Category Archives: Resources

InSecurityWatch: Wars, threats, hacks, weapons


Lots of ground to cover, so straight ahead with the Guardian:

Pentagon: US ground troops may join Iraqis in combat against Isis

  • Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey refuse to rule out greater role for US ‘advisers’ if airstrikes

The Pentagon leadership suggested to a Senate panel on Tuesday that US ground troops may directly join Iraqi forces in combat against the Islamic State (Isis), despite US president Barack Obama’s repeated public assurances against US ground combat in the latest Middle Eastern war.

A day after US warplanes expanded the war south-west of Baghdad, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee that he could see himself recommending the use of some US military forces now in Iraq to embed within Iraqi and Kurdish units to take territory away from Isis.

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Isis] targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey said, preferring the term “close combat advising”.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau takes action:

U.S. hits Islamic State south of Baghdad in first strike under new Obama orders

The United States bombed an Islamic State position southwest of Baghdad on Monday in what the U.S. Central Command said was the first airstrike undertaken under expanded rules of engagement President Barack Obama outlined in a speech last week.

The Central Command statement posted Monday night provided no details of the strike, but the area southwest of Baghdad is a Sunni Muslim stronghold where Islamic State forces have been active since June. The statement said the Islamic State forces were firing on Iraqi security forces.

“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense, as outlined in the president’s speech last Wednesday,” the statement said, using the U.S. government’s preferred acronym for the Islamic State.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, hands wringing in anticipation:

Growing global conflict a bonanza for arms makers

Geopolitical instability has left many global corporations jittery.

But the world’s biggest arms producers are doing well, with shares of the top 12 publicly listed firms – based on a list by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute – rising by almost 30 per cent on average in the last year.

Stock price data on the 12 companies reveal most have benefitted in a year in which the number of conflict zones in Europe, the Middle East and Africa has risen. While some companies have under-performed during the period, many have risen by more than 50 per cent.

Customers line up, via Defense One:

Governments Line Up To Buy the Drone That Terrorized Gaza

A few weeks after Israel and Hamas signed an open-ended truce to end their nearly two-month-long war in Gaza, Israeli defense contractors are parading weapons used in the conflict at a conference in Tel Aviv. The annual Israel Unmanned Systems conference, which began Sunday and runs through Friday (Sept. 19), is jointly hosted with the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. According to its website, attendees include “senior officials from commercial and government entities” from Europe, Asia, North and South America.

The conference’s sponsors include the largest Israeli private defense contractors, among them Haifa-based Elbit Systems. Elbit’s Hermes 450 (pdf), a “multi-role tactical high-performance unmanned aircraft system” (UAS)—in other words, a battle drone—operated this summer in the Gaza Strip, and may have carried out attacks.

Photos taken by an Agence France-Presse photographer that appeared in a July post on The Aviationist, a blog, showed the aircraft flying over the skies of Gaza. It had a pod under each wing that looked like it could be a fuel tank, but which, according to an Israeli source quoted by the blog, was “a firing pod for a light missile.” The source would not independently confirm or deny that it was used in attacks on Hamas positions but David Cenciotti, founder of the blog, told Quartz that it’s highly likely that the Hermes 450 was the IDF’s vehicle of choice for such attacks.

But it looks like one deal came undone, via RT:

Israel nixes drone deal with Ukraine to not anger Russia – report

Israel’s Foreign Ministry blocked the proposed sale of military hardware to Ukraine to avoid a strain in relations with Russia – even after the country’s Defense Ministry approved the transaction – Israeli media reported. The deal with Kiev included UAVs.

Ukraine sent a delegation into Israel in order to arrange for a purchase of weapons and hardware – which reportedly included Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones – to be used against self-defense forces, Israel’s Channel Two reported.

The report revealed that the country’s Defense Ministry approved the sale of drones manufactured by Aeronautics. Later, however, the decision was blocked by the Foreign Ministry out of fear of angering Russia and provoking it to sell more weapons to Syria and Iran, which Israel views as direct threats.

From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, semantics and legality:

Blinding them with science: Is development of a banned laser weapon continuing?

It is clear that lasers are being aimed at eyes in combat situations, but the militaries involved say the intent is not to blind, but to warn or protect against attack.

A 2010 article in the UK version of Wired says that laser “dazzlers” have been used by British soldiers against fighters in remote parts of Afghanistan—well away from public scrutiny. The Green Laser Optical Warner, or GLOW, is meant to temporarily stun, or “dazzle” the eye with glare. With an effective range of 300 meters, or nearly 1,000 feet, GLOW is intended to be used to stop suspicious characters from approaching a military checkpoint. It has been called an escalation of force option, providing an intermediate step before shooting starts. US forces used a similar device in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Green Laser Interdiction System, which has an effective range of a few kilometers at night, Laser Focus World wrote in 2012.

But something bright enough to dazzle at 300 meters can cause permanent eye damage at 50 meters, and these devices can be set to deliver a narrow (and more intense) beam. To get around the ban against blinding weapons, systems like the GLIS run off of a low-power source.

But the developers of the dazzler systems seem to be tiptoeing closer and closer to the line that defines what is a banned weapon and what is not—and their products are becoming more and more readily available. (One dazzler can be purchased for $15,999 on the Internet, although the seller notes that it is subject to government restrictions.)

From the Guardian, boots in the wings:

Pentagon: US ground troops may join Iraqis in combat against Isis

  • Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey refuse to rule out greater role for US ‘advisers’ if airstrikes

The Pentagon leadership suggested to a Senate panel on Tuesday that US ground troops may directly join Iraqi forces in combat against the Islamic State (Isis), despite US president Barack Obama’s repeated public assurances against US ground combat in the latest Middle Eastern war.

A day after US warplanes expanded the war south-west of Baghdad, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee that he could see himself recommending the use of some US military forces now in Iraq to embed within Iraqi and Kurdish units to take territory away from Isis.

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Isis] targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey said, preferring the term “close combat advising”.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, bombs away:

U.S. hits Islamic State south of Baghdad in first strike under new Obama orders

The United States bombed an Islamic State position southwest of Baghdad on Monday in what the U.S. Central Command said was the first airstrike undertaken under expanded rules of engagement President Barack Obama outlined in a speech last week.

The Central Command statement posted Monday night provided no details of the strike, but the area southwest of Baghdad is a Sunni Muslim stronghold where Islamic State forces have been active since June. The statement said the Islamic State forces were firing on Iraqi security forces.

“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense, as outlined in the president’s speech last Wednesday,” the statement said, using the U.S. government’s preferred acronym for the Islamic State.

Al Jazeera America carries a caution:

Iran warns US against using ISIL threat to push a hostile agenda

  • Analysis: Tehran has played a key role against ISIL in Iraq, but fears a Saudi effort to isolate and pressure Iran

Despite already having demonstrated its centrality to the campaign to push the Islamic State (ISIL) out of Iraq, Iran was pointedly excluded from Monday’s conference in Paris to forge a military coalition against the extremist group. And Tehran was far from happy, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashing out against the Obama administration’s new war plans.

Khamenei decried the Paris conclave as a dangerous effort by the United States and Arab countries hostile to Iran to use the challenge of ISIL as an opportunity to promote an anti-Tehran agenda in Syria and throughout the region. “Iran sees this as an effort by Saudi Arabia and its allies, and the United States, to exert leverage and pressure on Iranian interests, to degrade or weaken Iranian influence in Syria,” said Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council.

Khamenei called Secretary of State John Kerry a liar for saying in Paris that Iran had not been invited to join the coalition, listing numerous moments at which the U.S. had solicited Iranian involvement. “The West assembled a coalition of 40-50 countries against Syria and couldn’t do a damn thing,” Khamenei said, referring to Washington’s previous efforts to rally allies to oust Syria’s Assad regime, which remains a key ally of Iran.

From BuzzFeed, playing the border card:

Texas Congressman: ISIS Could Work With Drug Cartels To Get Into U.S.

  • “I mentioned several weeks ago if ISIS wants to come into the United States they’ll contact the drug cartels.”

“I asked the chief border patrol section…chief, I said, ‘Who’s coming across the border from Mexico?’” Texas Rep. Ted Poe said during an appearance on Tony Perkins’ radio program Washington Watch Monday. “And he said, ‘Since January, people from 144 countries have come across.’ He said, ‘Just before you got here three Ukrainians came across the Texas-Mexico border.’ It’s because it’s open. Wide open for anyone who wishes to cross.”

The Texas congressman also claimed ISIS could work with Mexican drug cartels to enter the United States.

“I mentioned several weeks ago if ISIS wants to come into the United States they’ll contact the drug cartels who bring people to the United States illegally and they will bring them,” he said. “The Pentagon at first said, ‘Oh, that’s not true.’ And now the Pentagon is backing off. So let’s do the obvious. Let’s protect the southern border of the U.S.”

From the Independent, another threat alleged:

Islamic State: Pope is ‘being targeted by Isis’, Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See warns

The Islamic State (Isis) is intent on killing the Pope, the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See has warned the Vatican.

Habeeb Al-Sadr, who has been the ambassador since 2010, has advised that one of Isis’ goals is to assassinate the Pontiff and warned that the jihadists “don’t just threaten”, according to Italian newspaper La Nazione.

Mr Al-Sadr confirmed he did not have any specific intelligence on an impending attack but said that their “genocide” of Yazidi Christians and destruction of holy Islamic sites was an indication of their intent.

