Category Archives: Schools

And now for something completely different. . .


In this case, synchronized motion in Japan, both the human and the non-human varieties, captured in a pair of videos .

First up, from the Japan Times, the latest craze in public schools, namely human pyramid-building:

Human pyramids at school sports days spark safety concerns

From the accompanying article:

As school sports days get underway, students have resumed making large human pyramids, raising concerns about the risk of serious injury.

Teachers have begun posting photos and videos online of students forming structures with as many as 10 tiers.

Despite the dangers, schools have students build the human pyramids for the sake of “the feeling of achieving it all together,” according to Ryo Uchida, an associate professor at Nagoya University and an expert on school injuries.

“Teachers like to have students do it because it’s a dramatic showpiece of their daily endeavors, practicing it in classes and showing it to parents at their sports day,” Uchida said. “But when you think of a 10-tier pyramid, for example, the one at the top could fall from a level as high as 7 meters and each student in the lowest tier has to support a weight that can reach 200 kg.”

And from Agence France-Presse, the perfect cheerleaders for such displays of coordinated movement:

Japan showcases cheerleading robots

Program notes:

A team of cheerleading robots make their dancing debut in Tokyo as creator Murata Manufacturing demonstrates its cutting-edge sensor technology.

EbolaWatch: Dire warnings, campaigns, a song


We begin today’s coverage of the plague now stalking Africa with a dire prediction from Deutsche Welle:

Virologist: Fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia is lost

  • The killer virus is spreading like wildfire, Liberia’s defense minister said on Tuesdayas he pleaded for UN assistance. A German Ebola expert tells DW the virus must “burn itself out” in that part of the world.

Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg told DW that he and his colleagues are losing hope for Sierra Leone and Liberia, two of the countries worst hit by the recent Ebola epidemic.

“The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed,” he said. That time was May and June. “Now it is too late.”

Schmidt-Chanasit expects the virus will “burn itself out” in this part of the world. With other words: It will more or less infect everybody and half of the population – in total about five million people – could die.

Another apocalyptic warning, via Punch Nigeria:

2.1m Nigerians at risk —Report

A new research study by Britain’s University of Oxford has revealed that 2.1 million Nigerians are at risk of contracting the Ebola Virus Disease.

According to the latest study published on Monday, the Ebola virus can spread to at least 15 more countries in West and Central Africa, pushing up overall number of people at risk of infection to 70 million.

The research titled, ‘Mapping the zoonotic niche of Ebola virus disease in Africa,’ compared historic outbreaks to the virus’s possible transmission in bats and chimpanzees to project how the virus could spread through its animal reservoir.

The Associated Press tallies:

35 deaths attributed to Ebola outbreak in Congo

The World Health Organization says that an Ebola outbreak in Congo is thought to have killed 35 people of the more than 60 sickened.

Congo, the site of the world’s first recorded Ebola outbreak, has had several flare-ups of the disease over the years. Officials say the current outbreak is not related to another taking place in West Africa blamed for the deaths of more than 2,200 people.

The U.N. health agency said Thursday that the Congo outbreak is concentrated in one county, and all of the 62 people believed to have contracted Ebola so far have been linked to one initial case. It said isolation units have been set up in each of the four affected villages, in a remote area of the Central African country’s northwest.

From France 24, World Health Organization Ebola specialist Dr. Zabulon Yoti discusses measures needed to contain the outbreak [despite the title, that’s the focus]:

Ebola Epidemic – West African economies overwhelmed

From Punch Nigeria, enlisting support:

Yero meets religious leaders on anti-Ebola plans

Governor Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna State  on Thursday  held a meeting with Christian and Muslim  leaders to sensitise them  on the Ebola virus disease.

Yero, who noted that it was  part of efforts to curtail  the spread of the deadly virus to the state, also told the religious leaders that the government would train 13,000 teachers in both private and public schools in the state before the September 22 resumption date for schools on how to handle the Ebola issue.

Speaking further on the Ebola virus, the governor said since the virus was a “special disease”, government would also place special emphasis on tackling its spread to the state.

Yero cautioned the media against sensationalising the disease in their reportage, noting that rather, the media should be in the vanguard of  educating and enlightening residents of the state on the virus.

Liberian Observer conveys a recommendation:

‘Include Ebola Survivors on Task Forces’

  • WHO Consultant Suggests

A health consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO) assigned in Grand Cape Mount County, Dr. Akpaka Kalu, has called for the inclusion of Ebola survivors on the National Ebola Taskforce to educate citizens about the danger and prevention of the disease.

Dr. Kalu made the recommendation during the county’s Ebola Taskforce coordination meeting held on Wednesday in Sinje Town, Garwula District.

According to him, the inclusion of survivors on the taskforce was important, “because the survivors should be used as psycho-social counselors in the fight against the deadly epidemic.”

“Instead of bringing survivors on the taskforce,” Dr. Kalu lamented that unfortunately, the survivors are being stigmatized by Liberians rather than looking at them as resourced persons to educate others about the danger of the virus.

The Monrovia Inquirer covers an assessment:

Samukai Outlines Effects Of Ebola…Wants Support To Lift Travel Ban

Defense Minisrer, Brownie Samukai has outlined the effects of the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia.

Delivering a special statement at the United Nations Security Council, on Tuesday Minister Samukai said this “health emergency is affecting every sector of the Liberian society.”

Min. Samukai added that the nation’s economy has been very seriously disrupted. He said Local economic activities such as domestic food production, mining, and transport services have been undermined.

“Moreover, the slowdown in domestic food production, particularly in affected areas of the country, has negatively impacted food supply, thus triggering increasing demand for imported commodities, at higher prices, minister Samukai said.

From the Liberian Observer, some good news:

Firestone Medical Center Discharges 6 Ebola Survivors

The Firestone Medical Center in Duside on September 2 and 9, discharged six survivors from its Ebola Treatment Unit. The first patient, Madam Jenneh Farsue, the wife of a Firestone Liberia employee, contracted the deadly Ebola virus in July/August. She was discharged following several weeks of intensive medical care at the Firestone Hospital and after testing negative of the virus. Five more persons were discharged and reintegrated from Isolation into the communities on the 9th of September.

In addition to the hospital and Ebola Treatment Unit, Firestone Liberia also runs a reintegration program to help those returning to the community following isolation or treatment for Ebola. Speaking at the reintegration program for Mrs. Farsue in Division 28, Cubitts Community, Dr. Lyndon G. Mabande, the Medical Director of the Firestone Health Services, called on residents of the community to interact with Mrs. Farsue as they used to do and accept her back into the community because she is healthy. He described her recovery as “a true success story in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.”

He called on his fellow teammates, residents and the general public to adhere to the preventive measures stipulated by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the World Health Organization (WHO). Mabande further appealed to Liberians to stop the denial syndrome so people can be treated early, a key in the fight against Ebola. “Come to the hospital soon. If you come soon, with all we can put together, you may come home saved,” Dr. Mabande said. He also commended the medical staff for their work in the fight against this disease. “Let us continue to cooperate. If we work in isolation, we are not going to succeed, and it requires team work,” he told the gathering.

Punch Nigeria covers anger over austerity on the front lines:

Ebola outbreak: Anger in Lagos infectious diseases hospital

Members of staff of the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, have expressed anger over the impending removal of the hazard allowance component of their September salary. Sources within the hospital told our correspondent that the Lagos State government has excised the allowance, which has been paid for years in the September payroll.

“We have sighted the payroll for September already and there is no provision for this allowance which has been paid to us for more than four years. This is really terrible. If government wants to remove anybody’s allowance, should it be from us workers at the IDH? What kind of problem is this?” one of the workers of the hospital lamented.

Earlier, volunteers at the isolation ward had protested the non-payment of their daily allowance since August 30.

New Europe lends a hand:

UN allocates $3.8 million to support a UN air service operating in Ebola-struck West Africa

The United Nations humanitarian chief has allocated $3.8 million from an emergency fund to support a U.N. air service operating in the Ebola-struck West African region.

Valerie Amos said Wednesday that a reduction in commercial air flights as a result of the Ebola outbreak has hindered the urgent deployment of health workers and supplies.

