Category Archives: Science

And now for something completely different. . .


And that would be the Theremin, the instrument you play by keeping your goshdarn hands off it!

Invented in 1928 by Lev Sergeyevich Termen [Westernized to Léon Theremin], a largely self-taught Russian electrical engineer and inventor, the theremin is played by moving your hands closer and farther away from two antennae, one regulating frequency and the other amplitude or volume.

Here, from a Soviet film, is a performance the inventor himself via vlogger slonikyouth:

Leon Theremin playing his own instrument

We first because aware of the instrument though its presence in the sound tracks of the science fiction films and space operas we loved as a kid. In those pre-digital synthesizer days, only the theremin could produce those otherworldly sounds so appropriate to otherworldly films.

Here’s a thermin-scored clip from a 1951 film we loved, The Day the Earth Stood Still:

And here’s the composer of that score in a 1956 appearance on the Johnny Carson Show [not the Tonight Show, but an earlier talk show Carson hosted], via theremin artist Peter Pringle:

Johnny Carson Plays THEREMIN

Program notes:

This is an appearance that thereminist Dr. Samuel Hoffman made on the JOHNNY CARSON SHOW in 1956. The 1929 RCA theremin you see in this clip is currently in my collection.

And here’s Pringle himself, playing a theremin featuring a truly magnificent [speaker that we’d just love so have for ourselves]:

Mozart Theremin Concerto

Program notes:

This is the main theme from the “andante” movement of Mozart’s piano concerto #21 in C major (K. 467). The theme was used in the soundtrack of the 1967 Swedish film, ELVIRA MADIGAN, and since then it has been called “The Elvira Madigan Concerto”.

This is a theremin transcription of the theme played on the Moog Ethervox.

Here’s another latter-day theremin artist, Randy George, in a dimly lit performance of a work by Claude Debussy:

Clair de Lune – Randy George, theremin

Program notes:

Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy. Randy George, theremin.

For a higher quality viewing and listening of this video, I made a download available. I remastered the audio and video in March 2013 and compressed a higher resolution mp4. download it here (106MB): http://bit.ly/cdlRGM

My Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/randygeorgemusic

If you are new to the theremin, please discover it in more depth. It is the most fascinating musical instrument in the world (when played as it was originally intended).

The theremin entered my life seven years ago. It has been a tremendously challenging journey, but it is immensely rewarding. The theremin is absolutely deceptively difficult to play with musical precision and finesse.

Clara Rockmore introduced the theremin to the world as a serious musical instrument. Over the course of recent music history, this expressive voice was forgotten.

I feel it’s definitely time to reconnect with the roots of the instrument. With these classical theremin videos, I hope to light the way back home.

Finally, to take things to an absurd extreme, from Japanese vloogger mandarinelectron, a mass performance by nearly 300 folks who play theremin bulk to look like those nesting Russian matryoshka dolls:

“Symphony No.9, Boogie” by Matryomin ensemble “Da”

Program notes:

Recorded at auditorium of Jiyugakuen Myonichikan in Tokyo on 22 Jan. 2011.

Another Bay Area earthquake strikes


Well, just south of the San Francisco Bay area.

There were two shakers, with the much stronger striking a half hour ago whilst we were compiling items.

Here’s a screencap [click to enlarge] of the U.S. Geological Survey incident web page for the temblor, where all the links do work:

BLOG Quake

EnviroWatch: Politics, fuels, species, & nukes


From the Washington Post, a momentary win:

Democrats block Keystone pipeline, but GOP vows new fight when it takes over

Senate Democrats blocked a move Tuesday to compel construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a sharp loss to one of their own, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), who had pinned her chances for reelection on approval of the measure.

The vote was a victory for environmental activists who have turned defeat of the pipeline into one of the central symbolic causes of their movement. But Republicans, who will take majority control of the Senate in the next Congress, vowed to return to the fight next year.

On a 59 to 41 roll call, Landrieu’s campaign fell one vote shy of passing legislation meant to force President Obama to approve the nearly 1,700-mile, $7.6 billion project, which would deliver 830,000 barrels of oil a day from western Canada to the American heartland. With just 14 Democrats backing it, Landrieu’s bill fell victim to a filibuster by her own party. All 45 Republicans voted for the measure.

The only person who really needed the Keystone victory in November was Landrieu, who is trying to hold off Representative Bill Cassidy in Louisiana’s run-off election on December 6. Democrats allowed Landrieu her vote on the bill, but the cold calculation that most of them made is that with the limited polling out of Louisiana showing her losing by double digits, passage of the bill—which also had Cassidy’s name on it—wouldn’t be enough to save her.

From Reuters, a video of the decisive moment:

U.S. Senate fails to pass Keystone XL pipeline bill

Program notes:

U.S. Senate votes 59-41 in favor of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline bill, narrowly lacking the 60 votes needed to pass the measure.

From the Express Tribune, an ongoing struggle:

Crippling disease: Seven new cases as N Waziristan polio drive restarts

As seven fresh polio cases surfaced in different parts of the country on Tuesday, an initiative was renewed to drive out the contagious disease from North Waziristan Agency (NWA) – which has been off limits to vaccinators for the last 30 months.

According to officials, a formal polio vaccination drive was started in four different villages of the North Waziristan’s Razmak tehsil on Tuesday and 1,349 children were vaccinated on the first day of the drive.

Meanwhile, seven new polio cases surfaced across the country on Tuesday, taking the national count for 2014 to 255. The National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed the emergence of seven new cases in a single day.

From the New York Times, Mine Kampf:

Clean Mining a Deception in Kentucky, Groups Say

In a state where coal-country creeks run red with iron, Frasure Creek Mining has been unusually clean of late: Amid tens of thousands of measurements that it submitted to Kentucky regulators in 2013 and early 2014, fewer than 400 exceeded the state’s limits for water pollution from coal-mine runoff.

Now environmental activists say they know why. In a letter released on Monday, four environmental groups said many of the monthly measurement reports that Frasure sent the state contained virtually identical data — line-for-line repeats of clean pollution reports submitted the month before.

The letter to Frasure and state and federal officials vowed to sue the company for what activists called tens of thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act unless Kentucky regulators act first. The act allows citizens to enforce

More New York Times coal coverage:

Coal Rush in India Could Tip Balance on Climate Change

“If India goes deeper and deeper into coal, we’re all doomed,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the world’s top climate scientists. “And no place will suffer more than India.”