“What has been declared by the self-proclaimed Islamic State is clear – they want to kill the Pope,” he told La Nazione on Tuesday, adding: “The threats against the Pope are credible.”

The Intercept debunks:

No, Snowden’s Leaks Didn’t Help The Terrorists

Did Edward Snowden’s revelations on NSA surveillance compromise the ability of intelligence agencies to monitor terrorist groups? Contrary to lurid claims made by U.S. officials, a new independent analysis of the subject says no. As reported by NBC:

“.…Flashpoint Global Partners, a private security firm, examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups….. It found no correlation in either measure to Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s surveillance techniques, which became public beginning June 5, 2013.”

The report itself goes on to make the point that, “Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them.” This point would seem obvious in light of the fact that terrorist groups have been employing tactics to evade digital surveillance for years. Indeed, such concerns about their use of sophisticated encryption technology predate even 9/11. Contrary to claims that such groups have fundamentally altered their practices due to information gleaned from these revelations, the report concludes. “The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden.”

And while we’re at it, at RT story from April 05, 2014, and the links between spooks and the corporateer agenda:

US blasts Europe’s plan for anti-snooping network as ‘unfair advantage’

US officials on Friday slammed plans to construct an EU-centric communication system, designed to prevent emails and phone calls from being swept up by the NSA, warning that such a move is a violation of trade laws.

Calling Europe’s proposal to build its own integrated communication system “draconian,” the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said American tech companies, which are worth an estimated $8 trillion per year, would take a financial hit if Brussels gives the initiative the green light.

“Recent proposals from countries within the European Union to create a Europe-only electronic network (dubbed a ‘Schengen cloud’ by advocates) or to create national-only electronic networks could potentially lead to effective exclusion or discrimination against foreign service suppliers that are directly offering network services, or dependent on them,” the USTR said in its annual report.

In the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing activities at the National Security Agency, which proved that much of the world’s telecommunication meta-data is being stored away in the United States, European countries – notably Germany and France – are desperate to get a handle on their own networks without relying on a meddlesome middleman.

RT again, though from today this time, beat the press:

Governments spy on journalists with weaponized malware – WikiLeaks

Journalists and dissidents are under the microscope of intelligence agencies, Wikileaks revealed in its fourth SpyFiles series. A German software company that produces computer intrusion systems has supplied many secret agencies worldwide.

The weaponized surveillance malware, popular among intelligence agencies for spying on “journalists, activists and political dissidents,” is produced by FinFisher, a German company. Until late 2013, FinFisher used to be part of the UK-based Gamma Group International, revealed WikiLeaks in the latest published batch of secret documents.

FinFisher’s spyware exploits and monitors systems remotely. It’s capable of intercepting communications and data from OS X, Windows and Linux computers, as well as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile portable devices. Three back-end programs are required for the spy program to operate. FinFisher Relay and FinSpy Proxy programs are FinFisher suite components that route and manage intercepted traffic, redirecting it to the FinSpy Master collection program. The spyware can steal keystrokes, Skype conversations, and even connect to your webcam and watch you in real time.

From Techdirt, implementation prior to evaluation:

FBI Rolls Out Biometric Database On Schedule, Accompanying Privacy Impact Assessment Still Nowhere To Be Found

  • from the move-along,-nothing-to-see-but-millions-of-faces dept

The FBI has just announced that all systems are go for its biometric database.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division announced today the achievement of full operational capability of the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System. The FBI’s NGI System was developed to expand the Bureau’s biometric identification capabilities, ultimately replacing the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) in addition to adding new services and capabilities.

This puts the agency pretty much right on schedule for its stated goal of “full operational capacity in fiscal year 2014.” As was to be expected from its earlier foot-dragging, the press release makes no note of the Privacy Impact Assessment that was supposed to precede the roll out.

The system itself has been in the works since 2008. Coincidentally, this is also the last time anyone at the FBI delivered a Privacy Impact Assessment. Since then, the database’s sweep and power has increased immensely. The PIA promised in 2012 still hasn’t been delivered and there’s no indication at the FBI’s website that one is right around the corner.

More from News Corporation Australia:

FBI’s facial recognition system will combine faces of criminals and ordinary citizens

THE FBI has launched its “next generation” facial recognition system — and the implications are terrifying.

It not only draws on a database of criminal mugshots, it searches through ordinary people too. Anyone who has ever had a background check when applying for a job could be identified in a police hunt.

And the system is hardly infallible — a search will pull up 50 faces, with only an 85 per cent likelihood that the suspect will be on list, by the FBI’s own estimation.

From Salon, endorsement:

Obama administration throws support behind body cameras for cops

  • One of the most widely supported reforms being pushed in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing gets a big endorsement

Responding to an online petition made in response to the killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown that quickly racked-up more than 150,000 signatures, the Obama administration announced on Monday through a written statement from White House adviser on Justice and Urban Affairs Roy Austin that while it cannot force the nation’s policy to wear small cameras on their uniforms by decree, it supported the growing movement within law enforcement itself to embrace the practice, reports the Associated Press.

“We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers, and the Department of Justice continues to research best practices for implementation,” Austin wrote in response to the petition, after noting that such a law would have to come from Congress, not the White House. Austin also noted that while the White House’s support for the idea was secure, the administration was not unmindful about the policy change’s likely costs (both financial and in terms of personal privacy).

Austin announced that the Department of Justice had plans to launch a thorough evaluation of how body cameras on police uniforms were working out for those forces that had already decided to use them. According to the Associated Press, the DOJ also has a report suggesting that when cops and civilians know their interactions are being recorded, both behave more calmly and cooperatively. The footage could prove valuable for training purposes, too.

And from the Guardian, what is it about Missouri cops?:

FBI investigate Missouri police stun gun incident that left teenager injured

  • Police in Kansas City used a stun gun to subdue a 17-year-old during a traffic stop, leaving him in critical condition

The FBI is investigating after a police officer in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, used a stun gun to subdue a 17-year-old during a traffic stop, leaving him hospitalized in critical condition.

An Independence police officer used the stun gun on Bryce Masters of Independence on Sunday afternoon after stopping a car Masters was driving because it had a warrant attached to it, police said in a statement.

The officer, identified by the police department as Tim Runnels, has been placed on administrative leave.

After the jump, Italian payoffs, a petro hack attack, Google keeps mum on its Koch Brothers ties, drone deals canceled, Obama sends subs to counter China, a Chinese crackdown justification, Private spy cams and bugs banned in China, another kind of worrisome nuclear stockpile in Japan, and the open Mideast nuclear secret. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Dengue, coal, water, whales


And more. . .

First up, seeking profit in a spreading ailment via Nikkei Asian Review:

Japanese drugmakers get serious about tackling dengue

Pharmaceutical companies have largely been unwilling to develop vaccines and treatment for dengue fever, citing small demand due to the disease primarily occurring in emerging nations. But as the disease spreads, with the current outbreak in Japan already topping 100 cases, major drugmakers are now rushing to tackle the threat.

“I suddenly felt a chill and had a fever of nearly 40 degrees. It was an unimaginable experience,” said a Japanese trading house official based in Jakarta who contracted dengue fever for the first time earlier this year.

The disease is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus. It is estimated that more than 50 million people develop the disease every year worldwide, primarily in tropical areas.  Sufferers typically experience headaches and joint pain, with fever lasting a week or so. In the most severe cases, patients die due to plasma leakage.

And the accompanying graphic, showing the global occurrence of the disease:

BLOG Dengue

Coughing up cash with The Contributor:

Two Senators Who’ve Received Nearly $2M from Dirty Energy Complain About the Impact of EPA Regulations on Regular Folks

Two Republican members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be releasing a white paper later this week that will allegedly make the case that “regulations” and legislation that “raises energy costs” are damaging America’s underclass.

Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Tim Scott (South Carolina) have teamed up with the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to once again push the bogus theory that government regulations and environmental safeguards are costing American consumers too much money and destroying jobs. The paper will officially be released at a Manhattan Institute event on September 18.

According to The Hill, a representative from Murkowski’s office said that the Senators will be speaking about “the economic, political, and social consequences of allowing energy insecurity to rise in America.”

From the Louisville, Kentucky, Courier-Journal, coughing up their lungs:

Severe black lung returns to 1970s levels

Coal miners in Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia are contracting serious cases of black lung disease at rates not seen since the early 1970s — just after preventive regulations were enacted, according to a study published Monday.

Only 15 years ago, progressive massive fibrosis — an advanced form of black lung for which there is no cure — was virtually eradicated, health researchers say. But now, the prevalence of the disease in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia is at levels not seen in 40 years. .

“Each of these cases is a tragedy and represents a failure among all those responsible for preventing this severe disease,” wrote researchers for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the latest issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

BBC News calls foul on David Cameron’s hypocrisy, rivaled on by Barack Obama’s promise the The Most Transparent Administration in History™:

Red card on environment for ‘greenest government ever’

The government is failing to reduce air pollution, protect biodiversity and prevent flooding, a cross-party body of MPs has said.

The Environmental Audit Committee dished out a “red card” on these three concerns after examining efforts made since 2010. The MPs said on a further seven green issues ministers deserved a “yellow card” denoting unsatisfactory progress.

The government said it strongly disagreed with the findings.

