And more. . .
We begin with a tragedy within a continuing tragedy via the Los Angeles Times:
Four health workers slain in attack on Pakistan vaccination team
Gunmen shot and killed four health workers carrying out a polio vaccination drive Wednesday in the capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province, police officials said.
The deadly shooting was the latest to target polio workers — whom Islamist militants accuse of conducting espionage in the guise of vaccination campaigns — in Pakistan, one of three countries where the disease has not been eradicated.
Police said that two armed men on a motorcycle opened fire on the workers as they waited for a security escort in the southwestern city of Quetta. Three women and one man were killed while three others were wounded, authorities said.
More from Deutsche Welle:
Pakistani polio workers demand safeguards
Polio workers in Pakistan have demanded greater security before returning to work after gunmen murdered four vaccination team members. Pakistan is one of three countries where polio remains endemic.
The president of the Pakistani state’s polio workers union, Haleem Shah, said thousands of his colleagues were refusing to finish the campaign to vaccinate 300,000 children in eight districts, including Quetta.
“We are in contact with the government and we have demanded that we won’t participate in the campaign until we are provided with security,” Shah told the news agency AFP.
“The government provides security for one day and if nothing bad happens then they take the security back,” he added.
Since December 2012, more than 30 polio vaccinators have been killed in Pakistan, along with nearly 30 police and security personnel guarding them.
And a small miracle within a larger catastrophe, via the Washington Post:
Guinea, hit by Ebola, reports only 1 cholera case
The health workers rode on canoes and rickety boats to deliver cholera vaccines to remote islands in Guinea. Months later, the country has recorded only one confirmed cholera case this year, down from thousands.
The rare success, overshadowed by the Ebola outbreak that has ravaged Guinea and two other West African countries, is being cautiously attributed to the vaccinations and to hand-washing in the campaign against Ebola.
Helen Matzger of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Guinea’s experience is encouraging other countries to accept the cholera vaccine and has led the GAVI Alliance — which works to deliver vaccines to the world’s poor — to invest in a global stockpile and the U.N. World Health Organization to increase that stockpile to about 2 million doses.
Another African outbreak from the Associated Press:
Benin says Lassa fever kills 9, no Ebola found
Nine people have died in Benin from Lassa fever, a viral disease common in West Africa with symptoms similar to Ebola, the country’s health minister said.
An outbreak of Ebola is pummeling the three West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and some cases have turned up elsewhere. But so far no Ebola cases have been confirmed in Benin, Health Minister Dorothee Kinde Gazard told reporters late Tuesday.
Authorities will double-check those results with more tests, said Youssouf Gamatie, the representative for the World Health Organization in the country.
AllAfrica covers another continuing African public health woe:
Nigeria: WHO Expresses Concern Over Rising TB Cases in Nigeria
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern over the rising cases of Tuberculosis (TB) in Nigeria, which has risen to three times what was initially estimated.
Out of the estimated 3,700 TB cases per year in Nigeria, only about 500 have been placed on treatment
The WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, Rui Gama Vaz, disclosed this at the formal launch of the National Strategic Plan for TB Control (2015-2020) and Dissemination of the First National TB Prevalence Survey Report in Abuja.
An outbreak in the Mideast from the Mainichi:
Saudi Arabia: Deaths from MERS virus reach 348
Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry says that a total of 348 people have died in the kingdom after contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.
The ministry’s latest figures, released late Tuesday, include two recent deaths recorded in the capital Riyadh. It brings to 810 the number of confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia since the virus was first identified in 2012.
The virus has since spread to other parts of the world, though it has mostly remained centered in Saudi Arabia. MERS belongs to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses that include both the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.
CBC News covers another epidemic:
Half-million cancers worldwide linked to obesity
- Majority of cases occur in North America and Europe, according to study
Excess body weight caused about 481,000 new cancer cases in 2012, according to a new study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization.
That works out to about 3.6 per cent of all cancers worldwide, the majority of which occur in North America and Europe, according to the study published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology on Wednesday.
The study estimates that a quarter of all obesity-related cancers in 2012 are directly linked to rising average body mass index (BMI), especially in developed parts of the world where BMI has been increasing since the 1980s.
While Science looks for the predictive:
Better wildlife monitoring could prevent human disease outbreaks
In the new study, a team lead by Isabelle-Anne Bisson, a conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C., set out to assess whether information on wildlife health could be used to predict the emergence of disease in humans. The team looked at historical records of nearly 150 pathogens known to jump from wildlife to humans. They searched through 60 years of scientific and newspaper reports to determine two things: first, whether the pathogens cause visible disease symptoms or death in wildlife, and second, whether human outbreaks were preceded or accompanied by evidence of the disease in animals.
“These pathogens are invisible to the human eye,” Bisson says. “You can’t see them moving through a landscape, but you can certainly detect them through sick and dead animals.”
The team found that out of the nearly 150 pathogens studied, 75 caused visible symptoms in animals, such as seizures, lethargy, unprovoked aggression, or death, meaning signs of the disease could be easily detected. In reality, however, only 13 of the disease outbreaks in humans were preceded by reports in wildlife. This suggests that early warning signs for 64 of the zoonotic pathogens—45% of the total—may have been missed, the team reports online this month in EcoHealth.