India’s coal mining plans may represent the biggest obstacle to a global climate pact to be negotiated at a conference in Paris next year. While the United States and China announced a landmark agreement that includes new targets for carbon emissions, and Europe has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent, India, the world’s third-largest emitter, has shown no appetite for such a pledge.

“India’s development imperatives cannot be sacrificed at the altar of potential climate changes many years in the future,” India’s power minister, Piyush Goyal, said at a recent conference in New Delhi in response to a question. “The West will have to recognize we have the needs of the poor.”

Mr. Goyal has promised to double India’s use of domestic coal from 565 million tons last year to more than a billion tons by 2019, and he is trying to sell coal-mining licenses as swiftly as possible after years of delay. The government has signaled that it may denationalize commercial coal mining to accelerate extraction.

And from RT, frack off!:

No fracking, we’re German! Berlin reiterates moratorium on drilling

Germany says it is not going to loosen restrictions concerning its moratorium on fracking. A report in Der Spiegel had said the government was considering making it easier to extract shale gas and allow test drilling.

The government said on Monday it has no plans to lift the ban on fracking, Reuters reported.

Currently there are only plans to allow fracking at a depth below 3,000 meters to ensure that the water supply does not become contaminated. The effective ban is popular with Germans as the process of hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water and chemicals through drill holes at a high pressure to try and open rocks that may contain gas.

Getting the tubes tied off, via the Guardian [and, yes, we know they ain’t got tubes any more]:

Brussels targets super-sized TVs in drive for energy efficiency

  • Mega-TV screens will be forced to reduce energy use under new proposals that set the scene for ‘ecodesign’ battles to come over kettles, toasters, and hairdryers

The amount of energy that big screen TVs can use will be capped under an EU energy efficiency drive which the European commission expects will cut consumers’ energy bills by around €8bn a year.

After similar energy-saving rules for vacuum cleaners provoked a storm of criticism from UK newspapers last autumn, the planned TV rules may be a test case for new ‘ecodesign’ formulas for kettles, toasters and hairdryers, due to be announced next year.

The new TV standards, which could come into effect as early as June 2016, would set more challenging energy use requirements for larger TV screens, which currently benefit from a ranking methodology that only measures internal components for energy efficiency.

Coming clean with the Associated Press:

Dry Central California town gets portable showers

Hundreds of people living in a drought-stricken California farm town could soon be taking their first hot shower in months after county officials set up portable facilities in a church parking lot.

Residents of East Porterville in the agricultural Central Valley must bring their own towel and soap, but the hot shower is free. Until now, many have been forced to bathe from buckets and drink bottled water.

Andrew Lockman, manager of the Tulare County Office of Emergency Service, said Tuesday that officials were worried about residents taking sponge baths during the colder weather.

“The poor certainly get poorer,” he said. “We’re trying to provide a safety net, a basic quality of life as people struggle through this disaster.”

Ceaseless cetacean slaughter reduced, via the Guardian:

Japan cuts Antarctic whale quota after UN court ruling

Japan has reduced quota by two-thirds after UN court called the controversial ‘research whaling’ programme a commercial hunt masquerading as science

Japan has unveiled a plan to kill 333 minke whales in the Southern Ocean next year as part of its push to resume whaling following a legal setback instigated by Australia.

The plan, released by the Japanese government on Tuesday, sets out a 12-year program that would result in the slaughter of a total of 3,996 whales. The whales will be hunted in a vast sweep of Antarctic waters, including ocean claimed by Australia.

The 333 annual figure is a sharp reduction in the previous quota Japan awarded itself last year, when it aimed to take 855 minke whales, 50 humpback whales and 10 fin whales. Japan ended up harpooning far fewer than this amount, however, due to the disruptive tactics of anti-whaling activists Sea Shepherd.

Japan state broadcaster NHK WORLD put a different spin on the story:

Japan to resume Antarctic research whaling

Japan aims to resume its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean late next year by drastically downsizing the program.

Fisheries minister Koya Nishikawa announced a revised plan for the program on Tuesday.

Under the plan, a fleet will hunt only minke whales and the catch limit will be cut to 333. That’s about one-third of the number in the past.

Researchers will also conduct visual studies that do not involve killing whales.

Another slaughter, equally tragic, from the Guardian:

Elephants are being wiped out, but not enough people seem to care

  • Progress on wildlife poaching is slow because there is little public pressure. Let’s hope Interpol’s ‘most wanted’ eco criminals list will help

I asked a senior environmental journalist the other week what he thought was the single most under-reported environmental issue. He replied, unhesitatingly, wildlife poaching. “It’s as if the wildlife is just being hoovered out of Africa,” he said. “In the 1960s people campaigned around whales and wildlife. The Daily Mail actually put rhino poaching on their front page. But now there just doesn’t seem to be the same level of interest.” Dr Paula Kahumbu, a wildlife campaigner based in Kenya, echoes his sentiment, but adds that the UK public is still more active than most areas of the world. “Not a single African leader has spoken out on this,” says Kahumbu. “The silence is deafening.”

The scale of the “hoovering” is hard to comprehend. Take elephants, for example. In Africa, where some but not all of the poaching is concentrated, elephants are being slaughtered at a rate of 20,000-25,000 a year, from a population of just 420,000-650,000. The forest elephant population has dropped by 62% since 2002. There is a word for the killing of elephants (elephanticide) and a word for destruction of the natural world (ecocide) but oddly enough – given our magnificent form in this area – there doesn’t seem to be a word for killing off a whole species. We probably need one.

And then there are the other species we “hoover” up, from illegal logging and the dumping of hazardous waste. Taken altogether, a UN report earlier this year estimated that the cost of these crimes is $70-213bn annually. So these are not small operations, not a few farmers sneakily chopping down a few trees to augment their subsistence income, or the odd fisherman going over his quota. These are international cartels systematically and illegally stripping our natural resources and selling them on for profit. Some of them are running parallel drug and human trafficking operations. There is even evidence that some of this income is supporting terrorism.

From CCTV America, another fuel, other consequences:

US wood pellet industry stirs environmental controversy

Program notes:

Europe’s search for biofuels has led them to Americas’ southern forests and wetlands, such as the Nottoway River in Virginia. Many of the trees are logged for the sole purpose of grinding them up to later be converted into wood pellets. A clear cutting site in Waverly, Virginia was logged by the U.S. company Enviva, according to the non-profit organization, Dogwood Alliance. CCTV America’s Nitza Soledad Perez reported this story.

More fuel from Kyodo News:

Tokyo to set up 80 hydrogen stations by 2025

The Tokyo metropolitan government Tuesday announced a plan to increase the number of hydrogen stations for fuel cell vehicles in Tokyo to 35 by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and to 80 by 2025.