From the Guardian, playing for time:

Obama delays key power plant rule of signature climate change plan

  • A week before major UN talks on climate change, EPA extends comment period for rule to cut carbon pollution from plants

Barack Obama applied the brakes to the most critical component of his climate change plan on Tuesday, slowing the process of setting new rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants, and casting a shadow over a landmark United Nations’ summit on global warming.

The proposed power plant rules were meant to be the signature environmental accomplishment of Obama’s second term.

The threat of a delay in their implementation comes just one week before a heavily anticipated UN summit where officials had been looking to Obama to show leadership on climate change.

From the Guardian, no longer so pumped-up:

California dumps ‘pump-as-you-please’ groundwater rules amid drought

  • Governor Jerry Brown signs bill into law to overhaul policy in state stricken by drought, sinking land and drying basins

California will no longer be the only western state with a “pump-as-you-please” approach to groundwater.

Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Tuesday overhauling the state’s management of its groundwater supply, bringing it in line with other states that have long regulated their wells.

Groundwater makes up nearly 60% of the state’s water use during dry years but is not monitored and managed the same way as water from reservoirs and rivers.

Supporters of the legislation say the worst drought in a generation inspired them to rethink California’s pump-as-you-please approach, which has led to sinking land and billions of dollars in damage to aquifers, roads and canals.

From the Los Angeles Times, and we resist the obvious puns:

Wildfire engulfs Northern California logging town as residents flee

Officials plan to send a damage assessment team to the Northern California community of Weed on Tuesday, where a wildfire destroyed or severely damaged more than 100 buildings, including a church and the town sawmill.

More than 1,500 residents were evacuated to the Siskiyou County fairgrounds as the Boles fire, last reported at 350 acres, tore through the town.

The fire broke out about 1:30 p.m. Monday near the town, which is about 50 miles south of the California-Oregon border. Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the flames were fueled by 40 mph winds and dry conditions.

The San Francisco Chronicle chronicles an immigrant:

Australian mosquito appears in California

Officials say an Australian mosquito has made what is believed to be its first U.S. appearance in the Los Angeles area.

Los Angeles County vector control officials said in a statement Tuesday that the mosquito that goes by the nickname Aussie Mozzie has been found in Monterey Park and nearby Montebello.

The mosquito can transmit the nonfatal Barmah Forest and Ross River viruses to humans, though neither has ever been reported in the county. It also can give heartworm to dogs.

From the Guardian, maybe there’s cetacean hope after all?:

IWC ‘has majority’ to curb Japanese whale culls

New Zealand proposing that world’s whale conservation body also add strict conditions to any future scientific whaling permits

A narrow majority of delegates at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) summit support moves to extend a ban on Japan’s scientific whaling plans until at least 2016 in a vote due on Wednesday.

Despite fierce opposition from Japan, New Zealand is proposing that the IWC endorse a ruling by the international court of justice (ICJ) and add strict conditions to any future permits it issues for scientific whaling.

Whaling nations such as Japan, Norway and Iceland, supported by a clutch of African and Caribbean states, claim that lethal research can be the most effective form of marine science.

But until then, via JapanToday:

Season’s first dolphins slaughtered at Taiji

The first dolphins of the season were slaughtered on Tuesday in the small town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, campaigners said, commencing an annual cull repeatedly condemned by animal rights groups.

Activists from the environmentalist group Sea Shepherd have been monitoring a bay in Taiji since the six-month dolphin hunting season began earlier this month.

“First pod of 2014-2015 being driven into cove now,” the activists from Sea Shepherd, who call themselves “Cove Guardians”, tweeted at 10:33 a.m.

From the Guardian, water woes Down Under:

Sydney’s waters could be tropical in decades, here’s the bad news…

  • Our research points to a widespread ‘tropicalisation’ of temperate coastlines such as Sydney within the next few decades. This may sound pleasant, but it might not be

Climate models suggest that ocean temperatures off Sydney are just decades away from becoming “tropical”. A “business as usual” scenario of increasing CO2 emissions suggests winter sea surface temperatures will consistently exceed 18C between 2020 and 2030. And summer sea surface temperatures will consistently exceed 25C between 2040 and 2060.

Eastern Australian waters represent a climate change hotspot, with warming rates occurring twice as fast as the global average. A key reason for this is a strengthening of the East Australian current, which pushes warm tropical water southwards.

Other oceanic hotspots around the world include southern Japan, south-east US, south-east Africa and eastern South America. All these regions have in common the influence of strong ocean currents running close to the shore bringing warm tropical water.

With that, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, with this from ENENews:

Ocean hits record high for radioactive Strontium at all 6 locations near Fukushima reactors — Levels up to 20 times higher than reported last week — Officials: Contamination from highly radioactive ‘debris’ is seeping into ground and flowing out to sea

This newly published data shows record levels of Strontium-90 have been detected at all 6 seawater monitoring locations in front of the destroyed reactors. At 3 of 6 locations levels are around triple the previous record set last year.

Yet a report released by TEPCO days later on Sept. 12, 2014 claims: “Results indicate efforts to protect water are succeeding… inside the port area, concentrations of radioactivity have been steadily decreasing… Strontium… nearest the reactors… show levels of 70-100 Bq/L … Strontium 90 has been reduced to approximately a third of earlier levels [and] are projected to further reduce… Strontium 90 outflows to one-fortieth of the current estimated amount of outflow.”

According to a TEPCO document from last month: “Groundwater around reactor buildings (Unit 1 to 4) is confirmed to contain radioactive materials which have mixed with rainwater having been contacted with contaminated debris left on the ground surface due to the accident… contaminated water in the buildings theoretically does not mix with the groundwater flowing around the buildings.”

And to close, this from NHK WORLD:

Panel starts discussion on nuclear fuel recycling

An expert panel of Japan’s economy and industry ministry is studying whether the government should provide financial support for nuclear fuel recycling.

The panel began their discussions on Tuesday. Its members say they can’t decide what kind of role nuclear power should play in the nation’s energy policy until they have a clear idea about how to operate costly fuel recycling.

Some say power companies are shouldering the cost of fuel recycling at present, but the government needs to be involved because the electricity market is undergoing liberalization. Others express doubt about government involvement, saying the public will have to pay for the cost.

Two takes on that Scottish referendum


Sure, you’ve probably seen it before, but here it is again. . .

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Scottish Independence

Program notes:

Scotland is about to vote on whether to secede from the UK.

There are solid arguments on both sides.

But none of that makes bagpipes good to listen to…or does it?

International capitalism won’t like a yes vote, observes Noam Chomsky in this wide-ranging conversation.

He notes that what’s happening in Scotland is the result of forces at play elsewhere in Europe, too, including, Wales, that other part of big island with a long and turbulent relationship with London.

The vote raises larger issues as well, including the whole question of the necessity of the nation-state.

With that by way of an intro, from Stuart Platt:

Noam Chomsky on Scottish Independence

Program notes:

Noam Chomsky on Scottish Independence : Statehood and Power.

Recorded at MIT, Boston by Stuart Platt.

Questions by Gordon Asher, Leigh French and Stuart Platt

EbolaWatch: Money, misery, fight, flight, woes


First up, a belated move from Washington via BBC News:

Obama says Ebola outbreak a ‘global security threat’

President Barack Obama has called the West Africa Ebola outbreak “a threat to global security” as he announced a larger US role in fighting the virus.

“The world is looking to the United States,” Mr Obama said, but added the outbreak required a “global response”. The measures announced included ordering 3,000 US troops to the region and building new healthcare facilities.

Ebola has killed 2,461 people this year, about half of those infected, the World Health Organization said.

More from the New York Times:

Obama Urges World Powers to Bolster Ebola Response

President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to ramp up the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging three West African countries, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers are deployed quickly, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives.

“This epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better,” Mr. Obama said at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he met with doctors who had just returned from West Africa. But “right now, the world still has the opportunity to save lives.”

He said “the world is looking” to the United States to lead the fight against Ebola. “This is a responsibility that we embrace,” he said. But he called on other nations to respond as well.

Still more from the Washington Post:

U.S. military will lead $750 million fight against Ebola in West Africa

President Obama will announce Tuesday that the U.S. military will take the lead in overseeing what has been a chaotic and widely criticized response to the worst Ebola outbreak in history, dispatching up to 3,000 military personnel to West Africa in an effort that could cost up to $750 million over the next six months, according to senior administration officials.

By the end of the week, a general sent by U.S. Africa Command will be in place in Monrovia, Liberia — the country where transmission rates are increasing exponentially — to lead the effort called Operation United Assistance. The general will head a regional command based in Liberia that will help oversee and coordinate U.S. and international relief efforts while a new, separate regional staging base will help accelerate transportation of urgently needed equipment, supplies and personnel.

In addition, the Pentagon will send engineers to set up 17 treatment centers in Liberia — each with a 100-bed capacity — as well as medical personnel to train up to 500 health-care workers a week in the region.

Here’s Obama’s statement, via PBS NewsHour:

President Obama announces plan to combat Ebola in Africa

Program notes:

President Obama spoke from the Centers for Disease Control today after a debriefing from doctors there. The President pledged support in the form of personnel, setting up an “air bridge” into regions difficult to reach, and the establishment of a mobilization center in Senegal.

From The Hill, gettin’ the word:

Obama, Ebola survivor meet in Oval Office

President Obama met in the Oval Office Tuesday with a U.S. doctor who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Liberia, a spokesman said.

