Category Archives: Resources

EbolaWatch: Numbers, aid, desperate measures


We begin with a number from Bloomberg:

70: The Magic Number That Could End the Ebola Epidemic

There are a lot of scary numbers floating around about Ebola. Take 1.4 million: the CDC’s worst-case scenario for Ebola cases in Western Africa by the end of January. Or two: the approximate number of healthy people infected by each new Ebola patient.

But perhaps the most important Ebola number right now is 70 percent. That’s the proportion of patients who need to be isolated — in treatment centers or at least in their homes — in order to put a quick end to the Ebola outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Once 70 percent of patients are effectively isolated, the outbreak decreases at a rate nearly equal to the initial rate of increase,” researchers wrote today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. If 70 percent of the current outbreak was achieved by late December, the epidemic “would be almost ended by January 20.”

From AllAfrica, just what’s needed, another czar:

West Africa: Obama to Announce Ebola Czar As Businesses, Senators Press for More

President Obama will announce the appointment of a high-level coordinator to manage the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak when he visits Atlanta on Tuesday, administration sources have told AllAfrica.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that the president is visiting the Atlanta, Georgia-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to receive a briefing from officials at the organization, whose director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, visited the region last month.

Obama will also discuss U.S. assistance to fight the Ebola virus and will thank the doctors, scientists and health care workers who have been engaged in the effort to stop its escalating spread. A stepped-up administration plan, which has been discussed by officials from across the executive branch for more than a month, received higher level attention this past week as the scope of the outbreak became more widely acknowledged – at least partly in response to pressure from private sector companies engaged in the most-affected countries and from members of Congress.

From Agence France-Presse, a videographic of a prototypical Ebola treatment center:

Ebola treatment centres

Program notes:

An American doctor who was exposed to the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has been admitted Sunday to a clinic outside Washington as a precautionary measure. He had been volunteering as a physician in a unit treating those suffering from the tropical fever that has already killed more than 3,000 people in west Africa since the end of last year. Despite being trained in strict infection control practices, medical staff in the region are at constant risk of infection

The Washington Post embraces the military approach:

Will AFRICOM’s Ebola response be watershed moment for international action on human security?

On Sept. 18, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) held an unprecedented emergency meeting on a public health crisis and officially declared the Ebola epidemic that has killed an estimated 2,803 people in West Africa a threat to international peace and security. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the creation of the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), which he tasked with treating the infected, containing the disease and preserving stability. Last week, President Obama announced the deployment of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which will set up a joint force command in Liberia to coordinate the activity of 3,000 U.S. forces; expedite the transportation of equipment and supplies; and train an estimated 500 health-care workers per week.

Although Kim Yi Dionne, Laura Seay and Erin McDaniel raised concerns in The Washington Post last week about U.S. military forces engaging in a large-scale humanitarian operation, the deployment of AFRICOM and the creation of UNMEER are different from previous militarized humanitarian missions. The emphasis on human security, supported by the recent UNSC proclamation, shifts the policy conversation. This is a potential watershed moment for future humanitarian interventions if key actors recognize the core comparative advantages of both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and militaries and work together in a partnership.

Shanghai Daily covers an opening:

UN opens Ebola headquarters in Ghana

THE UN mission to combat Ebola opened its headquarters yesterday in Ghana, where it will coordinate aid for the accelerating West African crisis.

The spread of Ebola has spiraled into the worst ever outbreak, and the World Health Organization says it has linked more than 3,000 deaths to the disease, although that is likely an underestimate of the true toll. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been hit hardest. Senegal and Nigeria have also been touched, but have not reported a new case in weeks.

Some have criticized the response to the outbreak as too slow and haphazard. Ebola was first identified in March in Guinea. But more recently promises of aid have poured in, with many countries committing to sending health care workers, building hospitals or providing much-needed supplies, like protective suits for doctors and nurses.

From the Japan Times, on the ground:

Beds, staff scarce in Ebola-hit Monrovia

The Island Clinic recently opened. By the next day, its 120 beds were full.

“As of Friday, we had 206 patients,” a spokesman for the U.N World Health Organization, which runs the center, said.

Like all the NGO-run Ebola centers in Liberia, the Island Clinic is under-resourced and overrun by demand, forced to fill in for a public health infrastructure that has been decimated by 14 years of civil war and grinding poverty.

“There is supposed to be a system to allow the patients to talk to their families while keeping a distance of several meters (yards) — but apparently it’s not up and running yet,” a clearly embarrassed WHO official there says.

More from CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: Liberia’s newest, largest treatment clinic already at capacity

  • CBC News was granted access to the Island Clinic in Monrovia

Liberia’s newest and largest Ebola treatment centre was desperately needed to combat the spread of the fatal virus, yet the facility has barely helped to stop the worst outbreak in recorded history.