The Associated Press covers prosecution on behalf of a corporation:
Chinese woman denied own trial in seed-theft case
A woman accused of conspiring to steal trade secrets from U.S. seed companies and send them to China, where she’s married to the CEO of a large biotechnology firm, will be tried with another suspect despite her claims that she left the firm long before most of the alleged crimes, a federal judge ruled.
Mo Yun, 42, and her brother are among seven people facing charges for allegedly plotting to steal patented seeds from corn fields in Iowa and Illinois, and send them to China to be reproduced. Prosecutors say more than $500 million worth of intellectual property was stolen from Pioneer Hi-Bred, Monsanto, and LG Seeds.
Mo and her brother were arrested this year in the U.S and are scheduled to be tried together in Iowa. The other five suspects are believed to be in China, which has no extradition agreements with the U.S.
Her attorneys recently argued that most of the evidence alleges crimes committed after she left the company in 2008, including allegations of digging in cornfields to find seeds and shipping them out of the country in 2011 and 2012. Trying them together would allow jurors to hear evidence unrelated to Mo and could sway jurors, defense attorney Terry Bird argued.
From Grist, another GMO story:
In Oregon, GMO labeling lost by 800 votes. Now it’s getting a recount
On Nov. 6, Oregon’s initiative to label genetically engineered foods ended up only a few thousand votes away from success. Now it is down by just 812 votes — which means there will be an automatic recount.
What happened? Labeling advocates have scrambled to fix some of the 13,000 contested ballots — the ones voters forgot to sign, for instance. Oregon gives voters the chance to correct these mistakes.
We’ll let you know when we find out what happens! In the meantime: Just 800 votes out of 1.5 million — that’s a butterfly fart away from winning. What if Jurassic World — which features genetically modified dinosaurs this time around — had come out this year?
Climatic bad bee news from the Guardian:
Bee parasite will flourish under global warming, study warns
- Gut parasite will increase in prevalence across northern Europe as temperatures rises, leading to honey bee losses
An exotic parasite which targets the insects is set to flourish in northern Europe if the Earth continues to warm, scientists at Queen’s University, Belfast found.
The study assessed the future threat posed by the gut parasite Nosema ceranae, which originates in Asia but can now be found worldwide.
New evidence of the parasite’s superior competitive ability and the link between its population size and climate change has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Co-author of the study and adjunct reader at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, Professor Robert Paxton said: “This emerging parasite is more susceptible to cold than its original close relative, possibly reflecting its presumed origin in east Asia.
“In the face of rising global temperatures, our findings suggest that it will increase in prevalence and potentially lead to increased honey bee colony losses in Britain.”
EcoWatch covers the incipient frack:
Maryland Governor O’Malley Is Ready to Allow Fracking in His State
Outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has frequently been mentioned as a top-of-the-list contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, should Hillary Clinton’s bid fail to materialize. But he just made himself more controversial within the party—and raised the ire of environmentalists—with his announcement that he is ready to allow fracking in the state, where it has so far been banned.
Natural gas companies have been casting a longing eye at Maryland since the fracking boom started. The state’s western panhandle sits on the natural gas-rich Marcellus shale formation, which has proved such a money-maker in Pennsylvania just to its north.
O’Malley said that energy companies that want to frack in the state will have to abide by restrictive environmental and public health regulations, including limits on drilling locations and oversight of risks to air pollution and water contamination. He said he will unveil the final regulations in mid-December before leaving office to be succeeded by Republican Larry Hogan in January. Hogan has made it clear he’s chomping at the bit to open the state to fracking, calling it an “economic gold mine,” and saying during the campaign “States throughout the country have been developing their natural gas resources safely and efficiently for decades. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against any new energy production.”
While MercoPress gets down to the nitty gritty:
Follow the sand to the real fracking boom
- When it takes up to four million pounds of sand to frack a single well, it’s no wonder that demand is outpacing supply and frack sand producers are becoming the biggest behind-the-scenes beneficiaries of the American oil and gas boom.
Demand is exploding for “frac-sand”–a durable, high-purity quartz sand used to help produce petroleum fluids and prop up man-made fractures in shale rock formations through which oil and gas flows—turning this segment into the top driver of value in the shale revolution.
“One of the major players in Eagle Ford is saying they’re short 6 million tons of 100 mesh alone in 2014 and they don’t know where to get it. And that’s just one player,” Rasool Mohammad, President and CEO of Select Sands Corporation told Oilprice.com.
Frack sand exponentially increases the return on investment for a well, and oil and gas companies are expected to use some 95 billion pounds of frack sand this year, up nearly 30% from 2013 and up 50% from forecasts made just last year.
Pushing demand up is the trend for wider, shorter fracs, which require twice as much sand. The practice of down-spacing —or decreasing the space between wells—means a dramatic increase in the amount of frac sand used. The industry has gone from drilling four wells per square mile to up to 16 using shorter, wider fracs. In the process, they have found that the more tightly spaced wells do not reduce production from surrounding wells.
After the jump, crude oil train safety anxieties, Japan vows to continue its war on whales and call critics bigots, hue and cry kills an Idaho wolf hunt, Kenya women victimized by water mafias, profusely polluting rickshaws in Uttar Pradesh, an Amazonian deforestation rate decline, a Chinese dam stirs Indian angst, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! and a new nuclear waste incinerator, corporations socialize decommissioning debt, geriatric reactor inspections, and another reactor restart mooted, plus Swiss who eat their cats for Christmas. . . Continue reading