Obama met with Kent Brantly, the Ebola survivor, and his wife, Amber, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One.

The meeting occurred shortly before Obama left Washington to announce an escalated U.S. response to the virus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

Brantly and another American medical worker, Nancy Writebol, were successfully treated for Ebola at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Both were given an experimental therapy called ZMapp and fully recovered from the virus, which kills roughly half of those who contract it.

The Christian Science Monitor asks a question:

Why is US deploying the military to fight Ebola?

On Tuesday, White House officials outlined a new plan to assign 3,000 members of the American armed forces to supply medical and logistical support to help treat Ebola epidemic victims.

Why is the Defense Department fighting the war on Ebola? The short answer is because it is the largest and most capable US organization available for emergency action, and has money to pay for the effort.

The military’s extensive airlift and health-care infrastructure can quickly plug holes in the current international fight to try and contain the Ebola outbreak. US personnel should be flowing into the area in force in about two weeks, according to the White House.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon plans to move some $500 million of unspent funds within its budget into an account to fund Ebola action. The US has already spent some $175 million and moved 100 civilian experts from the Centers for Disease Control into West Africa.

And what are those soldiers learning about the invisible enemy they’re being dispatched to fight? Here’s the answer in the from of a video just posted [we were viewer 116] by the U.S. Army Public Health Command:

EVD: Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak

Program note:

Information for service members deploying in response to the West African Ebola virus disease outbreak.

It’s concise and hits most of the key points, though we’d be a little more comfortable if they hadn’t used that gunsight graphic a bit too often. . .

From the New York Times, a price tag:

U.N. Sees Need for $1 Billion to Fight Ebola

The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa risks ballooning into a humanitarian catastrophe without a major surge in international efforts to contain it, senior United Nations officials said Tuesday, estimating the cost of this effort at $1 billion.

The number of people affected by the disease is still rising at an “almost exponential” rate, Bruce Aylward, an assistant director general of the World Health Organization, said at a news conference in Geneva. He said the number of reported cases had climbed to 4,985, including 2,461 deaths. Half of the infections and deaths occurred in the past 21 days, he said, underscoring the acceleration of the outbreak. “We don’t really know where the numbers are going with this,” Mr. Aylward said.

A road map he announced nearly three weeks ago to guide the international response had called for the capacity to manage 20,000 cases, but “that does not seem like a lot today,” he said.

“The numbers can be kept in the tens of thousands,” he said, “but that is going to require a much faster escalation of the response if we are to beat the escalation of the virus.”

Deutsche Welle admonishes:

WHO warns Ebola cases could double every three weeks

The World Health Organization has warned that the number of Ebola cases could double every three weeks, with medics stressing it could soon become too late to contain the disease

The number of Ebola cases in West Africa could begin to double every three weeks, according the UN’s official health agency, with doctors warning that the likelihood of limiting the spread of the outbreak is becoming progressively smaller.

In a report released on Tuesday, the WHO claimed $987.8 million (770 million euros) was needed to cover expenses already incurred, including the payment of health workers and the cost of supplies.

At a meeting of the UN in Geneva, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) urged governments to act to halt the spread of the disease.

“The response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind,” said MSF President Joanne Liu. “The window of opportunity to contain this outbreak is closing. We need more countries to stand up, we need greater deployment, and we need it now.”

The Associated Press avers:

Ban: UN ‘taking lead’ on global fight of Ebola

The head of the United Nations said Tuesday that the world body is “taking the lead now” on international efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has killed some 2,400 people and could spread further.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a press briefing that the U.N. General Assembly next week will follow-up with a high-level meeting — the disease, he said, taking on “a special focus” at an event that will welcome more than 140 heads of state and government. Before that, an emergency meeting will be held Thursday in which Ban and World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan plan to “outline the international action plan to contain this threat.”

The U.N.’s response so far has drawn criticism, with the president of France-based humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders on Tuesday calling it “dangerously behind.”

The World Health Organization gives thanks:

WHO welcomes Chinese contribution of mobile laboratory and health experts for Ebola response in west Africa

WHO welcomes the commitment from the Government of the People’s Republic of China to dispatch a mobile laboratory team to Sierra Leone to enhance the laboratory testing capacity for Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the country.

The contribution comes in response to WHO’s appeal for further assistance to Ebola response efforts in Africa and requests by the government of Sierra Leone. In addition to laboratory experts, the 59-person team from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control will include epidemiologists, clinicians and nurses. They will support Ebola response efforts at the China-Sierra Leone Friendship Hospital, which was built in 2012 with assistance from the Chinese Government.

“The most urgent immediate need in the Ebola response is for more medical staff,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “The newly announced team will join 115 Chinese medical staff on the ground in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone virtually since the beginning. This is a huge boost, morally and operationally.”

Liberian Observer offers optimism:

“We can Win This fight”, UNICEF Deputy

In support of the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has opened a five-day Training of Trainers (TOT) of social workers and mental Health clinicians across Liberia.

At the opening of the workshop yesterday at the Corinna Hotel in Sinkor, the Deputy Representative, Dr. Fazlul Haque, said the training is intended to provide the relevant skills and ability to roll out the needed psychosocial services to meet the needs of the Ebola-affected  communities.

“We are fully delighted to provide support to the government of Liberia to train these social workers and mental health clinicians of various counties to ensure that we meet the necessary needs of affected communities,” Dr. Haque stated.

StarAfrica decries:

Kenya lashes out at West over slow Ebola response

Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday called for concerted efforts against Ebola, saying the global reaction to the deadly disease would not have been the same if it had happened in Europe or America.Speaking during a round table discussion panel of high level delegates comprising of Heads of States and leaders of Government in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Kenyatta said time has come for African leaders to look for homegrown solutions to the continent’s problem.

He said the global response to Ebola outbreak is a wakeup call to African leaders to partner and set aside resources to tackle health challenges facing the continent.

He urged African leaders to work in solidarity in tackling various challenges facing the continent, including health and security problems.

StarAfrica again, with another number:

Kenya: $7m sets aside to ward off Ebola

Kenya’s Director of medical services, Dr. Nicholas Muraguri said on Tuesday the country has set aside $7 million as part of its contingency plan to prevent the entry of Ebola into the country, local media reported.This was revealed at the ongoing regional health minister’s conference in Nairobi seeking to address the challenges in tackling the spread of the Ebola virus in the continent.

He was quoted saying by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Television that the country remains on high alert to ensure the disease is kept at bay.

At the same the government has maintained that the ban on travelers from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the epicenters of the epidemic remains in force.

From Punch Nigeria, partial border closure continues:

Kenya maintains flight ban to Ebola-hit nations

The Kenyan government will not lift a travel ban to West African countries affected by an outbreak of Ebola virus until the risk reduce to a manageable level, state officials said on Tuesday

Director of Medical Services, Nicholas Muraguri, told journalists that Kenya remains vulnerable to Ebola transmission, and hence needs to intensify surveillance at ports of entry.

“The travel ban to Ebola-hit countries is temporal and since we are not convinced the risk levels are low, the ban will stay. However, we are closely monitoring the situation,” Muraguri said in Nairobi during the regional ministerial meeting on preparedness and response to Ebola.

From the Liberian Observer, a call from Ghana:

In Order to Eradicate Ebola, Ghanaian Prexy Wants Supports Expedited

The Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, has called on international partners and friendly countries that have pledged to assist Liberia with human, financial and material resources in the fight against the dreadful Ebola virus to expedite the process.

President Mahama said though several promised donations would adequately help in combating the virus in the Mano River sub-regions, the problem is that those resources are very slow in coming and as such, there is the need for the process to be fast-tracked in order to augment the government efforts in the fight.

The ECOWAS’s Chair spoke Monday, September 15, when he paid “a solidarity visit” with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He was addressing a joint press briefing along with President Sirleaf in the Foyer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ghanaian leader revealed at the briefing that he had held talks with United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, on the issue of expediting support to the governments of Ebola affected countries if the virus is to be fought effectively and contained. President Mahama revealed that his visit is to show solidarity from the people of Ghana to Liberia as the country goes through this difficult period.

More from the Monrovia Inquirer:

Ghanaian Leader Braves Ebola Storm…Pays One-Day Visit To Liberia

In spite of fear amongst citizens of non-affected countries in the wake of the deadly Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, Ghanaian President, John D. Mahama has ended a one day visit to Liberia.   President Mahama is the first President to visit the West African country that now has the highest number of Ebola cases since the outbreak of the epidemic in Liberia in early March. The Ghanaian leader briefly met his counterpart, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before addressing a joint press conference yesterday.

President Mahama, who spent less than two hours in the country, expressed optimism that with determination, awareness, the Liberian people will be able to reciprocate. President Mahama said his visit is mainly about the observation of the guidelines by the Ministers of Health of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS).

He added, “From the onset of the outbreak of this disease, actions and measures were taken out of panic. Now that we have a clearer understanding of the disease and how it spreads and all of the ramifications; we should not panic or take measures that will isolate countries that are affected by this outbreak because by doing that will make it more difficult for the disease to be brought under control.”

A video report from FrontPageAfrica:

FPA WEB TV: Standing in Solidarity with Liberia

Program note:

Ghanaian President John Mahama, also the current ECOWAS Chairman, on a stop in Monrovia, Monday, outlines a number of measures and review mechanisms underway to end the isolation of countries hit by the deadly Ebola outbreak.