The centre, known as Island Clinic, was exactly seven days old when CBC News toured the “green zone,” or safe zone, of the facility on Sunday. It has almost doubled the Ebola treatment capacity in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia, a major urban centre overwhelmed by an exponentially increasing number of cases of the deadly virus.

When it opened, there were 120 beds available. Within hours, the clinic was already stretched — every space available filled with the city’s most frightened and seriously ill. Somehow, room was made for more patients and currently, by adding beds and sofas where possible, staff estimate the total number is likely closer to 200.

AllAfrica covers another facility in another country:

Sierra Leone: President Koroma Commissions Mobile Lab and Holding Centre

As Government continues to intensify its efforts in the fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD), President Ernest Bai Koroma on Friday 26th September 2014, commissioned the BSL-3 mobile laboratory at the Sierra Leone-China Friendship Hospital at Jui.

The occasion also saw in attendance officials from the Ministries of Health and Sanitation and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and experts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Medical team from China.

President Koroma noted that the facility will increase the response time in sample throughput, especially during this trying moment of the Ebola outbreak and also create opportunities for capacity development of health workers in the country. With this, President Koroma urged Sierra Leoneans working at the Hospital to exploit the opportunities and develop their various capacities.

From the Guardian, a public health basic:

Media and communications: the first line of defence against Ebola

  • As well as healthworkers, journalists are on the frontline of the Ebola outbreak and have vital role in stopping the epidemic

Misinformation is hampering efforts to tackle the Ebola outbreak in west Africa as rumours and speculation exacerbate the epidemic. In such a climate, local media can help to save lives.

In recent weeks, fear and misunderstanding have claimed new kinds of victims, including the three journalists killed in Womme, Guinea, along with five health workers, after they were attacked by villagers so terrified of the disease that they feared any outsider could infect their village.

In Womme, a local policeman said villagers believe that Ebola is nothing more than an invention of white people, to kill black people.

On Monday, a Liberian official said misinformation is hampering efforts to tackle the outbreak there, citing rumours that an educational film shown to villagers is intended merely to distract people while officials literally poison the wells.

TheLocal.de encounters an obstacle:

Germany’s Ebola mission stranded in Gran Canaria

Germany’s military transport planes are causing embarrassment for yet another Bundeswehr mission. The military’s much-heralded delivery to help Ebola-stricken countries in western Africa has stalled in Gran Canaria.

The poor state of the Bundeswehr’s Transall planes led to delays last week to Germany’s delivery of arms and soldiers to northern Iraq. Two of the 50-year-old planes broke down.

And on Monday it emerged that a flight delivering medicine and field tents to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has been stuck in Gran Canaria since Friday.

The Transall C-160 plane has a defect and technicians and a replacement plane are being flown to the Spanish island.

Star Africa News covers another aid infusion:

China grants DRC $900,000 to fight Ebola

The Chinese government has disbursed $900,000 to help the Democratic Republic of Congo’s fight the Ebola epidemic, which has ravaged the north-east of the country, an official source informs APA on Sunday.A funding agreement was signed on Friday in Kinshasa between Congo’s International and Regional Cooperation vice-minister, Dismas Mangbengu and China’s ambassador to the DR Congo, Wang Ying Wu.

President Joseph Kabila, on Thursday claimed in an address at the 69th United Nations General Assembly that the Ebola epidemic has been contained in its area of origin, located in Djera sector, about 1,200 km from Kinshasa, in Equateur Province.

About forty people have died of the disease there.

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, aid from closer to hand:

35 train in handling Ebola cases

A team of health workers from East Africa have completed training in prevention and control of diseases, especially epidemics such as Ebola. Majority of them will be sent to West African countries to help to manage Ebola that has killed thousands of people.

The team of 35 personnel from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Gambia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, as well as other participants from the US and UK were trained on infection prevention and control measures.

Twenty three of the participants said they were ready to be deployed in West Africa where they will be expected to train another 300 health workers.

Yet another alarm in Europe from TheLocal.se:

Fresh Ebola case investigated in Sweden

Doctors in Stockholm are checking a patient suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus.

The patient is understood to be at least the fifth case investigated in Sweden since the virus started spreading rapidly in Africa earlier this year.

They have been been transferred to the infectious diseases clinic at Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, according to news agency TT.

“Despite the fact that there were very low suspicions, we decided to take the test. We will get the answer within a day,” Åke Örtqvist, spokesperson for doctors dealing with infectious diseases in the Stockholm region.