“We would like to make a (hydrogen utilization) model first in Tokyo in the run-up to nationwide diffusion,” Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said at a meeting of the metropolitan government.

The metropolitan and central governments will provide subsidies covering 400 million yen of some 500 million yen required for building each hydrogen station.

On to Fukushimapoocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:

Radioactive water leak found at Ikata plant

Workers at the Ikata nuclear power plant in western Japan have found a radioactive water leak from the facility’s wastewater disposal system.

Officials of the plant’s host Ehime Prefecture said none of the water leaked outside the site, and that no worker was exposed to it. The plant operated by Shikoku Electric Power Company is offline.

They say workers found traces of leaked water on piping insulation in a building adjacent to the plant’s Number 2 reactor on Tuesday.

The piping is part of the disposal system for solidifying concentrated low-level radioactive wastewater by mixing it with asphalt.

German decommission deconstruction from TheLocal.de:

Government doubles nuclear waste count

Germany will have to dispose of twice as much radioactive waste as previously expected as it continues to shut down its nuclear power plants, according to parts of the government’s disposal plan that were leaked on Tuesday.

Some 600,000 cubic metres of waste will have to be placed in permanent underground storage instead of the anticipated 298,000 cubic metres, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported.

The newspaper was citing figures from a copy it obtained of the draft “National Disposal Plan” the government is currently negotiating with individual federal states.

The new projection is significantly higher because of the inclusion for the first time of 13,000 tons of waste from uranium enrichment, equivalent to around 100,000 cubic metres.

Decommission deconstruction closer to Casa esnl from the New York Times:

Nuclear Agency Rules Are Ill-Suited for Plant Decommissioning, Leader Says

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rules are not geared for supervising the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, the task that will occupy much of its time in the coming years, the head of the agency, Allison M. Macfarlane, said Monday.

Speaking at the National Press Club in a wide-ranging look at her agency and the industry before she leaves the job at the end of the year, Dr. Macfarlane said the industry had instead set itself up about 15 years ago to oversee more reactor construction, a revival that did not occur. “The industry was really expecting to expand,” she said. “The agency’s not facing the future that five years ago people envisioned.”

Instead, a plunging price of natural gas and slack demand for electricity have made some existing plants uncompetitive, and the pace of retirements has been high. But the commission’s rules on areas like security and emergency planning are geared to operating plants, she said. So shut-down plants are applying for exemptions to the rules that no longer seem to fit the risk that the reactors pose when decommissioned.

And to close, hints of our past? From BBC News:

Comet landing: Organic molecules detected by Philae

The Philae lander has detected organic molecules on the surface of its comet, scientists have confirmed.

Carbon-containing “organics” are the basis of life on Earth and may give clues to chemical ingredients delivered to our planet early in its history. The compounds were picked up by a German-built instrument designed to “sniff” the comet’s thin atmosphere.

Other analyses suggest the comet’s surface is largely water-ice covered with a thin dust layer.

Chart of the day: Tracking carbon dioxide


Well, not exactly a chart, but a computer animation of carbon dioxide emissions over the course of a year, released today by NASA Goddard:

A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2

Program notes:

An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.

Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.

The carbon dioxide visualization was produced by a computer model called GEOS-5, created by scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office.

The visualization is a product of a simulation called a “Nature Run.” The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates January 2006 through December 2006.

While Goddard scientists worked with a “beta” version of the Nature Run internally for several years, they released this updated, improved version to the scientific community for the first time in the fall of 2014.

MexicoWatch: Anger, protest, parents, science


We begin with the latest, via Al Jazeera America:

Protests rage over missing students in Mexico ahead of national strike

  • Strike and massive marches called for Nov. 20 in capital and abroad demanding end to government corruption

Protests over the disappearance of 43 missing students raged across Mexico and the United States over the weekend. Activists blamed a government they say has ties to organized crime and called for people in Mexico and the U.S. to support a Mexico-wide strike on Thursday.

Coinciding with the Nov. 20 strike, protest marches will be held in Mexico City, as well as dozens of cities across the U.S. including New York City and Los Angeles.

“We want to warn that these acts of protest will not be silenced while the civil and human rights of our Mexican brothers continue to be violated and trampled on by a government that has colluded with organized crime and to those who blamed the crimes committed by the state on [cartels] — thereby evading their own responsibility in the state sponsored genocide that has been committed with total impunity,” #YoSoy123NY, the New York chapter of a Mexican social movement that opposes Mexico’s current government, said in a statement handed out at a protest in New York City on Sunday.

A video report on the upcoming  protests in Mexico City via teleSUR:

Mexico: Major protests planned for Nov. 20 over Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

This past weekend, several demonstrations were held throughout Mexico to demand that the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa be returned alive. Plans for major demonstrations on November 20 are already underway and include 3 separate marches in Mexico City that will converge in the city’s central square and the possible seizure of the Mexico City International Airport.

From the Washington Post, the ripples spread:

Outrage in Mexico over missing students broadens into fury at corruption, inequality

On the day that pipe-wielding rioters set fire to a government accounting office and ransacked the state congress building, Felipe de la Cruz stepped to the microphone in the floodlit plaza of his missing son’s school.

The protests about his son and dozens of others abducted by police had been building for weeks. The next morning, caravans of buses would drive out of these wooded hills to spread their defiant message to far corners of Mexico, as protesters in different states blocked highways, seized town squares, closed airports, and burned cars and buildings.

“The parents are enraged by so much waiting and so few results,” De la Cruz, who has emerged as a spokesman for the victims’ families, told the crowd last Wednesday. As of Monday, he said, “the flame of insurgency has been lit.”

And from CathNews, a plea:

Mexican bishops plead for peace over student protest violence

“With sadness we recognise that the situation of the country has worsened” – since 2010, when the bishops published a pastoral letter on violence – “unleashing a true national crisis,” the bishops said on November 12 during their semi-annual planning sessions in suburban Mexico City. “Many people live subjected to fear, finding themselves helpless against the threats of criminal groups and, in some cases, the regrettable corruption of the authorities.”

The same day, at the end of his general audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis said he wanted to express to the Mexicans present in St Peter’s Square, “but also to those in your homeland, my spiritual closeness at this painful time.” While the students are legally missing, “we know they were killed,” the Pope said. Their disappearance and deaths “make visible the dramatic reality that exists behind the sale and trafficking of drugs.”