The Liberian Observer hears the shout of fire in a crowded political theater:

Ebola Fear Grips Lawmakers

The fear of the deadly Ebola virus has forced the House of Representatives to suspend its Extra Ordinary Sitting for Tuesday, September 16, 2014.

According to a statement issued from the House’s Press Bureau, leadership of the House took the decision based “on medical advice.” “The House Chambers and surrounding offices are expected to be disinfected due to a probable case of Ebola,” the statement said.

“Members and chamber staff have been asked to stay away for 48 hours after the fumigation.  “The Chief Clerk of the House, Madam Mildred Siryon, has been instructed to communicate the House’s decision to the Liberian Senate. The House took the decision after one of the Chamber’s doorkeepers, Captain James Morlu suddenly died.

From the Liberian Observer again, a call for action:

Health Advocacy Group Wants GOL Improves Its Ebola Response

The National Health Advocacy Network of Liberia (NHANL) has called on the Liberian Government to focus on improving responses on the removal and burial of bodies.

The group also urged the GOL to trace people who have made contacts with infected persons. The National Coordinator of the NHANL, Mark Marvey, spoke to newsmen Monday at his Sinkor offices.

Marvey said his organization has encouraged the government to prioritize the re-opening of health facilities in order to avoid preventable deaths and maternal mortality.

Punch Nigeria pleads:

Ebola: Jonathan begs NUT to shelve strike

President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to the Nigerian Union of Teachers to shelve its plan to embark on strike in protest against government’s directive that schools should resume on September 22.

The NUT had maintained that it would be unsafe for schools to resume on September 22 until the country was completely rid of the Ebola Virus Disease.
But President Jonathan, who spoke with state house correspondents in Abuja on Tuesday, said instead of going on strike, the NUT should commend government on its handling of the outbreak of the Ebola disease.

He said, “I will plead with NUT and other unions that this does not require industrial action. They should commend government. They worked with us, they are Nigerians; all Nigerians must work together to make sure that we contain Ebola. Why do we want to create problems while it is not necessary? It is uncalled for.”

Punch Nigeria again, covering the deplorable:

NAFDAC impounds expired hand sanitisers, Ebola kits

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, has impounded 104 brands of expired hand sanitisers and fake Ebola testing kits at various borders in the country.

The NAFDAC Director-General, Dr. Paul Orhii, who spoke at a press briefing in Lagos, where importers of the fake products were paraded on Tuesday, warned that counterfeiters have flooded the Nigerian market with expired hand sanitisers and  fake Ebola testing kits

Orhii said,”So far, we have quarantined 104 brands that were illegally imported into the country without certification by NAFDAC. It is worrisome to observe that some unscrupulous businessmen have turned the country into a dumping ground by bringing in all sorts of products including expired hand sanitisers.

And for our final item, via the Liberian Observer, market mobilization:

ABIC Takes Ebola Awareness to Markets

The Angie Brooks International Center (ABIC) with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Liberia office yesterday launched a massive Ebola Awareness campaign at the Rally Time Market on UN Drive in Monrovia.

Yesterday’s activities were in collaboration with the youths and marketers, and are expected to include all markets in Monrovia as well as in the counties.

The ABIC Ebola awareness campaign was launched under the theme “Spread the Word, not the Virus.”

The center is run on the basis to unite women to lift the world with the latest intention to stop the Ebola’s denial and to join the fight against the EVD together.

EnviroWatch: Heat, water woes, power hunger


We open with a scorcher from The Hill:

NASA: August 2014 hottest on record

The globe just experienced its hottest recorded August, according to new data released by NASA on Monday.

While last month is ranked the No. 1 August by temperature, the difference among the top five is fewer than .03 degrees Celsius, NASA said in an email to The Hill.

All together, summer 2014 ranked fourth out of the warmest summers on record.

One consequence of heat, via the Guardian:

Where the wildfires are: if there’s smoke, there are costly health problems

  • Scientists fear that climate change could lead to more wildfires – and to lingering, expensive, public health crises as smoke spreads thousands of miles away from the actual fire sites

There are plenty of immediate concerns in a fire: protecting homes and businesses, saving lives, limiting the number of acres consumed and so on. But increasingly, researchers and policymakers are finding that the lingering health and safety impacts of wildfires may be far more worrisome – and more widespread.

Smoke, after all, can travel any way the wind takes it, exacerbating an array of health problems in cities hundreds of miles from the original fire. In 2002, for example, a fire in Canada caused a 30-fold increase in fine particulate matter in the air in Baltimore, 1,000 miles away.

According to Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist with the health and environment program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), that level of air pollution can contribute to a variety of respiratory and cardiac issues and has even been correlated with premature death and low birth weights. In a 2011 study, conducted in partnership with researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at San Francisco, Knowlton found that more than 760,000 encounters with the health system between 2000 and 2009 could be attributed to exposure to wildfire smoke.

These health problems carried a steep price tag: $740,000 in direct healthcare costs and more than $14bn in overall health costs once the value of lives lost prematurely was factored in. The 2003 wildfire season in southern California alone resulted in 69 premature deaths, 778 hospitalizations, 1,431 emergency room visits, and 47,605 outpatient visits, mostly for respiratory and cardiovascular health problems aggravated by smoke exposure.

From the Associated Press, control of the commons contested:

EPA administrator pushes for water rules

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Monday she’s not backing down on her agency’s efforts to implement a new rule that would assert regulatory authority over many of the nation’s streams and wetlands despite criticisms that it amounts to a federal water grab.

The U.S. House approved a bill last week that would block the agency from moving forward with the rule, which aims to clarify the streams and waterways that could be protected from development under the Clean Water Act.

McCarthy denied the rule would expand the jurisdiction of the act, but she said it’s time — given drought pressures in the West and the effects of climate change — to clarify some of the act’s provisions to make them more understandable and to establish regulatory certainty when it comes to drinking water supplies.

From the Guardian, a phenomenon resurgent:

California water witches see big business as the drought drags on

  • Dowsers, sometimes known as ‘water witches,’ are in high demand in drought-stricken California, where four dry years find farmers and vintners taking desperate measures

As California rounds the corner towards a four-year historic drought, many farmers and vintners have become completely reliant on groundwater. After divvying surface water allotments to satisfy urban, ecosystem and industrial needs, farmers in many parts of the state received little or no irrigation water from state agencies this year. In a normal year, allotments would cover roughly two-thirds of farmers’ needs.

Under these severe drought conditions, the success or failure of a well can mean the success or failure of a farm or vineyard, so before the drill bit hits the dirt, landowners need an educated guess as to where to find the most productive well site on their property. To get that, they can call in a professional hydrogeologist, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars – or they can drop a fraction of the cost on a dowser.

Despite a distinct lack of empirical evidence regarding dowsers’ efficacy, demand is high and dowsers’ phones are ringing off the hook.

From the Guardian, a mixed fracking report card:

Drinking water contaminated by shale gas boom in Texas and Pennsylvania

  • Faulty natural gas well casings blamed in study for methane leakage in Barnett Shale and the Marcellus formation

The natural gas boom resulting from fracking has contaminated drinking water in Texas and Pennsylvania, a new study said on Monday.

However, the researchers said the gas leaks were due to defective gas well production – and were not a direct result of horizontal drilling, or fracking.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences validated some of the concerns raised by homeowners in the Barnett Shale of Texas and the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania about natural gas leaking into their water supply.

On a parallel note with BBC News:

Water stress may curtail fracking, says WRI

Water shortages could hinder fracking for shale oil and gas in many parts of the world, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has said.

In the first report of its kind, the WRI found that 38% of the world’s shale resources were in arid areas or in those with severe water stress.

Accessing fresh water was likely to present “serious challenges”, it said.

Until now, concerns about fracking and water have focused on contamination of local supplies.

Killing with our cultural excreta, via the Guardian:

Plastic rubbish from land, not ships, killing Australian sea life, say scientists

  • Research shows three-quarters of rubbish was plastic and debris concentrated near cities

Mounds of plastic rubbish along Australia’s coastline are growing and killing wildlife which is ingesting or becoming ensnared in it, researchers say.

Scientists visited more than 170 sites along the coast and found about three-quarters of the rubbish was plastic from the land, not vessels on the ocean, and debris was concentrated near cities.

The density of plastic ranged from a few thousand pieces per square kilometre to more than 40,000 pieces, a CSIRO scientist, Denise Hardesty, said.

More Down Under water woes with the Guardian:

Great Barrier Reef plan ‘not enough to ward off UN in-danger listing’

  • Federal and Queensland government proposal to improve water quality ‘little more than business as usual’, say environmentalists

A plan to improve the Great Barrier Reef’s water quality and conserve species such as turtles may not be enough to stave off a United Nations “in danger” listing for the ecosystem, environmentalists have warned.

The draft Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan, a joint strategy by the federal and Queensland governments, has been released in an attempt to satisfy Unesco, which has warned it may place the reef on its list of threatened sites in 2015.

Port developers, the agriculture industry and environment groups helped draft the plan.

The plan stipulates a 50% reduction in nitrogen and a 60% drop in pesticides flowing on to the reef by 2018. There is also a protection plan for dugongs and turtles and a commitment to prioritise “functional ecosystems critical to reef health”.

