Category Archives: Politics

EnviroWatch: Climate, water, eruption, fuels


First up, a fait accompli from the Guardian:

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

  • Evidence from around the world supports scientists’ assertion that global warming is already happening

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet’s warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country’s president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. “He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating,” Tony de Brum, the islands’ foreign minister, revealed recently.

From the Associated Press, water woes in parched California:

California’s water agencies look to budget water

As California’s severe drought continues, state and local agencies are looking at budgeting water use by creating a daily water allocation for each household.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1xsETsi ) that under such a scheme, a household would be allotted a certain number of gallons for indoor water use and another for outdoor water use.

The amount allocated is calculated using census data, aerial photography and satellite imagery to determine a property’s efficient water usage amount. Those using above their designated amount would pay extra.

Such a system is already in use or being considered by several municipalities statewide.

A similar crisis half a world away from the Los Angeles Times:

Iran prays for rain amid acute water shortage

Concern is mounting about dwindling water supplies across Iran, from the densely populated, smog-ridden capital and its parched suburbs to provincial towns and cities to far-flung corners of the nation, much of which is desert. Lakes and rivers have been drying up, reservoirs are at historic lows and water supplies have been cut in some areas. The annual snowmelt from the mountains is on the decline.

On the streets here, people grumble about cuts in water service. Many buildings have tanks on the roofs to collect rainwater. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rained in months. Bottled water is available, but many Iranians have little excess income for purchasing it. Most Iranians rely on tap water for both drinking and washing.

“On some days of the week, our tap water is cut for seven or eight hours,” said Akbar Aziz, 40, a printing-house employee who lives in the capital’s working-class Khorasan district. “We are consuming as little as possible,” said Aziz, a father with young daughters. “We shower only two times a week. So we are not responsible for the water shortages.”

Environmental Health News covers another water woe:

Fish still contaminated with phased-out Scotchgard chemical

A persistent chemical formerly used in Scotchgard still contaminates most fish in U.S. rivers and the Great Lakes despite a phase-out a dozen years ago, a new federal study shows.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency researchers found perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in all of the 157 fish sampled from nearshore waters in the five Great Lakes and in 73 percent from 162 rivers.

The study, the largest of its kind in freshwater fish, suggests that eating bass, trout, walleye and catfish could be a major source of exposure for anglers and their families. The chemical remains widespread in wildlife, people and water around the world.

From BBC News, a body count:

Japan volcano: Mt Ontake rescue teams find 31 bodies

The bodies of 31 hikers have been found near the top of Japan’s Mount Ontake a day after a sudden volcanic eruption.

The hikers were not breathing and their hearts had stopped. The search for a total of 45 missing climbers has now been called off for the night.

The volcano, about 200km (125 miles) west of Tokyo, erupted without warning on Saturday, spewing ash and rocks. About 250 people were trapped on the slopes of the popular beauty spot, but most got down safely.

Deutsche Welle covers the story:

Hikers killed in Japan earthquake

Program notes:

More than 30 people have been killed after a volcano in Japan erupted unexpectedly. Mount Ontake continues to spew ash and smoke into the air, creating difficulties for rescue teams attempting to reach hikers still stranded on the slopes. Experts were taken by surprise by the eruption; they say there were no warning signs in the preceding hours.

From BBC News, Big Oil taps an arctic vein:

Rosneft and Exxon discover Arctic oil

Russian energy giant Rosneft says it has discovered oil with its US project partner Exxon Mobil at a controversial well in the Arctic. Drilling was completed in record time, it said, but questions remain about how quickly the well can be developed.

Exxon has said it will “wind down” the project following US sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Environmentalists have campaigned hard against drilling for oil in the pristine region.

“Rosneft successfully completed the drilling of the northernmost well in the world – the Universitetskaya-1 well in the Arctic,” the company said in a statement.

Big Oil fracks your British basement, via the Guardian:

Fracking trespass law changes move forward despite huge public opposition

  • Ministers reject 40,000 objections to allow fracking below homes without owners’ permission

Fracking will take place below Britons’ homes without their permission after ministers rejected 40,000 objections to controversial changes to trespass laws.

The UK government argued that the current ability for people to block shale gas development under their property would lead to significant delays and that the legal process by which companies can force fracking plans through was costly, time-consuming and disproportionate.

There were a total of 40,647 responses to a consultation on the move to give oil and gas companies underground access without needing to seek landowners’ permission, with 99% opposing the legal changes. Setting aside the 28,821 responses submitted via two NGO campaigns, 92% of the remaining responses objected to the proposals.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore signals a major nuclear [power] proliferation:

India turns to nuclear as energy crisis deepens

  • Energy-starved India relies on coal to produce two thirds of its electricity, and it is now looking at nuclear options to ease a power crisis

India’s new prime minister is turning to nuclear energy to ease a power crisis made worse by the cancellation of hundreds of coal mining permits, but he faces scepticism both at home and abroad.

Energy-starved India relies on coal to produce two thirds of its electricity, but power blackouts are common and demand is rising quickly as the economy and middle class expand.

On Wednesday (Sep 24), the Supreme Court cancelled over 200 coal mining permits because the licensing process was deemed illegal, making the need for alternative energy sources yet more pressing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made nuclear a priority as he seeks to fulfil his campaign pledge to kickstart the country’s flagging economy.