Ordinary Mexicans have taken to the streets, condemning the crimes committed against the students and the apparent collusion between criminals and the political class in parts of the country. The bishops lent their support to peaceful demonstrations, which often have been led by students, and called for a day of prayer on December 12, when millions of Mexicans celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The San Antonio Express-News covers context:

Mexico’s Iguala massacre: criminal gangs and criminal government

Gang and government lawlessness plague Mexico. On Sept. 26, a violent gang and a criminal government combined to massacre 43 students near the Guerrero state town of Iguala.

A perceived attitude of elite indifference by Guerrero state and federal government officials has fanned national outrage. Now, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto faces an expanding crisis of confidence in government institutions.

There are two reasons the crisis could damage Pena’s ability to govern.

Reason No. 1: Atrocities far less hideous and institutionally debilitating than the Iguala massacre have sparked mass revolt.

This column’s first sentence sketches reason No. 2: Mexican government corruption facilitates organized crime. Organized crime enriches a corrupt political class. Cartel gunmen and crooked cops on the streets, cartel comandantes and corrupt politicos through institutions ensnare the Mexican people.

From KNSD-7 in San Diego, solidarity:

Kidnappings, Killings of Students in Mexico Fuel SD Protests

The mass kidnappings and killings of college students in Mexico is fueling protests that have spilled over to this side of the border.

Mexican officials have confirmed the students’ remains were found. But the officials’ response is fueling more demonstrations this week, including here in San Diego.

Here at home, more than 200 students at University of California San Diego showed their support at a candlelight vigil.

“This is something that spans time and space, students being persecuted for their beliefs, for their politics,” said Mariko Kuga, a fourth-year UCSD student.

From the University of Washington student paper, the Daily:

UW students raise awareness for ongoing corruption in Mexico

Chanting filled the streets as a procession made its way around the corner of Brooklyn Avenue Northeast and Northeast Campus Parkway on Friday afternoon. With determined faces, students marched toward Red Square, holding signs and posters calling for justice in Mexico.

These students, most involved with the social justice organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (MEChA), were protesting against the corruption of the Mexican government and raising awareness about the recent massacre of 43 students near the small town of Ayotzinapa, Mexico.

“The whole point of this protest is to raise awareness,” said senior Jessica Ramirez of MEChA, who organized the protest. “This is an issue for Latinos and this is an issue for Mexicans, but mostly this is an issue for everybody that cares about social justice and human rights justice.”

KTVX-4 in Salt Lake City covers solidarity in Utah:

Utahns rally for missing students in Mexico

A rally was held at the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City over the weekend. The rally was held to draw attention to 43 missing students in Mexico.

Those at the rally say they believe the Mexican government is somehow benefiting financially from the missing students. They also claim the students were taken to police and then handed over to gangs as a warning to stop protests from the Mexican people.

More solidarity, via the Harvard Gazette:

Murders in Mexico

  • Harvard, Boston experts step in to help

Mexican federal officials now say the 43 students who disappeared were killed by a local drug gang, incinerated in a 14-hour bonfire, and dumped in a local river. (Forensic DNA tests are underway.)

“The brutality of this was huge,” and has to be highlighted to the world, said Miguel Angel Guevara, an M.P.P. candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School. He grew up in Cuernavaca, just a few hours from the scene of the killings. “It reminds me of what the Nazis were doing,” he said.

But unlike the Holocaust’s silent witnesses of seven decades ago, Guevara and other academics are making noise, discussing what may be a six-month blitz of Boston-area events and media outreach. “We felt the story had been underreported,” said Guevara of the missing 43 students — most barely younger than he is. (Guevara, an electrical engineer by training, is 26.)

The project has a pair of YouTube videos up already, on a channel called Boston for Ayotzinapa. One is called “The World Is Watching” and features 136 area students representing 43 countries, one country for each missing student. An Instagram has also appeared, a picture of concerned students demonstrating in front of the gold-domed State House in Boston.

And the video, via Boston for Ayotzinapa:

THE WORLD IS WATCHING: students from 43 countries in solidarity with Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

136 students of 43 countries and 5 universities (Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Berklee College of Music and Tufts) stand in solidarity with the 43 disappeared students in Mexico. Please share this video to raise awareness about the situation and help us pressure the Mexican government.

Countries in solidarity: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.

#JusticeForAyotzinapa #AyotzinapaSomosTodos

Music: Diego Torres and Fernando Faneyte
Edition: Lucia Vergara

From the Nation, a landscape of death:

This Mass Grave Isn’t the Mass Grave You Have Been Looking For

They have found many mass graves. Just not the mass grave they have been looking for. The forty-three student activists were disappeared on September 26, after being attacked by police in the town of Iguala, in the Mexican state of Guerrero. A week later, I set up an alert for “fosa clandestina”—Spanish for clandestine grave—on Google News. Here’s what has come back:

  • On October 4, the state prosecutor of Guerrero announced that twenty-eight bodies were found in five clandestine mass graves. None of them were the missing forty-three.
  • On October 9, three more graves. None of them contained the missing forty-three. The use of the passive tense on the part of government officials and in news reports is endemic. Graves were discovered. Massacres were committed. But in this case, a grassroots community organization, the Unión de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Estado de Guerrero, searched for and found the burial sites.
  • By October 16, the number of known clandestine graves in the state of Guerrero had risen to nineteen. Still none of them held the forty-three.
  • On October 24, the Unión de Pueblos announced that it had found six more clandestine graves in a neighborhood called Monte Hored. Five were filled with human remains: “hair…blood stained clothing,” including “high school uniforms.”
  • The sixth was empty. It was “new and seemed ready for use,” said a spokesperson for the Unión.

From SciDev.Net, scientific solidarity:

Q&A: Finding the ‘disappeared’ in Argentina and Mexico

The story of 43 students that were kidnapped in Iguala, Mexico — all of whom are now presumed dead — has gripped the country for weeks. But it is just one of many stories of grieving families, outrage and mass graves filled with dozens of bodies, many badly burned. Mexico’s wave of violence continues, making headlines worldwide.

Identifying the victims — to help the police and bring closure to the parents — would be a near-impossible task were it not for forensic scientists. One group that is providing invaluable help is based some 7,000 kilometres away: the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF).

Set up to investigate the crimes of Argentina’s military dictatorship of the 1970s, the team has been identifying skeletal remains of “disappeared people”, often found in unmarked graves. Since then the group has travelled to many of the world’s conflict zones, helping to identify victims of massacres in more than 50 countries, from El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia to former Yugoslavia, the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

From ODN, more Argentine solidarity:

Argentines demonstrate ‘solidarity’ with Mexico over missing students

Program notes:

Demonstrators in Argentina took to the Mexican Embassy on Monday in a show of “solidarity” with the people of Mexico over missing students,. Report by Claire Lomas.

