First up the latest on an ongoing tragedy from CCTV America:
Number of polio cases in Pakistan highest in 14 years
This month Pakistan broke a 14-year record for the highest number of polio cases in a year. Militants continue to block vaccination efforts. CCTV America’s Danial Khan reports.
And an Asia outbreak continues to grow, via Want China Times:
Record-high number of dengue fever cases expected in Taiwan this year
Over the next few days, the accumulated number of dengue fever cases reported in Taiwan could surpass the previous high of 5,336 such cases recorded in 2002, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Thursday.
With a rate of 900 new cases per week since the beginning of October, it is only a matter of time before Taiwan sees the worst dengue fever outbreak in its history, CDC Deputy Director Chou Jih-haw said.
According to the CDC, there have been 4,750 indigenous dengue fever cases as of Oct. 13, 47 of which were the more severe hemorrhagic dengue fever, Chou said.
From BBC News, a South Seas climate protest:
South Pacific climate activists blockade Australia port
Hundreds of climate change protestors have attempted to disrupt shipments of coal from a port north of Sydney using their canoes, kayaks and surfboards to form a blockade.
The group included people from countries in the South Pacific who said they wanted to highlight the effects of climate change on their nations. They said the burning of coal mined in Australia was causing sea levels to rise which will impact low-lying Pacific islands.
About 30 Pacific Climate Warriors, as they call themselves, took to the water in traditional canoes. They had come from countries including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tokelau.
From the Guardian, they’re doing it on porpoise:
UK is breaking EU’s conservation laws on porpoises
- European commission could take Britain to court within two months for failure to protect harbour porpoises
Britain is facing a referral to the European Court of Justice within two months unless it designates more protection sites for harbour porpoises, a threatened species in the North Sea.
Harbour porpoises are the most common, and smallest, cetacean species found in UK waters. Similar in appearance to bottlenose dolphins, they are very social animals, rotund in shape with a small dorsal fin that shows above the waves.
Although they are still relatively abundant, their numbers are thought to be falling fast under pressure from human activities such as fisheries bycatch, starvation, underwater noise and injuries from boats.
Salon casts doubt on a serial killer:
EPA: Bee-killing pesticides used on soy crops don’t even do what they’re supposed to
- A federal study finds “negligible benefits” to the widespread use of neonicotinoid seed coatings
The EPA has yet to do much about neonicotinoids, the class of pesticides implicated in the United States’ mass bee die-offs, but it has started looking into them. And the results of an extensive review into one such pesticides, commonly applied to soybean seeds, presents another compelling reason to ban them: using them, the agency found, isn’t any better than using no pesticides at all.
“These seed treatments provide negligible overall benefits to soybean production in most situations,” the report concludes; at most, they up revenue by $6, or less than 2 percent, per acre, but the more likely estimate is $0. Part of the problem is that the insecticides are only effective within the first few weeks of planting, while the insects they’re intended to combat aren’t typically active during that time. And if attacks do occur, the study the study identified a whole assortment of other, non-bee-killing alternatives that are both effective and comparable in cost.
Colony collapse disorder, on the other hand, has cost the U.S. an estimated $2 billion in lost hives and, as a result, some $30 billion in crops.
From the Guardian, good on ‘em:
China tests outright logging ban in state forests
- China has halted commercial logging by state firms in forests in Heilongjiang, a move experts see as a significant step to curb over-exploitation of timber, reports chinadialogue
China has launched a trial ban on commercial logging in state-owned forests in the vast north-eastern province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia, home to much of the country’s timber industry. Forestry experts have hailed the ban as a major step forward, predicting it will enable timber supplies to recover and shift the industry’s focus towards improved forestry management.
To make the ban stick, the central government has allocated 2.35bn yuan a year to cover forestry workers’ living costs between 2014 and 2020, chinadialogue has learned from the State Forestry Administration (SFA). If the trial ban is successful, the policy may be extended throughout north east China and Inner Mongolia.
Sheng Weitong, a forestry expert and former advisor to China’s cabinet-level state council, told chinadialogue that some laid-off loggers “will become forest rangers and learn how to manage forests because the vast numbers of young and semi-mature trees in these districts need management. Workers here neglected forest management in the past.”
And off to Fuksuhimapocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:
Survey: More Fukushima evacuees give up returning
A survey shows more evacuees from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident have given up returning home. The Reconstruction Agency and local municipalities released on Friday the results of the annual survey conducted in August.
Almost half of respondents from 2 towns designated as an evacuation zone said they decided they will not go back. The percentage of people who gave this answer is up 11 points from last year in the town of Namie and up 3 points in Tomioka town.
Officials say some of the people who were undecided in last year’s survey have made up their mind.