Want China Times takes seaborne nuclear power in a whole new direction:

China ready to construct floating nuclear power plant

The 719th Research Institute of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation was appointed to establish China’s first R&D center for floating nuclear power plants in central China’s Hubei province, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a contract with president Xi Jinping of China during his visit to Shanghai in May for the two nations to collaborate in constructing such a plant. As China Shipbuilding Industry Corp’s website writes, the floating plant will be used to provide electricity to Chinese facilities in the disputed South China Sea.

Equipped with a smaller nuclear reactor, some vessels can also be used to exploit the natural resources beneath the sea floor. When natural disasters and accidents strike, emergency assistance can be deployed from the floating station. If China gathers experience in operating such plants, they will be able to construct nuclear reactors for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the future.

And for our final item, a nuclear reminder from the Mainichi:

Ex-mayor raps gov’t before 15th anniv. of Japan’s 1st criticality accident

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 was brought about as the government neglected to learn lessons from Japan’s first criticality accident that occurred 15 years ago, the former mayor of the affected village said Sunday.

Speaking before an audience of some 350 people who gathered for a public meeting ahead of the accident’s 15th anniversary, Tatsuya Murakami, who served as mayor of Tokaimura in Ibaraki Prefecture until last year, said despite the accident Japan has persisted to maintain a “safety myth.”

“Japan was caught up in a ‘safety myth’ that a serious nuclear accident would not happen in this country when the criticality accident occurred at a nuclear fuel processor in this village” on Sept. 30, 1999, he said.

The myth and the failure to firmly clarify the cause of the accident eventually led to the Fukushima meltdown, he said.

EbolaWatch: Arts, shortages, suffering, more


We begin today’s coverage with two videos from CCTV Africa focusing on the Ebola crisis and the performing arts.

Our first offering focuses on Ugandan playwright Phillip Luswata’s Get Away from Me, a dramatization of the Ebola crisis and its impact on everyday life:

Ebola Crisis: Fighting Ebola Through Theatre

Program notes:

Until this outbreak, Uganda had suffered the greatest number of ebola flare-ups. But this time, it’s managed to avoid any cases. Officials attribute that to good awareness among the population. The virus has even inspired a stage-play in Kampala. CCTV’s Leon Ssenyange reports.

Next, a report on the use of music to educate an anxious and often-misinformed public:

Ebola Crisis : Songs of Awareness on The Virus

Program notes:

Authorities have been resorting to drastic measures to try and curb the spread of Ebola. In Sierra Leone, a full two million people are to be sealed off – and quarantined. Yet some are convinced there are more effective ways to save lives. CCTV’s Jane Kiyo has more

From CBC News, tragic failure:

Ebola outbreak: Clinics still short on doctors, supplies 6 months later

  • Bulk of promised global aid has yet to materialize on the ground

Doctors are in short supply. So are beds for patients. Six months after the Ebola outbreak emerged for the first time in an unprepared West Africa and eventually became the worst-ever outbreak, the gap between what has been sent by other countries and private groups and what is needed is huge.

Even as countries try to marshal more resources, those needs threaten to become much greater, and possibly even insurmountable.

Statistics reviewed by The Associated Press and interviews with experts and those on the scene of one of the worst health disasters in modern history show how great the needs are and how little the world has done in response. Some foreign medical workers have bravely fought on, a few even contracting Ebola themselves as they cared for patients.

IPS Inter Press Service News Agency raises more aid questions:

Militarising the Ebola Crisis

It’s unclear whether any U.S. healthcare personnel will actually treat patients, but according to the White House, “the U.S. Government will help recruit and organise medical personnel to staff” the centres and “establish a site to train up to 500 health care providers per week.”

The latter begs the question of practicality: where would these would-be health workers be recruited from?

According to the Obama administration, the package was requested directly by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. (Notably, Liberia was the only African nation to offer to host AFRICOM’s headquarters in 2008, an offer AFRICOM declined and decided to set up in Germany instead).

Punch Nigeria makes a plea:

Ebola: Lab scientists want more protection for members

Chairman of the Association of Medical Laboratories Scientist in Nigeria, Oyo State Chapter, Akinbola Idowu, has called on the federal and state governments protect the interest of health workers especially laboratory scientists in their efforts to end the spread of Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

During a workshop held in Ibadan on Ebola for health laboratory workers and other categories of health workers who are considered vulnerable to the disease, because of the hazard involved in treating a suspected case and handling test samples, Idowu called on participants to be on the alert and take necessary precaution against possible infection.

He said, “It is highly important to appreciate the timing of this program because of the collective fight against EVD in our country.”

While the Guardian raises questions:

Liberian Senate calls for more transparency over Ebola funds

  • Full disclosure demanded over how $5m of government funding allocated for fighting outbreak has vanished so quickly

Stately and unassuming, Liberia’s national Ebola taskforce coordinator James Dorbor Jallah announced at a press conference in late August that the government’s initial $5m (£3m) contribution to contain the disease had been spent.

As he fumbled with the numbers in his expenditures report, the blogosphere exploded with queries about how all that money could vanish so quickly. Now, the Liberian Senate is demanding full disclosure of the Ebola funds’ whereabouts. To his credit, however, Jallah was attempting something that donors have yet to do: answer to the people in whose name “the war on Ebola” is being fought in west Africa. As we have seen all too often in international emergency response operations, the stakes are too high to forgo systems of accountability.

