked by armed men. The sufferers fled after looters broke into the clinic in a Monrovia slum, stealing blood-stained matresses and sheets, and claiming ebola was a hoax.

“They broke down the doors and looted the place. The patients all fled,” Rebecca Wesseh, who witnessed the attack, told AFP news agency.  Health officials say they fear the looting attack at the unit in West Point will spread ebola infections in Monrovia.

From the London Telegraph, devastation:

One patient in a 200-bed hospital: how Ebola has devastated Liberia’s health system

  • Patients with other illnesses now dying due to lack of medical care amid Ebola outbreak in Liberia

Three-year-old Matu Buema lies wheezing in her hospital bed, a tiny, listless bundle in her mother Fatu’s arms. The normally bouncy toddler is suffering from a bout of malaria that could easily kill her – yet right now, she is far and away the luckiest of the patients to have sought help at Phebe Hospital in central Liberia.

Last month, five of the hospital’s nurses and one doctor became infected while treating a patient carrying the Ebola virus, and in the ensuing panic, most of the rest of the staff fled en masse.

The hospital has been closed ever since, and for the 330,000 residents of Bong County, a swathe of dense rainforests scattered with remote villages, there are now no emergency hospital facilities at all, be it for Ebola or anything else.

From the Guardian, a plea:

WHO urges calm as Kenya bans contact with Ebola-affected countries

  • The transmission risk from flying is low, but mounting pressure forces Kenya Airways to suspend flights

The World Health Organisation has urged governments not to impose blanket bans on trade and travel on Ebola-affected countries after Kenya joined a growing number of countries and airlines severing links to three west African states.

The WHO has already said that the risk of Ebola transmission from air travel is low, but the level of fear is so high that several airlines have disregarded the UN agency’s advice. The disease has already killed at least 1,145 people across west Africa this year.

“The scale of the outbreak is much larger than anything ever seen before,” said Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman. “It is an obvious source of concern and it is not to be underestimated, but we must take measures commensurate with the risk. What you don’t want to do is to take blanket measures to cut off travel and trade.”

The New York Times adds another complication:

With Aid Doctors Gone, Ebola Fight Grows Harder

The departure of many Western development workers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the West African countries hit hardest by Ebola, has further weakened the region’s understaffed health systems at the very moment they are facing one of the most volatile public health crises ever. Liberia, population four million, has fewer than 250 doctors left in the entire country, according to the Liberia Medical and Dental Council. Seven doctors there have contracted Ebola, and two of them have died.

“The locals’ seeing this mass exodus of expatriates has contributed to the sense that there’s an apocalypse happening and they’re in it on their own,” said Raphael Frankfurter, executive director of the Wellbody Alliance, which provides clinical services in a diamond-mining district of Sierra Leone bordering Guinea, where the outbreak began.

Mr. Frankfurter, too, sent his four American volunteers home for fear they might fall ill. They left behind 160 Liberian staff members. “It’s certainly not in line with our values, because it’s just such a glaring inequality,” he said. But “it’s a very scary place to get sick right now.”

Global Times covers a win:

Nigerian Ebola patient discharged after full recovery

The first Nigerian confirmed to have contracted the Ebola virus had been discharged after full recovery, the government said late on Saturday.

Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu, who told reporters in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, said the patient was discharged after conclusive discharge protocols, adding that she could go home to resume her normal life.

Five other Ebola patients have almost fully recovered, Chukwu said, adding that the female doctor had attended to the Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, who brought the disease to Nigeria on July 20. Sawyer died on July 25.

And from Sky News, if not a win, then not a loss:

Spain Ebola Alert Over As Man Tests Negative

A man tests negative for ebola after walking into a hospital in Alicante showing “several symptoms” of the disease.

An ebola alert activated in Alicante, Spain, after a young Nigerian man was admitted to hospital with fever and vomiting is over after he tested negative.

Spanish health authorities activated alert protocols after the man showed “several symptoms” of the disease. But sources say that tests have now revealed the man did not have ebola.

From the Los Angeles Times, another withdrawal:

African nations pull out of Youth Olympics in Ebola controversy

Saying they were unhappy about being stigmatized over fears of Ebola, some African countries have withdrawn from a Youth Olympics tournament set to begin Saturday in the Chinese city of Nanjing.

Nigeria said it was in the process of sending home a delegation of 19 officials and teenage athletes who had arrived in China earlier this week. Sierra Leone and Liberia decided against even sending delegations to China.

The International Olympic Committee in Geneva announced Friday that athletes from Ebola-impacted countries would not be allowed in swimming or combat events. The committee said the decision was made after consultation with the World Health Organization and Chinese officials.

And the Associated Press adds another complexity:

Another Ebola problem: Finding its natural source

A scary problem lurks beyond the frenzied efforts to keep people from spreading Ebola: No one knows exactly where the virus comes from or how to stop it from seeding new outbreaks.

Ebola has caused two dozen outbreaks in Africa since it first emerged in 1976. It is coming from somewhere — probably bats — but experts agree they need to pinpoint its origins in nature.

That has had to wait until they can tame the current outbreak, which has claimed more than 1,100 lives in four countries — the worst toll from Ebola in history.

“First and foremost get the outbreak under control. Once that piece is resolved, then go back and find what the source is,” said Jonathan Towner, a scientist who helped find the bat source of another Ebola-like disease called Marburg. Towner works for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

China Daily stays the course:

Ebola outbreak interrupts Chinese companies in Liberia, but risk controllable

The Ebola outbreak in Liberia has affected the operation and business of Chinese companies in the country, but Chinese workers remain safe and the risk is still controllable, said a Chinese diplomat.

There are some 1,500 workers with Chinese companies in Liberia and the impact of the epidemic on Chinese companies has gradually surfaced, Chinese commercial counsellor Xiao Mingxiang told Xinhua on Friday.

Due to the withdrawal of the medical staff of international organizations and the heavy loss of local medics, the Liberian medical institutes have come to a crunch, Xiao said.

And from Vocativ, quackery:

This Guy Sent Sierra Leone 4,000 Bottles of Holy Water to Cure Ebola

  • The Nigerian minister who claims his holy water can cure Ebola also claims he predicted the MH370 plane crash and Boston bombings. Seems legit

To help the West African country fight the escalating Ebola crisis, Nigerian Christian preacher Temitope Joshua says he has sent the Sierra Leone government 4,000 bottles of his patented holy anointed water and $50,000 in cash in a private jet, which also cost $50,000 to charter.

Sierra Leone will, one would assume, take every penny it can get to stem the Ebola outbreak, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives worldwide, with the majority of the victims in West African countries. Such odd largess does certainly beg the question, though: Who the hell is this guy?

On to water woes, first with the Los Angeles Times:

On Santa Cruz Island, rising seas present archaeological emergency

Archaeologist Torben Rick watched with frustration as pounding surf clawed at one of North America’s oldest homesteads, a massive heap of village foundations, cutting tools, beads and kitchen discards left behind over the last 13,000 years.

Here, seafaring tribal members cast fishing nets from canoes made of redwood planks, prepared dinners on stone griddles, and painstakingly chipped out tiny shell beads prized as currency.

But unless something is done, this rich trove of Native American history and several others on the island will almost certainly be destroyed by rising seas and strong storm surges along beaches that will soon no longer exist.

From the San Jose Mercury News, post-Proposition 13 infrastructure neglect adds to the woes:

California Drought: Bay Area loses billions of gallons to leaky pipes

As Bay Area residents struggle to save water during a historic drought, the region’s water providers have been losing about 23 billion gallons a year, a new analysis of state records reveals.

Aging and broken pipes, usually underground and out of sight, have leaked enough water annually to submerge the whole of Manhattan by 5 feet — enough to meet the needs of 71,000 families for an entire year.

Bay Area water agencies have lost from 3 to 16 percent of their treated water, according to this newspaper’s analysis of the latest reports on water that disappears before the meter. The figures are especially irritating for residents who are being forced to cut up to 20 percent of their water use and contend with the first-ever statewide restrictions on outdoor watering.

Bloomberg looks ahead:

California Drought Transforms Global Food Market

On its own, California would be the world’s ninth-largest agricultural economy, according to a University of California at Davis study. Shifts in its production reverberate globally, said Dan Sumner, another agricultural economist at the school.

“It’s a really big deal,” Sumner said. “Some crops simply grow better here than anyplace else, and our location gives us access to markets you don’t have elsewhere.”

The success of California agriculture was built in large part on advances in irrigation that allowed the state to expand beyond wheat, which flourishes in dry climates. It’s now the U.S.’s top dairy producer and grows half the country’s fruits, vegetables and nuts.

And Homeland Security News Wire notes a shift:

Antarctica to become major contributor to sea level rise faster than previously thought

While Antarctica currently contributes less than 10 percent to global sea level rise and is a minor contributor compared to the thermal expansion of the warming oceans and melting mountain glaciers, it is Greenland and especially the Antarctic ice sheets with their huge volume of ice that are expected to be the major contributors to future long-term sea level rise.

Ice discharge from Antarctica could contribute up to thirty-seven centimeters to the global sea level rise within this century, a new study shows. For the first time, an international team of scientists provide a comprehensive estimate on the full range of Antarctica’s potential contribution to global sea level rise based on physical computer simulations.

Led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the study combines a whole set of state-of-the-art climate models and observational data with various ice models. The results reproduce Antarctica’s recent contribution to sea level rise as observed by satellites in the last two decades and show that the ice continent could become the largest contributor to sea level rise much sooner than previously thought.

While The Hill adds another complication:

California Democrats in tight races balk at Obama climate talk

Voters don’t hear the words “climate change” when Democrats in competitive races in California explain what’s causing the worst drought in the state’s history.

President Obama has repeatedly blamed global warming for episodes of severe weather, including wildfires and droughts in the Golden State, but Democrats seeking to unseat Republicans in the hard-hit Central Valley region are balking at that argument.

The drought is an issue in three of the five closest House races in California, but Democrats are opting against drawing a direct link between the drought and climate change.

And the London Telegraph covers water woes in the Southern Hemisphere:

‘Water war’ in Brazil as Rio’s supply threatened

  • São Paulo and Rio authorities battle over scarce water resources as reservoirs run dry

A severe drought affecting Brazil’s biggest city has led to a “water war” that could cause the water supply to collapse in parts of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Authorities in São Paulo have been battling a water crisis for months as reservoirs run dry for lack of rainfall.

Earlier this month, the state energy company in São Paulo (Cesp) asked the national operator of the electric system (ONS) to reduce the water flow at the Jaguari hydro-electric dam on the Rio Paraíba do Sul from 40,000 litres per second to 10,000 litres per second.

From the Canadian Press, frackophobia phobia:

N.B. fracking protest raised fears of copycat rallies

  • Documents show Ottawa watched Elsipogtog First Nation anti-fracking rally closely

Federal officials closely tracked the fallout of an RCMP raid on a First Nations protest against shale-gas exploration in New Brunswick, at one point raising concerns it could spawn another countrywide movement like Idle No More.

Documents obtained under access-to-information legislation reveal a lengthy email chain last fall monitoring events related to a blockade near Rexton, N.B., about 70 kilometres north of Moncton.

Members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, who were concerned about the environmental impact of shale-gas development, didn’t want energy company SWN Resources to do testing work on their traditional territory.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Japan Times:

Scientist weighs homecoming risks in Fukushima

Decontamination is the biggest issue when thinking of Fukushima’s future, because it determines when, or even if, residents will be able to return home, she said.

Three years on, however, the government is still stumbling toward a realistic decontamination goal, leaving thousands of evacuees in limbo, she said.

The central government is responsible for decontaminating evacuation zones in 11 municipalities where dosage readings exceed 20 millisieverts per year. But many areas remain untouched or in the midst of decontamination, with their 80,000 residents still displaced as of April 1, by government order.

Jiji Press prepares for a homecoming:

Evacuation Advisory to Be Lifted in Part of Fukushima Oct. 1

The Japanese government suggested plans on Sunday to lift its evacuation advisory on Oct. 1 for an eastern part of the Fukushima Prefecture village of Kawauchi, located within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The government will formalize the lifting at a meeting of its nuclear disaster response headquarters later this month.

It will be the second district where an evacuation advisory has been removed within the former exclusion zone set up after the March 2011 nuclear accident at the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. <9501>, after the Miyakoji district of the city of Tamura. The no-go zone within the 20-kilometer radius of the stricken plant has been reorganized according to estimated levels of radiation.

While the Asahi Shimbun covers the art front:

Giant watercolor captures devastation of Fukushima nuclear disaster

A giant image of a destroyed reactor building in a nuclear wasteland is drawing crowds at the Sendai Mediatheque cultural hall in Aoba Ward here.

Titled “Kyodaiga de Egakareru Fukushima” (Fukushima drawn in a huge picture), the watercolor of the Fukushima nuclear disaster by Hiroshige Kagawa is 5.4 meters high and 16.4 meters wide.

Kagawa, 37, is a native of Miyagi Prefecture.

And for our final item, via NHK WORLD, to be determined:

Thousands of opinions on nuclear restart put

Nuclear regulators say they have received thousands of comments from the public over their draft assessment on restarting a nuclear power plant in southwestern Japan.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said on Friday it has now stopped accepting comments on the Sendai nuclear plant, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Company.

Regulators say the Sendai station is the first since the Fukushima Daiichi accident to meet enhanced government regulations.

By early August, the regulators had counted more than 4,000 comments from the public – a number they say is likely to have grown by Friday.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, glacial melt, nukes, more


Today’s headlines from the world of the interface between people and planet opens again with the story of the year, at least so far.

From Foreign Policy, a frightener by a public health expert:

You Are Not Nearly Scared Enough About Ebola

  • Experimental drugs and airport screenings will do nothing to stop this plague. If Ebola hits Lagos, we’re in real trouble.

Attention, World: You just don’t get it.

You think there are magic bullets in some rich country’s freezers that will instantly stop the relentless spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa? You think airport security guards in Los Angeles can look a traveler in the eyes and see infection, blocking that jet passenger’s entry into La-la-land? You believe novelist Dan Brown’s utterly absurd description of a World Health Organization that has a private C5-A military transport jet and disease SWAT team that can swoop into outbreaks, saving the world from contagion?

Wake up, fools. What’s going on in West Africa now isn’t Brown’s silly Inferno scenario — it’s Steven Soderbergh’s movie Contagion, though without a modicum of its high-tech capacity.

The Associated Press adds a new number:

Ebola may leave 1 million starved

The deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,000 in West Africa is disrupting the flow of goods, forcing the United Nations to plan food convoys for up to a million people as hunger threatens the largely impoverished area.

Amid roadblocks manned by troops and pervasive fear among the population of the dreaded disease, the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola is increasingly impacting the food supply in three countries.

While none of the regulations restricts the movement of basic necessities, fear and inconvenience are disrupting supplies. Some 1 million people in isolated areas might need food assistance in the coming months, according to the U.N. World Food Program, which is preparing a regional emergency operation to bring food by convoy to the needy.

From the Associated Press again, ramped up efforts:

Liberia expands Ebola treatment in capital

Liberian authorities expanded Ebola treatment centers in the capital Saturday to cope with increasing numbers of patients, while two more airlines announced they were halting flights to the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the deepening crisis.

Kenya Airways and regional carrier Gambia Bird join a number of other airlines in temporarily cancelling flights to avoid transmitting the disease beyond the four countries already affected in West Africa.

The Kenya Airways flights will stop as of midnight Tuesday, said Titus Naikuni, the chief executive officer of Kenya Airways. The decision was made with guidance from the country’s health ministry, Naikuni said. Gambia Bird said it had stopped flying to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

And the New York Times offers hope for a very, very few:

3 Liberian Health Workers With Ebola Receive Scarce Drug After Appeals to U.S.

Three Liberian health care workers who have contracted Ebola received an extremely scarce experimental serum on Friday at a hospital outside the national capital, Monrovia, a Liberian health official said Saturday.

The official, Tolbert G. Nyenswah, an assistant minister of health and social welfare, would not say if any of the three were doctors.

The drug, a mix of monoclonal antibodies called ZMapp, has been tested in animals, but has not been studied for safety or effectiveness in humans. It arrived in Liberia on Wednesday after appeals by leaders there to top officials in the United States and a letter from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to President Obama.

From the New York Times again, a quackery alert:

Agencies Issue Warnings Over Bogus Ebola Cures

Panic over Ebola has the makers of dietary supplements aggressively targeting Africans, claiming to have a cure for the lethal virus.

Late this week, both the World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration issued strong warnings about false Ebola cures. The latter threatened American companies with penalties if they continue making such claims. Neither agency listed products or companies they accused of fraud or explained why they had acted so suddenly.

Nigeria’s health minister was widely reported on Thursday to have endorsed an American nutritional supplement, one that the W.H.O. said was an example of the sort of “false rumors of effective products” it was trying to quell.

The Japan Times reassures:

Ebola unlikely to spread to Japan: health ministry

The Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa recently is unlikely to spread to Japan, health ministry officials say.

Although the probability is deemed low, Japan is making preparations at international airports and other entry points to deal with the possible arrival of Ebola-infected people, the officials also say.

“This is not an unknown disease and we have a system for dealing with it, so the disease is unlikely to spread (in Japan) even if an infected person appears,” a health bureaucrat said. “In developed countries, fatality rates are said to be around 20 percent.”