A delay from the Asahi Shimbun:
ANALYSIS: TEPCO behind schedule to eliminate contaminated water despite extra measures
Thanks to the newly set up ALPS units and the improved model to be introduced, it is estimated that the radioactive water processing ability of the plant will rise from the current maximum of 750 tons per day to 1,960 tons, according to TEPCO.
But many problems have been reported with ALPS since it first became operational, repeatedly forcing the plant operator to halt its operations. The utilization rate for the system between January and August was just 35 to 61 percent.
Although TEPCO replaced some components of ALPS with improved parts, problems occurred with some replaced components in late September, forcing the utility to suspend operations of some units of the system.
Whereas TEPCO has set a goal of completing the purification of all highly radioactive water stored on site, it would still be difficult to achieve that goal even if TEPCO could operate all the processing systems day and night.
A state broadcaster rebels, via Public Radio International’s The World:
Japan’s timid coverage of Fukushima led this news anchor to revolt — and he’s not alone
It’s been three-and-a-half years since 83-year-old Kamematsu left his home, with its rice patties, vegetable fields and 10 cows, fleeing the disaster at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. He still can’t go back.
When will it be ready for people again? No one seems to know — or be interested in telling him. “I can’t take my land with me,” he says, “so I don’t know what to do. I can’t see ahead.”
Kamematsu is one of about 80,000 people in Japan still officially displaced by the nuclear crisis. Questions remain about radiation levels, the clean-up process and when residents can return home. Yasuhiko Tajima, a professor of media studies at Tokyo’s Sophia University, says many Japanese are frustrated by what they see as a lack of information.
Japanese journalists did what Tajima calls “announcement journalism” in reporting on the crisis. He says they were reporting the press releases of big companies and the people in power. And he’s not the only one who thinks so.
“I am a newscaster, but I couldn’t tell the true story on my news program,” says Jun Hori, a former anchor for NHK, the Japanese state broadcaster.
Hori says the network restricted what he and other journalists could say about Fukushima and moved more slowly than foreign media to report on the disaster and how far radiation was spreading. The attitude in the newsroom was not to question official information
Another reactor stress from the Japan Times:
Utilities pressed to make quick decision on scrapping aged reactors
The government called on Friday for utilities to swiftly decide whether to scrap aging reactors that would be particularly vulnerable in the event of a natural disaster.
The pro-nuclear government, which is seeking to reactivate the nation’s idled reactors as soon as possible despite a glut of solar and other renewable energy that is being boycotted by the utilities, is pushing the them to decide quickly in the hope that shutting old facilities will help mitigate public concern so restarts can proceed.
Under new, tighter safety standards adopted because of the 2011 core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, utilities are not allowed to operate reactors for longer than 40 years, in principle.
And here’s one to give you nightmares, from JapanToday:
Expert says 2 Sendai reactors in danger from active volcano
A prominent volcanologist disputed Japanese regulators’ conclusion that two nuclear reactors were safe from a volcanic eruption in the next few decades, saying Friday that such a prediction was impossible.
A cauldron eruption at one of several volcanos surrounding the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Japan could not only hit the reactors but could cause a nationwide disaster, said Toshitsugu Fujii, University of Tokyo professor emeritus who heads a government-commissioned panel on volcanic eruption prediction.
Nuclear regulators last month said two Sendai reactors fulfilled tougher safety requirements set after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The regulators ruled out a major eruption over the next 30 years until the reactors’ reach the end of their usable lifespan.
More from Reuters:
Japan’s volcanoes made more jittery by 2011 quake, expert says
Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake may trigger more, and larger, volcanic eruptions over the next few decades, perhaps even that of Mount Fuji – but predicting them remains close to impossible, a volcano expert said on Friday.
The nation last month suffered its worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years when Mount Ontake, its second tallest active volcano at 3,067 meters (10,062 feet), suddenly erupted, raining down ash and stone on hikers crowding the summit.
The eruption killed 56 people, exceeding the deaths in the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens in the United States. Seven victims remain missing, and recovery efforts have been suspended until the spring.
Japan may well be moving into a period of increased volcanic activity touched off by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake of March 11, 2011, said Toshitsugu Fujii, a volcanologist and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.
“The 2011 quake convulsed all of underground Japan quite sharply, and due to that influence Japan’s volcanoes may also become much more active,” Fujii told reporters.
And we close with another nightmare from NHK WORLD:
Shimomura criticizes Monju operator
Science minister Hakubun Shimomura has criticized the operator of the Monju fast-breeder prototype reactor for its failure to properly maintain equipment. It recently came to light that a number of monitoring cameras at the reactor are not working.
Shimomura told reporters on Friday that it is very regrettable that the operator, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, lacks a sense of responsibility. More than 50 cameras, or about one-third of those monitoring coolant pipes, were found to be broken when Monju was inspected in September.
Shimomura said reassuring the public about Monju’s safety is the minimum requirement for restarting the experimental reactor. He said the prototype reactor may be stopped forever if the operator’s poor management continues.