Médecins Sans Frontières, the leading health relief organisation in Liberia, has complained for weeks that resources committed to the Ebola crisis have been “entirely insufficient”. The latest projections from the UN indicate that almost $1bn will be needed to contain the Ebola outbreak in west Africa. Significant amounts of money have now started pouring in, with the fanfare we have come to expect in such situations. But commitments have not been matched with relevant tools and reports to track the flows of promised aid disbursals.

RFI covers those already marginalized:

Most vulnerable in Sierra Leone suffer under Ebola quarantine

As ordinary Sierra Leoneans navigate government-imposed curfews and quarantined areas in a new reality shaped by the deadly Ebola virus, the country’s most vulnerable are getting left behind.

Health ministries in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have made an effort to educate the public, calling on them to wash their hands and avoid physical contact. But this has caused problems for the most vulnerable.

Voice of America covers crisis compounded:

Life Harder for Liberians Post-Ebola Quarantine

In West Point, one the Liberian capital Monrovia’s poorest neighborhoods, the situation is calm a month after the government forced quarantine on its inhabitants. But residents complain that businesses, social life and entertainment have suffered and other Monrovians treat them like outcasts.

On a cloudy day in the coastal city, fishermen can be seen offshore. Fishing is one of the city’s main livelihoods.

West Point made global news last month, when the government forced a quarantine on the entire community, following a high number of diagnosed Ebola cases.  The community rebelled with violent protests.

And a didactic headline from Angola Press News Agency:

Angola: Passengers At Airports Learn About Ebola Danger

The Angolan health authorities are is conducting awareness raising campaigns with passengers and workers at airports around the country about the danger posed by the Ebola epidemic hitting several West African nations.

The measure that includes the floating of banners in strategic locations near airports migration, check-in counters, embarking and disembarking lounges, is intended to inform the citizens and avoid the entry of the epidemic into the country.

With the outbreak of the disease in various African countries, the Angolan Health Ministry adopted strict surveillance measures at ports, airports and transports from regions with Ebola prevalence.

For our final item, another impact from New Zimbabwe:

Daring Sex Workers Introduce ‘Ebola Risk Allowance’

Commercial sex workers at Nyamapanda Border Post have started charging “Ebola risk insurance” in a bid to use the deadly outbreak to shake down truck drivers from outside Zimbabwe for extra cash.

Nyamapanda, on the border with Mozambique, is one of the access points used by truckers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has been affected by the Ebola outbreak that has now killed more than 3,000 in West Africa.

The sex workers said they decided to use Ebola to make more money because business was down with local clients who have decided to zip it because of the country’s economic challenges.

Surviving Ebola: The grim reality in Sierra Leone


From Channel 4 in Britain, a stunning documentary conveying the stark realities on the ground as the deadly epidemic wreaks havoc in West Africa.

From 4oD Documentaries:

Surviving Ebola

Here’s the Guardian’s review by Sam Wollaston:

Unreported World: Surviving Ebola review – nightmare hospital where ambulances double as hearses

  • ‘I’m feeling cold, sir’ said the little girl … This brave documentary reminds us the Ebola crisis is vividly real and heartbreakingly sad

A makeshift jungle hospital – tents, corrugated iron roofs and bright orange barriers – looks more like some kind of sinister detention centre. The people here are even more sinister-looking, in orange plastic suits, white boots, green gloves, headdresses, masks, ski goggles, and not an inch of actual person visible; they could be aliens. But these are the staff, the doctors. They’re like this because we’re in Sierra Leone and this is Unreported World: Surviving Ebola (Channel 4).

It looks like a nightmare. It is a nightmare – if anything, the title is misleadingly optimistic. The death ledger book is filling up. There have been 73 deaths in the past month alone. The body of the latest, a nine-year-old boy, still highly infectious, is carried to the morgue, a small bundle in a white plastic sheet. He will be buried round the back in a clearing that is rapidly running out of space.

Victims have been hiding at home and infecting their families. More patients arrive, six members of one family, staggering out of an ambulance, very sick and very scared. The ambulances double up as hearses.

Some people come in a van that is sprayed with chlorine after every journey. Like this mother and her daughter. But she, the mother is already dead. As her body is carried to the morgue, the seven-year-old child cries out: “I’m feeling cold, sir, I’m feeling cold.” A tiny utterance, but one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. She dies later, too. The van is sprayed.

And as if that wasn’t hell enough, there’s a rumour in the nearby town that Ebola is just a hoax, devised by doctors so that they can steal blood from people. They’re rioting. Civil unrest to add to the terror, vomit, blood, diarrhoea and death, while Médecins Sans Frontières doctors fight a battle it appears they cannot win.

Shaunagh Connaire and Wael Dabbous’s short film is a chilling and bleak one. It is also brave – there must have been some risk involved. And it is important. Of course you knew the Ebola story, but perhaps, like for me, it was just that – a news story, distant, and a name. This was a rude, visceral wake-up to the terrible reality.

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, borders, hacks, threats


Today’s tour of the realms where paranoia and politics intersect begins with this from Xinhua:

Iran to counter IS militants in Iraq if threatened: commander

Iran will target Islamic State militants “deep inside the Iraqi territory” if they intend to approach the Iranian borders, a senior Iranian commander was quoted as saying by Press TV on Saturday.

“We will not allow the IS terrorist group to approach the country’s borders. We are fully prepared to counter them,” Commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces, Brigadier General Ahmadreza Pourdastan, said on Saturday. “If the IS terrorist group intends to come near the country’s borders, we will target them deep inside the Iraqi territory.”