Science covers a lamentation:

Ebola vaccine tests needlessly delayed, researchers claim

Stephan Becker is tired of waiting. The virologist at the University of Marburg in Germany is part of a consortium of scientists that is ready to do a safety trial of one of the candidate vaccines for Ebola. But the vaccine doses he’s supposed to test on 20 German volunteers are still in Canada. Negotiations with the U.S. company that holds the license for commercialization of the vaccine—which contains a gene for the Ebola surface protein stitched into a livestock pathogen known as vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)—have needlessly delayed the start of the trial, Becker and several other scientists tell Science. “It’s making me mad, that we are sitting here and could be doing something, but things are not moving forward,” Becker says.

Today and tomorrow, Ebola scientists and representatives from companies and regulatory bodies are meeting at the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss how to speed up clinical development of vaccines, a process that normally takes years. More and more public health specialists believe that vaccines will have an important role to play in stopping the catastrophic outbreak in West Africa, which has so far caused at least 6553 cases and more than 3000 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. (Those are the reported numbers; the real toll is known to be much higher.)

Given the urgency, it’s inexplicable that one of the candidate vaccines, developed at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in Winnipeg, has yet to go in the first volunteer’s arm, says virologist Heinz Feldmann, who helped develop the vaccine while at PHAC. “It’s a farce; these doses are lying around there while people are dying in Africa,” says Feldmann, who now works at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Hamilton, Montana.

And Punch Nigeria has help anticipated:

2,000 German volunteers expected in Africa over Ebola

Over 2,000 Germans have heeded the German government’s call to register as volunteers, indicating their readiness and availability for deployment to fight against Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, said AU in a statement on Monday.

German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has informed AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, after the Chairperson briefed him on AU’s ongoing efforts to fight the disease.

The two officials met on the sidelines of the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, said the statement.

On to coverage of day to day life via the African media, starting with this from The Analyst in Liberia:

Bassa Ebola Toll Rises -Six Survivors Rejoin Families

Six persons who survived the Ebola virus in Grand Bassa County have been reunited with their families and communities, a county health official has disclosed. Speaking during the Ebola Task Force briefing held in Buchanan at the weekend, Joyce Garblah, a member of the County Health Team, said the six survivors who earlier tested positive with Ebola, were transferred to the Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia.

She said after undergoing treatment and observation, they were pronounced free of the virus and allowed to rejoin their families. Madam Garblah has disclosed that 26 confirmed Ebola deaths occurred in Grand Bassa County from July to September 26, 2014. She said out of the 26 confirmed Ebola deaths, 15 were males and 11 females, while 44 Ebola probable and suspected cases were recorded in the six districts of the county.

According to statistics, Buchanan District recorded 20, Owensgrove District six, District #One, seven; District #Two, six; District #Three, four and District #Four, one. Meanwhile, Garblah has disclosed that five samples taken to the National Diagnostic Lab in Marshall are awaiting results.

AllAfrica covers a process of elimination:

Liberia: Police Barrack Cleared

Some officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and their relatives, who were quarantined for 21 days at the Police Barracks on Camp Johnson Road as a result of the deadly Ebola virus, were last week Friday, September 26, 2014, declared free of the virus after intensive medical treatment and thorough observation by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Monrovia.

Those police officers were quarantined along with their relatives at the Police Barracks on Camp Johnson Road after one of their colleagues’ wife died there as a result of the deadly Ebola virus.

The Director of the Liberia National Police, Clarence Massaquoi, disclosed that those officers along with their relatives, who were quarantined for 21 days in the Police Barracks did not complain, but were taking the preventive measures as prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with the WHO.

From the New Republic in Liberia, political concerns:

Cape Mount Ebola Death Toll Troubles Caucus — Sen. Dagoseh

Grand Cape Mount County Senator Edward Dagoseh says the County Legislative Caucus is concerned about the Ebola death rate in the county.

He disclosed that the caucus is formulating strategies to proffer to the County Task Force that will help avoid the further spread of Ebola and destruction of lives.

“The County Legislative Caucus is doing everything possible to seek financial and medical supplies, including PPEs and drugs, for health facilities in the county,” Senator Dagoseh told reporters in Garwular District at the weekend.

Senator Dagoseh is, meanwhile, appealing to health workers in the county to return to work so that health facilities that have been shut down as a result of the Ebola outbreak will re-open to provide services to the people.

The Analyst covers an epidemiological spread in Liberia:

1st Ebola Case Confirmed in Gbarpolu County

Gbarpolu County has registered its first case of the Ebola disease with a 14-year-old boy confirmed positive with the virus. Medical authorities in the county told the Liberia news Agency that the boy contracted the virus from his father who reportedly died of the disease in Parker Farm in Gbarma District.

The authorities said several family members of the boy, including his mother, have been quarantined in the same area by the County Ebola Task Force to avoid the spread of the disease to other parts of the county.

According to the Task Force, the boy was confirmed Ebola positive when the result from his blood specimen test was received by medical authorities working with the Task Force recently. The authorities said modalities are being worked out by the Task Force to have the boy transferred to the new Ebola Center at the old Island Clinic on the Bushrod Island for treatment.