She said the $3.8 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund will assist the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service, run by the World Food Program, to move humanitarian personnel, medical supplies and equipment and aid rapidly to remote locations in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

After the jump, a call for a military-like response from the North, anxieties over U.S. military “help,” a warning about corruption, Ebola fears Down Under, and another musical response. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Anguish, limited responses, fear


The nightmare continues to unfold, with fears of social and political breakdown, plus a few modest offers of help from the developed world, too little and too late to have any significant short-term impacts.

Once again we a relying heavily on African media in an effort to counter the heavily North-centered approach of of media in the U.S. and Europe.

First up, via the Guardian, eloquent anxiety:

Ebola threatening Liberia’s existence, minister warns

  • Virus spreading like wildfire, defence minister tells UN security council, as WHO warns far more beds are needed

Ebola is threatening the very existence of Liberia as the virus spreads like “wildfire”, the country’s defence minister, Brownie Samukai, has warned, following a World Health Organisation assessment that the worst is yet to come.

After predicting an “exponential increase” in infections across west Africa, the WHO warned that Liberia, which has accounted for half of all deaths, could initially only hope to slow the contagion, not stop it.

“Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence,” Samukai told a meeting of the UN security council on Tuesday. The disease is “now spreading like wildfire, devouring everything in its path”, he said.

More from the Liberian Observer:

‘Ebola Is A Threat to Int’l. Peace and Security’

  • Dr. D. Elwood Dunn; Wants Security Council Resolution to that Effect

Dr. D. Elwood Dunn, a retired African academic and former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in Liberia, has declared that the Ebola crisis is “a threat to international peace and security.”

For this reason, he has called for a United Nations Security Council Resolution declaring the Ebola situation a threat to international peace and security and calling forth the requisite measures to containing the threat.”

The world at this time, he declared, needs a critical international collaborative crisis leadership to arrest this horrific epidemic.

And from the Liberian Observer again, another impact:

‘President Needs to Suspend Article 83a’

  • To Postpone October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial Election

Senate Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley has stated that although members of the Senate have overwhelming agreed with the National Elections Commission (NEC) that it is not feasible to conduct free and fair elections on October 14, 2014, the final decision to postpone the election lies with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The Senate last Thursday unanimously endorsed an NEC communication to that body, warning that under the prevailing circumstances, elections must be postponed, noting that it was not with the Senate to make the final decision.

Pro Tempore Findley, one of 15 Senators whose seats are up for grabs, made a passionate argument last Thursday before his colleagues that it was not practical, prudent or logical to call for elections in October when those who should be voting are dying in their numbers because of the Ebola epidemic.

And from FrontPageAfrica, an interview with a man on the front line:

FPA WEB TV: Fighting Ebola without Fear

Program note:

Emergency Response Worker discusses challenges of picking Ebola dead in Liberia.

From RT, another shrieking alarm:

15 more countries at risk of Ebola contamination – Oxford University

The deadly Ebola virus could spread to 15 new countries, according to calculations made by Oxford University. This is because there are species of fruit bat that are suspected of carrying the disease without displaying symptoms.

The new study is published in the eLife journal, and examines how the disease could spread through the animal kingdom and to human beings.

Fruit bats can carry the disease without showing any signs of it, and are able to migrate and transfer it to other animals, for example monkeys and rodents.

“A total of 51 surveyed locations reporting infections in animals were identified in the literature since the discovery of the disease. These comprised 17 infections in gorillas (Gorilla gorilla), nine infections in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), 18 in OWFB (old world fruit bat) and two in duikers,” the study says.

StarAfrica issues another call for action:

Ghana’s defence minister urges collective efforts to tackle Ebola menace

Ghana’s Minister of Defence, Dr. Benjamin Kubuor, has described the Ebola menace in West Africa as “a very worrying situation that requires the collective efforts of all.”

Speaking at the opening of the 34th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CCDS), which opened in Accra, Ghana on Tuesday, Kubuor said: “It is for the this reason that the Chair of ECOWAS and Ghanaian President Mr. John Dramani Mahama, has made Accra, Ghana the distribution point for the supply of Ebola support in the sub-region.”

“It is for you service chiefs to also use this forum to discuss how you can assist the civilian population to strategize towards stemming the spread of this virus,” a statement by the ECOWAS Commission on Wednesday in Abuja quoted the minister as saying.

The minister expressed profound appreciation to the World Health Organization and other partners for their support in the handling of the Ebola epidemic.

And from TheLocal.fr, panic in the North:

Air France pilots won’t fly to Ebola-hit countries

Panicked pilots at Air France are refusing to fly to Ebola-hit countries, just weeks after flight attendants at France’s flagship carrier objected to flying to West African countries battling the deadly virus.

The pilots’ protest comes just weeks after a trade union representing Air France cabin crew launched a petition to persuade company chiefs to stop flying to Ebola-hit countries Guinea and Sierra Leone until the crisis is under control.

But according to Julien Duboz, a spokesperson for a union representing Air France’s pilots (SPAF), the number of pilots who will actually choose not to fly is very small.

Pilots who choose to fly to these destinations “come back convinced of the necessity of being able to fly in safety when they see what measures have been put in place,” Duboz said, according to Le Monde.

From the Guardian, a call for Down Under action:

Ebola: Australia must provide more support to tackle crisis, AMA says

  • Professor says government should be as quick to help the WHO stop the outbreak as it was to join efforts against Isis in Iraq

Australia must provide greater support to tackle the ongoing Ebola crisis in west Africa, the head of the Australian Medical Association has said.

With the death toll from the virus close to 2,300, Professor Brian Owler said the government needed to outline how it would help the World Health Organisation (WHO) in tackling the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

“What we are witnessing is an evolving humanitarian crisis in west Africa and the international community needs to step up its support,” Owler said on Wednesday.

“If we don’t, the human cost will be enormous, there will be an increased spread to other areas and I’m sure the call will come from WHO in the next few days for Australia to lend its support so we need to be ready.”

From BBC News, another tepid response:

New money added to emergency response to Ebola outbreak

More money has been announced to help the emergency response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Gates Foundation is committing $50m to help step up efforts to tackle the deadly virus in the affected countries.

This comes on top of other funds announced by the UK and US governments, as well as the European Union. But some aid charities say that the most urgent need in Africa is for expert teams in bio-hazard containment.

And another, via the Associated Press:

US gives ambulances to Sierra Leone to fight Ebola

The United States donated five ambulances Wednesday to help Sierra Leone’s fight against Ebola as the West African government acknowledged it can take up to 24 hours to pick up bodies in the spiraling crisis.

More than 2,200 deaths throughout West Africa have been attributed to Ebola amid the worst outbreak of the disease in history. The sick have been using motorcycle taxis and other public transport to get to hospitals, further increasing the risk of transmitting the disease that kills about half its victims.

Kathleen FitzGibbon of the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone handed President Ernest Bai Koroma the keys to five ambulances Wednesday. The U.S. has spent more than $100 million responding to the outbreak.

Punch Nigeria covers another consequence:

Ebola survivors lose accommodation, jobs ? Lagos

Lagos State Government on Tuesday says it will not hesitate to prosecute any resident that stigmatises survivors of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.

It was learnt that the government took the decision after a complaint of stigmatisation was made by two of the nine survivors, who were also certified free from EVD.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, said on Tuesday during a press briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, that the government was determined to ensure that Ebola survivors were reintegrated into the society.

While Deutsche Welle warns of dangers ahead:

Unstoppable: is Ebola mutating with unknown consequences before our eyes?

US President Barack Obama says the Ebola virus, currently attacking western Africa, could mutate – making it even more dangerous. The virus has already changed its genome, with unknown consequences.

“Even a single change in the genome can have huge consequences,” says Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a virologist at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg.

He confirms that mutations can increase the contagiousness of a virus.

Mutations could also make the illness break out sooner, or alternate the course of the disease – increasing the potential of a patient’s developing encephalitis. The disease could also become airborne. And that would be disastrous: the infection rate would increase exponentially.