And from the Aurora Sentinel, a reminder of those most concerned:

Mexico couple’s desperate search for missing son

“How is it possible that in 15 hours they burned so many boys, put them in a bag and threw them into the river?” Telumbre says.

Maria Telumbre knows fire. She spends her days making tortillas over hot coals, and experience tells her a small goat takes at least four hours to cook. So she doesn’t believe the government’s explanation that gang thugs incinerated her son and 42 other missing college students in a giant funeral pyre in less than a day, leaving almost nothing to identify them.

The discovery of charred teeth and bone fragments offers Telumbre no more proof of her son’s death than did the many graves unearthed in Guerrero state since the students disappeared Sept. 26. She simply does not accept that the ashes belong to her 19-year-old son and his classmates.

“How is it possible that in 15 hours they burned so many boys, put them in a bag and threw them into the river?” Telumbre says. “This is impossible. As parents, we don’t believe it’s them.”

For Telumbre, her husband, Clemente Rodriguez, and other parents, the official account is merely another lie from an administration that wants to put this mess behind it. Their demands for the truth are fuelling national outrage at the government’s inability to confront the brutality of drug cartels, corruption and impunity.

From Mexico Voices, building on tragedy:

Mexico’s Iguala Crisis: Ayotzinapa Students, Parents and Zapatistas Discuss Establishing National Movement to Locate All Disappeared

Commanders of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and members of the Good Government Council (JBG) agreed with Ayotzinapa Normal School [teachers college] students and parents traveling with the Daniel Solís Gallardo Brigade [part of National Information Caravan] to develop together a national movement for demanding the safe return of Mexico’s disappeared and those extra-judicially executed by the State.

On Saturday morning at the Caracol of Oventic in the Municipality of San Andrés Larráinzar, a four-hour meeting took place with the Zapatistas. Open to all Zapatista supporters, the meeting was attended by Subcomandante Moisés and Comandante Tacho.

That night a press conference was held at the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center during which details of the meeting were unveiled about what they will do in the coming days. Omar García, a student member of the Caravan, said:

“They embraced our indignation and rage. They gave us the greatest attention and expressed their full readiness to support us.”

And to close, via Cube Breaker, a new mural in Ciudad Juarez by the artist Ever to commemorate the missing students:

BLOG Ayoytzinapa mural

EbolaWatch: Hope, fear, aid, drugs, & more


Lots of ground to cover as we’ve been under the weather, so we begin on the lighter side with a report from AJ+:

An Anti-Love Song To Ebola

Program notes:

A collective of all-star African singers, including Amadou and Mariam, wrote an awareness song about Ebola. Many artists come from counties with the virus like Guinea, Senegal and now Mali, which just confirmed its second Ebola death. The song encourages listeners to take Ebola seriously and to trust doctors: an important message for communities that are skeptical of western medicine and don’t believe in the disease. The crew includes Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, Kandia Kora, Mory Kante, Sia Tolno, Barbara Kanam and rappers Didier Awadi, Marcus and Mokobe.

Next, via the Guardian, America’s newest Ebola case is faring badly:

Ebola doctor at Nebraska hospital, ‘critically ill’ and sicker than other US patients

  • Martin Salia, from Sierra Leone, is a permanent US resident
  • Hospital spokesman: doctor may receive experimental therapy

A surgeon who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone is in critical condition and possibly sicker than any patient to arrive in the US from the disease-ravaged region of west Africa, a spokesman from the Nebraska hospital where he is being treated said on Saturday.

Dr Martin Salia, a permanent US resident, arrived in Omaha on Saturday afternoon, having left Freetown on Friday by air ambulance. He was immediately transported to Nebraska medical center, where he will undergo treatment. An update on his condition was expected later on Saturday evening, spokesman Taylor Wilson told the Guardian.

“He is critically ill, a good deal sicker than our previous patients, and perhaps sicker than any patient that has been transported from west Africa,” Wilson said earlier.

The Hill confronts an enigma:

CDC still mystified by Ebola infections in Dallas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still unsure how two nurses in Dallas contracted Ebola from their patient, according to early findings from the agency’s investigation.

CDC officials interviewed nearly 150 healthcare workers in Dallas while trying to learn how the disease spread from the first patient, Thomas Eric Duncan.

The investigation was ordered by President Obama about one month ago after CDC said it did not know how two of Duncan’s nurses became infected while wearing government-approved protective gear. Both nurses had no “reported exposures” in their gear.

The report, which was released Friday, provides little new information about the cases.

From Reuters, a mixed report:

Mali rushes to contain Ebola outbreak, Liberia signals progress

Mali is rushing to impose tougher measures to contain the spread of Ebola after recording a new case of the disease in the West African nation’s capital, health officials said on Thursday.

The world’s worst epidemic of the haemorrhagic fever on record has killed at least 5,160 people since it erupted in March in West Africa, a region dogged by poverty and poor healthcare. It has ravaged Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and spurred a global watch for its spread.

Liberia, the country hardest hit by the outbreak, announced it would not renew a state of emergency, highlighting at least some recent progress in neutralising the virus there.

Numbers from StarAfrica:

Mali: At least 5 dead, 256 quarantined in second Ebola wave

At least five people have died from Ebola in Mali with one health professional currently being treated and 356 people under observation, according to the latest assessment report of the situation issued Friday by the Malian Health and Public Hygiene minister. Three of deaths are related to contact with 66-year-old Guinean Ebola-affected who succumbed to the deadly virus late October in Bamako-based clinic Pasteur where he had been admitted for kidney insufficiency.

Prior to that a two-year-old girl, the first Ebola confirmed case in Mali died in the Kayes region, where she had been taken from Guinea by her grandmother for treatment.

Those currently isolated include 22 United Nations peacekeepers suspected of getting in touch with the Guinean patient at the Clinic Pasteur.

The latest numbers, via the World Health Organization:

BLOG Ebola cases

From AllAfrica, about damn time:

U.S. Proposes Major Debt Relief for Ebola-Hit Countries

The United States proposed Tuesday that the international community write off 100 million dollars in debt owed by West African countries hit hardest by the current Ebola outbreak. The money would be re-invested in health and other public programming.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will be detailing the proposal later this week to a summit of finance ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) industrialised countries. If the idea gains traction among G20 states, that support should be enough to approve the measure through the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where the United States is the largest voting member.