The commander added that Iran has deployed ground forces in western border regions to beef up the security there, and that those forces have high operational capability and would “nip the threats in the bud.”

The New York Times covers another border:

Turkey Hesitant to Ally With U.S. in Syria Mission

No American ally is closer to the threat of the Islamic State than Turkey, and no country could play a more important role in a coalition that President Obama is assembling to combat the extremist Sunni militants. Yet Turkey has been reluctant to enlist, in part because of the desperate conflict playing out on its border with Syria.

On Saturday, outgunned Kurdish fighters, just a few hundred yards inside Syria and clearly visible from hilltop olive groves in this frontier village, battled Islamic State militants advancing from a village less than a mile away. They fought with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns within sight of Kobani, the central town in a besieged Kurdish area of Syria that has been falling village by village to a weeklong onslaught by the Islamic State.

Turkish soldiers in armored vehicles stood by at the border fence, taking no action except to block Turkish and Syrian Kurds from crossing into Syria to defend Kobani, where Kurds fear a massacre. That has fed the fury of Kurds on both sides of the border, who accuse Turkey, with its long history of conflict with Kurdish separatists, of tacitly supporting the Islamic State against them.

From the London Daily Mail, intrafamilial culture clash:

Arab woman pilot who is poster girl for Gulf states’ blitz on ISIS is ‘disowned by her family’ for bombing ‘Sunni heroes of Iraq and the Levant’

  • Mariam Al Mansouri’s F-16 bombing raids were celebrated in the West
  • But a statement purporting to be from her UAE family has ‘disowned’ her
  • It attacks her for ‘taking part in the brutal aggression against Syria’

The female air force pilot whose missions against Isis were dubbed ‘boobs on the ground’ has reportedly been disowned by her family and labelled an ‘ingrate’.

Mariam Al Mansouri’s participation in F-16 bombing raids for the UAE was celebrated in the West, but an anonymous statement claiming to be from her family ‘disowned’ her for ‘taking part in the brutal international aggression’ against Syria.

It also expressed support for the Islamic State, saying ‘we are proud of the Sunni heroes in Iraq and the Levant’. The brutal terrorist group’s original name was the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Isil.

Bombast from Deutsche Welle:

Al Qaeda splinter group claims responsibility for US embassy attack in Yemen

An extremist group linked to al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the US embassy in Yemen. The incident comes after Washington urged US citizens to leave the Gulf country.

The rocket landed around 200 meters from the heavily fortified embassy in the capital Sanaa on Saturday, hitting several members of the Yemeni police force who were guarding the compound. At least two were injured, authorities said.

Police told news agency Reuters that the rocket came from a M72 light anti-tank weapon fired from a car.

Shortly after the attack, the embassy said it did not believe it was the target of the rocket, and that Yemeni authorities were investigating.

USA Today covers collateral damage:

Another casualty of war in the Arab world: Education

In Kurdistan, the schools are full of refugees. In Gaza, many have been reduced to rubble. In Libya and Yemen, teachers and students can’t get to class because of fighting.

In the Iraqi city of Mosul, Islamic State militants have decreed that the school bell should ring to draw students, but few are going to classes.

As school starts across the Arab world this month, hundreds of thousands of students from across the Middle East and North Africa won’t be going. Conflict, turmoil and even destruction have put these children at great risk.

From the New York Times, a wrist slap:

Police Behavior in Ferguson Draws Attention of Justice Department

The Justice Department on Friday pressured the Ferguson Police Department to stop its officers from wearing bracelets stamped with the message “I am Darren Wilson,” in solidarity with the police officer who is being investigated for shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old, and from covering up their name plates with tape.

The bracelets, dark blue with white lettering, were photographed on the wrists of several Ferguson police officers who were interacting with demonstrators this week as protests flared up once again in this small city in the suburbs of St. Louis. A grand jury is looking into the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9, and the police department is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible civil rights violations.

In a stern letter to Chief Thomas Jackson, Christy E. Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that the bracelets “upset and agitated people.”

Questions from the Los Angeles Times:

Growing use of police body cameras raises privacy concerns

For many departments, questions remain about when officers should be allowed to turn off such cameras — especially in cases involving domestic violence or rape victims — and the extent to which video could be made public.

Such video “sometimes captures people at the worst moments of their lives,” American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst Jay Stanley said. “You don’t want to see videos of that uploaded to the Internet for titillation and gawking,” he said.

Video from dashboard cameras in police cars, a more widely used technology, has long been exploited for entertainment purposes. Internet users have posted dash-cam videos of arrests of naked women to YouTube, and TMZ sometimes obtains police videos of athletes and celebrities during minor or embarrassing traffic stops, turning officers into unwitting paparazzi.

From the Daily Dot, espiocorporatism:

The NSA is renting its technology to U.S. companies

The National Security Agency (NSA), which develops surveillance tools that are both dazzling and terrifying, has been making money on the side by licensing its technology to private businesses for more than two decades.

So if you’re looking to buy a tool to transcribe voice recordings in any language, a foolproof method to tell if someone’s touched your phone’s SIM card, or a version of email encryption that isn’t available on the open market, try the world’s most technologically advanced spy agency.