StarAfrica calls out the troops:

ECOWAS rallies military support against Ebola scourge

The ECOWAS Commission has called on the defence forces of its member states to lend their professional support towards defeating the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which has claimed more than 2,000 lives from almost 4,000 cases reported in the region from March 2014.

The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, told the 34th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CCDS), which opened in Accra, Ghana that the disease “if not adequately addressed would have far reaching devastating consequences for the development of the region”.

A statement issued by the ECOWAS Commission on Wednesday in Abuja said that the commissioner called for “collective efforts in assisting and supporting member states whose populations are facing the menace of this dangerous disease,” and the contribution of the CCDS in battling the heath crisis.

Science covers diminished expectations from another military response:

In Liberia, disappointment at U.S. military’s planned Ebola response

When President Barack Obama spoke about the U.S. military helping combat the Ebola epidemic on NBC News’s Meet the Press this past Sunday, Tim Flanigan, an American clinician working in Monrovia, says he was “ecstatic.” It was exactly what many of the people leading the Ebola effort in Liberia, the hardest hit country, had been hoping for. But that joy turned to dismay the next day, when Flanigan learned the details of the Pentagon’s plans.

Obama pledged “to get U.S. military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world.” On Monday, a Pentagon representative said the military planned to send only a $22 million, 25-bed field hospital to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. “It’s not going to make any dent in Ebola treatment for the people of Liberia,” Flanigan warns. “It’s such a small number of beds and they may well be directed toward non-Liberians.”

From Punch Nigeria, when contagion trumps tradition:

Ondo assembly passes bill on cremation

As a step towards stemming the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease, the Ondo State House of Assembly has passed the law for the disposal of bodies by cremation and for other matters connected.

The bill was presented to the House by the state governor,   Olusegun Mimiko, last week, and the third reading was done on Tuesday following an accelerated consideration.

Presenting the report, Chairman of the House Committee on Health, Bamidele Oleyelogun, said the committee had on Monday organised a public hearing to enable all stakeholders make their input before the passage of the bill.

And from the Washington Post, looking at a single vector:

A single doorknob can contaminate up to 60 percent of people in a building in 4 hours

Viruses can spread from a single doorknob to 40 to 60 percent of surfaces and people in a building in just a few hours, according to a new study.

Researchers put a tracer virus on one or two surfaces in a building (for example a doorknob or push plate) at the beginning of the day. And after two to four hours, the virus could be detected on a majority of commonly touched surfaces such as light switches, coffee pot handles, phones and computers.

“We actually put a virus on a push plate in an office building of 80 people, had three entrances, and within four hours it ended up on over half the people’s hands, and it ended up on over half the surfaces that people touched in that building,” said University of Arizona researcher Charles Gerba, who presented the study at the 54th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy on Monday.

“What we really learned was the hand is quicker than the sneeze in the spread of disease,” Gerba said during his presentation.

Punch Nigeria covers a preventative measure:

Ebola: Private schools demand children’s medical clearance

The National Association of Private School Proprietors, Kano State branch, has directed parents to bring medical clearance of their children to school authorities on resumption.

The President of the association, Dr Jibril Muhammad, gave the directive while briefing newsmen in Kano on Wednesday.

He said the decision was taken at the executive meeting of the association as part of measures to curtail the spread of the Ebola virus among school children.

From Punch Nigeria again, another school, another call:

Ebola: Parents call on OAU students to take caution

Following reports that a student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife was suspected to have the Ebola Virus Disease, parents on Wednesday made calls to their wards to be cautious.

It would be recalled that a female student of OAU was on Tuesday quarantined after she allegedly confessed that she had a contact with the late Port Harcourt doctor, Iyke Enemuo.

Enemuo died of the EVD after he secretly treated an infected ECOWAS diplomat, Olu-Ibukun Koye, in a hotel in the Rivers State capital.

StarAfrica covers cases cleared:

Malawi screens 155 travellers from Ebola nations

Data from Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in the capital Lilongwe has shown that in August only 155 travellers from Ebola affected countries had been screened, according to the Minister of Health Dr Jean Kalirani.She told journalists in the capital Lilongwe on Wednesday that 43 percent of the travellers were put on surveillance for a period of 21 days to check if they develop signs and symptoms of the disease.

“None of these people had shown any signs and symptoms of Ebola. We will continue with this surveillance so that we remain an Ebola free country,” she said.

Out of the total number of screened people, 67 percent were Malawians who travelled to the affected countries to attend workshops and conferences, she added.

And from TheLocal.it, Europe breathes more freely yet again:

‘Ebola’ patient in Italy has malaria

Doctors in the central Italian region of Marche have said that the Nigerian resident in Italy who was hospitalized on Tuesday with suspected Ebola is suffering from malaria.

The woman, who had recently returned from a visit to Nigeria, was hospitalized in Ancona and was undergoing tests in a specialist unit to establish whether she has contracted a virus which has killed more than 2,000 people since the start of the year.

The 42-year-old Nigerian resident in Italy had a fever above 38 degrees, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting.

“She is presenting with symptoms that could be those of Ebola,” a spokesman for the local authorities in the central Le Marche region was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

From the Monrovia Inquirer, Liberian survivors:

Five Suspected Ebola Patients Cleared

The Firestone Medical Center yesterday reintegrated five Ebola survivors into society declaring them free of the deadly disease.

Speaking at the reintegration program held in Camp One, Harbel, Margibi County, the Medical Director of Firestone Health Services, Dr. Lyndon Mabande, said health workers are going beyond their borders to save lives.

He stressed that residents in various communities across Liberia must stop discouraging and frightening health workers but to support and encourage them to continue saving lives. Dr. Mabande is encouraging Liberians to restrict their movements and take the necessary preventive measures as prescribed by the Ministry of Health.

For our final item, another survivor and another country, via StarAfrica:

Ebola-hit Guinean treated in Dakar has been cured – official

The results of the two last tests on the Ebola-hit Guinean national admitted into Fann hospital in Dakar since late August have proved negative, according to Dr Pape Abdoulaye Diack, the Director of Health at the ministry of Health and Social Action.

“Senegal has been successful in treating the case, which shows evidence about the efficacy of our health system. Twice the tests on the young Guinean have proved negative,” Dr Diack said.

He reassured that there is no more Ebola case presently in Senegal while calling for further efforts to reinforce the prevention system.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, and nuclear woes


Long compendium today, so we open right up with this from the Associated Press:

Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

Senegalese authorities on Monday were monitoring everyone who was in contact with a student infected with Ebola who crossed into the country, and who has lost three family members to the disease.

An Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 1,500 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The university student is Senegal’s first case of the dreaded disease.

The 21-year-old left Guinea on Aug. 15, just days after his brother died of the disease, according to Guinea’s Health Ministry. It said that the brother apparently caught Ebola in Sierra Leone.

We thought we’d look at local papers for a better sense of what the epidemic feels like to journalists there. First this from Punch in Lagos, Nigeria:

Ebola: Three new suspected cases in Port Harcourt

Three people have been taken to the Ebola Virus Disease   quarantine centre at Oduoha, Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The State Commissioner for Health, Sampson Parker, made this known on Sunday just as the Federal Government said another emergency meeting of the National Council of Health over the EVD would hold in Abuja today. The last meeting took place on August 11, 2014.

Parker, who addressed journalists,   said those quarantined were   a doctor, a pharmacist and a woman who came into contact with Dr. Iyke Enemuo, who died of the virus in Port Harcourt on August 22.

A related story from Leadership, another Nigerian paper:

Rivers Doctor: 60 Ebola Contacts Yet To Be Found

The Rivers State government has said about 60 people, out of close to 200 that had primary and secondary contacts with the late Dr Ikechukwu Sam Enemuo, who died of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Port Harcourt, the state capital, are yet to be found.

Also, the state government has placed a ban on the movement of corpses within and outside the state without death certificates and explanations on the cause of such deaths, and has directed the police to demand such documents from ambulances conveying such corpses in the state.

This is as the state governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, will today meet with leaders of churches in the state, while a meeting with the traditional rulers will hold tomorrow, Tuesday, over the spread of the Ebola virus in the state.