New Republic covers help from another quarter:

Agriculture Ministry Joins Ebola Fight

The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), has disclosed that it has embarked on a nationwide Ebola awareness campaign aimed at helping to eradicate the virus.

In a statement, the Assistant Director of Communications, Ken Kumeh said the outbreak is a national disaster that requires the collective efforts of each and every Liberian regardless of status, religion or political affiliation, indicating that, “the disease does not discriminate.”

Mr. Kumeh said as part of the ministry’s campaign, it last month donated two heavy duty trucks and several food items to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

And for our final item, CCTV Africa has the not-unexpected:

Ebola: Liberians Turn To God for Healing

Program note:

A Plague from God. More Liberians have been expressing their fear of Ebola. They say it is affecting the fabric of society and despite warnings to stay away from public gatherings, Liberians are turning to religion for comfort.

EnviroWatch: Climate, water, eruption, fuels


First up, a fait accompli from the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

From the Associated Press, water woes in parched California:

California’s water agencies look to budget water

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

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

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

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

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

Iran prays for rain amid acute water shortage

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

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

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

Environmental Health News covers another water woe:

Fish still contaminated with phased-out Scotchgard chemical

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

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

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

From BBC News, a body count:

Japan volcano: Mt Ontake rescue teams find 31 bodies

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

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

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

Deutsche Welle covers the story:

Hikers killed in Japan earthquake

Program notes:

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

From BBC News, Big Oil taps an arctic vein:

Rosneft and Exxon discover Arctic oil

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

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

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

Big Oil fracks your British basement, via the Guardian:

Fracking trespass law changes move forward despite huge public opposition

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

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

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

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

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

India turns to nuclear as energy crisis deepens

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

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

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

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

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

China ready to construct floating nuclear power plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EbolaWatch: Arts, shortages, suffering, more


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

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

Ebola Crisis: Fighting Ebola Through Theatre

Program notes:

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

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

Ebola Crisis : Songs of Awareness on The Virus

Program notes:

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

From CBC News, tragic failure:

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

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

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

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

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

IPS Inter Press Service News Agency raises more aid questions:

Militarising the Ebola Crisis

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

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

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

Punch Nigeria makes a plea:

Ebola: Lab scientists want more protection for members

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

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

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

While the Guardian raises questions:

Liberian Senate calls for more transparency over Ebola funds

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

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

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

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

RFI covers those already marginalized:

Most vulnerable in Sierra Leone suffer under Ebola quarantine

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

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

Voice of America covers crisis compounded:

Life Harder for Liberians Post-Ebola Quarantine

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

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

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

And a didactic headline from Angola Press News Agency:

Angola: Passengers At Airports Learn About Ebola Danger

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

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

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

For our final item, another impact from New Zimbabwe:

Daring Sex Workers Introduce ‘Ebola Risk Allowance’

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

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

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

EnviroWatch: Eruptions, fuels, GMOs, ills


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

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

USDA says genetically engineered wheat discovered on Montana farm

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

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

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

The Latin American Herald Tribune delivers a warning:

Agriculture Experts Warn of Lack of Food Security in Puerto Rico

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

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

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

On the beach with Star Africa News:

SLeone: Environmental body alarmed by sand mining

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

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

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

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

Mammoth Lakes earthquake swarm tied to water pressure, tectonic stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second lethal eruption, via TheLocal.it:

Child dead after Sicily mud geyser eruption

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

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

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

From TheLocal.dk, another outbreak:

Three deaths traced to new listeria outbreak

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

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

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

From the Associated Press, a far larger outbreak:

New mosquito-borne virus spreads in Latin America

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

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

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

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

New controversy over Malta’s bird slaughter

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

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

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

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

Public Radio International gives us our first fuels story:

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

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

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

TheLocal.no gives us our second:

Statoil freezes oil sands project in Canada

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

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

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

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

From the Independent, the spice of life:

Curry spice turmeric ‘could help brain heal itself’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EbolaWatch: Crisis, shortages, help, & more


First up, a notable quarantine from the Associated Press:

Liberia Health Chief Is Under Quarantine

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

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

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

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

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

Newest Liberian Ebola treatment centre overwhelmed with cases

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

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

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

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

Sierra Leone Struggles to Care For Ebola Patients

Program notes:

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

Al Jazeera English covers backlash:

Guinea residents ‘refusing’ Ebola treatment

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

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

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

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

While Reuters covers the pale rider’s companions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

ECOWAS calls for regional response to Ebola

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

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

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

Another call, this one from China, via Xinhua:

Chinese FM calls for more global assistance as Ebola epidemic rages

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

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

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

The Los Angeles Times covers those left behind:

Ebola outbreak often leaves children alone and terrified

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

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

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

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

The abandoned children of the Liberia Ebola outbreak

Program notes:

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

On to Liberia, with new numbers from The Analyst:

Bong County: 21 New Suspected Ebola Deaths Reported

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

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

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

The Analyst again, with evidence of spreading contagion:

Grand Gedeh Records First Ebola Case

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

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

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

The Liberian Observer covers another threat:

Ebola Weakens Liberia Food Security

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

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

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

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

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

EnviroWatch: Fires, climate, nukes, & more


We begin with a California Burning update from the Los Angeles Times:

Rain helps crews expand control of King fire in Northern California

Much-needed rain from a weather system out of the Pacific Northwest helped give firefighters the upper hand overnight as they battle a series of wildfires across Northern California.

The storm dumped up to an inch of rain on the Eldorado National Forest region, where the King fire has been raging for more than two weeks, helping firefighters boost containment to 68%, officials reported Friday.

More than 7,700 firefighters have been battling the 97,009-acre wildfire, which has destroyed a dozens home and even more structures, since Sept. 13. Fire activity was minimal overnight with smoldering flames buried deep inside heavy vegetation, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

And a California Thirsting update, also from the Los Angeles Times:

Drought has 14 communities on the brink of waterlessness

Parkwood is one of 28 small California communities that have since January cycled onto and off of a list of “critical water systems” that state officials say could run dry within 60 days. Amid the drought that is scorching the state and particularly the Central Valley, the State Water Resources Control Board decided this year, for the first time ever, to track areas on the brink of waterlessness.

“It’s a sign of how severe this drought is,” said Bruce Burton, an assistant deputy director for the board.

For some communities, earning a place on the list was the impetus to address problems that should have been fixed long ago. Some drilled new wells, built storage tanks or connected their water systems with larger ones and got off the critical list. Other communities were saved by late spring rains that filled reservoirs and other water supplies.

Fourteen communities, though, remain on the list, approaching a crisis point and trucking in water while they work to find a solution.

MintPress News covers cooptation:

Growing Business Role In Climate Debate Prompts New Concerns

Instead of government setting goals and rules for emissions reduction, the private sector — including multinational oil giants — is increasingly dictating to governments how companies can be “supported” to make changes

As global leaders came together this week in New York to unveil commitments on cutting carbon emissions and to try to inject fresh energy into climate discussions, focus on the private sector took on a prominent new role – both inside the United Nations headquarters and outside, among protesters.

At the U.N. Climate Summit on Tuesday and in the days leading up to the event, multinational corporations and major institutional investors took an unprecedented number of voluntary steps, from making unilateral pledges of sustainability to placing new priority on funding alternative energy technologies to collectively urging global policymakers to take substantive action on emissions reduction.

“These are vast and marked changes, and very different from any other time I can remember. The level of interest on the part of the private sector is radically different than it was even five years ago,” Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, a U.S. coalition of investors and others focused on sustainability, told MintPress News.

From Newswise, a remind that our environment is full of mysteries:

Mown Grass Smell Sends SOS for Help in Resisting Insect Attacks

The smell of cut grass in recent years has been identified as the plant’s way of signalling distress, but new research says the aroma also summons beneficial insects to the rescue.

“When there is need for protection, the plant signals the environment via the emission of volatile organic compounds, which are recognized as a feeding queue for parasitic wasps to come to the plant that is being eaten and lay eggs in the pest insect,” said Dr. Michael Kolomiets, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in College Station.

The research stems from a look at the function of a large family of lipid-derived molecular signals that regulate differential processes in humans, animals and plants, according to Kolomiets, whose research was published in The Plant Journal.

The Wall Street Journal covers a deadly alien invader:

Venomous Redback Spiders Found in Tokyo

Tokyo officials are conducting extensive extermination efforts in Mitaka after poisonous redback spiders were spotted in the area for the first time in the capital.

According to a Mitaka city official, more than 10 redback spiders were found in one of its parks on Thursday after the city received a report of sighting the previous day. It immediately called in the exterminators, and they are to revisit the area again Friday afternoon. There haven’t been any reports of locals being bit, the Mitaka city official said.

The venomous spiders, originating from Australia, were first spotted in western Japan in 1995. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, a national science agency in Australia, states on its website that the spiders are not aggressive but their bites are “very poisonous and potentially fatal for children or the elderly.”

And on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:

Water treatment system in Fukushima fails again

A water treatment system to decontaminate radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been partially shut down again. Tokyo Electric Power Company suspects faulty filters caused the trouble.

One of the 3 lines of the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, was turned off on Friday after the treated water in the line remained cloudy.

Engineers found that the water contained calcium, which hinders the elimination of radioactive strontium.