From the Associated Press, another consequence:

US Basketball: No Africa trip after Ebola outbreak

The U.S. national team has canceled a trip to Senegal after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Americans were scheduled to interrupt their World Cup of Basketball preparations to travel to the African continent for the first time, conducting a joint clinic on Aug. 27 with the Senegal national team. They planned to tour Senegal’s Goree Island and attend a reception hosted by the Senegalese government.

But USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Friday the Americans had no choice but to call off the trip because of the risk involved with Senegal’s location near countries where the outbreak has been deadly.

SINA English covers lust for bucks amidst a plague:

Chinese investors’ enthusiasm toward Africa undiminished despite Ebola outbreak

Nigeria, a magical land that raises the biggest population in Africa and boasts the continent’s biggest economy, is like a magnet that keeps attracting Chinese investors.

Even the current rampant outbreak of Ebola virus could not dampen the enthusiasm of Chinese entrepreneurs, who keep coming into the country to build bridges, establish factories and farms, bringing changes to the country and the life of people living there.

And from Defense One, looking for help, Pentagon style:

The Pentagon Wants You to Help Them Find the Next Pandemic

Ever heard of Chikungunya? It’s a mosquito-borne virus that causes joint pain and fever and can be debilitating. It’s also spreading fast, having hit the Americas for the first time in decades at the end of last year and new cases were reported in Florida this last month. There is no official cure, yet, but recent research into a vaccine shown promise.

If you can build a model for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, explain where it’s going next, and do it by the end of September, they’ll give $150,000.

The initial submission, the entry exam if you will, should “contain a detailed description of the planned data sources and model applicability.” That has to be in by Sept. 1. It should include “predictions for the next six months, followed by five monthly update submissions, due on the first of each subsequent month, with predictions for the remaining period of the challenge.”

That model should include items like this, via the London Daily Mail:

Government scientist took shortcuts in handling deadly bird flu virus and then tried to cover up dangerous cross-contamination, CDC says

  • Scientist took shortcuts to speed up the work and accidentally contaminated the samples, mixing a deadly strand with a benign one
  • Accident occurred at Center for Disease Control HQ in Atlanta, Georgia, in January, a new report found
  • CDC shipped a virulent avian flu virus rather than a benign strain to a poultry research laboratory of the Department of Agriculture
  • No one became infected and the pathogen was destroyed
  • Took CDC six weeks to admit to the blunder
  • Follows the recent exposure of dozens of employees to live Anthrax

From the Christian Science Monitor, the melting point:

Humans now the major cause of alpine glacier melt, researchers say

  • The researchers estimate that between 1990 and 2010, some 69 percent of the mass lost by the world’s alpine glaciers can be traced to human influence – basically global warming.

Retreating alpine glaciers in a warming world may seem to have an obvious connection. But glaciers respond to environmental changes, well, glacially. At any point, it’s hard to tell how much of a glacier’s retreat is due to human-triggered factors now and how much is due to natural factors that might have held sway years ago, researchers say.

Now comes an analysis estimating that between 1990 and 2010, some 69 percent of the mass lost by the world’s alpine glaciers can be traced to human influence – basically global warming. That compares with only 25 percent traceable to human influence averaged over the entire study period of 1850 to 2010. The team picked 1850 since that is when a prolonged, modest cooling period known as the Little Ice Age, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, ended.

The study shows that throughout the 160-year period, an increasing proportion of mass loss could be traced to human influence, which becomes significant from about 1950 on, notes Ben Marzeion, a researcher at the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria who led the team performing the analysis.

CIP Americas covers another environmental dilemma:

Coffee, a crisis about to explode

The dual plagues of blight and price fixing are causing the scarcity and high prices of the fragrant bean, but the real problem for communities is the need to grow other foods.

“The scarcity of coffee and the price increases will have an affect on the indigenous population,” warns Eliseo Gómez Álvarez, member of a small association of coffee growers in the community of San Pedro, in Chenalhó, in the highlands of Chiapas. Jorge Santiago, who works alongside the local communities, explains that “the coffee economy is not an alternative, they have to be able to produce corn and other foods.”

During the months of January and February 2014, coffee prices rose in Chiapas. One explanation was coffee rust, a fungus that infects coffee trees. However, as local experts explain, there are many factors working together to turn production into a crisis. “There’s not far to go until the situation becomes explosive,” explains Javier Galván, member of the coffee network of the National Union of Regional Autonomous Rural Farmworker Organizations (UNORCA, in Spanish).

And from north of the border. Alien invaders via CBC News:

Goldfish dumped by Coquitlam pet owners become invasive species

  • City says goldfish just one of several invasive species breeding in local lakes where they were dumped

They’re easy to take care of, inexpensive and entertaining, but goldfish and other aquatic pets including exotic fish, turtles, bass and carp are getting into local waterways and breeding and competing with native species.

In Coquitlam, so many goldfish are winding up in Como Lake that the city is cracking down with hefty fines ranging from $2,500 to $250,000.

David Scott, from Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management, said there’s good cause for concern. “If you have non-native species that become established in let’s say the Fraser River, they would be competing and influencing dozens of local species that we have here including salmon which are economically important,” he said.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with an NGO [NPO] fraud with friends in high places via Jiji Press:

Tokyo NPO in N-Accident Fraud Scandal May Have Been Dummy

A Tokyo-based nonprofit organization at the center of a fraud scandal related to nuclear accident compensation is suspected to have been a dummy organization since its establishment, it was learned Saturday.

Business reports submitted to the Tokyo metropolitan government by the NPO, established in August 2011, said no operations were carried out in fiscal 2011-2012 for various reasons, showing zeros for all categories of costs such as personnel expenses and energy bill.

The NPO, headed by former Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, did not submit its business report for fiscal 2013 by the deadline at the end of June 2014.

Associated Press sounds a domestic nuclear dilemma:

Delays for SC nuclear plant pressure industry

Expensive delays are piling up for the companies building new nuclear power plants, raising fresh questions about whether they can control the construction costs that crippled the industry years ago.

The latest announcement came this week from executives at SCANA Corp., which has been warned by its builders the startup of the first of two new reactors in South Carolina could be delayed two years or more. SCANA Corp. and plant co-owner Santee Cooper have not accepted that timeline from the companies designing and building the reactors, nor have they accepted responsibility for additional costs.

That announcement may well foreshadow more delays for a sister project in eastern Georgia, and they have caught the attention of regulators and Wall Street.

And for our final item, TheLocal.at covers more nuclear discontent:

Austrian province wants Swiss nuclear power halt

  • The head of the regional Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) in Voralberg, Roland Frühstück, wants to exert pressure on the Swiss government to speed up decommissioning of its aging nuclear power reactors due to concerns over safety.

Switzerland has four remaining active nuclear power plants, one of which is the oldest non-military reactor operating in the world.

The Swiss government decided in 2011 to shut down one of the plants, which was commissioned in 1972.  The plant, in Mühleberg, is now more than 42 years old, and has a similar design to the ill-fated Fukushima plant – although it isn’t on the coast in a tectonically active region.

A similar decision has yet to be taken by Switzerland in connection with its Beznau Nuclear Power Plant, which was commissioned in 1969, making it 45 years old.

EnviroWatch: Asteroids, Ebola, fracking, more


Before we get to the latest on the Ebola front, the Independent warns of a potential global catastrophe ahead:

Huge asteroid that ‘could end human life’ defying gravity as it moves towards Earth, scientists say

  • Scientists have moved closer to being able to stop a huge asteroid colliding with the Earth and potentially wiping out human life

Researchers at the University of Tennessee have discovered that blowing the space rock up could make the collision worse by causing several devastating impacts. Instead, small changes could be made to its surface to disrupt the forces keeping it together and cause it to break up in outer space.

They were studying asteroid 1950 DA, which has a one in 300 chance of hitting the planet on 16 March, 2880.

Although the odds seem small, it is the most likely asteroid to collide with Earth and the odds are higher than being shot dead in the US.

On to Ebola, first with a sobering headline from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Ebola outbreak even deadlier than previously thought, WHO warns

The official death toll from the Ebola outbreak has been vastly underestimated and the crisis will need “extraordinary measures” to bring under control, the World Health Organization has warned.

The outbreak in four West African countries has killed at least 1,145 people already, after a further 76 deaths were reported on Friday, but the latest WHO statement suggested that the actual toll could be much higher.

“Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” the WHO said in Geneva.

The WHO also cautioned against “unrealistic expectations” about experimental Ebola medicines and vaccines, including a Canadian vaccine that has been offered to the Ebola-affected countries. Those drugs won’t have a major impact on the outbreak, it said.

More from the Japan Times:

Ebola centers filling faster than they can be opened

Beds in Ebola treatment centers are filling up faster than they can be provided, evidence that an outbreak in West Africa is far more severe than the numbers show, an official with the World Health Organization said Friday.

The outbreak sweeping Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria is already the largest and deadliest ever recorded, killing more than 1,060 people, according to the latest WHO figures.

But the U.N. health agency said Thursday that official counts of the dead and infected may still “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”

Another warning from the Global Post:

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is like ‘wartime,’ experts warn

‘I think the wake-up call was too late in calling it a public health emergency of international concern,’ the international president of Doctors Without Borders said.

It will take about six months to bring under control the Ebola epidemic, the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Friday, saying the outbreak in West Africa felt like “wartime, is moving, advancing.”

Joanne Liu, international president of MSF (Doctors Without Borders), speaking after a 10-day trip to West Africa, said more experts were needed on the ground and was critical of the World Health Organization (WHO) for declaring Ebola a “public health emergency of international concern” only on Aug 8.

“We need people with a hands-on operational mindset,” to combat the outbreak, Liu told a news briefing in Geneva.

From the London Telegraph, a UK Ebola alert:

Woman tested for Ebola in Scotland

  • NHS investigating ‘possible’ case of Ebola after woman from Sierra Leone falls ill at immigration removal centre

A woman is being tested for the Ebola virus in Scotland after falling ill at an immigration removal centre.

Health authorities have confirmed they are investigating a “possible” case of the deadly virus but have said it so far appears “highly unlikely” the test will turn out to be positive.

The woman is believed to have arrived from Sierra Leone, one of the countries most affected by the epidemic that has claimed more than 1,000 lives across West Africa.

Homeland Security News Wire covers a procedural change contemplated:

Texas Medical Center considering “reverse quarantine” to prevent Ebola infections

The Texas Medical Center (TMC), home to more than fifty health care institutions (it is considered the world’s largest medical district), is considering using a preventive measure, known as reverse quarantine, to keep potentially at-risk employees and students from spreading Ebola to other medical staff or patients. Concerned that the Ebola outbreak could reach Texas, hospital executives are reviewing their emergency management plans, usually reserved to guide more than 100,000 employees at TMC during hurricanes and tropical storms.

The Texas Medical Center (TMC), home to more than fifty health care institutions (it is considered the world’s largest medical district), is considering using a preventive measure, known as reverse quarantine, to keep potentially at-risk employees and students from spreading Ebola to other medical staff or patients. Concerned that the Ebola outbreak could reach Texas, hospital executives are reviewing their emergency management plans, usually reserved to guide more than 100,000 employees at TMC during hurricanes and tropical storms.

The reserve quarantine was once used on Dr. Tom Wheeler, when he returned to Houston from a visit in Mexico in 2009, during the height of the H1N1 epidemic. Upon his return, the Baylor College of Medicine’s (BCM) pathology chief was told by his employer to stay home for a day before he returned to work. “I was just told to stay at home, no special precautions,” said Wheeler. “I came to work the next day.”

From USA Today, a homecoming ahead:

American Ebola victim looks forward to family reunion

In a new statement issued Friday, Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the two American missionaries to come down with Ebola while serving in Africa, says he is “recovering in every way” and looks forward to a reunion with his family “in the near future.”

Brantly is being treated in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, along with the other American Ebola victim, Nancy Writebol. The statement issued Friday was through Samaritan’s Purse, the organization Brantly was serving. Writebol was a missionary with SIM USA. Earlier reports indicated that she was recovering, but no new information was available Friday.

Brantly says he still has hurdles to clear in his recovery before he can be discharged, but he is holding on to the hope of a family reunion.

Homeland Security News Wire covers testing:

Ebola vaccine to be tested on humans

Efforts to test an Ebola vaccine on humans have reached a milestone when BioProtection Systems, through its parent company, NewLink Genetics Corporation, confirmed that it is prepared to launch the first human safety trial of a vaccine, which the company licensed after it was developed by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada. Thevaccine replaces the genes from vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a pathogen found in livestock, with a gene from the Ebola virus. The Ebola gene then develops a harmless protein that sits on the virus’s outer coat.

Efforts to test an Ebola vaccine on humans have reached a milestone when BioProtection Systems, through its parent company, NewLink Genetics Corporation, confirmed that it is prepared to launch the first human safety trial of a vaccine, which the company licensed after it was developed by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada. The company has also arranged to manufacture tens of thousands of vaccine doses within “the next month or two,” Dr. Charles Link, NewLink’s chief executive, said.

And China Daily asserts:

We’re ready if Ebola arrives, say health officials

China is on guard against the Ebola virus and well prepared to respond to any threat from it, health officials say as global concerns mount over the outbreak in West Africa.

Dong Xiaoping, deputy director of the emergency response division at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the nation is far from the areas affected and there are no direct flights to these countries.

“The possibility of Ebola entering China remains remote, although it does exist,” Dong said. “But a mass outbreak in China can be ruled out, given the capacity for responding to it here.”

Frontera NorteSur covers another water woe:

A Toxic Shade of Orange

A Mexican federal official has accused the mining giant Grupo Mexico with concealing an August 5 toxic spill that contaminated two rivers in the northern border state of Sonora.

Cesar Lagarda Lagarda, northwestern division chief for the National Water Commission (Conagua), said in a press conference this week that Grupo Mexico “deliberately hid the failure” of a waste storage facility that held a mixture of sulfuric acid and heavy metals from its Cananea copper mine, which is located south of the Arizona-Sonora border.

The toxic soup first spilled into the Bacanuchi River before entering the Sonora River and threatening water supplies for downstream communities and the state capital of Hermosillo. The pollution was first noticed by local residents last week who were surprised to see the Sonora River transformed into a odd, orange color. Residents also feared contamination of their groundwater.

Lagarda reported that authorities have detected excessive levels of arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, iron, manganese, nickel, and copper near the municipality of Baviacora, as well as dead fish. The official warned of long-term, fatal effects to cattle. An estimated 10 million gallons of toxic material spilled from Grupo Mexico’s property.

From the Asahi Shimbun, our lone Fukushimapocalypse Now! item:

Utilities still spending consumer fees to run nuclear-promotion centers

Seven electric power utilities continue to spend billions of yen to run facilities that promote nuclear power despite dwindling visitor numbers and pressure on the companies to cut costs.

Operating expenses for these public relations centers are covered by consumer payments for electricity, the rates for which were raised after the utilities’ nuclear reactors were taken offline following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The government approved the higher charges on households based on the premise that the companies would take thorough measures to improve efficiency and reduce spending.

On to the fracking front, first with Mother Jones:

Why the Scientific Case Against Fracking Keeps Getting Stronger

  • Anthony Ingraffea argues that fugitive methane emissions turn natural gas from a climate benefit into yet another strike against fossil fuels.

How things have changed. Nowadays, explains Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea on the latest installment of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream above), the scientific argument against fracking and unconventional gas drilling is more extensive. It involves not simply groundwater contamination, but also at least two other major problems: earthquake generation and the accidental emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

On the show, Ingraffea laid out the science on these issues—and it is certainly not something a reasonable person can ignore. Take earthquakes, for instance. According to Ingraffea, “there is now, in my opinion, scientific consensus that human-induced seismicity does occur” as a result of a particular aspect of unconventional gas drilling (namely, disposing of chemically laden “flowback water” in underground wastewater injection wells).

Ingraffea isn’t the likeliest scientific foe of fracking. His past research has been funded by corporations and industry interests including Schlumberger, the Gas Research Institute, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. His original doctoral work, in the 1970s, involved the study of “rock fracture mechanics”—in other words, how cracks in rock form and propagate, a body of knowledge that is crucial to extractive industries like oil and gas. “I spent 20, 25 years working with the oil and gas industry…helping them to figure out how best to get oil and gas out of rock,” Ingraffea explains.

ProPublica covers fracking infractions:

Report: Drillers Illegally Using Diesel Fuel to Frack

An analysis by an environmental group finds hundreds of cases in which drillers used diesel fuel without obtaining permits and sometimes altered records disclosing they had done so

A new report charges that several oil and gas companies have been illegally using diesel fuel in their hydraulic fracturing operations, and then doctoring records to hide violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The report, published this week by the Environmental Integrity Project, found that between 2010 and July 2014 at least 351 wells were fracked by 33 different companies using diesel fuels without a permit. The Integrity Project, an environmental organization based in Washington, D.C., said it used the industry-backed database, FracFocus, to identify violations and to determine the records had been retroactively amended by the companies to erase the evidence.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires drilling companies to obtain permits when they intend to use diesel fuel in their fracking operations. As well, the companies are obligated to notify nearby landowners of their activity, report the chemical and physical characteristics of the fluids used, conduct water quality tests before and after drilling, and test the integrity of well structures to ensure they can withstand high injection pressures. Diesel fuel contains a high concentration of carcinogenic chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, and they disperse easily in groundwater.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, another fuel, another problem:

Oil sands among riskiest energy plays in the world: report

A new report says some of the world’s costliest energy projects are in Alberta’s oil sands and many could be cancelled without higher oil prices.