On the contentious issue of dredging the seabed and dumping it within the Great Barrier Reef’s waters, there is a commitment to prohibit dredging within the world heritage area for new ports for the next 10 years as well as a “code of practice” for dredging.

Water woes on the subcontinent with The Diplomat:

Cleaning Up the Ganges

  • Narendra Modi will need more than just rhetoric to clean up India’s most important river.

Already, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cleanup plan for the Ganges river has come in for criticism from various quarters. The sharpest censure came recently from India’s Supreme Court, which observed that the government’s action plan may not result in a clean Ganges “even after 200 years.”

The apex court has ordered the government to provide a cleanup plan with stages and a schedule.

Promises to clean the Ganges figured in Modi’s election speeches and in his party’s election manifesto. Soon after coming to power in May, he signaled that the Ganges would be a priority by creating a Ministry for Water Resources, River Development and Ganges Rejuvenation. A flurry of meetings followed. In July, the government announced “Namami Ganga,” (in Sanskrit it means “obeisance to the Ganges”), an Integrated Ganges Development Project, and allocated around $334 million for it. It promised a clean Ganges in three years.

However, little is known about the Ganges project or what it entails.

A anthropogenic die-off after an exceptionally long run, via the Guardian:

Wild Chinese sturgeon on brink of extinction in polluted Yangtze

  • The fish has survived for 140m years but failed to reproduce last year according to Chinese researchers

The wild Chinese sturgeon is at risk of extinction after none of the rare fish were detected reproducing naturally in the polluted and crowded Yangtze river last year.

One of the world’s oldest living species, the wild Chinese sturgeon is thought to have existed for more than 140m years but has seen its numbers crash as China’s economic boom has brought pollution, dams and boat traffic along the world’s third-longest river.

For the first time since researchers began keeping records 32 years ago, there was no natural reproduction of wild Chinese sturgeon in 2013, according to a report published by the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences.

The Guardian, with another riverine threat:

Drought bites as Amazon’s ‘flying rivers’ dry up

  • Scientists say deforestation and climate change responsible for forests not producing vapour clouds that bring rain to Brazil, reports Climate News Network

The unprecedented drought now affecting São Paulo, South America’s giant metropolis, is believed to be caused by the absence of the “flying rivers” – the vapour clouds from the Amazon that normally bring rain to the centre and south of Brazil.

Some Brazilian scientists say the absence of rain that has dried up rivers and reservoirs in central and southeast Brazil is not just a quirk of nature, but a change brought about by a combination of the continuing deforestation of the Amazon and global warming.

This combination, they say, is reducing the role of the Amazon rainforest as a giant “water pump”, releasing billions of litres of humidity from the trees into the air in the form of vapour.

From New Europe, an attack on anthropocentric arrogance:

EU leads an international demarche against whaling by Iceland

  • Countries asked Iceland to respect the IWC’s global moratorium and end its commercial whaling

The EU, its 28 Member States and the governments of the United States, Australia, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, Mexico and Monaco, today declared their opposition to the fact that the Icelandic government still permits commercial whaling, in particular the hunting of fin whales and the subsequent trading of fin whale products.

The EU’s Ambassador to Iceland, Matthias Brinkmann, along with the diplomatic representatives of the United States, France, Germany and the UK delivered a demarche to this effect to the Icelandic government this morning. The Ambassador also pointed out that public opinion in the countries that are Iceland’s main trading partners is very much against the practise of whaling.  This is evidenced by the public pressure put on companies around the world to boycott Icelandic goods, not to mention the pressure that voters and various organisations put on their politicians, encouraging them to send Iceland an increasingly stronger message.

Reuters documents another case of biological and ultimately suicidal form of corporate arrogance:

Farmaceuticals

  • Documents reveal how poultry firms systematically feed antibiotics to flocks
  • Pervasive use fuels concerns about impact on human health, emergence of resistant superbugs

Major U.S. poultry firms are administering antibiotics to their flocks far more pervasively than regulators realize, posing a potential risk to human health.

Internal records examined by Reuters reveal that some of the nation’s largest poultry producers routinely feed chickens an array of antibiotics – not just when sickness strikes, but as a standard practice over most of the birds’ lives.

In every instance of antibiotic use identified by Reuters, the doses were at the low levels that scientists say are especially conducive to the growth of so-called superbugs, bacteria that gain resistance to conventional medicines used to treat people. Some of the antibiotics belong to categories considered medically important to humans.

The internal documents contain details on how five major companies  – Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, George’s and Koch Foods – medicate some of their flocks.

The documented evidence of routine use of antibiotics for long durations was “astonishing,” said Donald Kennedy, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

For our final item and from MintPress News, consumptive media:

Report: “Critical Action” Needed To Fight Enormous Energy Waste At Data Centers

Data centers consume colossal amounts of energy and water, with most waste — largely stemming from operating inefficiencies — actually coming from the country’s millions of small data centers.

Data centers are wasting electricity so excessively that only “critical action” can prevent the pollution and rate hikes that some U.S. regions could eventually suffer as a result of power plant construction intended to ensure that the ravenous facilities are well-fed, a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Anthesis warns.

The report, “Scaling Up Energy Efficiency Across the Data Center Industry: Evaluating Key Drivers and Barriers” [PDF], was issued on Aug. 26. Data centers, which number in the millions, are collections of servers (in-house or otherwise) which store and process data for businesses as ordinary as real estate firms or as large as social media platforms like Facebook.

The NRDC report describes the inefficient approach to server management common in practically all U.S. businesses, and recommends a variety of actions to save energy by tackling those inefficiencies.

EbolaWatch: Religion, promises, measures, death


We open with a rather chilling video, shot on the streets of Liberia’s capital, in which Christian fundamentalists conduct a very risky [note the touching] faith-healing prayer session around a prone Ebola patient.

From RadioAfrica:

LIBERIA:(RELIGION AND THE FIGHT AGAINST EBOLA)

Program notes:

Group of Liberians Evangelist prays over a suspected Ebola patient. All facing the possibility of contracting the deadly virus.

On to the hard news, first with the Associated Press:

UN Security Council to meet on Ebola

The United States called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council Thursday on the Ebola crisis in West Africa, saying the situation on the ground is “dire” and getting worse every day.

U.S. U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said the United States has asked the 193 U.N. member states to come to the meeting with “concrete commitments” to tackle the outbreak, especially in hardest-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

“The trendlines in this crisis are grave, and without immediate international action we are facing the potential for a public health crisis that could claim lives on a scale far greater than current estimates, and set the countries of West Africa back a generation,” Power told reporters on Monday. “This is a perilous crisis but one we can contain if the international community comes together to meet it head on.”

Word from Washington leaked, via Reuters:

Obama to detail plans on Ebola offensive on Tuesday: WSJ

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to detail on Tuesday a plan to boost his country’s involvement in mitigating the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

The plan would involve a greater involvement of the U.S. military in tackling the worst recorded outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the proposal.

The U.S. government has already committed around $100 million to tackle the outbreak by providing protective equipment for healthcare workers, food, water, medical and hygiene equipment.

Obama could ask Congress for an additional $88 million to fund his proposal, the WSJ reported. Plan details are expected during Obama’s visit Tuesday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

More from Science:

U.S. government set to announce surge of help for Ebola epidemic

A week after sharp criticism met the U.S. military’s announcement that it planned to help Liberia combat its Ebola epidemic with a “deployable hospital” that has a mere 25 beds, U.S. President Barack tomorrow plans to unveil dramatic new efforts to assist the West African countries besieged by the disease.

Obama, who will be visiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to discuss the U.S. response, likely will announce plans to send more deployable hospitals, critical medical supplies like personal protective gear, and doctors and other healthcare workers who can care for infected people and help contain spread. (A  U.S. Senate hearing on Ebola will also take place tomorrow with testimony from key public officials and Ebola survivor Ken Brantly.)

Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), spoke with ScienceInsider on Friday and said she expected there would be “a substantial surge” in the U.S. government’s assistance. She particularly wants to see more attention paid to providing infected people with good care. “There’s a very, very wide variability in what’s being delivered as clinical care,” says Lurie, noting that case fatality rates differ dramatically  in different locations. “We know that simple interventions are likely to save the most lives.”

From the Associated Press, a question:

US works to step up Ebola aid, but is it enough?

The American strategy on Ebola is two-pronged: Step up desperately needed aid to West Africa and, in an unusual step, train U.S. doctors and nurses for volunteer duty in the outbreak zone. At home, the goal is to speed up medical research and put hospitals on alert should an infected traveler arrive.

Amid criticism that the world still is not acting fast enough against the surging Ebola epidemic, President Barack Obama travels Tuesday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the outbreak with health officials who’ve been there.

Also Tuesday, a Senate hearing will examine the U.S. response. An American missionary doctor who survived the disease is scheduled to testify.

The administration hasn’t said how big a role the military ultimately will play — and it’s not clear how quickly additional promised help will arrive in West Africa.

Trooping in, via the Monrovia [Liberia] Inquirer:

U.S. Military To Build 25-Bedroom Ebola Hospital

It has been disclosed in Monrovia that the United States (US) Military will build a 25-bedoom hospital in the country to buttress efforts aimed at fighting the Ebola virus.     United State Ambassador accredited near Monrovia, Madam Debra Malac, said discussions are ongoing as where the hospital should be built but was certain that it would be constructed in Montserrado County.