The Asahi Shimbun reveals a major problem:

Not nearly enough buses for mass exodus after nuclear accident

The gargantuan task of moving residents in a nuclear crisis will fall on chartered buses, according to the local governments’ evacuation plans.

The problem is there may not be nearly enough vehicles to move huge numbers of people to safety.

Some prefectures already realize they would be lucky to assemble just half the number of buses for the job.

There is also opposition from bus companies, which say they will not subject their drivers to hazardous radiation risks.

And from the Mainichi, disposal woes:

Bill to define government’s role in radioactive waste disposal

Details of a bill that would define the national government’s role in disposing of radioactive waste from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster emerged on Sept. 25.

The bill, to be presented at an extraordinary session of the Diet, which will be convened on Sept. 29, would revise the Act on Japan Environmental Safety Corporation. It is aimed at alleviating Fukushima Prefecture residents’ fears that midterm storage facilities will end up turning into final disposal sites.

The proposed revision emphasizes that “maintenance and management of midterm storage facilities essential to the decontamination and recovery of Fukushima will be handled responsibly by the national government.” The bill would also change the name of the Japan Environmental Safety Corporation (JESCO), which is to operate the midterm storage facilities, to incorporate “midterm storage” in addition to “environmental safety.”

From the Ecologist, another fuel, other problems:

Skin, respiratory symptoms increase near gas wells

A health study in Pennsylvania, USA, shows that people living near fracking and other natural gas wells are more likely to suffer from skin conditions and upper respiratory symptoms. It calls for further study of the associations, including the role of specific air and water exposures.

A Yale-led study has found a greater prevalence of health symptoms reported among residents living close to natural gas wells, including those drilled by hydraulic fracturing.

The study, titled ‘Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported Health Status: Results of a Household Survey in Washington County, Pennsylvania’ was published online this month in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health.

And for our final item, dangers from our digital environment from PsyBlog:

This is What Heavy Multitasking Could Be Doing To Your Brain

  • Multitasking may affect crucial areas of the brain’s emotional and cognitive centres

Using laptops, phones and other media devices at the same time could be shrinking important structures in our brains, a new study may indicate.

For the first time, neuroscientists have found that people who use multiple devices simultaneously have lower gray-matter density in an area of the brain associated with cognitive and emotional control (Loh & Kanai, 2014).

Multitasking might include listening to music while playing a video game or watching TV while making a phone call or even reading the newspaper with the TV on.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, pleas, claims, & help


We begin with numbers from Punch Nigeria:

Ebola death toll more than 2,900 –WHO

The World Health Organisation has announced that the number of people killed by the Ebola Virus Disease has reached at least 2,917.

According to the global health body, the increasing casualty figure is driven by the continuing rapid spread of the disease in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The New York Times reported that the UN agency made the announcement on Thursday.

At least 2,909 people have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 6,242 reported Ebola cases over all, according to the latest report of the UN health agency. Nigeria and Senegal have recorded a total of eight deaths and 21 cases of infection.

More from Punch Nigeria:

… kills 200 people each day, says Ban

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has said the Ebola Virus Disease kills more than 200 people every day.

Ban made the statement on Thursday at a high-level meeting on EVD in the United States of America. Present at the meeting were President of the Republic of Guinea, Alpha Conde; President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Koroma; and the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The UN secretary-general called the world’s attention to the ravaging impact of the Ebola outbreak, saying that despite the “valiant efforts of local communities, health systems are buckling under the strain.”

The McClatchy Washington Bureau conveys pleas:

West Africa pleads for faster help to fight Ebola virus

The presidents of three West African nations pleaded Thursday for much faster help from the world in battling a deadly Ebola outbreak that’s killed nearly 3,000 people and might infect more than a million others in the coming months as the virus continues to spread.

“Partners and friends, based on understandable fears, have ostracized us,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said at a meeting on the Ebola crisis at the United Nations. “The world has taken some time to fully appreciate and adequately respond to the enormity of our tragedy.”

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, who took the drastic step Thursday of putting more than a million people under quarantine, said the disease his nation was fighting was “worse than terrorism.”

The president of Guinea, Alpha Conde, attended in person, while the presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone stayed in their countries and participated by video.

A video report from Reuters:

West African leaders call for more aid for Ebola at UN

Program note:

Discussions on combating the spread of the Ebola virus are dominating much of the talks at the United Nations, where the affected countries are demanding more aid. Nathan Frandino reports.

Sky News covers tragic resistance:

Ebola: Roadblocks To Stop Health Workers

  • More disease ‘hotspots’ are put under quarantine amid reports that locals are putting up barricades to stop health teams

Roadblocks have reportedly been set up by residents in ebola-hit Guinea in a bid to stop health teams entering the area.