It’s called the Technology Transfer Program (TTP), under which the NSA declassifies some of its technologies that it developed for previous operations, patents them, and, if they’re swayed by an American company’s business plan and nondisclosure agreements, rents them out.

From BBC News, reasonable requests:

Google urged to change privacy rules by data regulators

European data privacy regulators have put renewed pressure on Google to alter its privacy policy. It follows changes to the policy two years ago which regulators felt breached European rules.

Among other things, it says Google must tell users exactly what data is collected and with whom it is shared.

Google said it was working with regulators to “explain its privacy policy changes.” The dispute has been running since March 2012 when Google consolidated its 60 privacy policies into one and started combining data from YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps.

Hacking away, via the Guardian:

Russian malware used by ‘privateer’ hackers against Ukrainian government

  • Attackers were carrying out hits to make money, but were ‘co-opted’ into carrying out state espionage, say security researchers

A hacker tool popular across underground Russian crime networks has been used in attacks on the Ukrainian government, indicating the use of “privateers” for digital espionage, according to researchers.

The malware, known as BlackEnergy, appears to have been used in cyberattacks against Georgia during the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008 too, but has also been operated by criminals as a means to steal credit card data.

This summer, it was tailored to hit a number of Ukrainian targets. Researchers from security firm F-Secure said Ukrainian Railways and infrastructure related to government bodies in Dnipropetrovsk, a city in the southeast of Ukraine, were in the crosshairs of the hackers. The researchers uncovered the hackers’ use of proxy servers – used to reroute internet traffic – linked to those targets’ networks.

And RT covers more iCloud-hacking agony:

Have mercy! Tons more of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrity nudes leaked online

There seems to be no end in sight for celebrities this season, as the “third round” of nude photo leaks adds top model Cara Delevingne, actress Anna Kendrick and more of Jennifer Lawrence to the mix.

The FBI promised earlier in the week to widen its probe into the leaks after new nude images of celebrities Kim Kardashian, Vaness Hudgens and others popped up online. It launched an investigation in the aftermath of the first leak linked to a security flaw in Apple’s iCloud file storage service, but has so far come up empty.

This Friday, however, a newer leak surfaced on the online communities Reddit and 4chan, exposing, among many others, superstar model Cara Delevingne, actress Anna Kendrick and T-Mobile ad star and top model Carly Foulkes. Other celebrities exposed include three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, a host of other soap opera and movie actresses – and topping that are 55 more images of Jennifer Lawrence.

Drones are for we, not thee, say the cops, via Photography is Not a Crime:

L.A. Drone Activist Jailed Four Days After Refusing Deal to Revoke Right to Fly Them

Daniel Saulmon, Southern Californian’s notorious video activist, spent four days in a crowded county jail this week after refusing a plea deal that would have forbade him from flying his quadcopter for two years within Los Angeles County.

“It was terrible,” he said of his experience in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime hours after his release.

“I watched deputies nearly beat a guy to death with batons and tasers. I saw another man go into a seizure and almost die. It was not good.”

After the jump, lashes for gays in Indonesia, turmoil and arrests in Hong Kong, a Taiwanese rebuff of a Beijing gambit, China stakes an oceanic claim and crosses the line, Japanese remilitarism justified, Washington/Tokyo military ties tightening, and a real security threat in New Mexico. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Eruptions, fuels, GMOs, ills


We begin with the latest from the GMO front via Common Dreams:

Second Discovery of GMO Wheat Reveals ‘Failed Policy’ That Threatens Farmers: Watchdog

USDA says genetically engineered wheat discovered on Montana farm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday revealed that it was opening an investigation into the appearance of unapproved genetically engineered wheat in Montana.

It marks the second time the USDA is issuing notice of a discovery of rogue genetically engineered (or GMO) wheat. There is no commercially-approved GMO wheat.

According to a statement issued by the USDA, the discovery of the Roundup-resistant GMO wheat was made in July at Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in Huntley, Montana. That location was the site of Monsanto-led GMO wheat trials, approved by the USDA, from 2000 to 2003.

The Latin American Herald Tribune delivers a warning:

Agriculture Experts Warn of Lack of Food Security in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is far from achieving food security because it imports between 85 percent and 87 percent of its daily food consumption, partly due to neglect of the island’s farm sector as well as to increased urban development in recent decades, several experts told Efe.

Gladys Gonzalez, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), said in an interview with Efe that the island’s geographical limitations prevent it from producing enough food to feed the entire population.

Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 census, the amount of farm land in Puerto Rico expanded to 584,988 acres but only 433,563 acres were under cultivation. The 2014 amendment to Puerto Rican Law 550 requires that between 600,000 and 700,000 acres of land throughout the commonwealth be set aside for growing crops.

On the beach with Star Africa News:

SLeone: Environmental body alarmed by sand mining

Sierra Leone’s environmental and tourism authorities have warned that a resurgence of illegal sand mining threatens to destroy the country’s beaches and hence its tourism industry.The tourism ministry, which is on a joined monitoring of communities where sand mining is predominant, said the country’s beaches are a major component of its tourism potential.

A spate of illegal sand mining activities last year attracted wide spread concern, prompting a temporary ban.

The government has identified three places were sand mining could be allowed but under strict conditions. Report now say dealers in sand have been violating the ban and some carry out their illegal act in the dark of night.

From the Los Angeles Times, a non-eruption story, hopefully:

Mammoth Lakes earthquake swarm tied to water pressure, tectonic stress

The more than 600 earthquakes that have struck the Mammoth Lakes region over the last 24 hours are an indication of tectonic, not volcanic, stress, an expert said Friday.

