We begin with an alien invasion, via Al Jazeera America:
‘Kissing bug’ disease creeps into US, but symptoms often missed
- Spread through the feces of blood-sucking insects, Chagas can cause heart failure and damage intestines
Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States have been infected with the potentially fatal “kissing bug” disease, but U.S. health care workers’ lack of awareness often prevents successful diagnosis and treatment, according to a report released this week.
The dearth of federally licensed drugs to combat the disease also limits patients’ access to treatment, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) on Thursday.
“This is a real health concern in the United States that deserves much more attention, research and funding for patient care and education,” said Dr. Jennifer Manne-Goehler, a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston who was the lead author of the study.
More than 300,000 people in the U.S. have kissing bug, or Chagas, disease, endemic to Mexico, Central America and South America — where there 8 million people have been infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From SciDev.Net, and a novel way to fight another critter responsible for malaria and much more:
Interest grows in unusual Egyptian method of mosquito control
Plans are progressing to introduce an unusual method of mosquito control which involves sprinkling powdered plant extracts on swampy mosquito nurseries. The Egyptian researchers behind the innovation have set up a company to develop the method and recently signed an agreement with South Sudan’s government to implement the technique there.
The researchers, whose firm is called InRaD (Innovative Research and Development), tell SciDev.Net that they have also had requests from Somalia’s health ministry to do the same.
Later this month, Mahmoud Abdel-Kader, a photochemist at the German University in Cairo, Egypt, and one of the two scientists behind the technique, is due to fly to Switzerland to present the results of laboratory and field research to the WHO. He says he is planning on discussing the possibility of WHO approval of the method.
The technique involves adding a derivative of the plant pigment chlorophyll to wetlands infested with the aquatic larvae of mosquitoes.
The research included three years of laboratory work as well as field experiments in the wetlands of Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda that are full of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. The technique killed between 85 to 100 per cent of larvae, according to a poster summary published in Malaria Journal in 2012.
Via the Japan Times, Comet Siding Spring leaves a little behind:
NASA says comet flyby of Mars changed chemistry of its atmosphere
- “We believe this type of event occurs once every 8 million years,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.
The comet released far more dust than NASA anticipated — thousands of kilograms by preliminary estimates — as it passed 87,000 miles (139,000 km) from Mars.
“The comet’s dust slammed into the upper atmosphere, creating a massive and dense ionospheric layer, and literally changed the chemistry of the upper atmosphere,” Green told reporters.
This additional layer of ions, in an electrically charged layer high above the planet, was temporary.
NASA said it is the first time scientists have ever connected debris from a meteor shower to such a significant change in the atmosphere.
Another fracking fight in the Golden State, via the Guardian:
Kale or fracking? Farmers and corporations fight it out for water
- In California, fracking is taking the water that farmers need. It’s no anomaly. There is a water conflict looming between industry and agriculture
Which would you rather have: lettuce and carrots for your salads, or affordable gasoline for your car? Affordable food prices or affordable electricity?
You’ll have to make the choice. In fact, if you like a ready supply of tasty, affordable produce – and low food prices generally – this may be the time to start worrying. And not just about the drought in California, where desperate, panicky farmers are responding to the years-long dry spell by hiring dowsers – water witches – to scour their land for hidden wells, or the the south-west, which is in the grip of a “megadrought”.
Even in areas where drought isn’t a problem, the stress on limited water resources is approaching perilous levels, according to a new report from MSCI Inc. Rainfall levels may be just fine in areas like Boston or Long Island, but these regions rely heavily on irrigation to keep crops growing, and competition for those water resources just keeps growing from big industries.
There are simply too many water-intensive industries competing for increasingly scarce water resources. “And now there are conflicts looming,” says Linda-Eling Lee, global head of ESG research for MSCI Inc in New York, who has delved into what this means for all of us.