The study by the Carbon Tracker Initiative highlighted 20 of the biggest projects around the world that need a minimum oil price of $95 (U.S.) per barrel to be economically viable.

Most on the list require prices well north of $110 per barrel and a few in the oil sands even need prices higher than $150.

And our final item, via the Guardian:

Rarest dolphins under threat from oil exploration in NZ sanctuary, say Greens

  • New Zealand Greens and International Whaling Commission say Maui’s dolphins need more protection, but minister disagrees

The New Zealand government has been accused of threatening the survival of the Maui’s dolphins, one of world’s rarest dolphin breeds, with just 55 of the animals remaining.

The Maui’s dolphin is endemic to New Zealand and is only found off the west coast of the country’s north island. The IUCN lists the species as critically endangered.

Although a special sanctuary for the species was established in 2008, conservation groups have accused the New Zealand government of hastening its demise by allowing oil exploration and fishing in the area.

Chart of the day II: Documenting Ebola’s spread


From Agence France-Presse:

BLOG Ebola

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, toxic sperm, nukes


We open today’s compendium of environmental news with the latest on the Ebola front, and conclude with a case of Down Under idiocy.

First up, a declaration via Reuters:

Guinea declares public health emergency over Ebola

Guinea has declared a public health emergency over an Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 1,000 people in three West African states and is sending health workers to all affected border points, a government official said.

An estimated 377 people have died in Guinea since the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola began in March in remote parts of a border region next to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Guinea says its outbreak is under control with the numbers of new cases falling, but that the new measures are needed to prevent further infection from the other countries at the center of the epidemic.

Global Times covers a clean bill of health:

No confirmed Ebola cases in S. Africa: health authorities

There have been no laboratory- confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in South Africa associated with the current outbreak in West Africa, health authorities said on Thursday.

Given the frequency of travel between southern and western African countries, there is a risk of EVD cases being imported into South Africa, but overall this risk is low, the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said in its latest update on the spread of EVD.

The Associated Press mulls a quandary:

Liberia gets Ebola drug; ponders who should get it

Liberian officials faced a difficult choice Thursday: deciding which handful of Ebola patients will receive an experimental drug that could prove life-saving, ineffective or even harmful.

ZMapp, the untested Ebola drug, arrived in the West African country late Wednesday. Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said three or four people would begin getting it Thursday, although another health official said there was only enough for three people.

The government had previously said two doctors would receive the treatment, but it was unclear who else would.

A related story from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Doctors: Ebola drug poses dilemma

Doctors treating a Sierra Leone physician with Ebola defended their decision not to give him an experimental drug, saying Wednesday they feared it was too risky.

Calling it “an impossible dilemma,” Doctors Without Borders explained in detail last month’s decision in response to a New York Times story on the case. It would have been the first time the experimental drug was tried in humans.

The explanation came the same day that another top doctor from Sierra Leone died of the disease, further fueling a debate about how to apportion a limited supply of untested drugs and vaccines and whether they are even effective.

Xinhua ads context:

Ebola crisis could continue for months: health official

A U.S. health official warned Thursday it would take at least three to six months to end the Ebola outbreak, which has killed nearly 1,000 in West Africa, and which has prompted a state of emergency in Liberia and Nigeria.

“It will be a long and hard fight,” Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tom Frieden told a congressional hearing.

The director on Wednesday activated the level of the agency’s response to the outbreak to its highest alert status.

The Wire covers a patient cured:

Ebola-Stricken Doctor Could Be Released From Atlanta Hospital Soon

According to the charity Samaritan’s Purse, Dr. Kent Brantly is recovering nicely from Ebola and is expected to be released from the hospital shortly. From the group’s statement:

“Dr. Kent Brantly is doing very well and hopes to be released sometime in the near future. The staff at Emory Healthcare are taking extremely great care of him. Kent and his wife continue to express appreciation for everyone’s prayers.”

A simple enough sentiment although one not accompanied by a timetable. Reports on Brantly’s condition have been increasingly positive since he arrived in Atlanta two weeks ago.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, another false alarm:

Nigerian woman sent to Singapore hospital did not have Ebola: MOH

  • The patient, who is in her 50s, was reportedly suffering from a high fever. She has since been discharged.

Fears of the first case of Ebola surfacing in Singapore on Thursday (Aug 14) proved unfounded.

In a statement, the Health Ministry clarified that there is no suspect case of Ebola in Singapore at present. “The case in question was indeed referred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, but she does not fit the case definition,” it said. “MOH will continue to closely monitor the situation, and continually assess and calibrate its measures.”

The scare began when a Nigerian woman was transferred from Gleneagles Hospital to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH)’s Communicable Diseases Centre on Thursday. She was suffering from a high fever.

Reuters covers an exodus:

U.S. Embassy dependents to leave Sierra Leone due to Ebola

The United States said on Thursday it had ordered family members at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone to depart because of limitations on regular medical care as a result of the Ebola outbreak.

“The Embassy recommended this step out of an abundance of caution, following the determination by the Department’s Medical Office that there is a lack of options for routine health care services at major medical facilities due to the Ebola outbreak,” the State Department said in a statement.

From Global Times, a prohibition:

Filipino seafarers prohibited from disembarking in Ebola-stricken countries

The Philippine government on Monday prohibited Filipino seafarers from disembarking in Ebola-hit countries in West Africa.

The order is contained in the guidelines issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to protect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and prevent the spread of the Ebola virus disease.

“There will be no shore leave for seafarers and no crew change in the ports of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the meantime,” POEA chief Hans Leo Cacdac said in a statement.

From Reuters, a suspension:

Korean Air suspends flights to Kenya over Ebola worries

Korean Air Lines Co Ltd said on Thursday it will suspend flights to and from Nairobi from August 20 to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Korean Air said it had been operating three return flights from Incheon, South Korea, to the capital of Kenya a week.

The company said it would determine whether to resume the flights based on a change in conditions. It did not elaborate.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, another ounce of prevention:

Airport steps up measures against Ebola

Narita Airport Quarantine is strengthening measures to prevent the Ebola virus from entering Japan, in light of the deadly outbreak in parts of West Africa.

There are no direct flights from West African countries to Narita Airport, but there are fears that residents and travelers from such countries as Guinea, where there have been reports of an Ebola outbreak, may transfer planes at Narita Airport. To address such concerns, airport quarantine has been stepping up efforts to screen out infected individuals with fever by conducting thermographic inspections.

Furthermore, in response to the World Health Organization’s declaration of an international emergency on Aug. 8, quarantine is urging those who have stayed in West Africa to voluntarily declare their visit when entering Japan through public announcements in Japanese and English in addition to information boards and video displays in eight languages.

Anxiety-inducing historic precedent from the Associated Press:

25 Years Ago, a Different Ebola Outbreak in Va.

It had all the makings of a public-health horror story: an outbreak of a wildly deadly virus on the doorstep of the nation’s capital, with dozens of lab monkeys dead, multiple people testing positive, and no precedent in this country on how to contain it.

Americans’ introduction to the Ebola virus came 25 years ago in an office park near Washington Dulles International Airport, a covert crisis that captivated the public only years later when it formed the basis of a bestselling book.

Initially thought to be the same hyper-deadly strain as the current Ebola outbreak that has killed hundreds in Africa, the previously unknown Reston variant turned out to be nonlethal to humans. But the story of what might have been illustrates how far U.S. scientists have come in their understanding of a virus whose very name strikes fear, even in a country where no one has fatally contracted it.

Global Times reassures:

Outbreak of Ebola in China unlikely: expert

A Chinese expert said Wednesday that the possibility of an Ebola outbreak in China is extremely low, although the virus may enter the country.

Dong Xiaoping, research fellow with the Institute of Virus of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), said the possibility of Ebola entering China through fruit bats, its natural vector, and other animals is very low. However, it may enter China through humans in individual cases. Risks of this kind can be controlled with strengthened checks at customs.

Dong said the spread of Ebola in China is unlikely even if Ebola cases are found, as China is capable of disease control and prevention.

Next, opportunity for the corporate sector, first from USA Today:

NewLink Genetics: Ready to test Ebola vaccine

An Iowa drug developer is preparing to test a possible Ebola vaccine in humans, as scientists race to develop ways to prevent or fight a virus that has killed more than 1,000 people in a West African outbreak.

NewLink Genetics is planning an initial phase of testing involving up to 100 healthy volunteers and is talking with regulators about the study, said Brian Wiley, the company’s vice president for business development. He declined to say whether the drug developer has submitted an application for the research to the Food and Drug Administration.

Chief Financial Officer Gordon Link said Thursday the timing of the testing, which would involve up to 100 healthy volunteers, is uncertain.

MintPress News adds a dimension:

On Use Of Experimental Ebola Drugs, U.S. Under Increased Pressure

  • Officials wrestle with whether it is ethical to withhold potential treatment from some groups, but also if it is acceptable to offer either false hope or true risk to vulnerable populations

The World Health Organization has taken the unprecedented step of declaring that the use of experimental drugs — the efficacy and safety of which have yet to be proven — would be “ethical” to combat the current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

The multilateral agency’s unusual backing, announced Tuesday, will further complicate an issue that has suddenly become a major quandary for global health officials, the U.S. government and the very small number of private companies that have been working on Ebola research. Even as issues of access and equity have come to the fore, others are expressing concern that the discussion around experimental treatments could be a distraction.

The backing of the WHO followed a two-day emergency meeting of medical workers, ethicists and others.

“There was unanimous agreement among the experts that [due to] the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak it is ethical to offer unregistered interventions as potential treatments or prevention,” Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director-general at the WHO, told journalists Tuesday, while also releasing an institutional statement on the discussions.

A Chinese company’s venture from Shanghai Daily:

Biotech firm develops kit for diagnosing Ebola

A LOCAL biotech company says it has developed a diagnostic kit for Ebola that has been used in Nigeria with good effects.

Shanghai ZJ Bio-Tech Co said it started to develop the kit for Ebola virus in 2010 at the request of African clients.

Since the recent outbreak in west Africa, some 50 health facilities and laboratories home and abroad have ordered it.

Our final business item from El País, bringing in a corporate ’bot:

Bleach and a robot used to disinfect ebola victim’s Madrid hospital room

  • New tests confirm late Spanish priest Miguel Pajares’ colleague Juliana Bonoha is not infected

The Madrid hospital room in which Spanish priest Miguel Pajares spent the last five days of his life battling the ebola virus began to be disinfected on Wednesday. The task was first undertaken by a team from the Carlos III public hospital using bleach and then by a robot belonging to the same US company that cleaned the Washington, D. C. central post office after the 2001 anthrax attacks and also helped prevent the spread of infection in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in New Orleans in 2005. The hospital has not disclosed the cost of the procedure.

Staff at the center used bleach and disinfectant gas to clean the installations and burnt materials used by both Pajares, who died from the disease on Tuesday, and sister Juliana Bonoha Bohé, who was  repatriated to Spain from Liberia alongside him last week. New tests on Thursday confirmed that the 65-year-old Spanish nun has not been infected by the ebola virus, though she will remain in hospital until the 21-day incubation period has passed.

The firm Steris Iberia is in charge of completing the decontamination process in the room that Pajares occupied. Its technicians sealed the room, leaving in it a robot “similar to a large shopping cart” that is controlled by a computer from outside, explained the company’s head of business, Miguel Ángel Valdeolivas.

Our final Ebola item, a bigger picture from MintPress News:

Ebola And Climate Change: How Are They Connected?

  • In light of the recent outbreak, some researchers are connecting deforestation in countries such as Liberia to the disease, noting that the change in landscape is bringing wildlife in closer contact with humans

In 2006, a study published in the journal Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene revealed that Ebola, a “violent hemorrhagic fever that leads to internal and external bleeding,” would be more frequent with global warming due to its intermittent connection to wildlife and climate. In 2008, another study reiterated the same fears, noting that Ebola outbreaks would be among a cluster of other viral diseases gaining momentum, such as bird flu, cholera, plague and tuberculosis.

“We are calling for increased attention and action in developing global monitoring networks to look at a wide variety of infectious diseases in a wide variety of wildlife since they are such sensitive indicators of the health of the systems in which they live,” said veterinarian William Karesh, Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) vice president of global health programs, back in 2008.

In light of the recent outbreak, some researchers are connecting deforestation in countries such as Liberia to the disease, noting that the change in landscape is bringing wildlife in closer contact with humans. According to researchers, the virus is typically found in wildlife, and transmission from animals to humans occurs through contact with infected bodily fluids, causing a “spillover” in species. The virus can also be contracted from another human being when a person is in direct contact with infected blood, vomit or feces during contagious periods, putting health workers in West Africa primarily at risk.

From the Guardian, our first water woe:

Tibet’s glaciers at their warmest in 2,000 years, report says

  • Glacier retreat could disrupt water supply to Asia’s main rivers including Yellow, Yangtze, Brahmaputra, Mekong and Salween

The Tibetan plateau, whose glaciers supply water to hundreds of millions of people in Asia, were warmer over the past 50 years than at any stage in the past two millennia, a Chinese newspaper said, citing an academic report.

Temperatures and humidity are likely to continue to rise throughout this century, causing glaciers to retreat and desertification to spread, according to the report published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.

“Over the past 50 years, the rate of temperature rise has been double the average global level,” it said, according to the report on the website of Science and Technology Daily, a state-run newspaper.

Glacier retreat could disrupt water supply to several of Asia’s main rivers that originate from the plateau, including China’s Yellow and Yangtze, India’s Brahmaputra, and the Mekong and Salween in southeast Asia.

In May, Chinese scientists said Tibetan glaciers had shrunk 15% – around 3,100 sq miles (8,000 sq km) – over the past 30 years.

A food perspective from Global Times:

Concerns over grain supply as North China suffers worst drought in 63 years

The worst drought in 63 years in North China has badly hit three major grain producing regions, sparking concerns over nationwide grain supply.

Liaoning, Jilin and Henan provinces have seen the lowest levels of precipitation in the last six decades. Another nine regions, including Shandong, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces as well as Inner Mongolia, are also bearing the brunt of the severe drought, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The prolonged drought has affected 4.39 million hectares of cropland and 2.35 million people across the country, people.com.cn reported Wednesday.

Another water woe, via Homeland Security News Wire:

Ingredients in “fracking” fluids raise concerns

As the oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) proliferates, a new study on the contents of the fluids involved in the process raises concerns about several ingredients. The researchers say that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there is very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals.

As the oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) proliferates, a new study on the contents of the fluids involved in the process raises concerns about several ingredients. The scientists presenting the work yesterday at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) said that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there is very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals.

An ACS release reports that William Stringfellow, Ph.D., says he conducted the review of fracking contents to help resolve the public debate over the controversial drilling practice. Fracking involves injecting water with a mix of chemical additives into rock formations deep underground to promote the release of oil and gas. It has led to a natural gas boom in the United States, but it has also stimulated major opposition and troubling reports of contaminated well water, as well as increased air pollution near drill sites.

And from The Real News Network, another potentially alarming water worry, this time in the form of privatization:

Is Baltimore City’s Water Supply Up For Privatization?

  • City Hall denies the charge, but workers and advocates say an upcoming water contract could be a foot in the door for privatization

BBC News covers iDetox:

Apple bans two hazardous chemicals from assembly lines

Apple has banned two potentially hazardous chemicals from being used in the final assembly process at 22 of its iPhone and iPad production plants.

Benzene, which is a carcinogen, and n-Hexane, which can cause nerve damage, will no longer be used in cleaning agents or degreasers at the facilities, the firm said.

The move follows a campaign urging the tech giant to scrap the substances.

China Daily bans dosed up American pig meat:

US pork halted, additives feared

China stopped importing pork from six processing and six cold storage facilities in the United States on Wednesday to enforce its ban on the use of a feed additive that promotes lean muscle growth, the US Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

To ensure food safety, China had in March said that third-party verification was necessary to ensure that US pork shipped to the country is free of the additive ractopamine, which is sold for hog farm use as feed additive.

Ding Lixin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, said such quality control measures are commonplace in the domestic market, especially the checks to trace the presence of ractopamine in pork. The new move indicates that the government is implementing quality checks on imported pork products also.

From Spain, poisoned sperm via TheLocal.es:

Judge demands study on ‘Spain’s worst semen’

A judge in the Catalan city of Tarragona has ordered an investigation into the possible health impact of the area’s chemical industry after discovering that only six per cent of local men have fully mobile sperm.

The enquiry was launched yesterday after a judge studied a complaint made in 2010 by the environmental group L’Escurçó.

The group cited a 2002 study showing that the semen of 53 per cent of Tarragona’s men had semen which did not measure up to World Health Organization parameters.

The judge has now asked the Civil Guard to identify chemical industry companies in Tarragona which emit substances capable of reducing male fertility.