At least 109 of the earthquakes were magnitude 2.0 or greater, with smaller quakes making up the bulk of the activity, said David Shelly, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Science Center. At least six, however, were greater than magnitude 3.0.

The largest, a 3.8 temblor six miles from Mammoth Lakes, occurred at 9:21 p.m. Thursday.

The swarm of quakes, which began Thursday in the 20-by-10-mile Long Valley caldera east of the central Sierra Nevada Range, isn’t uncommon for the region. About 200 small quakes — the largest a magnitude 2.7 — shook in Long Valley Caldera in July.

And from the Japan Times, the first of two lethal eruptions:

Volcano eruption on Nagano-Gifu border kills hiker, wounds 46; Abe mobilizes SDF

Mount Ontake, a volcano straddling Nagano and Gifu prefectures, erupted on Saturday, spewing ash and small rocks into the air, killing a female hiker, leaving at least 16 people unconscious and 30 others seriously injured, and stranding more than 40 on the mountain, officials and media said.

Following the eruption at 11:53 a.m., a thick, rolling gray cloud of ash rose high into the sky above the mountain close to where hikers were taking pictures, TV footage showed. Hikers and residents were warned of falling rock and ash within a radius of 4 km.

Rescue headquarters on the Nagano side of the mountain said it had received information from rescue workers that a female hiker was killed in the eruption. Further details, including her identity or cause of death, were not yet available.

Japanese vlogger Kuroda Terutoshi was climbing the mountain when the eruption happened, and his clip is understanding a bit shaky:

The second lethal eruption, via TheLocal.it:

Child dead after Sicily mud geyser eruption

The sudden eruption of a mud geyser at a nature reserve in southern Sicily killed a seven-year-old girl on Saturday, Italian media reported, adding that her nine-year-old brother was missing.

The two children were walking with their father in the Maccalube nature reserve north of Agrigento when a geyser spewed mud over them.

The father, a police officer, was uninjured, but the girl’s body was found shortly afterward while the boy could not be found, the reports said.

From TheLocal.dk, another outbreak:

Three deaths traced to new listeria outbreak

The new outbreak stems from soups served at two hospitals and is not connected to the deli meat outbreak that has claimed 16 lives.

Three people have died from listeria-infested asparagus soup at Odense University Hospital.

The deaths are a result of a new listeria outbreak and are not related to the one that has been traced to the deli meat rullepølse, which has claimed 16 lives.

From the Associated Press, a far larger outbreak:

New mosquito-borne virus spreads in Latin America

An excruciating mosquito-borne illness that arrived less than a year ago in the Americas is raging across the region, leaping from the Caribbean to the Central and South American mainland, and infecting more than 1 million people. Some cases already have emerged in the United States.

While the disease, called chikungunya, usually is not fatal, the epidemic has overwhelmed hospitals, cut economic productivity and caused its sufferers days of pain and misery. And the count of victims is soaring.

In El Salvador, health officials report nearly 30,000 suspected cases, up from 2,300 at the beginning of August, and hospitals are filled with people with the telltale signs of the illness, including joint pain so severe it can be hard to walk.

From the Guardian, blood fever for our fine feathered friends:

New controversy over Malta’s bird slaughter

  • Island MP Karmenu Vella nominated as European commissioner to head green policies, including wildlife protection

Karmenu Vella has unusual credentials for a man selected to be the next European commissioner for the environment. The 64-year-old politician is a long-serving member of Malta’s Labour government, which is accused of direct involvement in the widespread slaughter of birdlife on the island – including many endangered species.

Every spring and autumn, thousands of migratory birds – including quails, song thrushes and brood eagles – pass over Malta as they fly between northern Europe and Africa, only to be greeted by thousands of local hunters who gather in trucks bearing slogans like “If it flies it dies”. They duly open fire on the birds.

“Turtle doves have suffered a catastrophic decline in western Europe, including Britain. Yet the Maltese government continues to allow them to be shot in their thousands every year,” said Andre Farrar of the RSPB. “This slaughter has widespread implications and involves dozens of rare species, many of them regular visitors to the British Isles.”

Public Radio International gives us our first fuels story:

Fearing pollution, some local governments are demanding back zoning control over oil and gas

In eight states across the country, communities are trying to decide if new energy sources and possible economic growth from oil and gas are worth losing control of their land — and the huge changes it brings to the countryside.

Ten years ago, Ohio changed its zoning laws. It took zoning control of oil and gas operations away from local communities and gave the authority to the state department of natural resources. In 2012, Pennsylvania also tried to limit local zoning rights around oil and gas operations, as part of the controversial Act 13. But late last year, the state Supreme Court struck it down, maintaining local control. New York courts have also upheld the rights of local governments to regulate fracking.

TheLocal.no gives us our second:

Statoil freezes oil sands project in Canada

Norwegian oil company Statoil announced the postponement of an oil sands project in Canada due to rising costs and limited pipeline transport capacity.

The Corner project, located in the province of Alberta in western Canada, is being postponed for a minimum of three years, the company said in a statement late Thursday.

The production capacity of the project is 40,000 barrels per day and its delay does not affect the neighbouring Leismer project, which can produce up to 20,000 barrels per day, according to Statoil.