The Associated Press covers another side-effect:

9 African wrestlers barred from worlds championships

The governing body of wrestling says nine athletes cannot compete at the upcoming world championships because of travel restrictions imposed since the Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa.

FILA says the ruling by the Uzbekistan health ministry affects seven wrestlers from Nigeria and two from Sierra Leone.

The decision follows similar travel bans imposed by China and Russia ahead of the recent Youth Olympic Games and judo worlds.

From International Business Times, another border closes:

Saudi Arabia Stops Issuing Visas To Workers From Ebola-Stricken Nations

Saudi Arabia announced Monday it has temporarily stopped granting visas to workers from the countries most ravaged by the Ebola outbreak. The decision follows repeated incidents in the past month that raised fears the hemorrhagic fever could spread to the Middle Eastern nation.

Saudi Arabia’s labor ministry has temporarily stopped issuing visas to laborers from the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Agence France-Presse reported. The three nations have seen the highest death tolls in the current Ebola outbreak, which was first detected in Guinea in March.

The visa ban was described as a “preventative measure,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported. Saudi Arabia had already instituted a ban in April on Muslim pilgrims visiting from the three nations because of concern the disease could spread as thousands of people descend on Mecca for early October’s hajj.

From StarAfrica, a blackout imposed:

Sudan bans reporting on Ebola

The Sudanese authorities have prohibited local media from covering any news related to the Ebola virus.Press sources who asked not to be mentioned for security reasons confirmed to APA on Saturday that the security authorities have circulated warning to all media outlets not to publish any news or articles related to the transmission of the Ebola virus in Sudan.

The prohibition came after local media reported on some suspected cases of Ebola in the west of Sudan.

The Minister of Health Affairs for the Darfur Regional Authority, Firdos Abdel Rahman Yousif denied reports of the deadly Ebola virus disease in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur State.

From New Dawn in Monrovia, another lack:

Ebola Survivors Lack Clothes

Health authorities at the Eternal Love Wins Africa or (ELWA) Hospital have disclosed that Ebola survivors leaving the treatment center do not have clothes to wear. Medical Director Dr. Jerry Brown, said nurses usually dress survivors in veils as they leave the hospital compound due to lack of clothes. Dr. Brown made the disclosure when the Citizens Organized for Transparency and Accountability (COPTA) presented items valued over US$5,000 to the ELWA Isolation Unit 2.

He appealed to well-meaning Liberians and NGOs to assist the unit with clothes for survivors to wear when leaving the hospital. But a non-governmental organization, Smile Liberia International, has promised to provide clothes for survivals returning home. An executive of the group, Ms. Fasiah Harris, said Smile Liberia in collaboration with COPTA will continue to provide needed services for Liberians.

COPTA is a local partner to Smile Liberia International and some Liberians working with the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC. The project coordinator Christine Brooks-Jarrett said COPTA is an organization working to ensure a better Liberia in which leaders can be held accountable to the people in the discharge of their services.

National Geographic offers a reminder:

Doctors and Nurses Risk Everything to Fight Ebola in West Africa

  • Foreign and local caregivers are essential to stopping the virus’s deadly spread

In two Land Rovers, one fitted out as an ambulance, a small team of humanitarian workers last week headed deep into Sierra Leone’s jungle. After hours on deeply rutted paths that could barely be called roads, they stopped at a village that had seen ten reported cases of Ebola.

With the consent of the village chief, the team fanned out across the community, asking at each hut if anyone was feeling ill or had made contact with the earlier patients. At one, they found a mother nursing a seven-month-old, even though she had experienced bouts of bloody diarrhea and a fever of 102°F—possible signs of Ebola. A quick conversation revealed that the mother had recently attended the same funeral as the ten patients.

The aid workers knew right away they had to get the woman away from her village. It would improve her chances of recovery, even though those chances hovered at only about 30 percent. And it would protect her baby and husband, and the entire community, because Ebola is easily passed through bodily fluids such as diarrhea, vomit, and blood.

BBC News updates:

British Ebola patient ‘pretty well’

The parents of the first British person to contract Ebola during the outbreak in West Africa say he is recovering well.

William Pooley, 29, has spent the last week in a special isolation unit at Royal Free Hospital in London.

His parents, Robin and Jackie, say they knew he was improving when he ordered a “bacon butty” and praised the “world class” care at the hospital.

More than 1,500 people have died since the outbreak started in Guinea.

From the Wall Street Journal, a clearance:

Stockholm Patient Does Not Have Ebola

But Test Results Awaited on Another Suspected Case in Spain

Tests results have shown that a man who was hospitalized in Sweden on Sunday as a suspected Ebola case isn’t carrying the potentially deadly virus, Stockholm County Council health officials said in a news release on Monday.

An unidentified young man sought treatment for high fever and stomach pains at a local health clinic in Stockholm on Sunday evening.

After medical staff learned that he had recently visited a West African country affected by the Ebola virus, he was transferred to medical isolation at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital.

ABC News initiates:

Human Trial for Ebola Vaccine to Begin This Week

The first human trial for an investigational Ebola vaccine is set to begin this week.

The ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa prompted the National Institutes of Health to expedite safety testing for several vaccines already in the works. Since March, the deadly virus has killed 1,552 people, according to the World Health Organization, which predicted last week that the virus could infect 20,000 people in the next six months.

An Ebola vaccine is different from the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, which two Americans received last month and is designed to treat an existing Ebola infection rather than prevent one.

“There is an urgent need for a protective Ebola vaccine, and it is important to establish that a vaccine is safe and spurs the immune system to react in a way necessary to protect against infection,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

From StarAfrica, getting ready:

Malawi MPs to table Ebola preparedness

Members of the Malawi Parliament are expected to discuss and look at the country’s preparedness for containing the Ebola disease which is rampaging across West Africa.Parliament’s Health Committee Chairperson Juliana Lunguzi said on Monday in Lilongwe that the parliamentarians need to look at measures which government through the Ministry of Health have put in place to prepare for any eventuality.

“We need to know what has been put in place as a country in terms of preventive measures in entry points, border districts and capacity-building for caregivers” she declared.

She said that Malawi needs to be alert because the disease is gradually spreading across the borders of the region.

Reuters notes the obvious but often uncommented upon:

Poor response to Ebola causing needless deaths: World Bank head

The world’s “disastrously inadequate response” to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak means many people are dying needlessly, the head of the World Bank said on Monday, as Nigeria confirmed another case of the virus.

In a newspaper editorial, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Western healthcare facilities would easily be able to contain the disease, and urged wealthy nations to share the knowledge and resources to help African countries tackle it.

“The crisis we are watching unfold derives less from the virus itself and more from deadly and misinformed biases that have led to a disastrously inadequate response to the outbreak,” Kim wrote in the Washington Post.

Off to another continue and the update on another outbreak via the Asahi Shimbun:

19 new cases of dengue fever reported

Health ministry officials on Sept. 1 confirmed 19 new cases of dengue fever, bringing the total to 22 in a country that had not seen domestic infections of the disease for about 70 years.

The disease was found in individuals living in Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Kanagawa and Niigata prefectures. None of the patients has ever been abroad, but all had recently visited Yoyogi Park in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.

Officials said the outbreak was likely caused by mosquitoes carrying the virus in the vicinity of the park.

We begin today’s water woes with the South China Morning Post:

Toxic waste mountains threaten Southeast Asia’s booming megacities

From Jakarta’s Bantar Gebang dump to Manila’s “smoky mountain”, open landfills blight Southeast Asia’s booming megacities, as urban planners labour to keep pace with rapid urbanisation and industrial growth.

Experts warn those dumps are an environmental and health time bomb.

Open dumping “offers a quick and easy solution in the short run”, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific says in a study, warning of severe environmental problems and long-term health issues caused by contaminated water and land.

Of Thailand’s 2,500 open rubbish pits, just a fifth are properly managed, according to its Pollution Control Department. The rest are at the mercy of illegal dumping – including of hazardous waste – fires and seepage into nearby land and water systems.