On to today’s episode of Fukushimapocalypose Now! with alarming news from the American Genetic Association:

Fukushima’s legacy

  • Biological effects of Fukushima radiation on plants, insects, and animals

Following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown, biological samples were obtained only after extensive delays, limiting the information that could be gained about the impacts of that historic disaster. Determined not to repeat the shortcomings of the Chernobyl studies, scientists began gathering biological information only a few months after the disastrous meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan in 2011. Results of these studies are now beginning to reveal serious biological effects of the Fukushima radiation on non-human organisms ranging from plants to butterflies to birds.

A series of articles summarizing these studies has now been published in the Journal of Heredity. These describe widespread impacts, ranging from population declines to genetic damage to responses by the repair mechanisms that help organisms cope with radiation exposure.

“A growing body of empirical results from studies of birds, monkeys, butterflies, and other insects suggests that some species have been significantly impacted by the radioactive releases related to the Fukushima disaster,” stated Dr. Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, lead author of one of the studies.

From the Guardian, hot times to come in the Outback?:

Aboriginal people can still apply to use land for nuclear waste, says minister

  • Ian MacFarlane tells traditional owners in Tennant Creek that the process would remain open until November

Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory can still apply to offer their land as a nuclear waste dump despite the collapse of government attempts to nominate Muckaty Station, the industry minister has said.

Ian MacFarlane met traditional owners, members of the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust and community members in Tennant Creek on Thursday, where he announced that the option to volunteer their land for a radioactive waste management facility would remain open until 30 November this year.

Muckaty had spent almost 10 years mired in bitter negotiations and legal battles, since the NLC lobbied for Aboriginal people to volunteer a site after former prime minister John Howard legislated for the first nuclear waste disposal facility in 2005.

And for our final item, the Guardian covers Aussie idiocy:

Tony Abbott adviser warns of threat of ‘global cooling’

  • Opponents label comments ‘terrifying’ after Maurice Newman writes opinion piece in the Australian newspaper

The Abbott government’s chief business adviser, Maurice Newman, has warned that Australia is ill prepared for global cooling owing to widespread “warming propaganda” in his latest critique of mainstream climate science.

Newman, who chairs the prime minister’s Business Advisory Council, said there is evidence that the world is set for a period of cooling, rather than warming, leading to significant geopolitical problems because of a lack of preparedness.

Adam Bandt, deputy leader of the Greens, said Newman’s comments were an “embarrassment to the government”.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water woes, frackin’ toxins


Today’s events from the interface of people and planet begins, once again, with the latest Ebola news, first from the New York Times:

Using a Tactic Unseen in a Century, Countries Cordon Off Ebola-Racked Areas

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is so out of control that governments there have revived a disease-fighting tactic not used in nearly a century: the “cordon sanitaire,” in which a line is drawn around the infected area and no one is allowed out.

Cordons, common in the medieval era of the Black Death, have not been seen since the border between Poland and Russia was closed in 1918 to stop typhus from spreading west. They have the potential to become brutal and inhumane. Centuries ago, in their most extreme form, everyone within the boundaries was left to die or survive, until the outbreak ended.

Plans for the new cordon were announced on Aug. 1 at an emergency meeting in Conakry, Guinea, of the Mano River Union, a regional association of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries hardest hit by Ebola, according to Agence France-Presse. The plan was to isolate a triangular area where the three countries meet, separated only by porous borders, and where 70 percent of the cases known at that time had been found.

The Guardian add complications:

Ebola epidemic heightened by poor facilities and distrust of healthcare

Children are dying of preventable diseases all the time in Africa. The nastiness of the Ebola outbreak shouldn’t let us forget that

In June and July approximately 5,000 women and children in Sierra Leone died of diseases. The vast majority of these deaths were avoidable. For women and children in Sierra Leone, June and July were just like any other month: unnecessarily dangerous and largely forgotten.

The Ebola outbreak in the country killed 233 people during the same period, and the story made headlines around the world. Why do the relatively small number of people dying of Ebola occupy the world’s media while the thousands of women and children who die of other illnesses barely get mentioned? Is it an attempt to raise awareness, mobilise resources and halt the epidemic? Or is sensationalism to blame? Children dying in Africa is old news, while an Ebola outbreak sounds like the setting for a Hollywood blockbuster.

The people in the global health community, a nebulous conglomerate of UN agencies, NGOs, charities and academic institutes, who spend most of their lives in relative obscurity desperately tying to raise awareness and funds, now appear on news bulletins and in the newspapers. Understandably, the focus of their discourse is the pathophysiology, containment and treatment of the Ebola outbreak. There are the predictable calls for more funding to be allocated to neglected tropical diseases.

BBC News identifies the latest addition to the at-risk list:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Kenya as a “high-risk” country for the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Kenya was vulnerable because it was a major transport hub, with many flights from West Africa, a WHO official said. This is the most serious warning to date by the WHO that Ebola could spread to East Africa.

The number of people killed by Ebola in West Africa has risen to 1,069, the WHO said in its latest update.

The Guardian adds a donation:

Ebola: Canada to donate experimental vaccine to the WHO for use in Africa

  • Canada has so far produced only about 1,500 doses of vaccine, which has not been tested on humans

Canada will donate a small quantity of an experimental Ebola vaccine developed in its government laboratory to the World Health Organization for use in Africa, the country’s health minister said on Tuesday.

The decision to donate the vaccine came after the WHO said on Tuesday that it was ethical to offer untested drugs to people infected by the virus.

The Canadian government will donate between 800 to 1,000 doses of the vaccine, with the final number dependent on how much Canada holds back for research and clinical trials. The government will also keep a small supply in case it is needed domestically.

The Hill plays catch-up:

Governments scramble to develop Ebola drugs

Governments and drugmakers are scrambling to develop new treatments for the Ebola virus now that the World Health Organization (WHO) has eased restrictions on untested vaccines.

The United States government is putting cash into experimental treatments, and on Tuesday, gave $4.1 million to the drugmaker BioCryst to advance its Ebola drug BCX4430, the company announced Wednesday.

The North Carolina pharmaceutical company in 2013 had received a five-year, $22 million contract from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop the drug but is now being given extra funding to speed up trials.

China Daily makes a plea:

Ebola collaboration urged

  • US, China teamwork in Africa could leverage both countries’ strengths

With teams of researchers and medical experts in West Africa, the US and China should concentrate their efforts on working together to combat the Ebola epidemic, showing that the two countries can cooperate for the common good, experts said.

“The US and China have comparative advantages: China has medical teams on the ground and the US has advanced technologies and disease-control expertise,” said Yun Sun, a fellow at the Stimson Center who previously focused on China-Africa relations at the Brookings Institution.

“Through inter-governmental coordination, it is possible to coordinate their individual aid efforts to maximize results.”

Deutsche Welle issues an evacuation call:

Germany urges citizens to leave Ebola-hit nations

The German government has urged nationals to leave three countries in west Africa affected by the Ebola virus. The outbreak has now killed more than 1000 people, including a second prominent physician in Sierra Leone.  

Following a meeting of a crisis unit working to stem the ongoing Ebola outbreak, Germany on Wednesday updated its travel warnings for the hardest-hit regions.

“It was decided that all German nationals who are in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are called upon to leave due to the still-critical situation,” foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer told reporters, adding that German medical personnel needed on the ground were “explicitly exempt.”

German embassies and consulates in the three countries would remain open, Schäfer also said.

Want China Times calls an alert:

Customs alert against Ebola in China

The Chinese customs authority said Tuesday it has asked customs checkpoints across the country to strengthen inspections to prevent the deadly Ebola virus from entering China.

The General Administration of Customs (GAC) said customs inspectors were told to carry out stricter inspections on transportation facilities, goods and materials from regions affected by Ebola.

Customs checkpoints nationwide were also asked to closely cooperate with the quarantine authority in case of any suspected infections.

The Christian Science Monitor poses a question:

Ebola and ethics: Are rich nations doing enough to fight the outbreak?

  • The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a matter of justice and ethics, experts said Tuesday. This has to do with medical testing and international funding.

The battle to contain the Ebola virus is not just about disease control in West Africa, it’s also about global ethics.

The ethical issues include questions about when experimental treatments should be used in the current outbreak and who gets them. But they also include whether greater global coordination is needed on health policy before such an outbreak occurs.

That’s partly a matter of money. In this case, a public-health emergency is centered in some of the world’s poorest nations – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. These are countries that haven’t set up the basic disease-response infrastructure called for by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).

And for our final Ebola item, there’s this from Nextgov:

Hacked Yahoo News Tweet Reports Atlanta Ebola Outbreak

A prominent publication’s Twitter feed announced Sunday afternoon the Ebola disease had spread beyond an Atlanta hospital where two infected Americans are quarantined, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“BREAKING: EBOLA OUTBREAK IN ATLANTA!” a Yahoo News tweet blared. “Estimated 145 people infected so far since Doctors carrying the disease were flown in from Africa.”

Few of the hundreds of people who retweeted the message seemed to take it seriously.

SINA English opens today’s water woes:

N. China province suffers worst drought in 63 years

North China’s Liaoning Province is suffering the harshest drought in 63 years, and things could get worse.

Since July, the province has received the least precipitation since meteorological records began in 1951, the provincial meteorological bureau said in a statement.

The lingering drought has affected a majority of the province,devastating 2 million hectares of crops. The drought may affect more crops with forecasts predicting less-than-normal rainfall for the remainder of August, the statement said.

The San Francisco Chronicle brings it closer to Casa esnl:

California drought: San Francisco puts caps on watering

San Francisco on Tuesday joined a growing number of cities that are rationing water amid a statewide drought, imposing a mandatory 10 percent reduction on outdoor watering.

The mandate, which requires customers to use no more than 90 percent of what they used outdoors in 2013, is meant for all the agency’s customers. But it will be enforced mostly on large accounts that use water outside exclusively, including golf courses, shopping malls and office parks.

Enforcement is limited because water meters at most homes and businesses don’t distinguish between indoor and outdoor consumption.

And the Contra Costa Times brights it to our doorstep:

EBMUD outlaws wasting water, but sets no fines for violators

Two of the Bay Area’s largest water agencies on Tuesday took steps to reduce outdoor water use, but stopped short of penalizing residential customers.

Responding to a state water board push for stronger conservation measures statewide, the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board outlawed water wasting practices such as flooding gutters and watering lawns more than twice a week — practices it previously only asked customers to avoid.

The board, however, said it wouldn’t fine customers as is done in some other areas with more severe water shortages such as Dublin, Santa Cruz, and Sacramento.

From the Los Angeles Times, another kind of water woe:

Oil companies fracking into drinking water sources, new research shows

Energy companies are fracking for oil and gas at far shallower depths than widely believed, sometimes through underground sources of drinking water, according to research released Tuesday by Stanford University scientists.

Though researchers cautioned their study of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, employed at two Wyoming geological formations showed no direct evidence of water-supply contamination, their work is certain to roil the public health debate over the risks of the controversial oil and gas production process.

Fracking involves high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to crack geological formations and tap previously unreachable oil and gas reserves. Fracking fluids contain a host of chemicals, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins.

And an earlier story by the same Los Angeles Times reporter, Neela Banerjee:

Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in water at fracking sites

Water samples collected at Colorado sites where hydraulic fracturing was used to extract natural gas show the presence of chemicals that have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer, scientists reported Monday.

The study, published in the journal Endocrinology, also found elevated levels of the hormone-disrupting chemicals in the Colorado River, where wastewater released during accidental spills at nearby wells could wind up.

Tests of water from sites with no fracking activity also revealed the activity of so-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs. But the levels from these control sites were lower than in places with direct links to fracking, the study found.

From the Guardian, another fracking anxiety:

Fracking’s impact on wildlife remains unknown, study finds

  • Lack of data on pollution and habitat loss makes it hard to gauge wider effect of shale gas development in North America

A decade into North America’s fracking boom, the impact on wildlife and the environment remains largely unknown, according to a new study.

“We’re conducting a giant experiment without even collecting the important data on the water, air, land or wildlife impacts,” said Sara Souther, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin, one of the co-authors of the peer-reviewed research examining the environmental impacts of shale gas development in the US and Canada.

Although the technique of hydraulic fracturing shale has been used for at least 20 years, there is “surprisingly little research” on impacts, found the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

“We do know chemical contamination of ground and surface water is happening all the time but no one knows what the impacts are because the data isn’t being collected,” Souther said.

After the jump, another fracking woe, a petro protest, poison in the home, Canada’s lax environmental laws, a poisonous alien invader, and pot-powered batteries. . .. Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, weather, water, FukuFolly


Plus ad woes and household toxics. And as with today’s InSecurityWatch, a long post cuz we wuz under the weather.

We open with the first Ebola story, via the Los Angeles Times:

Spanish priest becomes first European to die in Ebola outbreak

A 75-year-old Spanish priest suffering from the Ebola virus died Tuesday in an isolation ward in Madrid — the first European death from the outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa and the first known death on European soil.

Miguel Pajares died around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital, Spanish officials announced.

A Roman Catholic missionary, Pajares was airlifted Aug. 7 from Liberia, where he is believed to have contracted the deadly virus at a hospital where he worked. Thousands of Spaniards had joined a social media campaign urging their government to rescue and repatriate him. He was the first Ebola patient evacuated to Europe amid the current, fast-spreading outbreak in Africa, which is already the worst in history.

BBC News closes the borders:

Ivory Coast bans flight from three states

Ivory Coast has banned all passenger flights from three countries hit by Ebola in an attempt to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

It is the only country, after Saudi Arabia, to impose such a ban, amid mounting concern about the outbreak which has killed nearly 1,000 people.

The ban covers Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are worst affected by Ebola, Ivorian officials said.

From the Guardian, another case:

Ebola: Nigeria confirms new case in Lagos

  • Health minister says nurse who came into contact with American Patrick Sawyer is 10th confirmed Nigeria case

Nigeria has confirmed a new case of Ebola in the financial capital, Lagos, bringing the total number in the country to 10.

The health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said the latest confirmed case was a female nurse who came into contact with a Liberian-American man, Patrick Sawyer, who died of Ebola in a Lagos hospital on 25 July.

Another nurse who had contact with him died last week, while seven other people have been confirmed to have the virus in the city, he added. “The 10th case actually was one of the nurses who also had primary contact with the index case. When he [Sawyer] got ill, we then brought her into isolation,” the minister told a news conference in Abuja. “We just tested her over the weekend. So, that’s what made it 10. So, between Friday and today we had one additional case. That brings it to 10 and the 10 includes the index case.”

SINA English covers a Chinese angle:

Eight Chinese quarantined in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone

Eight Chinese medical workers have been placed in quarantine in Sierra Leone, as health experts grappled on Monday with ethical questions over the use of experimental drugs to combat the killer Ebola virus.

Gripped by panic, west African nations battling the tropical disease ramped up drastic containment measures that have caused transport chaos, price hikes and food shortages.

Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone Zhao Yanbo told journalists seven doctors and one nurse who treated Ebola patients had been placed under quarantine, but would not be drawn on whether they were displaying symptoms of the disease.

The Guardian covers a U.S. quarantine:

Husband of American Ebola patient arrives for quarantine in Georgia

  • Three missionaries arrive in US from west Africa for three-week quarantine but do not show signs or symptoms of Ebola

The husband of a woman being treated for Ebola in a Georgia hospital is among three quarantined missionaries who arrived in the US on Sunday night after departing west Africa, where they worked with patients infected with the deadly virus.

David Writebol and the other aid workers do not show signs or symptoms of Ebola, but they will be quarantined for at least three weeks as a safety precaution.

The missionaries are with SIM USA, a Christian mission organization that sends volunteers abroad to provide humanitarian aid and “evangelize the unreached”.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore gives the go-ahead:

WHO approves experimental Ebola drugs

The World Health Organisation authorised on Tuesday (Aug 12) the use of experimental drugs to fight Ebola as the death toll topped 1,000 and a Spanish priest became the first European to succumb to the latest outbreak.

The declaration by the UN’s health agency came after a US company that makes an experimental serum called ZMapp said it had sent all its available supplies to hard-hit west Africa.

“In the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak it is ethical to offer unregistered interventions as potential treatments or prevention,” WHO assistant director general Marie-Paule Kieny told reporters in Geneva, following a meeting of medical experts on the issue.

But The Hill notes that victory was largely symbolic:

More Ebola drugs may be months away

It will take months to produce even a small batch of a promising new drug to counter Ebola, according to U.S. health officials.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical’s drug ZMapp has shown some promise. The drug has been used to treat two Americans who have contracted Ebola.

But the company said Tuesday it has run out of supplies.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says it will take months to make more of the drug. Even in that timeframe, the company will only be able to produce less than a hundred treatment courses.

More from Deutsche Welle:

Liberia to receive experimental Ebola drug from the US

The US government has confirmed that it will send doses of an experimental Ebola drug to treat doctors in Liberia. The treatment has been so far used on just three people, however, there is no vaccine for the virus.

US President Barack Obama and the Food and Drug Administration approved the request Monday to send the experimental drugs to Liberia, the West African nation’s government said in a statement.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc, which makes the drug ZMapp, released a statement on their website that said, “In responding to the request received this weekend from a West African nation, the available supply of ZMapp is exhausted.”

“Any decision to use ZMapp must be made by the patients’ medical team,” it said, adding that the drug was “provided at no cost in all cases.”

TheLocal.de covers a negative:

German student tests negative for Ebola

Rwandan authorities said on Tuesday that a German man put in isolation with fever had tested negative for the deadly tropical disease Ebola.