“Costs for labour and materials have continued to rise in recent years and are working against the economics of new projects,” Statoil Canada country manager Ståle Tungesvik said.

From the Independent, the spice of life:

Curry spice turmeric ‘could help brain heal itself’

A spice commonly used in curries could help the brain heal itself, new research has suggested.

A report in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy found a compound in the curry spice turmeric may hold the key to repairing the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

A team in Germany say aromatic turmerone promoted the proliferation of brain stem cells and their development into neurons during laboratory tests on rats.

And for our last item, via the Guardian, submitting the question to a jury of their pee-ers:

US city considers testing sewage to gather data on residents’ marijuana use

  • Spokane, Washington wants to test the water to get a more accurate picture of marijuana usage now the drug has been legalised

City leaders in Spokane, Washington, want to know just how much pot residents are smoking, now that it’s legal there. Sewage might hold the answer.

The primary author of Washington state’s recreational marijuana law, attorney Alison Holcomb, made this suggestion to the city’s marijuana policy subcommittee at a meeting on Tuesday. About 50 city leaders and residents make up the group, which attempts to grapple with what legalization means for the city of about 210,000.

“We don’t have really good data on usage and perceptions of harm,” said Jon Snyder, a Spokane city council member. “It’s funny how the sewage thing has really captured people’s imagination.”

EbolaWatch: Crisis, shortages, help, & more


First up, a notable quarantine from the Associated Press:

Liberia Health Chief Is Under Quarantine

Liberia’s chief medical officer is placing herself under quarantine for 21 days after her office assistant died of Ebola.

Bernice Dahn, a deputy health minister who has represented Liberia at regional conferences intended to combat the ongoing epidemic, said Saturday that she did not have any Ebola symptoms but wanted to make sure that she was not infected.

Liberia’s government has asked people to keep themselves isolated for 21 days if they think they have been exposed. The unprecedented scale of the outbreak, however, has made it difficult to trace the contacts of victims and quarantine those who might be at risk.

“Of course we made the rule, so I am home for 21 days,” Ms. Dahn said. “I did it on my own. I told my office staff to stay at home for the 21 days. That’s what we need to do.”

She’s clearly better off than most of her fellow citizens, as the Toronto Globe and Mail reveals:

Newest Liberian Ebola treatment centre overwhelmed with cases

Less than a week after opening, the 150-bed unit is already overwhelmed with 206 patients, and more are arriving each day. Some lie huddled on the dusty ground outside the gates until they are carried in, while a steady stream of ambulances, sirens blaring, bring more patients.

“We’re trying to squeeze in as many as possible,” said Atai Omoruto, the overworked Ugandan doctor in charge of the centre. “We’re still getting so many patients, every day. We’re using the corridors. Whatever space is available, we’re putting camp beds there.”

As she spoke, trucks arrived with piles of donated mattresses from a local microfinance organization and a load of wooden bed frames from a Liberian carpenters’ union. But the new treatment unit, on Bushrod Island near the city’s seaport, is making barely a dent in an ever-growing disaster that has already killed more than 3,000 people in five West African countries. Monrovia has roughly 500 treatment beds, but Liberia as a whole needs thousands and they have been slow to arrive.

It’s not just Liberia, as this clip from the Voice of America makes clear:

Sierra Leone Struggles to Care For Ebola Patients

Program notes:

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It’s a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.

Al Jazeera English covers backlash:

Guinea residents ‘refusing’ Ebola treatment

  • Residents say people frightened to go to clinics because of conspiracy theories that they will be killed by doctors

Residents of the Guinean capital Conakry, hit hard by Ebola, say they are afraid to seek treatment at hospitals for fear of being poisoned by doctors, as the death toll across West Africa passed the 3,000 mark.

Local resident Tairu Diallo said on Friday that people living in his neighbourhood refused to seek medical help and instead stayed at home, trying to alleviate their symptoms with drugs bought at a pharmacy.

Diallo said people think doctors at hospitals inject patients with a deadly poison. “If we have a stomach ache we don’t go to hospital because doctors there will inject you and you will die,” he said.

While Reuters covers the pale rider’s companions:

Ebola’s spread brings host of other diseases in its wake

Last week, fear of Ebola caused locals to kill eight members of an Ebola education team, sick people are avoiding clinics, and the World Health Organization says that 208 of the 373 infected healthcare workers in the region have died from the virus.

As a result, “the health services of West Africa have to a very large degree broken down,” according to Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust international health charity.

Experts predict a quadrupling in deaths caused by diarrhea, pneumonia, and particularly malaria, next year, and the collapse of immunization programs means that children are at a higher risk of diphtheria, polio and tuberculosis. Not to mention the impact to things like childbirth, diabetes and mental health.

So it’s a race against time. According to WHO director of strategy Dr. Christopher Dye, “If control efforts are only partly successful, Ebola viral disease in the human population could become ‘a permanent feature of life in West Africa.’”

From Star Africa News, a call from the Economic Community Of West African States:

ECOWAS calls for regional response to Ebola

ECOWAS has called for urgent mobilization of the Armed and Security Forces of Member States to strengthen the regional response and interventions against Ebola, according to a statement issued on Saturday.The body’s Coordinating Ministerial Group for the implementation of the Regional Operational Plan on the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) issued the statement on Saturday in Abuja after on Friday meeting with a Ministerial Group Chaired by Ghana’s Health Minister, Dr. Kwaku Agyeman.