The number of people to die from deadly virus in West Africa has risen to nearly 3,000 – almost half of those so far infected – and further ‘hotspots’ were put under quarantine in an attempt to halt its spread.

But in some areas of Guinea, where an ebola team was killed last week, there was still resistance to such efforts, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.  There are reports from the Fassankoni area that locals were setting up barricades to intercept ebola response teams trying to enter the region, WHO said.

Star Africa News covers the arrival of tangible help:

U.S donates Ebola protective gears to Liberian govt

The United States government Thursday turned over the first batch of 9,000 home protection kits to the Liberian government.

The presentation of the items was made by a representative of the US International Agency (USAID) to Information Minister Lewis Brown. It is part of a batch of 50,000 home protection kits the US government promised Liberia for its fight against the spread of the Ebola virus at the level of homes.

In remarks, Information Minister Lewis Brown commended the Americans saying the kits are intended to help Liberians prevent themselves from contracting the virus.

Star Africa News again, with boots on the ground:

Liberia receives additional US military personnel, supplies for anti-Ebola war

Another C-17 aircraft carrying 39 US military personnel and equipment have arrived in Liberia as part of efforts to help in the anti-Ebola fight in West Africa.

The 39 military personnel including 15 US Navy SeaBees and 24 Operation United Assistance (OUA) Headquarters personnel arrived in Liberia on Tuesday, according to a US embassy release issued here Thursday.

The SeaBees make up the US Navy Construction Battalion. The SeaBees will be conducting site assessments and providing mentorship for the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) construction teams, which will be charged with building additional Ebola Treatment Units (ETU). Discussions are underway on the sites for ETUs and how many will be built.

The release said the C-17 US military aircraft also brought in a tactical truck, a tent system and three pallets of medical supplies.

From the Independent, another facet of reality on the ground:

Ebola virus outbreak: ‘Just two doctors’ available to treat 85,000 people in Liberia county

There are just two doctors available to treat 85,000 people in the Bomi County of Liberia, one of the countries hardest hit by the deadly outbreak of Ebola.

The World Health Organisation said 2,917 people have died of Ebola out of 6,263 cases in the five West African countries affected by the disease. There were 99 deaths in Liberia between 17 and 21 September.

Recent worst-case estimates suggest a staggering 1.4 million people could be infected with Ebola by January in Liberia and Sierra Leone – more than ten per cent of their combined populations.

Similar problems in Nigeria from Punch Nigeria:

‘Only 13 pharmacists in Kwara’

Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Kwara State chapter, Mr. Francis Olayiwola, has said that the state government has only 13   pharmacists employed in 31 health institutions across the state.

Olayiwola said the level of pharmacist staffing in the state was “dangerously low.”

He said the situation had done harm to the people of the state and that it would do greater harm if not addressed urgently.

He spoke in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Thursday during a media briefing to mark the World Pharmacy Day.

Star Africa News wins support:

Liberia in $52m contract with UN agencies

The government of Liberia has signed a $52 million contractual agreement with four agencies of the United Nations to implement emergency Ebola response projects.The grant to support the intervention of the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Food Program and the United Nations Office for Project Services, was provided by the
World Bank in the amount of $52 million.

In remarks at the signing ceremony held Thursday in the capital Monrovia, Finance Minister Amara Konneh, who represented government, said the World Bank $52 million grant will be used to underwrite the operational cost of existing Ebola Treatment Units (ETU’s) for the next six months.

He further disclosed that the grant under the emergency Ebola response projects will also finance the construction of additional ETU’s as well as provide medical personnel and patients various necessities to combat the Ebola virus.

From Star Africa News, righteous anger:

Sierra Leone: Angry youths protest delay in burial of the dead

Some angry youths disrupted traffic in a part of the Sierra Leonean capital on Wednesday as a protest against delays in of burial of the dead by relatives.
Because of a state of emergency declaration, Sierra Leoneans have been banned from burying anyone, regardless of the cause of their deaths, unless with an official approval to do so.

This, the government said, is to ensure that all Ebola cases are identified and internment done properly, but also so that necessary quarantine measures are put in place.

As a result, dozens of bodies have been piling up across the country because of the inability of the relevant authorities to respond timely to suspected Ebola cases or dead bodies.

In some cases, bodies have spent over three days, and sometimes longer, awaiting a burial team. This poses serious health risk to not just the immediate family of the victims but the neighbours.

From BBC News, expanding the hot zone:

Sierra Leone widens Ebola quarantine to three more districts

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma has widened a quarantine to include another one million people in an attempt to curb the spread of Ebola.

The northern districts of Port Loko and Bombali, and Moyamba in the south, will in effect be sealed off immediately.

Mr Koroma’s announcement follows a three-day nationwide lockdown that ended on Sunday night.