“We would like to inform you that the suspected case of Ebola tested negative,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

“There’s no Ebola in Rwanda.”

United Press International has a tech angle:

Geo-spatial technology to help combat Ebola outbreaks

  • A U.S. company reports it is supplying portable geo-spatial mapping devices to Liberia to aid fight against Ebola outbreak

A U.S. geo-spatial technology company is providing Liberia with portable mapping devices to help in the effort to contain and defeat an outbreak of Ebola.

The virus outbreak in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria has killed more than 900 people and appears to be spreading.

Addressing Homes LLC said it is supplying its portable AimObserver devices to Liberia without charge as emergency assistance. The AimObserver uses “Mobile Mapper” technology to produce an instant latitude/longitude location for any dwelling, structure or pathway at any point in the world.

TheLocal.no covers a fright:

Ebola scare forces flight to land in Norway

An airplane travelling over Norway was forced to land in Trondheim after an African passenger having a coughing fit triggered an Ebola fear on Monday.

Around 100 passengers were kept back on a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Værnes for more than two hours – but with little good reason for the fear.
The dreaded Ebola disease is ravaging throughout several countries in West Africa and countries, like Norway, are on guard to prevent the disease spreading further.

Chief physician in the Stjørdal municipality, Leif Vonen, said to NRK: “There was suspicion of an infectious disease and thoughts went quickly to Ebola. But it became clear from the health situation that this was not the case. The person had just an innocent respiratory infection.”

And South China Morning Post bolsters the defense:

Hong Kong officials to discuss improved Ebola security measures

Health and hygiene officials will meet today to discuss how to improve precautions against the spread of infectious diseases in the wake of the city’s first suspected case of the Ebola virus.

Announcing the meeting, Centre for Health Protection Controller Dr Leung Ting-hung defended the handling of the case on Sunday. The Nigerian man at the centre of the brief scare was found not to have the deadly, incurable disease.

A security guard called the ambulance after the 32-year-old, who was staying at Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui, suffered vomiting and diarrhoea, early symptoms of the disease that is spreading through three West African countries.

News On Japan bugs out:

Japan aid agency pulls staff from Ebola-hit nations

Japan’s foreign aid agency said Tuesday it was evacuating two dozen staff from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as the death toll from the Ebola virus continued to mount.

The move came as eight Chinese medical workers who treated patients suffering from the virus were placed in quarantine in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone, as well as Guinea and Liberia, has been at the centre of the outbreak.

And TheLocal.es reassures:

Ebola risk in Spain is ‘almost zero’: WHO

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization said on Monday that the risk of contagion from the Ebola virus in Spain was “almost zero” and described the repatriation of an infected Spanish priest as “correct”.

Speaking to Spanish TV channel Cuatro, WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl said that “many” Spanish health workers were well-trained to deal with any possible Ebola cases.

He reassured Spaniards that the WHO and Spain’s Ministry of Health, Social Security and Equality were following international protocols to remain in “constant contact”.

On to the weather, first with the Guardian:

Extreme weather becoming more common, study says

  • Rise in blocking-patterns – hot or wet weather remaining stuck over regions for weeks – causing frequent heatwaves or floods

Extreme weather like the drought currently scorching the western US and the devastating floods in Pakistan in 2010 is becoming much more common, according to new scientific research.

The work shows so-called “blocking patterns”, where hot or wet weather remains stuck over a region for weeks causing heatwaves or floods, have more than doubled in summers over the last decade. The new study may also demonstrate a link between the UK’s recent flood-drenched winter and climate change.

Climate scientists in Germany noticed that since 2000 there have been an “exceptional number of summer weather extremes, some causing massive damage to society”. So they examined the huge meanders in the high-level jet stream winds that dominate the weather at mid-latitudes, by analysing 35 years of wind data amassed from satellites, ships, weather stations and meteorological balloons. They found that blocking patterns, which occur when these meanders slow down, have happened far more frequently.

The Los Angeles Times cites an example close to home:

California’s 1st seven months of 2014 have been its warmest on record

The first seven months of this year have been the warmest on record for California, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecasters averaged high and low temperatures from January to July for the entire state this year and recorded an average temperature of 60.2 degrees, said Paul Iniguez, National Weather Service Hanford’s science and operation officer. “It’s quite a bit warmer than the previous record,” he said.

The temperature beats the record temperature of 59.3 degrees set in 1934 by nearly a full a degree, he said.

USA TODAY covers the other extreme:

Parts of central U.S. had coolest July on record

Summer heat was on holiday in much of the central U.S. last month: Most of the region had a very cool July, with 13 states seeing July temperatures that ranked among the 10 coldest since weather records began in 1895, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reported Tuesday.

Both Indiana and Arkansas had their all-time coldest July on record. Indiana was a whopping 5.3 degrees below average in July, while Arkansas was 4.6 degrees below average.

While the central U.S. shivered in July, the heat continued to scorch the West. Six states sweltered through one of their 10 hottest Julys on record.

The San Francisco Chronicle consequences of another weather extreme, drought:

130,000 acres charred in blazes across California

Several wildfires raged across Northern California on Monday, with many of them touched off by lightning strikes in dry vegetation, including a fast-growing 9,500-acre blaze in Mendocino County.

Forecasters were calling for more lightning Monday and Tuesday, leaving fire crews worried that new blazes would spark up as fast as they could control other ones.

“We’re holding all personnel on just to see what happens when this lightning comes through,” said Capt. John Hotchkiss of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention. “A lot of it will depend on whether we have wetting rain with the lightning.”

At least 130,000 acres were burning statewide as of Monday morning, Cal Fire officials said, fueled by extraordinarily dry conditions.

The Los Angeles Times covers another Golden State extreme:

‘Remarkable’ warming reported in Central California coastal waters

Ocean temperatures along the Central California coast experienced a “remarkable” warming period during the first three weeks of July, leading to unusual encounters with some fish species, scientists reported.

The warmer ocean correlated with weaker winds, which reduced coastal upwelling, allowing warmer water to move inshore, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The warming is related to unusual weather pattern seen in the Sierra Nevada, where recent thunderstorms have pummeled dry forest lands with bursts of rain and lightning, Nate Mantua, Team Leader of Landscape Ecology for Southwest Fisheries Science Center, said in an email.

Bloomberg brings us our first water story, this one with an austerian twist:

L.A. Faces $15 Billion Bill as Pipes Spring Leaks: Cities

Los Angeles is showing its age, and city officials don’t have plans for financing the facelift.

From buckling sidewalks to potholed thoroughfares to storm drains that can’t handle a little rain, the infrastructure that holds the second-largest U.S. city together is suffering from years of deferred maintenance. Bringing pipes that deliver water to 3.9 million people up to snuff could cost $4 billion — more than half the city’s annual operating budget. The bill for repaving streets will be almost that much, according to estimates from a city consultant, and patching or replacing cracked sidewalks will require $640 million.

City Council members recently gave up on a proposal to ask voters for a sales-tax increase to finance street and sidewalk repairs, and Mayor Eric Garcetti has ruled out raising water rates anytime soon to upgrade pipelines.

The San Diego Union-Tribune covers another water woe:

Southwest braces as Lake Mead water levels drop

Once-teeming Lake Mead marinas are idle as a 14-year drought steadily drops water levels to historic lows. Officials from nearby Las Vegas are pushing conservation but also are drilling a new pipeline to keep drawing water from the lake.

Hundreds of miles away, farmers who receive water from the lake behind Hoover Dam are preparing for the worst.

The receding shoreline at one of the main reservoirs in the vast Colorado River water system is raising concerns about the future of a network serving a perennially parched region home to 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland.

NBC News Digital covers another consequential water woe:

Heartland Water Crisis: Why the Planet Depends on These Kansas Farmers

America’s Breadbasket, a battle of ideas is underway on the most fundamental topics of all: food, water, and the future of the planet.

Last August, in a still-echoing blockbuster study, Dave Steward, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Kansas State University, informed the $15 billion Kansas agricultural economy that it was on a fast track to oblivion. The reason: The precipitous, calamitous withdrawal rates of the Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala is little known outside this part of the world, but it’s the primary source of irrigation not just for all of western Kansas, but the entire Great Plains. This gigantic, soaked subterranean sponge – fossil water created 10 million years ago – touches eight states, stretching from Texas all the way up to South Dakota, across 111.8 million acres and 175,000 square miles.

The Los Angeles Times covers water woes down South:

Brazil’s water crisis amid drought could lead to rationing

A drought in Brazil has led to a water crisis and the country’s largest population center is facing the prospect of rationing.

Brazil’s Public Ministry, a federal regulatory agency, has recommended that Sao Paulo state immediately commence water rationing to avoid a “collapse of reservoirs,” but the state government missed an initial deadline on Wednesday to take action.

Because of scarce rain in 2014, water levels are low, especially at Sao Paulo’s Sistema Cantareira watershed. The Public Ministry says the watershed could soon run dry.

From Reuters, oceanic water woes:

Man-made ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico is the size of Connecticut

Scientists say a man-made “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is as big as the state of Connecticut.

The zone, which at about 5,000 square miles (13,000 sq km) is the second largest in the world but still smaller than in previous years, is so named because it contains no oxygen, or too little, at the Gulf floor to support bottom-dwelling fish and shrimp.

The primary cause of the annual phenomenon is excess nutrient runoff from farms along the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf, said Gene Turner, a researcher at Louisiana State University’s Coastal Ecology Institute.

From BBC News, another kind of water woe:

Mexican mine was slow to report leak, officials say

A private copper mine in north-west Mexico did not immediately alert the authorities that large quantities of a toxic chemical were spilling into a river last week, Mexican officials say.

The authorities in Sonora state said the spill only came to light the next day, after residents downstream noticed the river had turned orange. Some 40,000 cubic metres (10 million gallons) of sulfuric acid have leaked into a tributary of the Sonora river.

The mine is owned by Grupo Mexico. “The company deliberately concealed the accident,” said Cesar Lagarda, an official at the National Water Commission, according to Mexico’s La Jornada newspaper.

After the jump agricultural woes domestic and foreign, toxic spills, household toxins, wildlife woes and a win, fracking fights, nuclear woes, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Corporate medicine and Ebola injustice


A much-needed perspective on the implications of corporate control of the medical sector from The Real Network in the form of a Jessica Desvarieux interview of Harriet A. Washington, medical ethicist and author of notable books on the intersection of race, class, and the corporate sector in medicine.

From The Real News Network:

Economic Justice and the Ebola Outbreak

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Harriet, the big news is that this serum that is ZMapp that I mentioned in the introduction was offered to the two American health care workers, and now they seem to be recovering. Why hasn’t it been made more widely available?

WASHINGTON: Well, what we’re told is that it’s not been made more widely available because there were initially only three doses. Of course, my first question was, why wasn’t it given to Sheik Umar Khan, the chief ebola health care worker in Sierra Leone who died just a week or so ago of Ebola?

DESVARIEUX: Then at the root of this would you say that the serum was—-essentially, whose interest is it for it not to be more widely available?

WASHINGTON: Well, it’s a very complex question. And I think–I’m not inclined to personalize it. Rather than asking whether a person has an inclination to deny it to Africans, my question is: what forces tend to separate drugs like this from Africans? There are networks, informal networks sometimes, of availability that are available to Westerners and not to Africans.

And there are also economic pressures. Decisions about the expense of producing large enough quantity of doses of this drug to give it to Africans is an expensive proposition, as it always is, and that is a factor as well. There’s a feeling among some that it would be too expensive to produce for African Americans. But my point is I always notice that they talk about the cost, but with they’re actually referring to is the price: it’s a manufacturer’s decision to impose a certain price, and that is what puts it out of the reach of people in the developing world.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah. And being out of reach for people in the developing world, I mean, there are going to be some real consequences. As I mentioned in the introduction, 1,700 people have been affected. More than 900 people have died from Ebola. So can we name some names here? Which kind of pharmaceutical companies are we talking about?

WASHINGTON: I’m not inclined to single them out by name, because what’s interesting about this is although most pharmaceutical companies are guilty of an economic mentality that tells them not to produce drugs for the needs of people in the developing world, an economist at Harvard, Michael Kremer, wrote some time ago about this tendency of pharmaceutical companies not to even test drugs for diseases of the tropical lands, because people there, quote-unquote, cannot afford them. In fact, if you look at the data, between 1975 and 1997, there were 1,233 drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies. Guess how many were intended for the use of people who lived in developing countries?

DESVARIEUX: How many?

WASHINGTON: Four.

DESVARIEUX: Wow. Only four.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, fishy foes, killers, FukuNews


We big Ebola coverage on an upbeat note from United Press International:

Ebola patient Kent Brantly: ‘I’m growing stronger every day’

  • “I witnessed the horror first-hand, and I can still remember every face and name,” recalls Kent Brantly

American doctor Kent Brantly, the first known Ebola patient treated in the United States, said his condition is steadily improving in his first public statement since being transported to U.S. shores.

“I am growing stronger every day, and I thank God for His mercy as I have wrestled with this terrible disease,” Brantly said in a statement released by Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse.

Brantly was transported to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after contracting the Ebola virus while treating victims in Libera.

And having delivered a ration of cheer, we promptly bring you a downer, from Dr. Brantly’s own organization via RT America:

Ebola’s spread to US “inevitable”

Program notes:

The World Health Organization on Friday declared an “international public health emergency” over the spreading Ebola outbreak. The rash of infections has killed 961 since March, making it the largest outbreak in history for the virus, and officials warn that its spread to more corners of the world is “inevitable.” Ken Isaacs of aid group Samaritan’s Purse is one of the experts working to combat the spread of the disease, and he sat down with RT’s Manila Chan to explain the perils of the deadly virus.

Next, the alarm sounds, via BBC News:

WHO: Ebola ‘an international emergency’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the spread of Ebola in West Africa an international health emergency.

WHO officials said a coordinated international response was essential to stop and reverse the spread of the virus.

The announcement came after experts convened a two-day emergency meeting in Switzerland.

And from Al Jazeera America, another alarm:

Medical ethicists to meet on use of experimental Ebola drugs

  • WHO announcement comes after controversy over two Americans – but no Africans – being treated with Ebola drug

Medical ethicists will meet next week to discuss the use of experimental medicines in the West Africa Ebola outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the talks in the wake of a controversial decision to treat two infected American aid workers with an Ebola “serum,” never before tested on humans, called ZMapp. The move sparked debate over whether using experimental Ebola treatments is ethical — and why Africans have not been offered the same option.

“We are in an unusual situation in this outbreak. We have a disease with a high fatality rate without any proven treatment or vaccine,” Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general at the WHO, said in a Thursday statement announcing the meeting. “We need to ask the medical ethicists to give us guidance on what the responsible thing to do is.” The statement did not give a location for the meeting. On Friday, the WHO declared the outbreak an international public health emergency.

The New York Times reported that the U.S. government is forming a group to consider the same issues.

CBC News analyzes:

Ebola outbreak: it’s not the virus but Africa that’s changed

  • Death toll in West Africa nearing 1,000

Why do health-care workers in West Africa find this current Ebola outbreak, the worst ever, so difficult to control? The strain of the virus, the Zaire, is the same one behind most of the previous outbreaks.

This is not a case where the virus is any different, says Dr. Richard Olds, a tropical disease specialist.

But at least part of the explanation for the current dilemma may be found in how Africa has changed since the first known outbreaks of Ebola in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Sudan.

For one, this outbreak is taking place in parts of Africa that are “much more densely populated, much more urban in their nature and those populations are much more mobile,” says Olds. Also, “these were populations that had never seen Ebola before.”

Urbanization, travel and the personal connections that come with economic development appear to have helped the virus spread. At the same time, a more formidable health-care infrastructure that could go a long way to stopping Ebola before it reaches outbreak status has not kept pace, and without that, Olds says, Ebola is “a little like Russian roulette.”

Al Jazeera America again, with countermeasures:

Travel restricted within Ebola-affected West African countries

  • Restrictions follow reports that families are hiding sick relatives, abandoning bodies in streets

West African countries hard-hit by the Ebola virus have issued travel restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of the deadly disease after reports emerged of families hiding sick relatives and abandoning bodies in the streets.

Soldiers clamped down on people trying to travel to Liberia’s capital on Thursday from rural areas with high rates of Ebola infection, hours after the president declared a national state of emergency.

Similar efforts were underway in eastern areas of neighboring Sierra Leone after officials there launched “Operation Octopus” to try to keep those sick with Ebola in isolation.

On the ground with the New York Times:

‘Don’t Touch the Walls’: Ebola Fears Infect an African Hospital

KENEMA, Sierra Leone — So many patients, nurses and health workers have died in the government hospital that many people in this city, a center of the world’s worst Ebola epidemic, see it as a death trap.

Now, the wards are empty in the principal institution fighting the disease. Ebola stalks the city, claiming lives every day, but patients have fled the hospital’s long, narrow buildings, which sit silent and echoing in the fading light. Few people are taking any chances by coming here.

“Don’t touch the walls!” a Western medical technician yelled out. “Totally infected.”

Some Ebola patients still die at the hospital, perhaps four per day, in the tentlike temporary isolation ward at the back of the muddy grounds. But just as many, if not more, are dying in the city and neighboring villages, greatly increasing the risk of spreading the disease and undermining international efforts to halt the epidemic.