It recommended that the armed and security forces should provide, among others, medical personnel and logistics as well as mobilize the support of military engineers regiments in setting up Ebola treatment centers in Ebola-hit countries.

It added that the Ministerial Group, which considered the report of the just-ended two-day meeting of the ECOWAS Technical Monitoring Surveillance and Group on Ebola response, equally called for the provision of adequate financial incentives to National Health personnel already on ground in Member States.

Another call, this one from China, via Xinhua:

Chinese FM calls for more global assistance as Ebola epidemic rages

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday called for more global assistance to African countries as the Ebola epidemic is raging in some countries in the region.

Wang made the appeal while speaking at the ongoing annual high- level debate of the UN General Assembly, which opened here Wednesday. “The Ebola epidemic, which is raging in some African countries, has once again sounded the alarm bell for global health security,” he said.

“As a good brother and good partner of Africa sharing weal and woe with it, China will continue to stand firmly with the African people, and support and assist them to the best of its ability,” Wang said, pledging China’s active part in the international assistance efforts.

The Los Angeles Times covers those left behind:

Ebola outbreak often leaves children alone and terrified

As the Ebola virus sweeps through Liberian villages, through its towns and cities, whole families are being cut down by the disease. Parents who die leave behind children no one wants to care for, rejected by neighbors and relatives, who order them to stay away. With an acute shortage of beds, the lucky ones are picked up by ambulance and taken to treatment units. Many of the rest die on the streets.

In Monrovia, the capital, all the Ebola treatment unit beds are full, vacancies opening only as patients die or survivors are discharged. The IMC center, which opened just last week, is one of two in Liberia with available beds. It has admitted 26 patients, seven of whom have died. Two of the dead were children.

The main priority in the treatment units is to keep the workers safe. Next is to isolate infectious patients to prevent spread of the disease. Providing decent care has to come third.

And from the London Telegraph, a short clip about those children:

The abandoned children of the Liberia Ebola outbreak

Program notes:

Children whose families have been killed by outbreak of Ebola in West Africa have found themselves shunned through fear of the deadly disease.

On to Liberia, with new numbers from The Analyst:

Bong County: 21 New Suspected Ebola Deaths Reported

Reports coming from the Central Province of Bong County say there were 36 new suspected Ebola cases in the County last week. This was disclosed by the head of the Bong County Ebola Response task force Superintendent Selena Polson Mappy last Thursday. Out the number, 21 died, she said.

Superintendent Mappy also disclosed that four persons out of the number of confirmed cases that were treated at the Ebola Testing Unit have also died. Appearing on a live radio talk show, Info Box on Radio Gbarnga, Superintendent Mappy said, although the task force and other stakeholders continue to make progress in the fight against the killer disease in the County, more needs to be done to contain the spread of the virus.

The Bong County task force chairperson called on citizens of the County to desist from denial and take preventive measures to avoid further spread of the virus. Superintendent Mappy said Liberia can only succeed in combating the killer disease when citizens accept the existence of the virus and join the fight, adding that plans are underway for the construction of another Ebola testing unit in the County. The Bong superintendent said the facility is expected to be constructed by the US Army at the former UNMIL base in Maimu Salala district

The Analyst again, with evidence of spreading contagion:

Grand Gedeh Records First Ebola Case

A 35-year-old man in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, has tested Ebola positive, making it the first case in the county since the outbreak of the disease in the country in March. The man, whose name is being withheld by the Liberia News Agency, was showing signs and symptoms of the disease when the Grand Gedeh County Health Team (CHT) picked him up from the Zwedru Central Market last Friday.

In a brief interview with the Liberia News Agency Wednesday, the Coordinator of the CHT, Netus Nowena, said the man migrated from Ganta, Nimba County to Grand Gedeh County following the death of nine of his family members from the disease early this month.

According to Nowena, the health team was taking the man to Gbarnga, Bong County for treatment when they observed that he was showing signs and symptoms of the virus, adding that he later tested positive for the disease. According to Nowena, the 36 people who were at the holding center for 21 days of observation have been released without any signs or symptoms of Ebola.

The Liberian Observer covers another threat:

Ebola Weakens Liberia Food Security

Liberia has been the hardest hit country in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) with more than 3000 cases, Voice of America (VOA) reports.

With this latest development, it is reported that 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties have been affected. Some of the first cases in Liberia were reported in northern Lofa County. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (ANFAO) said, the outbreak has had a big effect on food security in the country.

The FAO has just completed a four-day assessment of Lofa County, where a three-man team visited the towns of Foya and Barkedu. The far northern area is close to the border with Guinea. That’s where the World Health Organization (WHO) reports the Ebola outbreak probably began early this year with the case of a two year old boy.

FAO representative, Alexis Bonte is quoted as telling the VOA’s Joe DeCapua that Lofa County residents are “terrified at how fast the disease is spreading.” He says that “neighbors, friends and family members are dying within just a few days of exhibiting shocking symptoms.”

After the jump, calls for mobilization in Sierra Leone,  Guinea, and Gambia, Sierra Leone’s Patient Zero heads home, Ivory Coast ends airline restrictions, an HIV drug cures Ebola in Liberia, World Bank warns Nigeria over Ebola complacency, another American comes home for treatment, Cuba medical teams arrive, more cash is promised by Europe, Asia, and the IMF. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Gettin’ too darn complicated?


Or so the American people increasingly thing, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll:

ISSUES POLL