On desperate but wholly desirable measure, via Homeland Security News Wire:
As drought continues, more Californians turn to greywater
California’s rainy season tends to run from October to late March, but for the third year in a row rain has been relatively absent, meaning that the state is currently suffering from a severe, unprecedented drought. With increasing water rates, a growing number of homeowners in Southern California are relying on greywater systems to support their landscapes and toilet flushing. “If the drought continues, honestly, I could see all new construction will have greywater systems of some kind because it really doesn’t make sense to put usable water in the sewer system,” says one expert.
California’s rainy season tends to run from October to late March, but for the third year in a row rain has been relatively absent, meaning that the state is currently suffering from a severe, unprecedented drought. With increasing water rates, a growing number of homeowners in Southern California are relying on greywater systems to support their landscapes and toilet flushing. ReWater, a high-end greywater system, relies on spent water from showers, bathroom faucets, and washers to supply gardens, but not before it filters the water.
From the Washington Post, another win for the gene-tweaking corporateers:
U.S. approves first genetically modified potato for commercial planting
The Agriculture Department on Friday approved the first genetically modified potato for commercial planting in the United States, a move likely to draw the ire of groups opposed to artificial manipulation of foods.
The Innate potato, developed by the J.R. Simplot Co., is engineered to contain less of a suspected human carcinogen that occurs when a conventional potato is fried, and is also less prone to bruising during transport.
Boise, Idaho-based Simplot is a major supplier of frozen french fries to fast-food giant McDonald’s.
More from the Guardian:
‘Innate Potato’ heads for market but GM watchdogs chip away at Simplot success
- Company says new potato resists bruising, reduces carcinogen
- Activists ask McDonald’s not to use potato with DNA of other potatoes
The Innate Potato, a trademarked creation of Simplot, has DNA from other potatoes spliced into its own, through a process called RNA interference technology. The USDA also approved genetically modified alfalfa from Monsanto.
Food-safety advocates advised caution.
“If this is an attempt to give crop biotechnology a more benign face, all it has really done is expose the inadequacies of the US regulation of GE crops,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the advocacy group Center for Food Safety, in a statement.
Gurian-Sherman said the USDA had failed to undertake a “rigorous” analysis of the crop’s possible consequences, and added: “We simply don’t know enough about RNA interference technology to determine whether GE crops developed with it are safe for people and the environment.”
Activists have already asked one of Simplot’s largest customers, McDonald’s, not to use the spuds.
Another GMO win [bringing back the key ingredient in Agent Orange] from Public Radio International:
EPA approves a new herbicide for GMO crops and lawsuits follow
A coalition of environmental groups and farmers is suing the EPA over its approval of Dow AgroSciences’ new crop herbicide, Enlist Duo. The lawsuit alleges inadequate environmental and health assessments by the agency.
Enlist Duo is a combination of glyphosate (better known as Roundup) and 2,4 D. The EPA approved the herbicide for use on October 15. Lawsuits from a coalition of farmers and other environmental groups quickly followed. The effort is led by the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Center for Food Safety.
“We tried our best to work through the administrative process,” says Bill Freese, science policy analyst for The Center for Food Safety. “For two years we filed detailed scientific comments on the agency’s assessment documents and EPA just hasn’t listened to us. That’s why we’ve been forced to resort to a lawsuit.”
From RT, a fine notion:
Russia may ban fast food commercials in TV programs for kids
Russia may ban the advertising of junk food during children’s shows aired on national TV or radio. The Parliament is considering new amendments to the Advertising Law which would limit marketing of foods containing high amounts of fat, salt and sugar.
A relative new comer to Russian politics, young MP Alena Arshinova, is trying to change the face of the nation by banning fast food commercials from children’s radio and TV channels, by introducing an amendment to the Russia’s Advertising Law.
“Every children’s program is a guide, instilling some values, giving moral guidance. But we must understand that the child does not take advertising in isolation from fairy tales or cartoons. And the favorite program in the future is associated with a particular product, often harmful to health,” explained Arshinova.
From the Los Angeles Times, a shakeup coming?:
Swarm of earthquakes in Nevada desert is intensifying
A swarm of hundreds of earthquakes that has been striking a corner of the Nevada desert near the Oregon border for months has intensified in recent days, prompting new warnings from seismologists.