“People don’t die here now,” said the deputy chief of the hospital’s burying team, Albert J. Mattia, exasperated after a long day of Ebola burials. “They are dying in the community, five, six a day.” Mr. Mattia was particularly disturbed that many of the bodies his team were putting in the ground had come from outside the hospital, thwarting attempts to isolate patients and prevent them from passing the disease to others.

Off to Spain and another patient from El País:

Government will cover cost of ebola priest’s repatriation

  • US, England and France request information about the transfer of missionary Miguel Pajares

The Spanish government will cover the costs of transfering a Spanish priest with the ebola virus from Liberia, official sources have been cited as saying by news agency EFE. The San Juan de Dios religious order, to which both Miguel Pajares and his fellow missionary Juliana Bohana Bohé (also brought back from Liberia, but not suffering from ebola) belong, had this morning announced that they would cover the expenses of the operation.

“We assume the cost and the responsibilities that need to be assumed,” said José María Viadero, the director of the Juan Ciudad NGO, to which San Juan de Dios belongs. The religious order counts on 300 hospitals in 52 different countries.

Pajares and Bohé were flown across half of Africa to Madrid in the early hours of Thursday morning. The priest, who has been confirmed as having caught the virus, and the nun, who is not currently showing any symptoms, were then taken in a convoy of more than 12 vehicles to from the Torrejón de Ardoz airbase to the Carlos III hospital in the city center. The San Juan de Dios religious order requested the repatriation from Liberia.

Greek Reporter prepares:

Ebola Outbreak: Greece Takes Special Measures As World Health Organization Declares Emergency

Greece is the latest country to undertake special emergency measures after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus outbreak an international health emergency.

The Greek government alerted all related authorities to report immediately any possible incidents. Greece has also warned its citizens to avoid non-essential travels to Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A Greek man who was suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus has tested positive for malaria, health authorities said Friday.

The Times of India covers preparations on the subcontinent:

India sets up 24-hour Ebola emergency helpline

As the World Health Organisation on Friday issued a global health emergency due to Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, the government opened a 24-hour emergency helpline and said it has put in place the “most advanced surveillance and tracking system”.

All infected patients in the national capital will be treated at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, a health ministry statement said.

Health minister Harsh Vardhan, however, said there was no reported case in India and one traveller, who landed in New Delhi on July 20 and was confirmed by the WHO as a case of EVD, was found to be healthy. He had been traced to Dwarka in south-west Delhi.

Nature newsblog offers a timely reminder:

Geneticists say popular book misrepresents research on human evolution

  • Posted by Ewen CallawayCategories: Anthropology, Evolution

More than 130 leading population geneticists have condemned a book arguing that genetic variation between human populations could underlie global economic, political and social differences.

“A Troublesome Inheritance”, by science journalist Nicholas Wade, was published in June by Penguin Press in New York. The 278-page work garnered widespread criticism, much of it from scientists, for suggesting that genetic differences (rather than culture) explain, for instance, why Western governments are more stable than those in African countries. Wade is former staff reporter and editor at the New York Times, Science and Nature.

But the letter — signed by a who’s who of population genetics and human evolution researchers, and to be published in the 10 August New York Times — represents a rare unified statement from scientists in the field and includes many whose work was cited by Wade. “It’s just a measure of how unified people are in their disdain for what was done with the field,” says Michael Eisen, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, who co-drafted the letter.

Next up, the first of three GMO stories, this one from the Guardian:

Sweet victory for Mexico beekeepers as Monsanto loses GM permit

  • Evidence convinced judge of threat posed to honey production in Yucatán – but firm will almost certainly appeal against ruling

A small group of beekeepers in Mexico has inflicted a blow on biotech giant Monsanto, which has halted the company’s ambitions to plant thousands of hectares of soybeans genetically modified to resist the company’s pesticide Roundup.

A district judge in the state of Yucatán last month overturned a permit issued to Monsanto by Mexico’s agriculture ministry, Sagarpa, and environmental protection agency, Semarnat, in June 2012 that allowed commercial planting of Roundup-ready soybeans.

The permit authorised Monsanto to plant its seeds in seven states, over more than 253,000 hectares (625,000 acres), despite protests from thousands of Mayan farmers and beekeepers, Greenpeace, the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Institute of Ecology.

EurActiv takes us across the Atlantic:

GMO cultivation in Europe: A decade of legal battles

The European Union has agreed on a new approach to the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) which allows member states to ban or restrict GMOs in their territory. The agreement should mark the end of a decade of legal problems, but in the context of ongoing EU-US free trade negotiations, vocal GMO opposition from member states and civil society is unlikely to subside.

After a decade of legal battles, the European Union reached an agreement in June 2014, allowing its member states to restrict or ban GMO crops in their territory.

The new president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has backed the new comprehensive legal framework which will give EU member states a legal basis they have been wanting for years.

The EU regulatory system is based on tight safety standards and freedom of choice for consumers and farmers. The tools used to ensure freedom of choice are effective labelling and traceability.

And GM Watch covers scandal:

GM golden rice paper to be retracted amid ethics scandal

AT LONG LAST, the serious breaches of medical and scientific ethics of the GM golden rice trials on Chinese children appear to have been recognised – in this case, by the journal that published the research paper reporting the experiments.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is reportedly retracting the paper. The main concerns appear to be lack of informed consent on the part of the human subjects – neither the children nor their parents were told the rice was GM, nor were they informed of the possible risks. Ethical breaches are among the valid reasons for retracting a study, according to COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics).

While the blame for the fiasco is being placed on the lead researcher, Guangwen Tang of Tufts University, a large part of the responsibility should lie with the Tufts University ethics board that was supposed to be supervising the trial.

After the jump, fishy pollution, lethal players in endangered wildlife smuggling, an old poison lingers, fracking bans, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, toxins, Fuku, folly


Today’s compendium about the world and our troubled relationship with it opens with an Ebola digest, starting with this from the Guardian:

Barack Obama pushes for ‘global effort’ to combat spread of Ebola

  • President claims Ebola can be controlled and contained with the right resources, despite claiming 900 lives in west Africa

Barack Obama has said a global effort is required to combat the spread of Ebola which he blamed on weak and overwhelmed health systems in west Africa.

Speaking at the end of a summit of African leaders in Washington, the president said the disease – which has claimed the lives of more than 900 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – can be controlled and contained with the right resources. A single case has also been confirmed in Nigeria.

“The Ebola virus both currently and in the past is controlled if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place and countries that have been affected are first to admit that what’s happened here is their public health systems have been overwhelmed. They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough,” he said. “You did not have a strong trust relationship between some of the communities that were affected and health workers. As a consequence it spread more rapidly.”

From the Washington Post, deadly scapegoating:

‘God is angry with Liberia,’ local religious leaders say, blaming Ebola on ‘homosexualism’

Amid the reports emerging out of Liberia, it’s difficult to discern what is true and what isn’t. But the fear they carry is undeniable: Fear of the disease, fear of dead bodies, fear that God himself has sent down a terrible plague to blight the people of Liberia for their transgressions.

There are local reports that “armed men” are allegedly trying to poison wells “to kill in the name of Ebola.” There are reports that the government is dumping bodies by the truckload at a mass grave on the west bank of a river and nearby residents fret over water contamination. And there are Reuters reports of bodies lying in the streets of Liberia’s capital Monrovia for days.

The Ebola pandemic — which has killed 887 in West Africa including 255 in Liberia — has terrified people so much that some local leaders discern divine meaning in it. According to Front Page Africa and the Daily Observer, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called on Tuesday for all residents to fast for three days and pray for forgiveness.

The London Daily Mail treats the story with typical restraint:

Now Ebola victims are left to rot in the streets: Terrified relatives dump them outside for fear of catching deadly virus

  • Relatives of Ebola victims are dragging their bodies onto streets of Liberia
  • Disease-ridden bodies are left to rot in view of everyone, including children
  • In doing so, relatives hope they will avoid being quarantined by authorities
  • They view Ebola isolation wards in country as death traps, officials claim
  • Last week, Liberia announced raft of tough measures to contain the virus
  • Include imposing quarantines on victims’ homes and tracking their relatives
  • Ebola has claimed the lives of nearly 900 people across West Africa so far

From BBC News, the inevitable:

Liberia declares state of emergency over Ebola virus

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared a state of emergency as the country grapples with an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

Speaking on national television she said some civil liberties might have to be suspended.

Announcing a state of emergency for 90 days, President Sirleaf said in a statement that the government and people of Liberia required “extraordinary measures for the very survival of our state and for the protection of the lives of our people”.

El País brings it on home:

Spanish priest infected with ebola to be treated in Madrid’s Carlos III hospital

  • Miguel Pajares, 75, contracted the virus while treating another patient

A priest who has been confirmed as the first Spaniard to be infected by the current outbreak of the ebola virus is soon to be brought back to Spain for treatment. Miguel Pajares, aged 75, is one of the 1,600 cases to have been confirmed since March, when the most deadly wave of the condition began. As well as Liberia, where Pajares was based, the epidemic is also affecting Sierra Leone and Nigeria, with nearly 900 deaths reported so far.

The Spanish Health Ministry announced that the government has put into place a plan to repatriate Pajares, “in accordance with the highest security protocols from the World Health Organization.” These include a medical plane staffed by specialized personnel, and strict isolation measures.

According to the Defense Ministry, the aircraft that will collect the priest has been prepared at the Torrejón airbase in Madrid. It is expected to take off at around midday on Wednesday.

From the Los Angeles Times, a call for action:

Three leading Ebola experts call for release of experimental drug

Three leading experts on the Ebola virus said Wednesday that experimental drugs should be provided to Africa, and that if the deadly virus was rampant in Western countries it would be “highly likely” that authorities would give people access to the medications.

A decision to allow two American health workers infected in Liberia to have access to an experimental treatment — while dozens of African doctors and nurses have perished — has ignited a controversy over the ethics of the decision, which reportedly side-stepped Liberian health regulations.
Rise in reported African Ebola cases

The latest figures, through Aug. 4, show that 1,711 people in West Africa have been diagnosed with the disease and 932 have died, the World Health Organization announced.

Bloomberg evaluates:

Ebola Drug Panel Set by WHO to Weigh Unproven Drugs Use

The World Health Organization will convene a panel of medical ethicists next week to explore the use of experimental treatments for Ebola amid the worst outbreak of the disease on record.

An experimental antibody cocktail developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. was used to treat two infected American health workers whose conditions have improved. The WHO’s announcement came after Nigeria’s health ministry said it has written to the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to request access to the drug.

Use of the drug, called ZMapp, is raising questions about whether a medicine that hasn’t been shown as safe in humans should be distributed more widely during the outbreak and, given the limited amount of medicine available, who should get it, the WHO said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Times gives the go-ahead:

FDA approves Ebola virus test; vaccine will probably take until 2015

The FDA has authorized use of an unapproved Ebola virus test under a special emergency-use provision, although efforts to develop a vaccine for the deadly illness are unlikely to bear fruit until 2015, officials say.

The test-tube diagnostic test was developed by the U.S. military and is used to detect the Zaire strain of Ebola, which has infected at least 1,711 and killed 932 in West Africa.

“The test is designed for use in individuals, including Department of Defense personnel and responders, who may be at risk of infection as a result of the outbreak,” FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said in a statement.

And Al Jazeera America adds more context:

Costs have delayed Ebola vaccine for years

  • Promising treatments have never been tested on humans because of expense, not lack of potential

Since March, the Ebola virus has killed at least 932 people in West Africa, the deadliest ever outbreak of the disease, and as the lethal hemorrhagic fever continues its spread, governments are taking drastic measures — from quarantining villages to closing schools — to stem the epidemic.

But perhaps there could have been another option to fight the virus. More than four years ago, a team of U.S. government scientists developed vaccine candidates that shielded monkeys from multiple strains of Ebola. Those vaccines, however, were never tested in human clinical trials — and not because the science wasn’t promising. One small trial on the monkeys, for example, had a 100 percent success rate of protecting the animals from the disease.

The factor preventing such trials in humans, though, has been cost, said Dr. Daniel Bausch, an associate professor of tropical medicine at the Tulane University School of Public Health who is currently stationed at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit 6 in Lima, Peru.

MIT Technology Review takes a step back:

Challenges Remain for Technologies to Fight Ebola

  • Efforts to contain Ebola in West Africa suffer from a lack of effective tools to treat and prevent the disease, although several are in development.

Technologies that might prevent the spread of Ebola beyond West Africa are under development, and work could accelerate if the outbreak continues to worsen. But even if a vaccine were available today, deploying it could prove surprisingly difficult.

As of last week, the Ebola outbreak had claimed the lives of 88 percent of the more than 1,000 people who had contracted the virus. The virus causes fever, headache, sore throat, and other symptoms, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. It can lead to internal and external bleeding, and often death.

Ebola has affected relatively small populations in Africa since it was discovered in the 1970s. There has therefore been little incentive for companies to invest in developing treatments or vaccines, experts say. One treatment that has shown promise in animals but has not yet been tested in humans is called ZMapp—a combination of three monoclonal antibodies manufactured in tobacco plants by Mapp Biopharmaceuticals in San Diego. These antibodies are designed to mimic the antibodies the human body naturally produces as part of an immune response that’s typically disabled by the Ebola virus. The monoclonal antibodies attach to a part of the Ebola virus and trigger an immune response that neutralizes any virus particles floating around in the body to keep them from doing additional damage.

Urgent measures from the Associated Press:

Nigeria rushes to get isolation tents for Ebola

Nigerian authorities rushed to obtain isolation tents Wednesday in anticipation of more Ebola infections as they disclosed five more cases of the virus and a death in Africa’s most populous nation, where officials were racing to keep the gruesome disease confined to a small group of patients.

The five new Nigerian cases were all in Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people in a country already beset with poor health care infrastructure and widespread corruption, and all five were reported to have had direct contact with one infected man.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization began a meeting to decide whether the crisis, the worst recorded outbreak of its kind, amounts to an international public health emergency. At least 932 deaths in four countries have been blamed on the illness, with 1,711 reported cases.

People’s Daily reassures, sort of:

Health staff at games on lookout for Ebola virus

Citing feasible plans and disease control precautions, the Jiangsu provincial epidemic prevention agency is urging the public not to worry about the Ebola virus during the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games.

With 10 days before the Youth Olympics kick off in Nanjing, the number of international visitors has been surging, raising public concern that the crowds – particularly with people from Ebola-hit West Africa – could cause the virus to spread.

“The public doesn’t need to panic as we are sufficiently prepared against the virus, which now remains contained in limited areas of the world,” Tang Fenyang, director of the center’s acute-disease institute, told China Daily on Tuesday.

The New York Times has another Golden State drought story:

Dry California Fights Illegal Use of Water for Cannabis

Amid the state’s crippling drought, many communities are fighting not the mere cultivation of cannabis — which is legal in the state, though subject to myriad restrictions — but the growers’ use of water. Marijuana is a thirsty plant, and cultivating it at a time when California residents are subject to water restrictions has become a sticky issue.

When a statewide drought emergency was declared in January, “the first thing we wanted to address was water theft and marijuana,” said Carre Brown, a supervisor in Mendocino County, a major cannabis hub west of Lake County.

By mid-July, the sheriff there, Thomas D. Allman, had already caught growers siphoning water from springs because wells had run dry too early in the season. “I have told my marijuana team, ‘I want you to fly the rivers, fly the tributaries; let’s prioritize the water diversion,’ “ Sheriff Allman said.

Grist has another:

Don’t worry, Californians can paint their dead lawns green

When California regulators approved $500-a-day fines for overwatering lawns, suburbanites across the state gasped, “However will I keep my neighbors in check without a superior lawn to lord over them??”

Now, a solution: Slap on a fresh coat of green paint. The specially formulated (and supposedly nontoxic) grass dye lasts three to six months. It’s catching on. “Companies that promise to paint lawns are cropping up all over California,” National Journal reports. “The service lets homeowners cut back on water use without sacrificing curb appeal.”

The resulting “glittering shade of emerald green” might be even flashier than the real deal. “People think it sounds ridiculous when they first hear about it,” Jim Power, operations manager for LawnLift, told National Journal. “But then they try it, and they’re instantly hooked.”

From Truthout, about damn time:

Feds to Phase Out GMO Farms and Neonicotinoid Pesticides at Wildlife Refuges

After facing a series of legal challenges from environmental groups, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will phase out the use of genetically modified (GMO) crops and controversial neonicotinoid pesticides at farming projects on national wildlife refuges.

National Wildlife Refuge System chief James Kurth has directed the agency to stop using GMO crops and neonicontinoids on refuge farms by January 2016, according to a July 17 memo obtained by activists last week. The Fish and Wildlife Service is the first federal agency to restrict the use of GMOs and neonicotinoids in farming practices.

Neonicitinoids are a class of insecticides related to nicotine that act as nerve agents and are typically sprayed on crop seeds to kill insects. Scientists suspect that some neonicitinoids are responsible for declining populations of pollinating insects, and researchers in the Netherlands recently linked neonicotinoids to deaths among farmland birds.

And an environmental setback Down Under, via the Guardian:

Repeal of Queensland’s Wild Rivers Act is a ‘tragedy’, Wilderness Society says

  • Queensland government argues repeal was necessary after federal court decision and new protections would be brought in

The Wilderness Society says the passage of Queensland government legislation to repeal the state’s Wild Rivers Act is a tragedy for some of the last free-flowing rivers on the planet.