“The plan is for that money to be re-invested in social infrastructure, including hospitals and schools … to deal with the short-term problem of Ebola but also the long-term failure of the health systems that allowed for this outbreak.” — Jubilee USA’s executive director Eric LeCompte.

From StarAfrica, a plea to high places:

G20 leaders petitioned over Ebola crisis

Several international NGOs and charity organizations have issued a joint petition calling on world leaders at the G20 summit in Australia to act immediately to mobilize a robust intervention and roll back the spread of the Ebola epidemic.Friday’s petition from Amnesty International, Oxfam International, Plan International, Save the Children and WaterAid said the G20 must ensure that all the personnel, equipment and funding required to halt the outbreak are made available without any discrimination.

The five organizations have been active in efforts to rein in the epidemic in the three worst affected countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia where the outbreak has killed over 5000 people since March.

The petition has been signed by 165,490 people around the world to demonstrate solidarity with communities affected by the Ebola outbreak while warning G20 leaders that the window to stop the outbreak from spiralling out of control is closing fast.

Jiji Press covers subsequent lip service:

G-20 Leaders Resolved to Contain Ebola Crisis

The Group of 20 world leaders issued a joint statement on Saturday expressing their determination to contain the Ebola crisis in West Africa as they began a two-day gathering here the same day.

The G-20 members, including Japan and the United States, are “committed to do what is necessary to ensure the international effort can extinguish the outbreak and address its medium-term economic and humanitarian costs,” the leaders said in the statement.

Noting that they are “deeply concerned” about the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the leaders applauded the contributions from nations worldwide and such organizations as the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

A pledge, via the Guardian:

IMF to provide $300m in extra funding to help fight Ebola

  • G20 summit reaffirms commitment to fighting crisis in west Africa as IMF says Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia will receive help in form of loans, debt relief and grants

The G20 has welcomed a commitment from the IMF to provide $300m (£190m) in extra funding to help fight Ebola in the three worst-affected west African countries.

The IMF money for Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia will come through “a combination of concessional loans, debt relief, and grants”, according to a statement issued by the world leaders’ summit, being held in Brisbane.

The G20 also claimed to be “committed to do what is necessary to ensure the international effort can extinguish the outbreak”, while pointedly urging “governments that have yet to do so to join in providing financial contributions, appropriately qualified and trained medical teams and personnel, medical and protective equipment, and medicines and treatments”.

Another pledge, via the Liberia News Agency:

West Africa: EU Commits Support to Eradicating Ebola in the Region – Pledges 600 M

  • Monrovia — Euros To Ebola Fight in West Africa

The European Union has pledged an initial €600 million to scale-up to about €1 billion by the end of this year its assistance to contain the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

This was disclosed Thursday by the EU Director of Humanitarian and Civil Protection Operations (DG ECHO), Jean-Louis DE Brower who is heading a delegation dispatched to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to get from the governments and partners an update on the Ebola outbreak. The EU delegation also informed governments of the affected countries and the global community on building upon the interventions already in place.

The delegation made the disclosure Thursday during discussions held with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry office in Monrovia.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, not-so-innocent bystanders:

As Ebola fight grows, some countries are noticeably absent

One international aid group, Oxfam, this week launched a name-and-shame campaign that calls out powerful nations that haven’t contributed to the efforts.

Shannon Scribner, Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy manager, named Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as nations that hadn’t contributed. Other countries that have donated but “could do more,” Scribner said, include France, Italy, India, Japan, Russia and Brazil.

“It’s really unacceptable,” Scribner said Wednesday on a media conference call arranged by InterAction, an umbrella group for humanitarian nonprofits. “A lot of pledges, but that doesn’t help people on the ground unless it turns into commitments.”

“We cannot afford to let up, and we cannot afford to do this alone,” Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said Thursday at a congressional hearing on the Ebola response. “Containment will fail in the absence of a robust international effort. Other donors and the U.N. need to step up, just as we’re stepping up.”

From the Guardian, self-criticism:

Ebola: Médecins Sans Frontières critical of its own delays

  • Aid group’s vaccine appeal came too late and its reliance on past strategies was inadequate, says internal thinktank

The emergency aid group’s response to the epidemic, which has so far killed more than 5,000 people, has been praised by governments and the World Health Organisation. While western donors dithered and other aid groups pulled out, MSF deployed hundreds to the Ebola “hot zones” and treated more than 3,000 patients.

But the group relied too much on strategies it developed during smaller previous Ebola outbreaks, leading it to make mistakes as this year’s epidemic pushed it to its limits, said Jean-Hervé Bradol, a member of MSF’s internal thinktank.

“Our response was too orientated toward the management of previous outbreaks,” Bradol, of the Paris-based Centre For Reflection on Humanitarian Action, told Reuters, adding that MSF’s public appeal for vaccine development in September came months too late.

On to the pharmaceutical front, first with the Associated Press:

WHO sees few promising Ebola drugs in pipeline

A top official with the U.N. health agency says few experimental therapies are currently under development that could effectively treat Ebola.

Dr. Martin Friede, who is in charge of the World Health Organization’s work toward finding an Ebola drug, says scientists have proposed lots of experimental interventions but none has been thoroughly evaluated yet.

“We don’t have a lot of drugs in our pipeline that look promising,” said Friede, program leader for WHO’s technology transfer initiative. His comments follow a WHO-sponsored meeting of medical experts this week on how to test potential Ebola drugs in Africa.

Friede told reporters Friday in Geneva that “people are using all kinds of therapies” for the deadly virus without evidence they’re effective or safe.

From Nikkei Asian Review, thar’s gold in them thar ills:

Fujifilm has a lot riding on a flu drug it says is effective against Ebola

A Fujifilm Holdings influenza drug appears to be effective in fighting Ebola, the virus that has been wreaking havoc in West Africa and freaking out people all over the world.

The Japanese company best known for its photographic film diversified into the medical business six years ago.

Toyama Chemical, now a Fujifilm group company, is rushing to deliver additional shipments of Avigan, also known as favipiravir. It has a stockpile of the drug for 20,000 Ebola patients and aims to produce an amount sufficient for 300,000 people within this month.

Digital cameras began disrupting the photographic film business, and Fujifilm realized it had to diversify into new fields. It set its sights on the drug business even though it knew it could not compete with major pharmaceuticals by copying their business models. Fujifilm decided to focus on three illnesses — cancer, dementia and infectious diseases — and began searching for novel treatments.