Ambassador Malac addressing the weekly Press Briefing at the Ministry of Information said the unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa is an International Security priority for the U.S. Government and as such they will continue to be engaged in the region to eradicate the disease.

The U.S. Envoy said, “This is the worst outbreak of this virus in 40 years since it was first discovered. We defeated it and this time we will defeat it again. We will stop Ebola and it will take more work.”

Here’s a video report on her press conference from FrontPageAfrica:

FPA WEB TV: Uncle Sam’s Ebola AID

Program note:

U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Debora Malac outlines how much financial assistance in kind and in dollars the U.S. has contributed to the West Africa Ebola Outbreak.

From the Monrovia Inquirer, another hospital inaugurated:

Save The Children Constructs Central Region 1st Ebola Treatment Unit

Save the Children has turned over a 50-bed Ebola Treatment facility in Suakoko, Bong County worth about US$170,000 intended to serve the central region as part of its contribution to the national fight against the spread of the virus in other parts of the country.

The construction of the ETU which is a project solely undertaken by Save the Children according to its acting Country Director, Mercy Gichuhi who turned over the unit, was as a result of a request made to them from the local health team of Bong County.

Madam Gichihi said Save the Children believes that the construction of the health facility will go a long way in responding to the health need in that region and that Phebe Hospital focuses more on primary health care and at the same time give confidence to the health workers who will know that they have a place to refer confirmed Ebola patients.

Al Jazeera English covers critical context:

Nigeria’s weak health sector confronts Ebola

Spread of Ebola contained, but health system is having trouble dealing with treatable diseases which kill thousands.

Africa’s biggest oil producer and largest economy has one of the world’s highest child and maternal mortality rates. In 2012, an estimated 827,000 children under five died, while the reported maternal mortality rate was 550 per 100,000 live births, according to UNICEF.

Most of Nigeria’s childhood deaths are due to preventable or curable diseases: mainly malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhoea. Primary healthcare, run by local governments – Nigeria’s smallest unit of government – is tasked with handling these common illnesses.

The level of care in each centre varies, but generally, primary facilities do not have enough health workers, supplies, equipment, training, or transport – including ambulances to take patients to state or federal hospitals, says Michael Asuzu, a public health and epidemiology professor at the University of Ibadan.

From BBC News, a Brit on the scene:

Ebola virus: ‘Biological war’ in Liberia

With warnings from officials that the Ebola virus is “spreading like wildfire” in Liberia, Sarah Crowe, who works for the UN children’s agency (Unicef), describes her week on the Ebola front line:

Flights into disaster zones are usually full of aid workers and journalists. Not this time.

The plane was one of the first in after some 10 airlines stopped flying to Liberia because of Ebola, and still it was empty.

When I was last in Liberia in 2006, it was to work on reintegration of child soldiers in a time of peace. Now the country is fighting a “biological war” from an unseen enemy without foot soldiers.

As we enter the airport, an unnerving sight – a team of health workers kitted out with masks and gloves asks us to wash our hands with a chlorine solution and takes our temperatures.

A parallel set of American eyes from the Washington Post:

A virus hunter faces the big one: Ebola

Joseph Fair hunts viruses. That’s his thing. The 37-year-old American loves chasing dangerous pathogens, studying them in secure labs or searching for them in jungles where the microbes lurk.

And one virus has always loomed as the big one — Ebola. The scientists who first chased this dreaded microbe back in the ‘80s and ‘90s became legends, inspiring a generation of virologists like Fair. He read their books and papers. He studied how they contained the pathogen’s spread. And the scientists always won. The outbreaks ended, Ebola driven away.

So when the call came in March to travel to Sierra Leone, Fair was excited. He loved Mama Salone, as locals know the nation. He’d worked here for years. His new job: to advise Sierra Leone’s government on a tiny Ebola outbreak in neighboring Guinea, at the behest of the U.S. Defense Department. He set up an Ebola emergency operations center. He trained medical staff. He drew up just-in-case plans. By mid-May, the outbreak seemed on its way out. Fair packed his bags and left.

Then Ebola exploded.

From FrontPageAfrica, high-level visitors take a pre-opening hospital tour:

FPA WEB TV: ‘Liberia Will Beat Ebola’

Program notes:

World Health Organization (WHO) team tours the soon-to-be completed 120-Bed Ebola Clinic at the Island Clinic in Monrovia. WHO and its partners have supported construction of this new centre, which will be able to provide treatment for 120 patients at a time. Additional centers for about 400 more patients will be completed in the coming weeks.

BBC News covers a donation:

Ebola outbreak: Malaysia sends W Africa medical gloves

Malaysia plans to donate more than 20 million protective rubber gloves to five African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, the government says.

They will be distributed among medical workers in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A shortage of protective equipment has been one factor in the virus spreading.

Joseph Harker asks a question we’ve also entertained, via the Guardian:

Why are western health workers with Ebola flown out, but locals left to die?

  • The death of Dr Olivet Buck after the WHO refused to fly her out of Sierra Leone is not just wrong: it’s making the Ebola epidemic worse

My brother-in-law, Albert, is a GP based in the West Midlands. His sister Olivet Buck was a doctor too: though her work was quite different. She practised in the land of their birth, Sierra Leone. For the past few months she was fighting in the desperate battle against Ebola ravaging parts of her country. Last Tuesday came the awful news that she’d caught the virus.

To save her life, local campaigners called for her to be evacuated to Germany to receive treatment – all three previous doctors who had caught the disease in the country had died. Sierra Leone’s president backed her, saying that a hospital in Hamburg was “in readiness to receive her”. Last Friday, though, the World Health Organisation said it would not allow her to leave Sierra Leone, and refused to fund the move. Desperate attempts were made to try to overturn this decision but on Sunday came the news everyone was dreading: Olivet had died.

Albert, distraught, told me: “I shall never stop weeping at all our loss. Olivet was a truly remarkable person. She died because she would not forsake her service to others.”

But the death of Olivet, a 59-year-old mother of three, raises wider questions about how the world responds to the Ebola crisis, and how it protects those working closest to stop its spread.

Despite the fate of the previous doctors, the WHO had said merely that it would work to give Buck “the best care possible” in Sierra Leone.

However, foreign health and aid workers have been sent abroad from Sierra Leone and Liberia for treatment – including the British nurse William Pooley, who survived and now wishes to go back to Sierra Leone to continue helping to fight the disease. Only last Friday, two Dutch doctors were flown home after coming into contact with infected patients.

But so far no local health workers have been evacuated: even though, according to the WHO, in west Africa 301 have so far caught Ebola and 144 have died. Dr Sheik Humarr Khan, Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor, was being considered for evacuation to a European country when he died of the disease in late July.

More from the Associated Press:

Sierra Leone: WHO too slow to help doc with Ebola

Sierra Leone accused the World Health Organization on Monday of being “sluggish” in facilitating an evacuation of a doctor who died from Ebola before she could be sent out of the country for medical care.

Dr. Olivet Buck died Saturday, hours after the U.N. health agency said it could not help evacuate her to Germany.

Buck is the fourth Sierra Leonean doctor to die in an outbreak that has also touched Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal. The West African outbreak has been blamed for more than 2,400 deaths, and experts say it is out of control. The U.S. has called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council for this week to discuss the crisis.

At a heated news conference Monday, a Sierra Leonean government official read a statement saying that the Buck is the second doctor from that country to die because negotiations on evacuation had dragged on. Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, the country’s top Ebola expert, was being considered for evacuation when he died of the disease in July.

From the Kampala, Uganda, Daily Monitor, a warning:

Tanzania at high risk of Ebola outbreak

Last week, the Tanzanian government assured the public of its unwavering commitment to keeping Ebola out after standard thermal scanners to detect Ebola suspects were installed at four major airports-Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar-es-Salaam, Kilimanjaro International Airport, Zanzibar and Mwanza.

At the weekend, Health ministry authorities were hard at work allaying fears of an outbreak in Tanzania. But a new study titled “Mapping the zoonotic niche of Ebola virus disease in Africa” has raised the alarm in Tanzania and other countries across Africa where Ebola has never been reported.

It suggests that governments in those countries should start thinking of new ways to deal with the Ebola threat beyond targeting major airports and seaports. The researchers, who published the findings in eLife Journal this week, believe the Ebola virus is thriving in wild animals, which are its major reservoir. Tanzania, Burundi and 13 other African countries where no case of Ebola has been reported so far are home to wild animals.

Public Radio International makes that critical point:

This American doctor says racism is to blame for the slow response to the Ebola outbreak

Why has the global response to the Ebola outbreak been so slow? “I think it’s racism,” says Dr. Joia Mukherjee.

“I think it’s easy for the world — the powerful world, who are largely non-African, non-people of color — to ignore the suffering of poor, black people,” says Mukherjee, a professor at Harvard Medical School and chief medical officer at the Boston-based non-profit Partners in Health.

Race isn’t the only reason she believes it’s easy to dismiss the issues. “I think it’s also classism,” she says. “These are not countries that contribute massively to the global economy, so it’s easy to just otherize this problem.”

In that context, consider this from a country where a disproportionately large percentage of those in need of assistance are African American, via Salon:

Arizona GOPer quits after disgusting comment — but there’s a catch

  • Russell Pearce called for sterilizing Medicaid recipients. It’s gross, but here’s why the problem’s bigger than him

Pearce’s proposal was abhorrent, but it also laid bare the dehumanizing logic of Republican programs that punish the poor. If the GOP wants to distance itself from punitive and invasive policies that hurt low-income families, they should look in the mirror and start slowly backing away from their reflections.