TheLocal.de covers a warm water invader up north:

Vacationer killed by Baltic Sea bacteria

  • Six people were infected with a bacteria from the Caribbean which has made itself at home in the popular German vacation destination. One of them is now in a coma.

The bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus, is found in parts of the Baltic Sea and other regions of the world, though most-concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico. It spreads best in brackish waters with temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius.

“This could be found anywhere as long as the conditions are right,” Dr. Heiko Will, the first director of State Office of Health and Welfare (LAGuS) of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, told The Local. “It is just as prevalent in Denmark, Poland, and all along the German coast.”

The victim had been holidaying on the island of Usedom at the end of July, according (LAGuS). He passed away at the beginning of August.  Another pensioner has been in a coma for three weeks and there is a possibility he will lose a leg. He went swimming near Ahrenshoop with a small open wound on his leg. He went to the hospital after noticing on the drive home that his leg had turned blue. Doctors diagnosed blood poisoning caused by Vibrio vulnificus.

From Al Jazeera America, another invader off the Golden State:

On Calif. coast, biotoxins cause deadly sea lion seizures, seafood scare

  • An outbreak of algae-produced biotoxins that attack animals’?? brains also poses a grave risk to humans

The culprit? Domoic acid, a deadly neurotoxin produced by algae, that appeared at record high levels along California’s Central Coast this spring and summer, closing fisheries and taking the lives of many marine mammals. But toxic algae isn’t just limited to California– this summer various toxic blooms have poisoned coastlines across America, including Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico.

While the algae in Monterey, produced by the Pseudo-nitzschia genus of phytoplankton, are a common occurrence along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines and around the world, its production of domoic acid is not.

First discovered in 1987 when 107 people on Prince Edward Island fell ill after eating mussels harboring domoic acid, the algae occasionally produce this deadly toxin, which scientists believe is triggered by changing ocean conditions and surges of nitrogen into bodies of water.

Another California water woe from the University of California Newsroom:

Drying Sierra meadows could worsen California drought

Carpeting the high valleys of Yosemite and other parts of the Sierra Nevada, mountain meadows are more than an iconic part of the California landscape. The roughly 17,000 high altitude meadows help regulate the release of Sierra snow melt into rivers and streams.

But climate change and California’s severe drought threaten to permanently alter these fragile and important ecosystems, according to research by Chelsea Arnold, who was awarded a doctorate in environmental systems from UC Merced in May. Her findings reveal that soil changes already are taking place that could have long-term implications for California’s water supply.
Impact of extreme weather

Arnold’s research found that meadows in the Central Sierra near Yosemite are drying out as a result of several years of unusual variation in climate and snowfall.

“What we’re seeing is that all kinds of extreme weather, including one dry winter like the one we just had, can totally change the structure of the soil,” Arnold said. “Part of that is an irreversible change.”

Under normal conditions, a mountain meadow acts like a sponge. Organic material in the soil allows the meadow to hold water, which is filtered and slowly released to mountain streams. Samples collected by Arnold and her colleagues found that the larger pores which trap and hold moisture are disappearing, to be replaced with smaller, more compact pores through which water doesn’t easily flow.

As meadows dry out, flooding in wet years is likely to increase. And in drought years, parched meadows could result in less snowmelt reaching streams, exacerbating the state’s already precarious water situation.

And another from the New York Times:

Desperately Dry California Tries to Curb Private Drilling for Water

California’s vicious, prolonged drought, which has radically curtailed most natural surface water supplies, is making farmers look deeper and deeper underground to slake their thirst. This means the drought is a short-term bonanza for firms like Arthur & Orum, which expects to gross as much as $3 million this year.

But in a drought as long and severe as the current one, over-reliance on groundwater means that land sinks, old wells go dry, and saltwater invades coastal aquifers. Aquifers are natural savings accounts, a place to go when the streams run dry. Exhaust them, and the $45 billion annual agricultural economy will take a severe hit, while small towns run dry.

Yet for a century, farmers believed that the law put control of groundwater in the hands of landowners, who could drill as many wells as deeply as they wanted, and court challenges were few.

That just changed. The California Legislature, in its closing hours on Friday, passed new and sweeping groundwater controls. The measures do not eliminate private ownership, but they do establish a framework for managing withdrawals through local agencies.

After jump, water woes in Mexico, ice caps on both poles in epic retreat, a decade-long drought looms in the American Southwest, Mediterranean tsunami dangers, Japanese dolphin slaughter, branding environmentalists as terrorists, volcanic eruptions in both hemisphere, a species extinction commemorated, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now! Continue reading

Video reports: As seen from overseas


First up, from China’s CCTV America, a report on America’s record rate of people needed helping putting food on the table:

U.S. is at [Greater] Risk of Hunger Than Ever Before

Next up, a report from RT America on weekend global protests targeting an American corporate giant:

Anti-Monsanto protests hit streets around the world

Program notes:

Protesters from 52 countries and 436 cities participated in Anti-Monsanto, Anti-Genetically Modified Foods rallies over the weekend. Activists rallied, marched and held speeches to demand for GM foods to be labeled or banned altogether. RT Correspondent Meghan Lopez was at the March Against Monsanto in Washington, D.C. over the weekend and brings us her report.

Finally, from Britain’s Channel 4 News, a move to exclude American authors from reading lists in the nation’s school system:

Michael Gove vs American literature

Program notes:

The Education Secretary Michael Gove had said he wanted to see more British authors studied. It’s meant Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill and Mockingbird’ and Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ are now excluded.

Headlines: Bubbles, bull, bile, pols, threatcetera


Today’s compilation of things economic, political, and ecologic begins with a bubble inflating, via the San Francisco Chronicle:

S.F. hot housing prices back, bidding wars fiercer than ever

Prices have climbed 33 percent since 2011, with many neighborhoods exceeding that.

And while bidding wars have long been part of buying a home in Noe Valley, Glen Park and Cole Valley, they are now just as fierce in less fashionable areas such as the Excelsior, Mission Terrace and Ingleside.

Citywide, properties are now commanding an average of 10.7 percent more than asking price, according to Paragon Real Estate Group, with Bernal Heights leading the pack at an average of 21 percent over asking. That’s up from April 2012, when homes were selling for an average of 3.5 percent over asking.

The Wall Street Journal covers the other side of the coin:

Poor Americans Direct 40% of Their Spending to Housing Expenses

Housing and food expenses absorb more than half of low-income Americans’ annual spending. Even the wealthiest Americans devote a sizable share of their spending to keeping a roof over their heads and food in their refrigerators.

That’s according to the Labor Department’s latest survey of Americans’ buying habits. The consumer expenditure survey report released Friday contained data on spending from July 2012 through June 2013.

On average, the report found, Americans upped their spending on food, transportation, health care, housing and “cash contributions” like child support payments and charitable donations. Overall, they spent 1.5% more compared with the previous 12 months, while average income ticked down 0.2%.

While The Hill finds cause for rejoicing:

Bankers breathe sigh of relief as Tea Party power fizzles

Banks are breathing a sigh of relief after established GOP incumbents bested a handful of Tea Party challengers at the polls recently.

Industry sources said the establishment wins improve Republican odds of retaking the Senate, which would in turn lead to a friendlier climate for the long-beleaguered sector. But some note that the Tea Party has left a mark on the Republican Party, presenting a challenging landscape for the industry.

The Tea Party movement can trace its roots back to fury about bailouts and banks, but the force that pulled the Republican Party right in recent years is finding less success at the polls recently.

And from the East Bay Express, a sign of rationality:

Californians Overwhelmingly Support a Ban on Fracking

A new poll shows that a super-majority of California residents — 68 percent — say they support a ban on fracking in the state. Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial oil- and natural gas-extraction method that involves shooting massive amounts of water and toxic chemicals into the earth. It’s been linked to groundwater and air pollution and to causing earthquakes. The new survey was published earlier this week by public policy opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, or FM3. Of the 807 California voters who were polled over the phone at random, 68 percent suppored a moratorium on fracking, with 45 percent of respondents stating that they “strongly” supported it.