Testing profitably, via CBC News:

Ebola vaccine clinical trial in Halifax overwhelmed with volunteers

Study looking for healthy people between the ages of 18 and 65 and will pay over $1,100

A clinical trial for Canada’s Ebola vaccine will take place in Halifax and there is no shortage of people wanting to participate.

The federal government announced Friday the experimental vaccine will be tested on a small group of people to assess its safety, determine the appropriate dosage and identify side effects.

The IWK Health Centre in Halifax was looking for 40 generally healthy people between the ages of 18 and 65, the hospital told CBC News.

And from the London Daily Mail, snake oil venom salesmen:

EXCLUSIVE: Homeopaths sent to deadly Ebola hotspot to treat victims with ARSENIC and SNAKE VENOM

  • Team spent days in remote Liberian hospital to prove that remedies work
  • They planned to treat victims with ‘rattlesnake venom’ and ‘Spanish Fly’
  • Boasted of the ‘unique opportunity’ presented by deadly Ebola outbreak
  • Claimed they would treat all European victims after proving success

Ebola victims in one of the hardest-hit parts of Liberia have been treated by homeopaths who are determined to prove that arsenic, rattlesnake venom and the aphrodisiac Spanish Fly can cure Ebola.

The homeopaths arrived in Liberia to use the deadly outbreak to prove their controversial theories and have already spent two weeks in the country with patients in a hospital in Ganta, in the north of the country near to the epicentre of the outbreak.

In letters and messages seen by Mail Online they revealed that the aim of their mission was to prove that homeopathy could treat Ebola.

Asian preparations from NHK WORLD:

Nurses participate in Ebola training workshop

Nurses in Japan have learned what to do if a patient suspected of being affected with Ebola visits a hospital.

No Ebola case has been confirmed in Japan, but there have been people who received health checks upon their arrival at Japanese airports from West Africa.

A training workshop was held in Tokyo on Friday. About 50 nurses and other medical workers took part. An infectious disease specialist explained what should be done if the hospital received a patient who has visited West Africa.

After the jump, on to Africa with the downside of survival and a border reopening, Liberia next and a warning from the UN, two new disease epicenters, negative economic consequences of the state of emergency and a official plea to continue emergency measures despite their official end, Chinese helpers arrive, a politician proposes a Liberian version of FEMA, and a European Union promise to rebuild the country’s shattered healthcare system thence to Sierra Leone and schools on the air, two superb video reports from a British journalist, and a local journalist is freed after he was jailed for criticizing the government’s handling of the crisis, an official end declared to the Democratic Republic of the Congo outbreak, and the curious case of con man hired to clean up after New York’s only Ebola case. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, Mali, fear, cautions


We open with the latest official Ebola numbers — now topping 5,000 — from the World Health Organization:

BLOG Ebolg numbrs

Next, the latest outbreak continues, via the Sydney Morning Herald:

Ebola in Mali: Nurse dies after sick imam from Guinea was never tested for virus

Authorities in Mali have quarantined dozens of people at the home of a 25-year-old nurse who died from Ebola in the capital, Bamako, and at the clinic where he treated an imam from Guinea who died with Ebola-like symptoms.

The imam from the border town of Kouremale was never tested for the disease and his body was washed in Mali and returned to Guinea for burial without precautions against the virus.

Two aid workers said that another person who lived in the house where the imam stayed in Bamako had died this week and was buried without being tested.

A doctor at the Pasteur Clinic where the nurse worked – one of Bamako’s top medical centres – is also suspected to have contracted Ebola.

More from the New York Times:

The first case in the new outbreak was a 70-year-old religious figure, a grand imam, who fell ill in Guinea and traveled to Mali for better treatment at a major private clinic in Bamako, Mali’s capital.

He died there on Oct. 27, and because of his importance, his body was washed at a large Bamako mosque before being returned to Guinea for burial.

But the Pasteur Clinic, where he was treated, failed to diagnose Ebola as the underlying cause of the kidney failure it was treating him for. According to a World Health Organization description of the case, numerous tests were performed, but not one for Ebola.

It was only realized how infectious he was after a nurse at the clinic fell ill and died, and when the chief W.H.O. representative in Mali heard from his counterparts in Guinea that the imam’s family members were dying.

And a video report from Reuters filed earlier in the day:

Quarantines in Mali after Ebola claims second life

Program notes:

Ninety people have been quarantined in Mali following the death of a second person from Ebola. Gavino Garay reports.

From the New York Times, a crisis of needs:

U.N. Seeks a More Nimble Response to Ebola in Africa

A shortage of international health workers and delays in building Ebola treatment clinics in West Africa are forcing the United Nations to change course in fighting the virus, and to call for smaller and more mobile treatment units that make greater use of local staff — and in turn require more money.

The shift comes eight months after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first identified. The virus is waning in some places and growing stronger elsewhere, and the international response so far has been unable to get the outbreak under control.

The most prominent international efforts have so far been focused on building large treatment centers. But by the time they are completed, they may not be where they are most needed.

An effort to combat domestic collateral damage, via Public Radio International:

A new hotline fights Ebola-related stigma against African immigrants

There are no more Ebola cases in the United States, but that doesn’t mean the fear is gone. New immigrants from Africa are facing harassment and discrimination because of fears surrounding the Ebola virus.

So a Bronx-based non-profit organization for African immigrants has launched a hotline to help. The group’s new website, AfricanDefense.org, encourages African immigrants to write or call in with their stories. The organization is collecting and sharing cases of discrimination and harassment to help raise awareness about the problem.

“We’ve heard a range of stories, both from the immigrants we are working with here in New York and … from all across the country,” says Amaha Kassa, executive director for African Communities Together.

And from Voice of America, American medical boots on the ground:

US Opens Ebola Treatment Unit in Liberia

The United States has opened the first of several Ebola treatment units it is building in Liberia.

The new clinic opened Monday in Tubmanburg, about 60 kilometers north of the Liberian capital, Monrovia. A U.S. Agency for International Development statement said up to 17 such units will be constructed in Liberia, including three that will be operated by the International Organization for Migration.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people infected with Ebola appears to be decreasing in Monrovia, but more cases are being detected in other areas of the West African country.

From Foreign Policy, cutting back:

DoD Sending Fewer Troops to Liberia to Battle Ebola

The military will scale back its Ebola operation in Liberia, citing recent success in stopping the spread of the disease as a second Ebola outbreak was detected in neighboring Mali.