But the Newman government says it reflects a federal court decision earlier this year, and a new framework will ensure river systems are protected.

The Queensland environment minister, Andrew Powell, has told parliament that all former sites protected under the act would now be declared “strategic environmental areas”.

CBC News covers and environmental disaster closer to home:

Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach: Local state of emergency declared

  • Imperial Metals president says crews were working all night to stabilize debris and close the dam

A local state of emergency has been declared in an area where a B.C. tailings pond wall collapsed, sending millions of cubic metres of mine waste water and metals-laden sand into local waterways.

The Cariboo Regional District (CRD) made the declaration roughly 48 hours after the Mount Polley mine’s tailings pond wall gave way.

The breach sent 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden sand out into local waterways, scouring away the banks of Hazeltine Creek and sending debris flowing into Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake, which rose 1.5 metres.

On to Japan and a Fukushimapocalypse Now! admission from the Japan Times:

Fukushima reactor 3 meltdown was worse than estimated: Tepco

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday that its new estimate shows that all the fuel rods in reactor 3 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant apparently melted down and fell onto the bottom of the containment vessel.

In November 2011, the company had said it believed only about 63 percent of reactor 3’s fuel core had melted.

The utility updated its estimate as part of an effort to probe unclear points about the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant caused by a megaquake and monstrous tsunami in March 2011.

The revised estimate is based on the finding that an emergency cooling system, known as HPCI, of reactor 3 stopped working six hour earlier than previously thought, and that the meltdown had also started more than five hours earlier.

A major Oops! from NHK WORLD:

Tsunami projections for nuclear plant to be redone

The operator of a nuclear power plant in central Japan has been found to have miscalculated the simulated maximum height of a tsunami that could hit the complex.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority once approved tsunami projections submitted by Kansai Electric Power Company for the now-offline Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The estimates include tsunami heights and tremor intensity associated with earthquakes of the largest conceivable magnitude in the area.

From The Hill, another fuel, another problem:

Ethanol explosive for Cruz, Paul

Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.) are trying to avoid an ethanol landmine in Iowa.

Both Republican senators have criticized federal subsidies for ethanol, which are popular in Iowa, the state hosting the first Republican contest in the 2016 race for the White House.

Iowa kingmakers in the party such as Sen. Chuck Grassley want the Republican presidential nominee in 2016 to champion ethanol. That’s a problem for Cruz and to a lesser extent for Paul, who are both crisscrossing the state this week in advance of possible campaigns for the presidency.

Cruz has introduced legislation that would repeal the renewable fuel standard over the next five years. The standard mandates that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol by volume.

And for our final item, from Grist, yet another fracktacular impact:

Frackers are strip-mining the Midwest for sand

There’s a new gold rush: sand. The golden-brown stuff has become the latest, hottest commodity on the market — actually, that’s inaccurate. It’s Northern White sand that’s all the rage now, according to The Wall Street Journal, because it can withstand intense heat and pressure underground. Why is that important? Because what’s driving the white sand demand is fracking.

The process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas involves blasting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals into the underground shale rock. It can take millions of gallons of water for a fracking operation (which can result in poisoned groundwater). But dig the numbers on sand: It can take 4 million pounds of sand to frack a single well, according to WSJ’s Alison Sider.

Which is why sand prices and stock values are going up and mining activities for sand are expanding, notably in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

New York Times: Pot or not; a tale of two towns


The New York Times, in a rare burst of sanity, has issued a call for repeal of the federal marijuana prohibition in a series of editorials and op eds over the course of a week.

Here’s how editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal described the paper’s ground-breaking rationale in a discussion with Margaret Sullivan, the paper’s public editor [read semi-ombudsperson]:

“We decided we wanted to shout something out, to really crank up the volume,” said Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor.

The topic deserved the big play “not because we want everybody to go out and smoke all the pot they can,” Mr. Rosenthal said, but because of the effect laws against marijuana have on society — particularly the harm they do to young black men. The decision to sign the editorials, he said, was an experiment, and he noted a distinction: “These are not columns. The authors are writing on behalf of the editorial board.” The use of the Review section front was another way to increase visibility and a signal that this was something unusual.

Mr. Rosenthal is aware that there is a possibility of going too far. But he said, the chance to make a societal difference provided adequate justification.

Read the rest.

Accompanying the editorials online were videos, including a fascinating brief documentary about the two opposing stances taken by a pair of small towns we’d come to know during frequent father/son road trips back in our junior high and high school.

Gunnison is the agricultural town and county seat, and Crested Butte is a ski resort, frequented by college students and jet-setters alike. You can already guess which town opted for legal weed earlier this year when voters opted to go green.

And to our mind one of the most notable consequences has been that it seems to have gotten harder for high schoolers to lay hands of the weed — what one might call a doobie-less distinction.

From the New York Times:

The Marijuana Divide | Op-Docs | The New York Times

Program notes:

In Colorado, two towns near each other have divergent reactions to their state’s legalization of marijuana.

Produced by: Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Chart of the day: The 2014 Ebola epidemic


From Agence France Presse. Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Ebola

EnviroWatch: Water, weather, plagues, nukes


Today’s compendium of headlines from the intersection of people and planet begins with more of the most compelling story of the moment, via Sky News:

Liberia Closes Schools To Halt Ebola Spread

  • Security forces are ordered to enforce new anti-ebola rules as government workers are made to take compulsory leave.

Liberia has closed all schools and quarantined several communities as it attempts to stop the spread of the deadly ebola virus.

All non-essential government workers were also put on 30 days compulsory leave as the country announced its anti-ebola action plan.

Security forces across the country have been ordered to enforce the new rules.

Liberia had recorded 129 of the 672 deaths blamed on ebola as of July 23, according to the World Health Organisation.

Al Jazeera America covers the later on another subject of ongoing and considerable interest:

Report: World faces water crises by 2040

Wind, solar power increase needed to avoid global drought

The world will face “insurmountable” water crises in less than three decades, researchers said Tuesday, if it does not move away from water-intensive power production.

A clash of competing necessities — drinking water and energy demand — will cause widespread drought unless action is taken soon, researchers from Denmark’s Aarhus University, Vermont Law School and the U.S.-funded Center for Naval Analyses Corporation said in the reports.

“There will be no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we’re doing today,” researcher Benjamin Sovacool, director of the Center for Energy Technology at Aarhus University said in a press release on two new reports released Tuesday.

Globally, there has been a three-fold population increase in the past century and a six-fold increase in water consumption, the report said. If trends in population and energy use continue, it could leave a 40 percent gap between water supply and demand by the year 2030.

Another water story, this time from MercoPress:

Sao Paulo faces water rationing; in 100 days the system could run dry

  • Federal prosecutors have asked the government of Sao Paulo to present water rationing plans for Brazil’s most populous state to prevent the collapse of its main reservoir. If such plans are not presented in 10 days, the prosecutor’s office said on its website it may ask courts to force rationing.
  • Sao Paulo is facing the worst drought in more than 80 years. The key Cantareira water system, which provides water to some 9 million of the 20 million people living in the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo city, is at less than 16% of its capacity of 1 trillion liters.

Citing a study prepared by the state university of Campinas, the prosecutor’s office said that the Cantareira system could run dry in 100 days unless rationing is implemented.

The Sao Paulo state government’s water utility said in an emailed statement that it disagrees with the “imposition of water rationing, for it would penalize the population.”

From Public Radio International, a Brazilian environmental body count:

Activists in Brazil are fighting to protect the environment — and their lives

908. That’s the number of environmental and land-reform activists assassinated worldwide between 2003 and 2013, according to a study by the NGO Global Witness. The number might shock you, but perhaps even more shocking is that nearly half of those murders — 448 — took place in one country: Brazil.

What is it that makes Brazil the most dangerous place in the world to be an activist?

You’ll find clues in the story of Guarabana Bay. The bay, just minutes from downtown Rio’s world famous beaches, is a study in pollution and filth. Dark sludge cakes the shoreline. Garbage floats everywhere. It’s so bad that some sailors set to compete here in the 2016 Summer Olympics are warning colleagues not to let this water touch their ski

While an item in yesterday’s EnvrioWatch noted strong opposition to GMO rice in china, an MIT Technology Review indicates GMO receptivity for another staple:

Chinese Researchers Stop Wheat Disease with Gene Editing

  • Researchers have created wheat that is resistant to a common disease, using advanced gene editing methods.

Advanced genome-editing techniques have been used to create a strain of wheat resistant to a destructive fungal pathogen—called powdery mildew—that is a major bane to the world’s top food source, according to scientists at one of China’s leading centers for agricultural research.

To stop the mildew, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences deleted genes that encode proteins that repress defenses against the mildew. The work promises to someday make wheat more resistant to the disease, which is typically controlled through the heavy use of fungicides. It also represents an important achievement in using genome editing tools to engineer food crops without inserting foreign genes—a flashpoint for opposition to genetically modified crops.

The gene-deletion trick is particularly tough to do in wheat because the plant has a hexaploid genome—that is, it has three similar copies of most of its genes. That means multiple genes must be disabled or the trait will not be changed. Using gene-editing tools known as TALENs and CRISPR, the researchers were able to do that without changing anything else or adding genes from other organisms.

On to the latest Fukushimaposcalypse Now!, starting with a chilly item from NHK WORLD:

Ice put into utility tunnels at Fukushima plant

The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun putting ice into underground utility tunnels to help freeze radiation-contaminated wastewater.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company began work in April to create a wall of ice between the basement of the No. 2 reactor building and its utility tunnel.

TEPCO initially planned to freeze radioactive wastewater that’s been flowing into underground utility tunnels at the plant. It hoped the measure would prevent the wastewater from mixing with groundwater and flowing out to sea.

Followed by a hotter reception from NHK WORLD:

Emergency radiation exposure limit may be raised

Japan’s nuclear watchdog is considering raising the radiation exposure maximum limit for nuclear plant workers for serious accidents.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told at the body’s regular meeting on Wednesday that the possibility of a nuclear accident, where workers could be exposed to radiation beyond the current legal accumulative limit of 100 millisieverts, cannot be denied. His proposal to study raising the limit was approved at the meeting.

The authority will decide on the level by referring to overseas standards. It will also confer on how to get prior consent from workers and train them for such cases. If a legal amendment is necessary, it plans to send its findings to a relevant government panel for deliberations.

Jiji Press disposes, unhappiness ensues:

Shioya Picked as Candidate Site for Designated Waste Disposal

Japan’s Environment Ministry said Wednesday it has picked state-owned land in the town of Shioya in Tochigi Prefecture as a candidate site for building a final disposal facility for designated waste contaminated by radioactive substances from the March 2011 nuclear accident.

Senior Vice Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited Shioya Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata to explain the ministry’s decision and to seek the eastern Japan town’s understanding for the conducting of a detailed field investigation.

“I can’t help but feel regret,” Mikata said, expressing the town’s opposition to construction of the facility.

From the Guardian, a fractious fracking flap:

EC serves notice to Poland over shale gas defiance

  • Warsaw accused of breaching EU law on assessing environmental impact of fracking, reports EurActiv

The European commission has begun legal proceedings against Poland for amending its national laws to allow shale drills at depths of up to 5,000 metres without first having assessed the potential environmental impacts, EurActiv has learned.

In June, Brussels sent Poland formal notice that it was opening a case against it for infringing the environmental impact assessment (EIA) directive.

If Warsaw does not now satisfy the commission’s concerns by the end of August, the case could reach the European court of justice (ECJ).

Truthout ponders a rising crisis alert:

Does NASA’s Data Show Doomsday for New York City?

If we don’t do something quick to stop global warming, some of the biggest cities in America could go the way of Atlantis in just a matter of decades.

Sam Carana over at Arctic News has taken the time to analyze the latest data from NASA, and what’s he’s projecting from that data is startling.

Sam suggests that global sea levels may rise rapidly over the next few decades; so rapidly, in fact, that we could see more than 2.5 meters of seal level rise by 2040, which is just 26 years from now.

And because, as Sam Carana points out, sea levels now look like they’re going rise exponentially – on a curve – as opposed to on a straight line, they will continue to rise even faster after 2040.

And for our final item, from CNBC, an alert from left field:

Paul Singer: This threat is ‘head-and-shoulders’ above all others

Billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer has issued an unusual warning for investors, calling the threat of a widespread blackout from an electromagnetic surge the “most significant danger” in the world.

Called an “electromagnetic pulse” or EMP, the events can occur naturally from solar storms or artificially from a high-altitude explosion of nuclear weapons.

“While these pages are typically chock full of scary or depressing scenarios, there is one risk that is head-and-shoulders above all the rest in terms of the scope of potential damage adjusted for the likelihood of occurrence,” Singer wrote to clients of his $24.8 billion Elliott Management on Monday in a standard investment update letter. “Even horrendous nuclear war, except in its most extreme form, can [be] a relatively localized issue, and the threat from asteroids can (possibly) be mitigated.”

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, nukes, GMOs, toxins


We’re really cheery in this edition. . .or not.

Consider first this from CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: More than doctors needed to contain West Africa’s unprecedented crisis

  • Over 1,200 cases already in deadly epidemic, including prominent physicians

Doctors alone aren’t enough to contain West Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak, which has already infected, and in some instances killed, key medical personnel, including prominent Western and local physicians.

Quebec doctor Marc Forget, who has been on the front lines of the epidemic in Guinea for seven weeks, told CBC News that past Ebola outbreaks were contained quite quickly with the intervention of international groups such as Doctors Without Borders working in conjunction with a country’s ministry of health.

This time, he says, “the magnitude of the disease is unprecedented,” and a stronger response is required, both in resources and personnel — including water, sanitation and logistics specialists, as well as medical staff.

Here’s a Reuters map of Ebola outbreaks via CBC News. Click on the image to enlarge:

Untitled-1

The Independent watches the borders:

Is Ebola coming to Britain? UK health officials issue warning to doctors as outbreak fears grow

  • One of world’s deadliest viruses – which makes people bleed from their eyes, nose and mouth – has now been flown out of main affected countries

Public health experts have issued urgent warnings to British doctors and border officials to watch for signs of the Ebola virus arriving in the UK.

It comes after an infected man in Liberia was allowed to fly from disease-affected West African country to the major international travel hub of Lagos, Nigeria.

Experts from Public Health England (PHE) are meeting with representatives from the UK Border Agency and individual airports to make sure they are aware of the signs to look for and what to do if “the worst happens”.

United Press International covers a notable casualty:

Top Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone dies from infection

  • Dr. Sheikh Umar Khan, Sierra Leone’s leading medical expert on the Ebola virus, has died after becoming infected with the disease.

Dr. Sheikh Umar Khan, a doctor in Sierra Leone who was actively working to control the deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus, died Tuesday of the disease.

Khan became infected last week and had been in quarantine in an Ebola ward run by Medecins Sans Frontiere.

His death was confirmed by chief medical officer Dr. Brima Kargbo, who said his passing “is a big and irreparable loss to Sierra Leone as he was the only specialist the country had in viral hemorrhagic fevers.”

Corporate contagion challenged, via Shanghai Daily:

China vows zero tolerance and harsh punishment for rule-violating sales and growing of GM rice

CHINESE authorities have vowed zero tolerance and harsh punishment for rule-violating sales and growing of genetically modified (GM) crops days after a media exposure of GM rice on sale at a supermarket in central China.

“The ministry will punish any companies or individuals that ignore regulations to grow or sell GM grains,” the Ministry of Agriculture said Tuesday in a statement. “There will be no tolerance for those violating practices.”

China Central Television (CCTV) found GM rice, which is not allowed to be commercialized in China, on sale in the supermarket in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, the broadcaster reported on Saturday.

And from Common Dreams, a GMO-no:

Brazil Farmers Say GMO Corn No Longer Resistant to Bugs

  • Farm lobby group calls on Monsanto and other biotech companies to reimburse for additional pesticide treatments

Brazilian farmers say their GMO corn is no longer resistant to pests, Reuters reported Monday.

The Association of Soybean and Corn Producers of the Mato Grosso region said farmers first noticed in March that their genetically modified corn crops were less resistant to the destructive caterpillars that “Bt corn” — which has been genetically modified to produce a toxin that repels certain pests — is supposed to protect against. In turn, farmers have been forced to apply extra coats of insecticides, racking up additional environmental and financial costs.

The association, which goes by the name Aprosoja-MT, is calling on Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, and Dow companies to offer solutions as well as compensate the farmers for their losses. In a release posted to the Aprosoja-MT website, spokesman Ricardo Tomcyzk said farmers spent the equivalent of $54 per hectare to spray extra pesticides, and that the biotech companies promised something they didn’t deliver, “i.e. deceptive advertising.” (via Google Translate)

Another Brazilian story about another plague, from BBC News:

Amazon: Yanomami tribe’s Davi Kopenawa gets death threats

Davi Kopenawa of the Yanomami tribe in the Amazon rainforest said armed men had raided the offices of lawyers working with him. He said they were hired gunmen who had asked for him and wanted to kill him.

In February a major operation began to evict hundreds of gold miners from Yanomami land. Davi Kopenawa has been at the forefront of the struggle to protect Yanomami land for decades.