Two eastern districts have been isolated since the beginning of August and the extension of the indefinite quarantine means more than a third of Sierra Leone’s 6.1 million population now finds itself unable to move freely.

From CCTV Africa, help from China:

Ebola: Over 60 Chinese Medics Working in Sierra Leone

Program notes:

China was among the first countries to send in medics to the Ebola-hit region. In recent days, it’s provided more help with nearly 60 medical personnel flying into Sierra Leone. They’ve rushed to set up a much-needed testing facility just outside the capital, Freetown. It’s due to begin operations this weekend. CCTV’s Nina DeVries reports

More Chinese help from Xinhua:

China vows to stand alongside Africa in fight against Ebola

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday said the people of China will always stand beside the African people in the fight against Ebola.

Wang made the pledge while addressing a high-level meeting on response to the outbreak of Ebola virus disease on the sidelines of the annual UN General Debate.

“The epidemic may be merciless, but people with love help each other,” said Wang. “The Chinese government has provided instantly drugs, medical equipment and other disease prevention and relief materials to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau.”

Star Africa News covers a funding increase:

W/Bank raises $400m for anti-Ebola effort

The World Bank on Thursday announced that it would nearly double its funds to Ebola-hit West Africa to $400 million to help address the emergency situation in the region and build stronger health systems for the future.The original funding by the World Bank was $230 million but a further $170 million has been cleared for the Ebola nations of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

“The global community is now responding with the urgency and the scale needed to begin to turn back this unprecedented Ebola crisis,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who was speaking on Thursday at a special session on the Ebola crisis at the United Nations in New York.

“The real challenge now is to bring care and treatment to the most remote areas as well as the cities and then to build a stronger health care system,” he added.

More help from Kyodo News:

Japan to boost aid for Ebola fight nearly 10-fold to $45 mil.

Japan will increase its aid to help West African countries fight the Ebola outbreak nearly tenfold to $45 million while also providing more protective equipment, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday.

Japan, which already provided some $5 million to help contain the virus, made the fresh offer at an emergency U.N. meeting that Secretary General Ban Ki Moon convened as the death toll topped 2,900 in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Abe said Japan will increase the supply of protective equipment including goggles for people fighting Ebola to 500,000 items, up from 20,000 decided earlier this month.

The Washington Post covers another Northerner healed:

Third American with Ebola, Richard Sacra, discharged from Nebraska hospital

Richard Sacra, the third American aid worker evacuated to the United States from West Africa to be treated for Ebola, has been discharged from the hospital.

Sacra was treated at Nebraska Medical Center after contracting the deadly virus in Liberia while he worked to deliver babies. He was not treating Ebola patients.

Two other Americans have been discharged after they were successfully treated for Ebola in the United States, including another medical doctor, Kent Brantly, who later donated a unit of blood, or convalescent serum, to Sacra.

From Punch Nigeria, the first of two origins stories:

Ebola: A death courier from unclear source

THERE is no known cure for Ebola. That is about a common knowledge now. But where did Ebola come from? The source of this messenger of death is apparently unknown too.

In some parts of Africa, myths that Ebola was brought to the regions by health care workers have hurt the ability of workers to respond to the outbreak. But where did Ebola really come from?

The true reservoir for Ebola — that is, where the virus hides when it’s not causing outbreaks in people — is not known for sure, but experts say that bats are the likely source of the deadly virus.

“There’s a strong circumstantial case, but we haven’t actually got a total smoking gun,” said Derek Gatherer, a bioinformatics researcher at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.

And the second, from RT America:

Accused: The US manufactured Ebola

Program notes:

The Liberian Daily Observer, which is the largest newspaper in Liberia, just published an article on their front page with the headline, “Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DoD?” The article basically accuses the US of manufacturing this Ebola outbreak in what they call an American Military-Medical-Industry scheme to use Africa as a testing ground for bioweapons. The Resident discusses.

The story in question is here.

For our concluding item, we would also note this story from the same paper:

2-Month-Old Baby Turns Into ‘Full Grown Man’

Residents of Foquelleh in Panta District in Bong County were said to have been in unbelievable shock when a two-month-old baby, identified by family members as Smith Freeman, Tuesday, September 23, morning grew into a full grown man and escaped into the bush with his mother’s lappa.

According to the mother of the child, Lorpu Kollie, 16, on Tuesday she and the child were on their way to the farm when the child on her back tied in lappa spoke to her and told her to put him down.

She told the Daily Observer that as they approached the crossroad, the child repeated his call on the mother to untie her lappa and put him down.   As soon as she put the baby down, she continued, the two-month-old boy instantaneously began to grow into a full grown man!

Lorpu Kollie narrated that the child informed her that he (the child) was on his way back home since his grandmother, Lorpu Kollie’s mother, was in the constant practice of raining insult at him.  He even threatened bring incense and garlic into the home.