Just a week after FM3 conducted its poll — and on the same day that the firm released its poll results — Californians learned that the estimate of extractable oil via fracking or acidization in the state was significantly lower than originally thought. The Monterey Shale, a 1,750 square-mile rock formation stretching from Sacramento to Los Angeles, was expected to provide 13.7 billion barrels of oil. A new estimate by the US Energy Information Administration lowered the number to 600 million barrels — about four percent of the original estimate.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, Proposition 13 strikes again [the measure limiting property taxes used to find the state’s schools]:

Governor’s teacher pension plan shocks school districts

When local school district officials pulled out their calculators and started crunching the numbers based on the governor’s new plan to shore up the state’s teacher pension fund, their jaws hit the floor.

The proposal, part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision, would more than double the 8.25 percent of payroll that districts now pay toward teacher retirement each year. Phased in over seven years, districts would end up paying 19.1 percent.

For San Francisco, that would mean spending $34 million each year above the current $25.8 million for teacher pensions, district officials said Friday.

From Bloomberg, a dire warning?:

U.S. Retailers Missing Estimates by Most in 13 Years

U.S. retailers’ first-quarter earnings are trailing analysts’ estimates by the widest margin in 13 years after bad weather and weak spending by lower-income consumers intensified competition.

Chains are missing projections by an average of 3.1 percent, with 87 retailers, or 70 percent of those tracked, having reported, researcher Retail Metrics Inc. said in a statement today. That’s the worst performance relative to estimates since the fourth quarter of 2000, when they missed by 3.3 percent. Over the long term, chains typically beat by 3 percent, the firm said.

Extreme winter weather through February and March forced store closings and stifled sales, Swampscott, Massachusetts-based Retail Metrics said. Lower- and moderate-income consumers had little discretionary spending power, and chains also faced price competition from e-commerce sites.

And from CNN, the first of two headlines in what we suspect will be a stream to come as the long, hot summer commences:

Arizona residents evacuate as fierce wildfire rages

The online Incident Information System reported Friday night that much of the fire burned with lower intensity throughout the day, allowing firefighters to make some progress.

However, despite that progress, the total area scorched climbed to 8,500 acres that night, and the containment level held steady at 5%.

The equivalent of a battalion of firefighters, including 15 hotshot crews and three air tankers, have been fighting the fire between Flagstaff and Sedona — a tourist and retirement destination famed for its red rock formations — since Tuesday afternoon.

CNN again:

Wildfire scorches nearly 80,000 acres in Alaska

A days-long wildfire had covered more than 78,000 acres of Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge by early Saturday, a state agency said.

The Funny River Fire began burning Monday evening and was 20% contained by early Saturday, Alaska’s Interagency Incident Management Team said.

No evacuations or injuries have been reported. There were more than 409 firefighters battling the blaze.

North of the border, and an all-too-familiar headline south of the border, via CBC News:

39% of unemployed have given up job search, poll suggests

In a poll carried out by Harris Poll and published Friday by employment agency Express Employment Professionals, the company surveyed 1,502 unemployed Canadians. None of them had a job, and not all of them were receiving EI benefits.

The results were eye-opening.

Some 39 per cent of those polled were in agreement with the statement that “I’ve completely given up on looking for a job” with five per cent saying they “agree a lot” 11 per cent saying they “agree somewhat” and 17 per cent saying they “agree a little.”

In the poll, which saw people respond to questions online over a week in April, more than a third responded they hadn’t had a job interview in over a month. A full 13 per cent of respondents said they hadn’t had a job interview since 2012 or before — well over a calendar year ago.

Britain next, and another slap on the wrist from BBC News:

Barclays Bank fined £26m for gold price failings

Barclays Bank has been fined £26m by UK regulators after one of its traders was discovered attempting to fix the price of gold. The trader, who has been sacked, exploited weaknesses in the system to profit at a customer’s expense, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said.

The incident occurred in June 2012, the day after the bank was fined a record £290m for attempting to rig Libor. Barclays said it “very much regrets the situation” that led to the fine.

The FCA found the bank failed to “adequately manage conflicts of interest between itself and its customers”, in relation to fixing the price of gold.

The Independent sets a precedent:

Slovak Roma parents fail in attempt to block same sex couple adopting their children

A Slovakian couple who have accused Kent County Council of social engineering have failed in their bid to block the adoption of their two sons by a same sex couple.

The Catholic couple, who are of Roma origin, took their case to the High Court earlier this month in an attempt to prevent their sons, aged two and four, from being adopted by a same sex couple in Kent.

In the judgement – released on Friday –Sir James Munby, the most senior judge in the Family Court, refused the pair’s request, saying that they had no grounds in law to appeal the decision.

And Sky News covers hard times populism resurgent:

Parties Reel From UKIP Election Success

  • The establishment faces up to the fallout from UKIP’s election “earthquake” as it wins more than double the seats many predicted.

UKIP’s haul of seats in the council elections is up to 184 with the main parties now mulling the prospect of four-party politics in next year’s general election.

Nigel Farage has said his anti-EU party is a “serious player” for 2015 after they added 167 councillors at the expense of the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats.

UKIP made gains in traditional Labour and Conservative heartlands, including strong showings in Rotherham – where it returned 10 out of 21 councillors.

One reaction from EUbusiness:

British deputy PM faces calls to quit

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg came under pressure Sunday to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats after the centrist party took a pounding in local elections.

Two would-be Lib Dem parliamentary candidates — staring at a much-reduced prospect of winning a seat at nexy tear’s general election — have put heir names to an online letter, signed by more than 200 party members, calling for Clegg to step aside.

He insisted Friday he would not quit despite being down 307 seats to 427 in the English local authority seats voted for on Thursday, with two of the 161 councils still to declare.

Sweden next, and a surge to the left form TheLocal.se:

Greens, feminists surge ahead of EU vote ‘thriller’

  • The Green Party climbed ahead of the Moderates into second spot in the polls ahead of Sunday’s EU elections with the upstart Feminist Initiative taking a further step forward in what promises to be a tough election to forecast.

The Green Party (MP) now has the support of 15.5 percent of the Swedish electorate ahead of Sunday’s vote, according to the latest opinion poll by Novus. The poll shows that the party has overtaken the Moderates who came in at 15 percent and now trails only the Social Democrats on 25.1 percent.

“We have not seen anything like it. I think that in Sweden, this is unique in itself,” said Torbjörn Sjöström at Novus to Sveriges Radio.

The Feminist Initiative (Fi) continued their dramatic success of recent months to claim a statistically significant rise to 5.4 percent and look set to claim their first seats in the parliament.

From BBC News, more of that hard times intolerance:

Brussels fatal gun attack at Jewish museum

  • Police have cordoned off the area but will not confirm if the gunman is still being pursued, as Duncan Crawford reports from the scene

A gunman has shot dead two men and a woman at the Jewish Museum in the Belgian capital Brussels.

A fourth person was seriously wounded, emergency services said.

The attacker arrived by car, got out, fired on people at the museum entrance, and returned to the vehicle which then sped away, Belgian media report.

Germany next, and political idiocy rebuked from EUbusiness:

Schulz mocked for ‘German’ appeal in EU election ad

The Socialists’ top candidate in European elections, Martin Schulz, drew online ridicule Sunday for telling Germans only a vote for his party would ensure one of their compatriots runs the European Commission.

“Only if you vote for Martin Schulz and the SPD (Social Democratic Party) can a German become president of the EU Commission” read an advertisement published in Germany’s top-selling Bild daily ahead of the election.

The appeal to national sentiment in the pan-European polls quickly sparked derisive commentary on Twitter under the hashtag #NureinDeutscher (Only a German).

“Youth unemployment in Europe is a huge problem, only a German can solve it,” quipped journalist and blogger Tilo Jung.

From Reuters, deals undone:

Germany stops numerous arms exports, risks compensation fees: report

Germany’s national security council declined two-thirds of applications for arms export licenses at its most recent sitting three weeks ago, German news weekly Spiegel said on Saturday.

The economy ministry had prevented a license application to export to Saudi Arabia 500 million euros worth of sight devices for armored personnel carrier guns from even being discussed in the council, it said.