He told the BBC: “Illegal gold miners are still invading our land. They have leaders who organise the supplies and transport and support the invasion of our land. Ranchers have also invaded with their cattle.

Killing species to sate fashionable appetites, via the Independent:

African Pangolins at risk of extinction after becoming east Asian food favourites

  • More than a million pangolins are believed to have been snatched from the wild over the past decade

The pangolin, or scaly anteater, has become such a popular dish in affluent Asian circles that it is in danger of becoming extinct, according to a stark warning from a leading conservation organisation.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has just added the four African pangolin species to its list of species threatened with extinction after an escalation of poaching driven by the rapid economic growth across much of the East. This means that all eight pangolin species – the other four from Asia – are now on the list, raising the prospect of the anteater being wiped out altogether.

Pangolins have long been caught and killed for their purported medicinal properties, which include being a treatment for psoriasis and poor circulation.

From the Guardian, another kind of extinction:

New Zealand’s ‘dramatic’ ice loss could lead to severe decline of glaciers

  • Study says Southern Alps mountain range has lost 34% of permanent snow and ice since 1977

New Zealand’s vast Southern Alps mountain range has lost a third of its permanent snow and ice over the past four decades, diminishing some of the country’s most spectacular glaciers, new research has found.

A study of aerial surveys conducted by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) discovered that the Southern Alps’ ice volume has shrunk by 34% since 1977.

Researchers from the University of Auckland and University of Otago said this “dramatic” decrease has accelerated in the past 15 years and could lead to the severe decline of some of New Zealand’s mightiest glaciers.

On to those pesky Japanese nuclear woes, first from NHK WORLD:

Poor quake resistance to keep Ikata plant offline

The restart of a nuclear power plant in western Japan has been put off until at least early next year after its emergency control room failed to pass a more rigorous quake resistance review.

Shikoku Electric Power Company made the announcement about its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture on Friday.

The room failed the review when the utility raised the estimated peak ground acceleration from a potential earthquake at the plant to 620 gals.

The review was part of the ongoing safety screening of the No. 3 reactor being undertaken by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

NHK WORLD again, disposing:

Agency: Nuclear waste can be directly disposed of

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency is reported to be looking at the direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel instead of reprocessing it.

NHK has obtained a draft report compiled by the agency which analyzed the environmental impact of disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

The conclusion of the analysis is expected to touch off controversy, because the government has long maintained the policy of reprocessing all spent nuclear fuel. It has conducted few studies about disposing of it as waste.

Spent nuclear fuel is known to have higher radiation levels than high-level radioactive waste.

More fuelishness, this time from the Japan Times:

U.S. energy secretary defends possible German nuclear waste imports

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Monday defended his agency’s controversial move to consider processing spent nuclear fuel from Germany at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site nuclear facility, saying the proposal is consistent with U.S. efforts to secure highly enriched uranium across the globe.

The United States has for years accepted spent fuel from research reactors in various countries that was produced with uranium of U.S. origin as a part of U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy and treaties.

Receiving the German spent fuel would be “very much in line with our mission of removing the global danger of nuclear weapons material,” Moniz told reporters before a visit to the South Carolina nuclear facility.

Displacing history for the yachting crowd, via the Asahi Shimbun:

Tahiti memorial commemorating those impacted by French nuclear tests in danger of removal

The French Polynesian government’s decision to remove a monument on Tahiti dedicated to those who suffered from repeated French nuclear testing in the South Pacific is facing growing opposition, including from survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On June 11, the government, headed by French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse, decided to rescind permission to use the current location in a park that sits along the ocean in the capital, Papeete.

“It is desirable to construct new facilities to accept yachts and boats and renovate (current) facilities for tourists,” Flosse said.

MintPress News covers other problems from other fuels:

Western Penn. Residents Request Fracking-Related Illness Probe

  • Scientists are asked to either prove or refute theories connecting a range of health problems with nearby fracking operations.

Across the nation, communities are challenging claims that fracking is safe. Residents living near the litany of well pods that are being built or are already in operation continue to report nosebleeds, headaches, skin rashes, dizziness and nausea. Research is increasingly supporting theories connecting such symptoms to fracking well proximity. According to a Jan. 28 Colorado School of Public Health report, for example, mothers living close to a cluster of fracking wells have as much as a 30 percent additional risk of their child being born with a birth defect. A second study, released by the Endocrine Society in December, found that exposure to fracking fluid could disrupt hormone functioning, leading to a greater chance of infertility, cancer and other health problems.

While some states, such as New York and Maryland, have taken these health concerns seriously, and have issued statewide moratoriums on fracking, other states, drawn to the revenue the expanded oil and natural gas drilling would bring to their coffers, have allowed fracking operations to set up with virtually no state regulation and no vetting of the safety of the process. The drive toward making America energy-independent has also led to the federal government taking a hands-off approach in regards to dealing with fracking, with several pieces of legislation in place to make it difficult for federal agencies to impose safety regulations on oil and gas companies.

In fracking-heavy Washington County, Pennsylvania, residents have reached out to a group of local scientists to prove definitively that their illnesses are being caused by the fracking well pods. The group, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, is offering free health evaluations to families local to the drilling sites. In Pennsylvania, there are no planned or ongoing health studies in place with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection — which oversees the state’s oil and gas industries — and none of the impact fees the state collects from drilling operations go toward health programs or initiatives.

And for our final item, there’s exxxcellent news for Montgomery Burns from the Independent:

Luxury cruise line accused of offering ‘environmental disaster tourism’ with high-carbon footprint Arctic voyage

A luxury cruise operator in the US has announced it will offer a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to experience the environmental devastation of the Arctic – using a mode of transport that emits three times more CO2 per passenger per mile than a jumbo jet.

It will be the first ever leisure cruise through the Northwest Passage, only accessible now because of the melting of polar ice, and is being marketed at those with an interest in witnessing the effects of climate change first-hand.

Tickets for the trip, scheduled for 16 August 2016 and organised by Crystal Cruises, will cost between $20,000 (£12,000) and $44,000.

Yet there is no mention on Crystal Cruises’ promotion or FAQ for the journey of the boat’s own carbon footprint.

EconoEnviroWatch: Drought, fires, poisons


For today’s second headline collection, we offer news of the environment, as well as some relevant economic and political stories.

We begin with an alarm from Circle of Blue:

Colorado River’s Course Through A Drying Landscape Is Draining Lake Mead

  • Along the 1,800-mile river basin, locals wrestle with water demands.

The effects of lingering drought, and the unrelenting demand for water from farmers, cities, and energy producers converged today at Lake Mead, which drained to its lowest level since 1937 when the Hoover Dam closed off the Colorado River to begin filling the largest reservoir in the United States.

In dropping to a record-low water level the huge lake, which straddles the border between southern Nevada and northwestern Arizona, has emerged as an important measure of water insecurity in the American West. Just as gasoline prices serve as a national gauge of American economic stress — relieving psychic pressure as prices go down, causing strain as they rise — Lake Mead’s steadily declining water levels are a visible and widely reported gauge of intensifying water scarcity in the fastest growing region of the United States.

Lake Mead sits near the end of the Colorado River, which stretches 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) across seven U.S. states before entering Mexico. Its course is through one of the earth’s grandest landscapes. Lake Mead reflects the mammoth scale of the geography and its drying condition.

The California angle from Weather West:

An overview of California’s ongoing and extraordinary drought: a tale of exceptional dryness and record warmth

Droughts historically have a way of sneaking up on California, and the extraordinary 2012-2014 drought has been no exception.

Year-to-year and even season-to-season rainfall variability is quite high in this part of the world, which means that it’s nearly impossible to know whether a single dry year (or season) portends the beginning of a much more prolonged or intense dry period. Indeed–the 2012-2013 rainy season had an extremely wet start–so wet, in fact, that an additional large storm during December 2012 would likely have led to serious and widespread flooding throughout Northern California. But no additional significant storms did occur during December 2012–nor during January 2013…nor February, March, April, or May. In fact, January-June 2013 was the driest start to the calendar year  on record for the state of California in at least 118 years of record keeping. Some parts of the state saw virtually no precipitation at all during this period, which made for an especially stark contrast with the extremely wet conditions experienced just a few months earlier.

How did this drastic change occur so quickly? The second half of the 2012-2013 Water Year saw the development of the now infamous Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (or RRR)–an extraordinarily persistent region of high pressure over the northeastern Pacific Ocean in the middle atmosphere that forced the mid-latitude storm track well to the north of its typical position and prevented winter storms from reaching California.

And just how dry is the Golden State? Consider this from the United States Drought Monitor, showing that all of California is in a state of Severe Drought, and a phenomenal 36.49 percent is in the most extreme state of Exceptional Drought:

BLOG CalDrought

Next up, fracking the drought with Pacific Standard:

California’s Lax Policing of the Fracking Industry Has Put the Drought-Stricken State in a Terrible Situation

  • The state’s drought has forced farmers to rely on groundwater, even as aquifers have been intentionally polluted due to exemptions for the oil industry.

California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review of more than 100 others in the state’s drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there.

The state’s Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources on July 7 issued cease and desist orders to seven energy companies warning that they may be injecting their waste into aquifers that could be a source of drinking water, and stating that their waste disposal “poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources.” The orders were first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, and the state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells.

From South of the Border, the opposite course via Frontera NorteSur:

Mexican Fracking Foes Lose a Big Round

Mexican opponents of the controversial method of extracting natural gas known as fracking lost an important battle in the Mexican Senate late last week. As part of a 91-26 vote that approved secondary legislation implementing the Pena Nieto administration’s energy reform, most senators rejected a measure that would have prohibited fracking.

Prior to the July 18 vote, the Mexican Alliance against Fracking, a grouping of environmental organizations, presented senators with a petition signed by more than 10,000 people that supported a fracking ban.
Nonetheless, a majority of senators from President Pena Nieto’s PRI party joined with lawmakers from the PAN and PVEM (Mexican Green) parties to reject an outright prohibition of fracking. Voting in favor of a ban were members of the PRD and PT parties.

Senator Pablo Escudero, PVEM representative, maintained that environmental studies in the United States, as well as the history of fracking in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and other states, showed that fracking could be done in a safe manner. To back up his case, Escudero referred to studies by University of California physicist Dr. Richard Muller, whose pro-environment arguments in favor of fracking have engendered sharp polemics.

When drought meets austerity, via the Christian Science Monitor:

Western wildfires burn through firefighting budgets

The cost of fighting wildfires has eaten into agency budgets meant for forest management and fire preparedness. Proposed federal legislation would treat such fires as natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes.

As 26 major wildfires currently rage across the American West – 18 of them in Oregon and Washington – they’re rapidly burning through firefighting budgets as well.

As a result, experts warn, firefighting agencies such as the US Forest Service and the US Department of the Interior have to raid other fire-related programs – forest management and fire preparedness, for example – to battle the blazes.

The reasons for this are multiple and complicated: Years of fire suppression instead of letting fires burn naturally allowed fuel levels to grow dangerously; climate change has brought on changes in weather patterns; and housing and other development pushed into what’s known as the “wildland-urban interface” – some 60 percent of all new homes built since 1990, according to environmental economist Ray Rasker.

From EurActiv, the environment gets cowed:

Scientists find beef production harmful to the environment

Production of beef is nearly ten times more damaging to the environment than any other form of meat production, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

American scientists measured the environment inputs required for beef production and concluded that beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy.

The researchers developed a uniform methodology that they were able to apply to all five livestock categories and to four measures of environmental performance.

On to Japan for the latest episode of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Japan Daily Press:

Testimony of Fukushima plant manager reveals safety inspectors were first to flee during disaster

Masao Yoshida – the former plant manager of the Fukushima nuclear power plant during the time when it was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 – died of cancer last year, but his recorded testimony revealed a flaw in the disaster management process that probably caused the chaos around the way Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) dealt with the disaster at that time. According to Yoshida’s testimony, the safety inspectors were among the first to flee the site at the time of the disaster.

The safety inspectors were under the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the predecessor of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), and they were supposed to remain on site to be able to give a factual and solid assessment of what needed to be done to deal with the accident and the multiple reactor meltdowns. As such, with the lack of safety inspectors onsite, the Japanese government was forced to rely on sometimes erroneous and mostly chaotic information from TEPCO.

Then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan had gone to TEPCO’s Tokyo office, ultimately leading to the decision that a base of communications for the disaster was set up by TEPCO and the Japanese government in Tokyo, 230 kilometers away from where the disaster was taking place. That in itself was a hindrance to the proper flow of information and the correct assessment of the disaster.

NHK WORLD runs the numbers:

One trillion Bq released by nuclear debris removal

The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says more than one trillion becquerels of radioactive substances were released as a result of debris removal work at one of the plant’s reactors.

Radioactive cesium was detected at levels exceeding the government limit in rice harvested last year in Minami Soma, some 20 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi.

There are fears that some rice paddies in the city have been tainted by airborne radioactive material released when debris was removed from the plant’s No.3 reactor in August last year.

On Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Company presented the Nuclear Regulation Authority with an estimate that the removal work discharged 280 billion becquerels per hour of radioactive substances, or a total of 1.1 trillion becquerels.

Poisoning primates, via the Guardian:

Japanese monkeys’ abnormal blood linked to Fukushima disaster – study

  • Primates in Fukushima region found to have low white and red blood cell levels and radioactive caesium

Wild monkeys in the Fukushima region of Japan have blood abnormalities linked to the radioactive fall-out from the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster, according to a new scientific study that may help increase the understanding of radiation on human health.

The Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) were found to have low white and red blood cell levels and low haemoglobin, which the researchers say could make them more prone to infectious diseases.

But critics of the study say the link between the abnormal blood tests and the radiation exposure of the monkeys remains unproven and that the radiation doses may have been too small to cause the effect.

The scientists compared 61 monkeys living 70km (44 miles) from the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with 31 monkeys from the Shimokita Penisula, over 400km (249 miles) from Fukushima. The Fukushima monkeys had low blood counts and radioactive caesium in their bodies, related to caesium levels in the soils where they lived. No caesium was detected in the Shimokita troop.

From the Japan Daily Press, pressing feet to the [nuclear] fire:

TEPCO shareholders seeking disclosure of nuclear accident interview records

It seems that three years after the nuclear disaster that crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, the operator’s problems are far from over. While the problem of decontamination is ongoing, albeit slowly, the next battle is set to come as shareholders in the firm are looking at filing lawsuits to determine the real cause of the incident.

The shareholders are planning to request from the Cabinet Secretariat copies of the interviews conducted, which many already assume would be denied. Such denial would force the shareholders to no other recourse but to file legal action against the government so it would release interview records of 772 people for their own analysis. Not only that, they also plan to file a separate legal action against TEPCO to see if executives and managers of the company played a hand in the disaster and the problems resulting from the meltdown.

Next up, more disastrous blowback at the disastrous intersection of Big Pharma, politics, and those who pay the real price. From Süddeutsche Zeitung:

Doctors Blame Factory Farming For Failing Antibiotics

Citing the failure of antibiotics to work effectively in their patients, a group of German doctors and other healthcare providers are laying blame on the factory farming industry — and calling for reform.

The doctors say that antibiotics no longer work because of multi-resistant germs that patients carry, at least some of which have their origins in the way animals are bred. Germs from agro-industrial facilities that are resistant to antibiotics are a massive threat to human health, the campaign founders say.

The first nationwide campaign of this type is so far being supported by 250 doctors, carers and pharmacists. They are demanding humane breeding of animals, sharper controls, and sanctions against those who put antibiotics in animal feed.

If action is not taken, antibiotics may soon be entirely ineffective as a weapon against bacterial infections in both humans and animals, warns professor of veterinary medicine Siegfried Ueberschär. Doctors now often try in vain to save the lives and health of patients with weak immune systems, and there are no new antibiotics in sight, says Bremen-based internist Imke Lührs.

And for our final item, a very import reminder of the profound consequences of cultural differences, not patentable by Big Pharma. From the London Daily Mail:

How schizophrenia is shaped by our culture: Americans hear voices as threatening while Indians and Africans claim they are helpful

  • Scientists came to the conclusion after speaking with 60 schizophrenics
  • 20 came from California, 20 from Accra, Ghana and 20 from Chennai, India
  • In America, voices were intrusion and a threat to patient’s private world
  • In India and Africa, the study subjects were not as troubled by the voices
  • The difference may be down to the fact that Europeans and Americans tend to see themselves as individuals motivated by a sense of self identity
  • Whereas outside the West, people imagine the mind and self as interwoven with others and defined through relationships

Big Pharma latest victims: Europe’s vultures


A livestock drug that has already killed most of India’s once numerous vultures is now coming to Spain, a nation where the magnificent creatures are already threatened by by mistaken cultural beliefs.

From Deutsche Welle:

Program notes:

pain is home to the largest population of vultures in Europe, but their numbers are steadily declining. A new drug for cattle now threatens to wipe out the vultures altogether.

Vultures have long had a bad reputation in Spain. Time and time again, the birds are illegally poisoned, because they are said to prey on living cattle. Now the EU has authorized the administration of veterinary diclofenac to livestock in Spain and Italy – a deadly threat to the four species of vultures that live in Spain.

The anti-inflammatory drug has already led to the near-extinction of the vulture population in India, Pakistan and Nepal. The birds ingest the substance when eating the carcasses of cattle treated with the drug, and die of kidney failure.