About 750 earthquakes, mostly magnitude 2.0 to 3.0, have struck the area about 50 miles southeast of Lakeview, Ore., since the swarm started in July, said Ian Madin, chief scientist for Oregon’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
The swarm is beneath an uninhabited part of the Nevada desert near the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, but officials are telling the public, especially the almost 2,300 residents of Lakeview, to develop earthquake plans if they haven’t already.
“If you are not ready for an earthquake, now is an awfully good time to get ready for an earthquake,” said Alison Ryan, a spokeswoman for the department.
From Salon, a very sad prognosis:
The end of beaches? Why the world’s shorelines are in serious trouble
- As the oceans warm and sea levels rise, humans are trying to save our shorelines — and doing the opposite
We can have our beachfront properties — our Miami high-rises, our Hamptons mansions, our Jersey boardwalks — or we can have our beaches. But as geologist and Duke University emeritus professor Orrin Pilkey has been arguing for decades now, we can’t have both.
As the oceans warm and sea levels rise, coastal living is becoming an increasingly risky proposition. Any climate scientist would tell you not to invest in a beach house, and yet large-scale migration inland is something we’ve yet to see. The beaches themselves can withstand extreme weather, of course. But it’s our attempts to hold them in place, through techno-fixes like seawalls and beach replenishment, that ironically enough will end up destroying them. Sooner or later, Pilkey argues, we’re going to be forced to retreat. The question is whether there’ll be any beach left by then.
“The Last Beach,” which Pilkey co-wrote with J. Andrew G. Cooper, a professor of coastal studies at the University of Ulster, is but his latest attempt to drive home just how wrong-headed our push to build on and preserve shorelines is. It’s been an uphill battle; for Pilkey, what counts as progress was that people acknowledged his plea not to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy instead of just attacking him for suggesting it — even if they didn’t really end up following his advice.
From the Los Angeles Times, a dam delay:
Opponents of planned Colombian dams take heart from OAS report
Opponents of a Chinese plan to construct several dams along Colombia’s longest river said they were encouraged by an international human rights panel’s report Friday that noted “tension” between Latin American mega-projects and “the full exercise of human rights.”
The report, issued by the Organization of American States’ human rights commission, addresses testimony last month in Washington by Colombians who protested alleged human rights abuses, including forced displacement, in connection with plans to dam sections of the nearly 1,000-mile-long Magdalena River.
“The response by the OAS encourages us to continue to resist these mega-projects and to urge the government to adopt a development model other than the mining and energy mega-projects they favor,” said Miller Dussan, a university professor and opposition leader who went to Washington to protest the development plan.
On to Japan and Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Asahi Shimbun:
Minamata disease group opposes restart of Sendai nuclear plant
Minamata disease victims and supporters have joined the protest against the restart of nuclear reactors in Kumamoto Prefecture, saying safety again is taking a back seat in the drive for economic growth.
“If they miss the danger of nuclear plants because of economic priorities, they have not learned the lessons from Minamata disease,” said Koichiro Matsunaga, who heads the group “Stop restarting nuclear plants Minamata.”
Formed in September by eight members, including three Minamata disease patients, the group plans to collaborate with local organizations to oppose the resumption of operations at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture.
Minamata disease, a sometimes fatal neurological disorder that causes numbness and vision problems, was officially recognized as a health hazard 58 years ago. Caused by consumption of marine products contaminated by mercury discharged into the sea by a chemical factory, the disease remains a negative symbol of Japan’s period of high economic growth.
And from the Japan Times, the silvery corporate lining:
Uranium mining stocks jump as Japan clears way to reactors restart
Uranium prices and producers’ shares soared after Japan cleared the way for restart of the first of the nuclear reactors shut after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Cameco Corp., Canada’s largest uranium producer, increased 11 percent, the biggest gain since August 2010. Denison Mines Corp. climbed 20 percent and explorer Fission Uranium Corp. rose 18 percent in Toronto.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. on Friday received final local approval to resume power generation at its Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. All reactors in Japan have been shut since the March 2011 meltdowns crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.