A few things here. Pearce’s idea isn’t new. The United States has an ugly history of forced or otherwise coerced sterilization against people of color, the poor and others considered “unfit to procreate,” including rape victims and people with disabilities. Between 1907 and 1980, nearly 65,000 Americans were sterilized under state-sponsored programs. In total, 31 states had sterilization programs that directly targeted welfare recipients. North Carolina recently acted to compensate victims of its forced sterilization program, which specifically targeted black women and children. (And last year, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that nearly 150 women in California’s prison system were sterilized between 2006 and 2010, often without their knowledge or consent. The state legislature acted this year to end the program.)

That said, Pearce isn’t the only Republican to float the idea of coercively sterilizing welfare recipients in recent years. And his proposal is hardly the only assault on low-income families in the state. Arizona, you’ll remember, is where Shanesha Taylor was arrested after leaving her children in the car so she could attend a job interview.

From Punch Nigeria, help wanted:

ECOWAS seeks support for research

The Economic Community of West African States has appealed to its partners to support the regional initiatives aimed at strengthening epidemiological and therapeutic research as well as surveillance and improvements in health facilities in order to prevent and control the Ebola Virus Disease.

The sub-continental body called for support for the Regional Solidarity Fund to fight Ebola and welcomed the pledges made by some multilateral and bilateral partners to support some of the affected countries.

Speaking at the opening of the 10th edition of the ECOWAS/Development Partners Annual Coordination meeting at the ECOWAS Secretariat on Monday, in Abuja, President of the Commission, Mr. Kadre Ouedraogo, said the group welcomed the coordinated approach adopted to combat the viral disease through the World Health Organisation.

StarAfrica covers another donation:

China donates 80mn francs worth of Ebola prevention materials to Mali

The Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has returned from his trip to China with a CFA 80 million francs worth medical material aimed at backing his government’s efforts to prevent the Ebola virus from entering the country, the Malian presidency disclosed Sunday.

The Chinese donation includes 1,000 sprays, 1,000 protective gears, 30 medically-equipped isolation tents, 600 protective masks, 600 shoes and 1,000 thermometers.

The Malian press reported recently the complaints of the medical staff deployed in Bamako road station where passengers from Ebola-hit neighboring Guinea are hosted.

The medical staff had lamented a lack of protective means which increases the risk of contagion.

From Punch Nigeria, a reminder about a key player:

Private sector in the first line of battle

The management of the Ebola Virus Disease has cost the Federal Government N2.1bn so far. Last month, a sum of N1.9bn was released to the Federal Ministry of Health for disbursement to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Lagos State, as the first epicentre of the outbreak, also got a separate N200m support from the Federal Government.

The funds, no doubt, are a drop in the ocean in providing Personal Protective Equipment discarded daily after use by health workers in isolation centres across the country; intravenous fluid and other drugs for infected people, diagnostic machines, daily payment for volunteers and other sundry expenses attached to the management of the virus.

Ahead of the September 22 resumption date for all primary and post primary schools in the country, a coalition of players in the private sector are seeking for an active participation in preventing a future outbreak of the EVD, especially in congested communities across the country.

The Guardian questions:

As Ebola closes schools in Africa, how do we help children learn?

  • As Ebola robs children of schooling, the seeds are being sown for continued problems. Vigilance and flexibility may be our best response to the virus

In response to the growing threat of Ebola across west Africa, the governments of Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have closed their schools. The closures are only temporary, but that could change if the spread of the virus continues and accelerates.

As of 12 September, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are facing widespread and intense transmission of Ebola (about 100 to 200 new cases per country per week). In other affected countries, the outbreak has been more localised. But in each affected areas the threat could expand rapidly, and there are credible predictions that Ebola could migrate to 15 additional countries and infect more than 20,000 people.

With that prognosis, closing schools is an understandable and prudent step to protect children and their families from exposure. The most immediate priority is to put out a raging and growing fire that threatens to affect more lives and territory.

And the Kampala, Uganda, Daily Monitor throws another handful of sand into gearbox:

Residents uproot cassava in fear of floods

Farmers in Omoro Sub-county, Alebtong District have begun uprooting their cassava, fearing it might rot in gardens. The move follows persistent rains that have caused flooding in the area.

Farmers who spoke to Daily Monitor said uprooting the cassava might save them from totally losing out as other crops have been washed away by floods.

As a measure, residents are drying their crops on roof tops and others have constructed high raise houses where they can temporarily sleep as they wait for floods to reduce.

And from StarAfrica, our final item and another critical bit of context:

Namibia ropes in Ethiopian pharmacists to address shortage

Currently, Namibia has 55 pharmacists working in the public health sector, of which ten are Namibians while the rest are expatriates.

With the population of just over two million, the country needs at least 1000 pharmacists, as in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended ration.

In 2012, the University of Namibia established a School of Pharmacy, an edition to the Medical School, which the Health Minister said are part of the country’s long-term effort to address the shortage of qualified health personnel.

EnviroWatch: Climate, water woes, power


A shorter than usual assemblage today because Sunday was, how to say, a slow news day.

We begin with the latest episode of Moyers & Company, offering a religious perspective on climate change that doesn’t come from the far right:

Climate Change — Faith and Fact

Program notes:

The latest in a string of dire reports on climate change came this week from the United Nations’ meteorological advisory body, which said that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2013, due to a “surge” in carbon dioxide, prompting fears of an accelerated warming of the planet.

A majority of Americans think global warming is real and that human activity’s a factor, believing in the science behind reports on climate change. But some two-thirds of white evangelical Christians aren’t convinced.

In the face of those who use religion to deny the worldwide crisis of climate change, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian, believes that her faith is compatible with science. This week she speaks to Bill about ending the gridlock between politics, science and faith in order to find solutions to the widespread threats associated with global warming.

“…The New Testament talks about how faith is the evidence of things not seen,” says Hayhoe, who was recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. “By definition, science is the evidence of things that are seen, that can be observed, that are quantifiable. And so that’s why I see faith and science as two sides of the same coin.”

The Guardian covers California agrarian water woes:

Alarm as almond farms consume California’s water

  • Extreme drought and soaring global demand is threatening supplies of one of the world’s favourite snacks

Touted as the ultimate superfood and an essential ingredient in everything from mezze to marzipan: the humble almond has never been so popular. But with prices at a nine-year high, almonds are in the frontline of a battle over water as California struggles to cope with one of its worst-ever droughts – stoking fears of an almond shortage over Christmas.

Californian farmers, estimated to grow around 80% of the world’s almonds, have been accused of siphoning off groundwater at the expense of the state’s future water reserves.

As rivers and lakes have dried up, with more than 80% of the state in the grip of “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, the state’s farmers have resorted to pumping groundwater – underground reserves – to nourish almond trees, vineyards and orchards. David Zetland, economics professor at Leiden University College in the Netherlands, says farmers are pumping water at a rate four to five times greater than can be replenished: “The people of the state of California are more or less destroying themselves in order to give cheap almonds to the world.”

From United Press International, global water woes to come:

Fracking may put drinking water supply at risk for many countries, study finds

  • Fracking is said to use 7 billion gallons of water a year just in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota alone

A new study by the World Resources Institute finds that many places with water scarcity are using too much of their resources on fracking. “Eight of the top 20 countries with the largest shale gas resources face arid conditions or high to extremely high baseline water stress where the shale resources are located; this includes China, Algeria, Mexico, South Africa, Libya, Pakistan, Egypt, and India,” the study states. The United States is also at risk, according to the study, since many of the places inside the United States that are good for fracking are going through a drought or generally have low water supply.

To drill a fracking well takes 5 million gallons of water, on average. States like Texas have a strong fracking industry, but lack of water supplies has forced frackers to import water from elsewhere to continue their business.

The study states that China faces water scarcity in 61 percent of its available fracking locations, Argentina is at 72 percent and the United Kingdom is at 34 percent. The report recommends water risk assessments before drilling, increased transparency of fracking company actions, cooperation between companies and governments and lowering freshwater use in fracking.

From the New York Times, a pattern shifts:

Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind

Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.

It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States

The Associated Press covers a call to spare the air:

Chinese march against incinerator for 2nd day

Residents in a southern Chinese town protested against a proposed garbage incinerator for a second straight day Sunday, according to witnesses, as police said ringleaders of earlier demonstrations that saw clashes with police should surrender.

Hundreds of people gathered on a long street in front of the offices of the government in Guangdong province’s Boluo county, with anti-riot police standing by, three residents said. They gave only their surnames, Chen, Huang and Wang, out of fear of reprisals from authorities.

The protest is the latest to highlight how Chinese have become increasingly wary of the environmental hazards of industrial projects but still lack public forums to voice their concerns and affect the government’s decision-making process.

And for our final item, via the Japan Times nuclear uncertainty:

Power companies mull further rate hikes with reactors on hold

A year after the nation’s last nuclear reactor was taken offline, utilities are exploring additional hikes in electricity prices as the cost of offsetting the loss of atomic power continues to climb.

On Sept. 15, 2013, the No. 4 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture was switched off for scheduled checkups, leaving Japan without an operating nuclear power station.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is screening applications to restart 20 reactors at 13 plants.