Spiegel said the sights were made by a unit of Airbus. A spokesman for Airbus said: “We have no information about any government decision. We hope however for a swift and positive decision.”

And TheLocal.de protests:

Thousands protest at Erdogan German rally

Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Germany on Saturday, splitting the large Turkish community between passionate street protesters and conservative supporters flocking to what was widely seen as a campaign speech.

Erdogan is expected to run for the presidency in August, and Germany – with a Turkish community of three million, about half of them eligible voters – would be a strong constituency for the controversial leader.

Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) have polarized Turks at home and abroad over what critics call his authoritarian style, a crackdown on civil liberties and corruption scandals under his rule.

On to Eastern Europe and epidemic apathy from New Europe:

Record abstention in Chech Republic reaches 80%, exit poll

  • Right wing TOP 09 leads with 18%

Right wing opposition party TOP 09 is taking the first place in the European Elections in the Czech Republic, according to exit polls. Czech news agency CTK calculates abstention to have reached record levels at around 80%

According to the exit poll done on behalf of the Dnes newspaper, TOP 09 gets 18% of the poll, while the ruling Social Democratic party (CSSD) follows with 17%.

Spain next, and significant symbolism from the Guardian:

Why Spain’s goal to leave racism behind could be decided by 56 villagers

  • A mayor’s quest to change his village’s name could help to alter attitudes in the country as a whole

At 4pm on Friday, it’s eerily quiet in this tiny village. The blinds on the stone houses are drawn and there’s not a person to be seen wandering the few streets that make up Castrillo Matajudíos.

It’s a sharp contrast to the noisy, relentless chatter about the place in the outside world. Ever since the mayor announced his intention to hold a referendum on changing its name, the spotlight has been on this Spanish village near the northern city of Burgos. Hundreds of media outlets around the world have shared its story. Thousands have taken to social media to opine on the name change. And come Sunday evening, when journalists are expected to outnumber residents at the announcement of the referendum result, millions around the world will hear about the outcome.

For 400 years, this place has borne the name of Castrillo Matajudíos, or Fort Kill the Jews in English. Starting at 9am on Sunday, the village’s 56 residents will have the chance to decide whether the time has come to change the name to Castrillo Mota de Judíos, or Hill of Jews. “We had no idea that this would be something that would gain worldwide attention,” said Lorenzo Rodríguez Pérez, mayor of Castrillo Matajudíos.

After the jump, mixed Latin American signals, That turmoil, serious Chinese economic uncertainty, Japanese Olympic fraudsters, the tragic loss of play, pre-cooked chickens, and fears of another Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines: Health, wealth, pols crooks


Today’s headlines from the realms of politics, economics, and the ecology, are weighted heavily toward the U.S. and Asia, with relatively little form Europe, save Greece.

There’s also plenty on the environment, including lots in the latest episode of Fukushimapocalypse Now!

We begin with a global issue, a reminder of what always lurks within the world around us. From Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

WHO to hold emergency talks on deadly MERS virus Tuesday

The World Health Organization said Friday it would hold an emergency meeting next week on the deadly MERS virus, amid concern over the rising number of cases in several countries.

The UN health agency will host the emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the worrying spread of the virus, which in less than two years has killed 126 people in Saudi Arabia alone, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO’s emergency committee has already met four times to discuss the mysterious corona virus, which surfaced in mid-2012.

More on an issue we’ve covered before via the Oakland Tribune:

UC nonresident students increase as Californians’ admissions slow

As more California high school seniors fight for spaces at popular UC campuses, the universities have flung open their doors to students from other states and countries, more than tripling the ranks of out-of-state freshmen in the past five years.

Freshmen from outside the Golden State now make up almost 30 percent of their class at UC Berkeley and UCLA, up from just over 10 percent four years earlier, a new analysis by this newspaper shows.

The shift feels like a betrayal to some families coping with — or fearing — rejection by the distinguished university system, which was built by and for Californians but now is turning them away in record numbers.

CNBC covers a surprising statistic:

CNBC survey shows millionaires want higher taxes to fix inequality

CNBC’s first-ever Millionaire Survey reveals that 51 percent of American millionaires believe inequality is a “major problem” for the U.S., and of those, nearly two-thirds support higher taxes on the wealthy and a higher minimum wage as ways to narrow the wealth gap.

The findings show that—far from being a purely self-interested voting bloc—American millionaires have complicated views when it comes to the wealth gap and opportunity in America. They are unashamed of their own wealth and attribute their success to hard work, smart investing and savings. They also believe that anyone in America can get wealthy if they work hard.

Yet millionaires also believe that cultural and family issues prevent many Americans from climbing the wealth ladder. They advocate improved education, higher taxes on the wealthy and better savings incentives for the poor and middle class as important changes that would reduce inequality.

From the Washington Post suicidal behavior reconsidered:

Split appears in GOP as more call for raising federal minimum wage

Several leading Republicans have called for raising the federal minimum wage and others are speaking more forcefully about the party’s failure to connect with low-income Americans — stances that are causing a growing rift within the party over how best to address the gulf between the rich and poor.

Another Republican reminded of consequences, via  United Press International:

FBI arrests man accused of threatening Boehner over unemployment insurance

Brandon James Thompson, of New Castle, Ind., angered over the House’s failure to pass an emergency unemployment extension, admitted to sending threatening messages to House Speaker John Boehner and his wife.

The FBI arrested an Indiana man Thursday night for allegedly threatening to kill House Speaker John Boehner for delaying a vote on extending emergency unemployment insurance.

Brandon James Thompson, 32, of New Castle, Ind., was taken into custody at his home Thursday night and faces federal charges for making phone and email threats to an elected official.

According to an FBI affidavit, Thompson admitted to sending threatening messages to the Ohio Republican’s congressional website using his neighbor’s wifi, and leaving threatening voicemails on Boehner’s wife Debbie’s personal cellphone.

USA TODAY covers woes to come:

3 generations face USA’s retirement crisis

The retirement crisis in America is not contained to any one generation. Across the country, people of all ages are struggling with stagnant wages, rising living expenses, and an overall sluggish economy. Some are closer to their golden years than others, but one thing is clear: There are three unique generations with very different retirements ahead of them.

Many workers are simply trying to recover from the financial meltdown that took place more than five years ago. According to the 15th Annual Transamerica Retirement survey, one of the largest and longest-running national surveys of its kind, 35% of workers believe the Great Recession has not yet ended. That figure rises to 40% among Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, 65% of workers believe the recession has ended, but they have mixed views about the strength of the recovery. Only 14% say they have fully recovered financially from the historic downturn.

“Experts have long written about the changing retirement landscape over the past century,” said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “Times are changing so rapidly that the retirements of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials will not only be a radical departure from their parents’ generations but from each other as well.”

The same basic story form another angle via Salon:

401(k)s are retirement robbery: How the Koch brothers, Wall Street and politicians conspire to drain Social Security

The decades-long tale of how the Kochs, Reagan, Wall Street and even Democrats have tried to gut Social Security

Excerpted from “Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis”

On the eve of the Reagan presidency in 1980, Milton and Rose Friedman published “Free to Choose,” a proposal for gradually phasing out Social Security. The entitlements of retirees would be honored as would the accumulated credits of contributors who had not yet retired. But no new payroll taxes would be collected. The final elimination of Social Security would allow “individuals to provide for their own retirement as they wish.” Among the advantages would be that “it would add to personal saving and so lead to a higher rate of capital formation [and] stimulate the development and expansion of private pension plans.” While the Friedmans argued for such a plan, they acknowledged that immediate privatization of retirement was unrealistic in the current political climate, but they would accept incremental reforms with the hope that one day total privatization would become politically feasible.

That same year, the conservative Koch brothers-financed Cato Institute published “Social Security: The Inherent Contradiction,” by Peter Ferrara, which argued that instead of being required to participate in Social Security, people should “be allowed to choose from a variety of insurance and investment options offered in the private market. The previous year, two years after its founding in 1977, the institute had published an article by Carolyn Weaver in which she made the case for privatization, and in 1980 it also sponsored a conference on Social Security privatization that drew, among others, two hundred congressional staffers.