Speaking at the Pentagon Wednesday afternoon, Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky said that the Defense Department will now dispatch 3,000, instead of the authorized 4,000, troops to Liberia as part of the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Volesky said fewer troops were needed because contractors already in Liberia can lighten the Pentagon’s load. The 3,000 troops are expected arrive in Liberia by December.

The Associated Press covers a plea:

Ebola workers ask Congress for help

A top U.S. official outlined plans Wednesday for clinical trials of a possible Ebola vaccine in West Africa, as the global response to the outbreak took on added urgency with the disclosure of a new cluster of cases in Mali and reports that the death toll had surpassed 5,000.

Two studies of a U.S.-developed vaccine will begin in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January and if they go well, “we could know by the middle of 2015 whether or not we have an effective vaccine,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The confirmation of long-anticipated vaccine studies came as the Senate panel began evaluating the Obama administration’s request for $6.2 billion in emergency aid to fight Ebola.

“These resources are essential to stop the outbreak in Africa, and protect us,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A settlement from the Los Angeles Times:

Family of Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan settles with hospital

Relatives of Thomas Eric Duncan announced Wednesday that they had settled all legal claims against the Dallas hospital where the Liberian man was treated and died of Ebola last month.

They said the agreement with Texas Health Presbyterian of Dallas and all others involved in treating Duncan, 42, includes a settlement with his parents and four children — ages 12, 18, 19 and 22 — as well as creating a charitable foundation to improve Ebola treatment in Africa.

The hospital released a statement noting the matter had been “amicably resolved.”

The parties did not disclose the amount of the settlement, although the family’s attorney said the amount was comparable to what could have been obtained through a civil suit alleging gross negligence.

Thomson Reuters Foundation finds fault:

Half of G20 countries have failed to deliver in fight against Ebola – Oxfam

Nine of the world’s top 20 biggest economies have failed to deliver adequate support in the global fight against the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 5,000 people in West Africa, Oxfam said on Wednesday.

Despite urgent calls for assistance, Argentina, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have made no contribution at all, while Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and France should be doing more, the charity said in a statement.

Of the G20, the United States, Britain and the European Union have shouldered most responsibility, and need to convince other countries to do more at the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia this weekend.

A parallel plea from the Associated Press:

UN’s Ban calls on Asia to step up Ebola fight

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Asian countries on Wednesday to step up their efforts in the global fight against Ebola.

He noted that Asia has more than half the world’s population. While it has not recorded any Ebola cases, experts worry that border control measures and other preparations are insufficient and that Asian countries should be doing more to fight the viral outbreak in West African nations.

Ban spoke in Myanmar’s capital, where world leaders are gathering for summits touching on security, health and economic issues.

He urged governments to help fill huge gaps in funding, equipment and medical personnel trying to stop the spread of Ebola.

From the Guardian, even worse:

Ebola: for-profit disaster capitalists are already out looking to make money from misery

  • NGOs with months of front line exposure were shunned in favour of a private company which was awarded a $20m contract to run an ebola response in Sierra Leone

The horror of ebola in West Africa has taken thousands of lives and spread fear around the world. This fact, coupled with ignorance and misinformation, has created the perfect storm. The risk is real, but you wouldn’t know the full picture from watching last weekend’s American 60 Minutes. Lara Logan’s report took her to Liberia, but it did not include any black African voices. It was as if colonialism never died, and the life-saving Americans were the only barrier between calm and chaos.

Meanwhile in Australia, last week’s news that private company Aspen Medical was awarded a $20m contract to run an ebola response in Sierra Leone was given surprisingly little scrutiny. Federal health minister Peter Dutton praised the company’s record and claimed that the firm was chosen because “they’ve got the capacity and the logistical capacity to deliver very quickly what governments want on the ground.” He played the patriotism card –“Aspen is an Australian company” – and said that Aspen “will have this up and running efficiently, effectively, saving lives.”

Non-government organisations with months of front line exposure in battling ebola were shunned for a corporation that won’t face any freedom of information requests because it’s a private entity. We have to take it on trust that taxpayer dollars will be spent appropriately. With former senior politicians and civil servants on Aspen’s board (a typical feature of companies that succeed in winning government contracts globally) financial benefits and political knowledge for the company are assured.

Raising questions with the Associated Press:

Ebola drug testing sparks ethics debate

Health officials are scrambling to begin human testing of a handful of experimental drugs for Ebola. But the effort has sparked an ethical debate over how to study unproven medicines amid an outbreak that has killed nearly 5,000.

U.S. officials say the studies must include one critical feature of traditional medical testing: a control group of patients who do not receive the drugs.

But many European and African authorities argue that withholding drugs from study participants is unethical, given that the current outbreak kills between 50 and 80 percent percent of those infected in West Africa, according to Doctors Without Borders. They favor alternative studies in which every patient receives drug therapy.

The split in testing philosophies means different researchers may wind up testing the same drugs using different approaches.

Another quarantine, via the Associated Press:

Island quarantine for Filipino troops from Liberia

More than 130 Filipino soldiers and police returned from peacekeeping duties in Liberia on Wednesday and immediately headed to an island quarantine as a precaution against the Ebola virus.

Although they passed rigid U.N. Ebola screening before they left the West African nation, they will still spend another 21 days on Caballo Island at the mouth of Manila Bay, the military said.

The troops arrived on a chartered flight but were not allowed to meet with relatives. The families applauded as they watched a video of arrival ceremonies at an air base from inside the Philippine air force museum building.

And from China Daily, prepared:

Nation’s rapid Ebola response ‘could prevent an outbreak’

Many of the lessons China learned during the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s have subsequently been applied to the management of infectious diseases such as the ongoing Ebola outbreak, despite the low probability of the disease becoming widespread in the country, according to Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organization’s representative in China.

China’s response to SARS and Ebola has focused on preventing outbreaks, slowing infection rates, arranging treatment programs, and preparing the health services to respond effectively, Schwartlander told China Daily.

“The 2003 experience of SARS in China changed the way in which information was shared and communicated, and quick, transparent, accurate information is one of the key tools that can be used to address an outbreak and avoid miscommunication and panic,” he stressed.

After the jump, on to Africa and a call for quarantine, soccer match Ebolaphobia defense, Angolan Ebola fears covered, the Gambia welcomes West Africans, comics to the educational rescue, on to Sierra Leone and burial alarms sounding, healthcare workers stage a walkout, and another doctor falls victim, on to Liberia and another flareup, critical disease trackers angered over missing paychecks, the latest bed count, the African Union sends in more medics, and a dam delayed. . . Continue reading