And yet another erosion from Pacific Standard:

Are Sundays Dying?

A battle against leisure is unfolding. In America, it’s a war that has been raging since the Puritan age.

Though recently American leisure time has appeared to rise, the averages are skewed by undereducated and lower-income men, who are likely “unemployed or underemployed,” as the Washington Post has noted. Work-life balances are abominable when compared to other developed countries. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the “average American” is actually working “one month” more a year than he or she was in 1976.

But Sunday, the weekend day that even Puritans blocked off for worship and rest (a Puritan poet once pondered “over whether closing a stable door that was blowing in the wind constituted an act of work which would profane the Sabbath”), is also beginning to look more and more like just another day of the work week.

On the other hand, given the narcissism of some of our leisure time habits. . .From  United Press International:

Hundreds of ATV riders in Utah threaten sacred Navajo burial ground to protest federal government

  • Illegal route runs through protected Native American land, forced military veterans retreat to relocate.

Protesters who say the Bureau of Land Management has no right to criminalize use of ATVs in Utah’s Recapture Canyon plan to demonstrate today by illegally riding their vehicles through the protected land – a move that has drawn the ire of Native Americans and displaced a veterans retreat.

“It is sad that irreplaceable treasures of importance to all Americans would be sacrificed on the altar of anti-government fervor,” Jerry Spangler, executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance said in a statement. “It is worse that protesters would be so blinded to their own insensitivity as to what others consider to be sacred treasures of their past.”

Willie Grayeyes, chair of a nonprofit that lobbies to protect Navajo land, was offended at both the protesters’ dismissive attitude toward Native American culture and their disrespect for the American veterans who had to move their long-scheduled retreat to ensure it could be held in peace.

From the Washington Post, better read than dead?:

The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads

What if someone had already figured out the answers to the world’s most pressing policy problems, but those solutions were buried deep in a PDF, somewhere nobody will ever read them?

According to a recent report by the World Bank, that scenario is not so far-fetched. The bank is one of those high-minded organizations — Washington is full of them — that release hundreds, maybe thousands, of reports a year on policy issues big and small. Many of these reports are long and highly technical, and just about all of them get released to the world as a PDF report posted to the organization’s Web site.

The World Bank recently decided to ask an important question: Is anyone actually reading these things? They dug into their Web site traffic data and came to the following conclusions: Nearly one-third of their PDF reports had never been downloaded, not even once. Another 40 percent of their reports had been downloaded fewer than 100 times. Only 13 percent had seen more than 250 downloads in their lifetimes. Since most World Bank reports have a stated objective of informing public debate or government policy, this seems like a pretty lousy track record.

Bloomberg covers business as usual:

Swisspartners Ends U.S. Probe With Non-Prosecution Deal

Swisspartners Group, a Zurich-based money-manager, resolved a U.S. criminal tax probe by paying $4.4 million for helping American clients use secret accounts to evade taxes. In return, the government agreed not to prosecute the firm, citing its “extraordinary cooperation.”

The agreement resulted from Swisspartners’ voluntary production of the files for about 110 U.S. taxpayer clients, according to the Justice Department and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

“The extraordinary cooperation of Swisspartners has enabled us to identify U.S. tax cheats who have hidden behind phony offshore trusts and foundations,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole said today in a statement. “In this and other cases around the world we will continue to provide substantial credit for prompt and full cooperation.”

The Washington Post covers an austerian conundrum:

America’s transportation needs are huge. Too bad the way we fund them is broken.

You’ve read the headlines about nearly one in four of America’s bridges being either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, right? The $59 billion backlog for commuter railway maintenance? The $324 per year in mechanic visits that each U.S. motorist incurs by driving on deteriorated roads?

America has a transportation funding problem. And if Congress doesn’t fix it this summer, it could start doing some real damage.

First, a few basics. Most big transportation projects — bridge repairs, new highways, intercity rail — are paid for with a stack of local, state, and federal funds. The federal contribution ranges between 35 percent and 95 percent of a state’s total transportation budget, and is mostly supplied by the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund is mostly supplied by the federal gas tax, which is a robust stream of money that can’t be used for anything other than transportation.

The problem for funding is that Americans are actually using less gas than they used to — both because they aren’t driving as much, and cars are getting more efficient. Meanwhile, Congress hasn’t raised the gas tax from 18.4 cents per gallon since 1994, which is now far behind what it was then when you take inflation into account.

From the  Los Angeles Times, the voice of reason from an unexpected quarter:

Jackie Lacey says L.A. County should stop locking up so many people

You wouldn’t expect the county’s top prosecutor to step up to a microphone and say it’s time to stop locking up so many people. But that’s exactly what L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey did last week. She told the county Board of Supervisors that, in her opinion, 1,000 or more people with mental illness who are currently incarcerated should probably be somewhere other than in jail.

“It is clear, even to those of us in law enforcement, that we can do better in Los Angeles County,” she said, which is why she’s leading a task force that is studying less expensive and more effective alternatives than incarceration. “The current system is, simply put, unjust.”

Despite hearing this, the supervisors voted to proceed with a nearly $2-billion jail construction project designed to accommodate about 3,200 inmates with a mental illness — the same number currently locked up.

From Business Insider, the Washington Post’s new owner’s other business demonstrates utter greed:

Amazon Is Claiming Exclusive Rights To A Basic Version Of An Extremely Common Practice

A photography site called DIY Photography wrote this week that the Amazon corporation applied for—and received—a patent for the process of taking a picture of an object against a white background.

Despite the technical detail in the patent documentation, the DIY site says, Amazon is ultimately claiming exclusive rights to a basic version of an extremely common practice:

The patent number is 8,676,045B1 and you can read the entire boring text on USPTO, or just about any basic studio photography book.

Crooked Timber raises the right question:

Step away from that white background

As you probably know, several of us at CT are big photography enthusiasts. While we seem to be more interested in taking photos of nature and architecture, next time we want to shoot a family portrait or an item, we’ll have to be careful with our approach. The US Patent Office recently granted Amazon a patent for taking photos against a white background. For real. So is their plan to start trolling portrait studios and Ebay/Etsy sellers to see whom they can sue?

I am no lawyer, but the language seems rather vague. For example, “a top surface of the elevated platform reflects light emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears white”. So what level of off-white should a photographer strive for to avoid litigation?

Having shot many a picture for publication we cam attest to the fact that Amazon has basically tried to patent the wheel.

On to Europe, first from Lisbon with Europe Online:

Ratings firms raise Portugal’s debt outlook

Portugal received a vote of confidence from credit ratings agencies Friday for the first time since the country’s sovereign-debt crisis began.

Moody’s Investors Service raised the debt rating to Ba2, from Ba3, citing an improved financial position and Lisbon’s decision not to seek additional aid after its bailout programme expires at the end of this month.

“Portugal’s economic recovery is gaining momentum, with signs of broadening beyond exports, which continue to perform strongly,” Moody’s said. The move followed a revised outlook from negative to stable by Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services earlier in the day.

Italy next, with Corruptio berlusconii from Deutsche Welle:

Berlusconi associate’s conviction upheld

An Italian court has upheld the conviction of retired parliamentarian Marcello Dell’Utri for ties to the Sicilian Mafia. Dell’Utri is a close associate of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Dell’Utri was not present when Italy’s highest appeals court upheld his seven-year prison sentence on Friday. He had fled to Lebanon last month in order to avoid arrest.

The close Berlusconi associate (pictured center) is currently in police custody at a hospital in Beirut while Italian authorities seek his extradition.

In 2010, a Palermo court convicted Dell’Utri of acting as a mediator between the Sicilian Mafia and the Milan business elite from 1974-1992. The decision by the Court of Cassation on Friday means his conviction is now final and can no longer be appealed.

After the jump, the latest from grief from Greece, Ukrainian turmoil, a Turkish tantrum, economic alarms form Latin America, Indian anxieties in Washington, Indonesian bankster woes, Australian bankster extravagance, Thai turmoil, Chinese housing, food & economic uncertainties, environmental ills, and the latest chapter of Fumkshimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading