Category Archives: Science

EbolaWatch: Money, misery, fight, flight, woes


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

Obama says Ebola outbreak a ‘global security threat’

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

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

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

More from the New York Times:

Obama Urges World Powers to Bolster Ebola Response

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

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

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

Still more from the Washington Post:

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

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

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

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

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

President Obama announces plan to combat Ebola in Africa

Program notes:

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

From The Hill, gettin’ the word:

Obama, Ebola survivor meet in Oval Office

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

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

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

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

The Christian Science Monitor asks a question:

Why is US deploying the military to fight Ebola?

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

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

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

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

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

EVD: Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak

Program note:

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

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

From the New York Times, a price tag:

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

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

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

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

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

Deutsche Welle admonishes:

WHO warns Ebola cases could double every three weeks

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

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

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

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

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

The Associated Press avers:

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

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

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

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

The World Health Organization gives thanks:

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

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

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

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

Liberian Observer offers optimism:

“We can Win This fight”, UNICEF Deputy

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

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

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

StarAfrica decries:

Kenya lashes out at West over slow Ebola response

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

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

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

StarAfrica again, with another number:

Kenya: $7m sets aside to ward off Ebola

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

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

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

From Punch Nigeria, partial border closure continues:

Kenya maintains flight ban to Ebola-hit nations

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

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

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

From the Liberian Observer, a call from Ghana:

In Order to Eradicate Ebola, Ghanaian Prexy Wants Supports Expedited

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

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

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

More from the Monrovia Inquirer:

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

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

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

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

A video report from FrontPageAfrica:

FPA WEB TV: Standing in Solidarity with Liberia

Program note:

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

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

Ebola Fear Grips Lawmakers

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

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

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

From the Liberian Observer again, a call for action:

Health Advocacy Group Wants GOL Improves Its Ebola Response

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

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

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

Punch Nigeria pleads:

Ebola: Jonathan begs NUT to shelve strike

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

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

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

Punch Nigeria again, covering the deplorable:

NAFDAC impounds expired hand sanitisers, Ebola kits

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

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

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

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

ABIC Takes Ebola Awareness to Markets

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

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

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

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

EnviroWatch: Dengue, water woes, toxics


We open with the latest on that other outbreak on another continent, via Jiji Press:

Dengue Fever Outbreak in Japan Shows No Signs of Ending

Despite Japanese authorities’ efforts for containment, dengue fever has not yet shown clear signs of subsiding in the country, with the number of domestic infections topping 100.

The health ministry calls for calm, saying there is no need to panic because the spread of the tropical disease, which is transmitted only by tiger mosquitoes, will not last long, daily reports of new infections are stirring up fears.

The first locally transmitted case of dengue fever in nearly 70 years was reported in late August.

From NBC News, water woes in the Golden State:

Not One Drop: How Long Will California Survive Life Without Water?

The old man knew of the $500-a-day fine for people caught wasting water. He heard the plea for conservation from Governor Jerry Brown. But the water police can’t scare a person whose water isn’t running in the first place.

“Look,” said Carlos Chavez, a retired farm hand in the small town of Seville. He turned the wheel on a big outdoor faucet, the kind of high pressure spigot that’s illegal to operate in California without at least a hose attached to it. Nothing came out except air. It was the same story inside his home, where his plates piled up beneath a kitchen faucet as dry as the shop model.

As the California drought approaches its fourth year, Seville’s well is one of hundreds of private water holes coughing up sand and spitting air in the Central Valley, according to Tulare County officials. As many as 100,000 more wells are at risk around the state if the rains don’t come by October.

From NASA Goddard, another water woe:

Phytoplankton Levels Dropping

Program notes:

New research led by NASA researchers has found populations of the microscopic marine plants, phytoplankton, have decreased in the Northern Hemisphere. An analysis using a NASA model in combination with ocean satellite data between 1998 and 2012, showed a 1% decrease of phytoplankton per year.

From the Guardian, all hat, no cattle in Old Blighty:

Richard Branson failed to deliver on $3bn climate change pledge

  • New book by Naomi Klein claims that Virgin founder gave less than a tenth of cash promised to develop low carbon fuel

Richard Branson has failed to deliver on his much-vaunted pledge to spend $3bn (£1.8bn) over a decade to develop a low carbon fuel.

Seven years into the pledge, Branson has paid out only a small fraction of the promised money – “well under $300m” – according to a new book by the writer and activist, Naomi Klein.

The British entrepreneur famously promised to divert a share of the profits from his Virgin airlines empire to find a cleaner fuel, after a 2006 private meeting with Al Gore.

From Chemical & Engineering News, chemical intransigence:

Syngenta Stands Firm On Neonicotinoids

  • Pesticides: Manufacturer seeks to expand uses of thiamethoxam as pressure against chemical mounts

Amid growing concerns and lawsuits linking neonicotinoid pesticides with bee declines, Syngenta is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to increase the allowable levels of the company’s controversial neonicotinoid product thiamethoxam on certain crops.

Syngenta is seeking the change so thiamethoxam can be used as a spray on the foliage of alfalfa, corn, barley, and wheat. Currently, the pesticide is approved for use only as a seed treatment on those crops. In explaining its request, the company says, “Mid- to late-season insect pests are not controlled by seed treatment.”

The environmental group Beyond Pesticides says the move would be a “step backward for pollinator health.” Syngenta’s request “comes at a time when researchers are discovering that even ‘near-infinitesimal’ exposure to this class of pesticides can result in harm to honeybees and other wild pollinators,” the group says.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, global warming sets the stage for conflicts ahead:

U.N. to set new rules for N. Sea Route

The U.N. International Maritime Organization will create the first-ever mandatory safety and environmental regulations for the Northern Sea Route by revising relevant conventions, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The London-based organization decided to formulate international rules for maritime traffic because the number of ships using the route has surged, as global warming has been causing ice in the Arctic Ocean to melt. The new regulations are expected to take effect in 2016.

Currently, no international laws have been established for the Arctic Ocean like those in the Antarctic Treaty, which dictates that nations not make territorial sovereignty or other claims. There have also been concerns that coastal nations such as Russia may implement their own regulations.

The paper also illustrates the routes of the new Northwest Passage:

BLOG Seas

From the Contra Costa Times, hints of oily woes ahead:

Crude-by-rail: One federal inspector oversees all California’s railroad bridges, no state oversight

As concerns grow over aging rail infrastructure, earthquake readiness and a dramatic increase in crude oil shipments by train, state railroad regulators are scrambling to hire their first-ever railroad bridge inspectors — two of them.

Once they are hired, the California Public Utilities Commission plans to create a state railroad bridge inventory to determine which are most at risk. That’s right — neither the state nor federal government has a list of railroad bridges for California or the rest of the country. Until that happens, the safety of California’s thousands of railroad bridges — key conduits that carry people and hazardous materials over environmentally sensitive ecosystems and near urban areas — is left up to rail line owners and a single federal inspector who splits his time among 11 states.

“Two more inspectors is better than none, but it’s really a Band-Aid,” said Suma Peesapati, attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental group fighting the oil rail influx. “I think there should be no crude by rail over those bridges until there’s a comprehensive look at all of them.”

And from Global Times oil and water don’t mix:

Kunlun river polluted by oil pipe leaks

A river at the foot of Kunlun Mountain in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has become seriously polluted due to leaks from a diesel oil pipeline, which was broken by criminals who planned to steal oil, media reported Friday.

An unnamed government agency stated that broken valves on the oil pipeline in Qinghai Province, severed by prospective oil thieves, are the cause of the leaks, the Qinghai branch of China National Radio (CNR) reported on its Sina Weibo account Friday.

A total of 6 tons of oil had leaked, and 3 tons have been cleaned up, CNR reported, adding that the broken pipeline has also been repaired.

For our final item, China Daily hints of massive fracking ahead:

Experts: Potential of shale gas huge in China

China is one of the world’s largest markets for energy consumption, but some experts believe China can make significant headway in the natural gas sector by exploiting technology to tap its potentially huge reserves of shale gas.

China Energy 2020, an event that probed China’s place in the global energy market, was held Thursday at the Columbia Club of New York. The event was co-hosted by the China Energy Fund Committee, Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy and the National Committee on US-China Relations.

A report published by Columbia’s new energy policy center, titled Meeting China’s Shale Gas Goals, states that though China has “a huge shale gas resource,” production of shale gas in China is “just starting” to take shape and “will not be substantial” in the next few years.

From NASA: Videos of fires in the heavens


Our first two involve that thermonuclear furnace on which all life on Earth depends.

First, from NASA Goddard:

Late Summer M5 Solar Flare

Program notes:

On Aug. 24, 2014, the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 8:16 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and STEREO captured images of the flare, which erupted on the left side of the sun. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

This flare is classified as an M5 flare. M-class flares are ten times less powerful than the most intense flares, called X-class flares.

Next, a flare spotted Thursday:

September 10, 2014 X1.6 flare

Program notes:

The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 1:48 p.m. EDT on Sept. 10, 2014. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. However — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

This flare is classified as an X1.6 class flare. “X-class” denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

Finally, from Science at NASA, another kind of fire in the heavens:

Jellyfish Flame on the International Space Station

Program notes:

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station report seeing flames that behave like jellyfish. Video of the microgravity phenomenon is a must-see.

EnviroWatch: Water, fracking, forests, nukes


We begin with the latest on that other outbreak, the one in Asia, via Jiji Press:

Dengue Infections in Japan Surpass 100

Nine more people in Japan have been confirmed to have dengue fever, raising the total number of cases to 105, the health ministry said Thursday.

All nine are likely to have been bitten by dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park or nearby areas, where most of the recent infections are believed to have originated, the ministry said.

The 105 infected people come from 16 prefectures across Japan. The nine people developed symptoms between Aug. 30 and Tuesday, according to the ministry. The first domestic case of dengue fever in nearly 70 years was reported late last month.

From Mother Jones, Hillary’s other legacy:

How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World

  • A trove of secret documents details the US government’s global push for shale gas

Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe—part of a broader push to fight climate change, boost global energy supply, and undercut the power of adversaries such as Russia that use their energy resources as a cudgel. But environmental groups fear that exporting fracking, which has been linked to drinking-water contamination and earthquakes at home, could wreak havoc in countries with scant environmental regulation. And according to interviews, diplomatic cables, and other documents obtained by Mother Jones, American officials—some with deep ties to industry—also helped US firms clinch potentially lucrative shale concessions overseas, raising troubling questions about whose interests the programme actually serves.

Geologists have long known that there were huge quantities of natural gas locked in shale rock. But tapping it wasn’t economically viable until the late 1990s, when a Texas wildcatter named George Mitchell hit on a novel extraction method that involved drilling wells sideways from the initial borehole, then blasting them full of water, chemicals, and sand to break up the shale—a variation of a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Besides dislodging a bounty of natural gas, Mitchell’s breakthrough ignited an energy revolution. Between 2006 and 2008, domestic gas reserves jumped 35%. The United States later vaulted past Russia to become the world’s largest natural gas producer. As a result, prices dropped to record lows, and America began to wean itself from coal, along with oil and gas imports, which lessened its dependence on the Middle East. The surging global gas supply also helped shrink Russia’s economic clout: profits for Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom, plummeted by more than 60% between 2008 and 2009 alone.

Clinton, who was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, believed that shale gas could help rewrite global energy politics. “This is a moment of profound change,” she later told a crowd at Georgetown University. “Countries that used to depend on others for their energy are now producers. How will this shape world events? Who will benefit, and who will not? … The answers to these questions are being written right now, and we intend to play a major role.” Clinton tapped a lawyer named David Goldwyn as her special envoy for international energy affairs; his charge was “to elevate energy diplomacy as a key function of US foreign policy.”

From the Japan Times, another tragedy:

Police in Indian Kashmir collect bodies floating in worst floods in years

Authorities in Indian Kashmir collected the bodies of women and children floating in the streets on Thursday as anger mounted over what many survivors said was a bungled operation to help those caught in the region’s worst flooding in 50 years.

Both the Indian and Pakistan sides of the disputed Himalayan region have been hit by extensive flooding in recent days, and about 450 people have been killed, with Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar particularly hard hit.

“Some air force officials have reported that they have seen bodies of women and children floating. We are making every effort to collect the bodies as soon as we can,” said Srinagar police officer Faizal Wani.

Some aerial footage from RT:

Sub(merged)-Continent: Aerial footage of India’s fatal floods

Program notes:

Indian Air Force helicopters continue rescue efforts on to evacuate people stranded in flooded areas in Indian Kashmir. The flooding began earlier this month, causing landslides. More than a million people have been affected, with thousands losing their homes to the rising water.

And from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a look at the grievous condition in the American West, where water shortage is the rule [click on the image to enlarge]:

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

BBC News covers another tragedy:

Amazon rainforest destruction in Brazil rises again

The rate of destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has increased for a second year running.

Brazilian government figures show deforestation was up by 29% in the 12 months up to the end of July 2013. Satellite data showed that almost 6,000 sq km (2,315 sq miles) of forest were cleared during that period.

The largest increases in deforestation were seen in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, where most of Brazil’s agricultural expansion is taking place.

From the New York Times, tragedy within tragedy:

Peru Investigates the Killing of an Environmental Advocate

The authorities here are investigating the killing of an environmental advocate and indigenous leader who died along with three other men in a remote region of the Amazon jungle that he had sought to protect from illegal logging.

The advocate, Edwin Chota, 54, was a leader of the Ashaninka Indian village of Saweto, near the Brazilian border. Mr. Chota was killed after leaving Saweto on Aug. 31, while on his way to meet with leaders from another Ashaninka village some days walk away, according to his widow, Julia Pérez, and media reports.

Three other Saweto leaders accompanying him were also killed, officials said.

It took several days for villagers to discover the killings and make the trip by river to the regional capital, Pucallpa, to report the crime. Environmental and indigenous advocates announced the deaths over the weekend.

From the Guardian, motivation for rapacity:

Tropical forests illegally destroyed for commercial agriculture

  • Forest Trends warns that demand for palm oil, beef, soy and wood has fuelled rapid deforestation, especially in Indonesia

Increasing international demand for palm oil, beef, soy and wood is fuelling the illegal destruction of tropical forests at an alarming rate, according to new analysis that suggests nearly half of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of unlawful clearing for commercial agriculture.

The report, by the Washington-based NGO Forest Trends, concludes that 71% of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2012 was due to commercial cultivation. Of that deforestation, 49% was caused by illegal clearing to make way for agricultural products whose largest buyers include the EU, China, India, Russia and the US.

The global market for beef, leather, soy, palm oil, tropical timbers, pulp and paper – worth an estimated $61bn (£38bn) a year – resulted in the clearance of more than 200,000 square kilometres of tropical forest in the first decade of the 21st century, the report says. Put another way, an average of five football fields of tropical forest were lost every minute over that period.

Guardian Professional covers another failure:

Monoculture is failing Nicaragua’s farmers

  • NGOs must acknowledge the risks to livelihoods and food security and teach smallholders to diversify for higher profits

For the farmers on western Nicaragua’s volcanic range, who tend to favour beans over almost all other crops making a living from just beans is far from stable, despite the fertile soils.

As farmers fell trees to make space for land, deforestation has a negative effect on crop yields as increased erosion and surface run-off wash the nutrients from the once-rich volcanic soils. Similarly, environmental pressures such as meteorological variation leads to a high fall in yields.

Marginalised communities with limited access to water for even basic needs have no capacity to irrigate in a dry year. They also rely on the rains relenting between July and August. If there is no dry spell, they cannot dry their beans which then spoil quicker. In some areas, should the winds change and the volcanoes’ acidic smoke billow over farmland, acid rain can destroy an entire harvest.

While the Christian Science Monitor covers tragic dispossession:

Kenya conundrum: Kick out Maasai herders to develop geothermal energy?

  • In East Africa, a clash of two virtues: ancient homelands and clean energy. Kenya has incredible geothermal potential, but much of it sits below indigenous people’s land near volcanic Mt. Suswa.

lready, Kenya is Africa’s largest producer of geothermal and the ninth-largest worldwide. But the 424 megawatts currently generated represent less than 1/20th of the energy locked beneath a string of volcanic fields in the Rift Valley. Suswa alone has an estimated 600 untapped megawatts.

Realizing Kenya’s geothermal potential would cut energy costs and power economic expansion. But it could come at a high price: displacing thousands of indigenous Maasai people who, after a century of losing land rights, are upset at being moved again.

“We don’t like it,” says [Maasai herdsman Daudi] Maisiodo of the budding geothermal exploration at Suswa. “We fear many people will come and take our land.”

After the jump, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, including a disaster for a Japanese newspaper, questions for the ruling party in Japan, more revelations about the nuclear disaster, and a refusal to shut down a California nuclear power plant built on the coast near another fault. . . Continue reading

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

EnviroWatch: Health, water woes, climate, nukes


Another shorter collection today, mostly because we pulled our Ebola coverage out for a separate EbolaWatch, but there’s still plenty to cover.

First up, via the Los Angeles Times, another cost of meddling with our own internal environments:

Drugs used for anxiety, sleep are linked to Alzheimer’s disease in older people

Older people who have relied on a class of drugs called benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety or induce sleep are at higher risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, new research finds, with those whose use of the medications is most intensive almost twice as likely to develop the mind-robbing disorder.

Benzodiazepines — marketed under such names as as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin — are widely used to treat insomnia, agitation and anxiety, all of which can be early signs of impending Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. But the current study sought to disentangle benzodiazepines’ use in treating early dementia symptoms, probing instead the possibility that heavy use of the medications may permit, cause or hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.

The study compared the pattern of benzodiazepine use in 1,796 people elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s with that of 7,184 similar people who had no such diagnosis. Such a study design, conducted by French and Canadian researchers and published Tuesday in the journal BMJ, cannot by itself establish that more intensive use of the medications causes Alzheimer’s disease. But it does strengthen such suspicions.

Next up, the first of today’s water woes posts, via CNBC:

California rice farmer: Drought may make us ‘quit’

California’s ongoing drought is claiming another victim: the state’s rice crop.

Nearly 25 percent of California’s $5 billion rice crop will be lost this year due to lack of water, say experts. And while analysts say the loss is not a crisis just yet, at least one rice producer is ready to call it a day.

“If we keep going through this drought, it may make us quit and sell the ranch,” said Sherry Polit, who grows organic rice with her family on 1,500 acres in the Northern California town of Maxwell. “We had droughts before, but this is like the third bad one in a row,” explained Polit, who also grows organic olives.

MercoPress covers another:

Caribbean nations beaches disappearing because of rising sea level and recurring storms

The World Bank says due to rising sea levels and recurring storms, the beaches in most Caribbean nations have started to disappear. In a new report, the Washington-based financial institution said, in some areas of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for instance, an estimated 18-30 meters of beach have been lost over the last nine years.

“The highly vulnerable coastal strand and adjacent towns are fighting against increased flood risk from rainfall and storm surge,” said the bank, noting that the issue of challenges faced by small islands around the world was at the center of the just-concluded Third Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference in Samoa.

The World Bank said beaches are not the only concern, stating that Caribbean ports are also at risk from rising sea levels.

And from Deutsche Welle, yet another:

India ‘overwhelmed’ by intensity of monsoon floods

Program notes:

In the Indian region of Kashmir, rescue teams have begun evacuating tens of thousands of villagers stranded by the worst floods in over a century. 450 people have been killed as a result of the heavy rainfall in the mountainous region between India and Pakistan.

Still another, via South China Morning Post:

Sea cucumber farmers use of chemicals has led to a large number of fish deaths

  • Significant amounts used in farms in Pikou town in Liaoning, according to CCTV report

Some sea cucumber farmers in northeastern China have been using large amounts of antibiotics, disinfectants and pesticides leading to the deaths of a large number of several species of fish and endangering the conservation of migratory birds in the area, according to a report by the state broadcaster.

CCTV reported that the farmers in Pikou town, Pulandian city of Liaoning, used “a great amount of antibiotics” in their sea cucumber ponds. The water from those ponds was periodically discharged into the Bohai Gulf, causing the death of plenty of fish, the broadcaster said. The water in the gulf has been documented as being heavily polluted, according to the China Marine Environmental Monitoring Centre.

CCTV images show bodies of fish floating in the gulf close to the Pikou farms. Empty bottles of ceftriaxone were shown at one of them. Ceftriaxone is normally used to treat sexually transmitted diseases and infections of the lungs and urinary tract.

Another one, via the Asahi Shimbun:

Salmon still affected by 3/11 disaster, dealing blow to Tohoku economy

The salmon run in northeastern Japan this autumn will likely plummet by 40 percent compared with last year due to damage to hatcheries caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The Fisheries Research Agency said Sept. 9 the sharp decline in returning salmon to spawn in the Tohoku region will impact the economy of the disaster-stricken region. The price of salmon roe–a delicacy–is bound to rise, sources said.

Millions of salmon fry are released from hatcheries to rivers each spring. The adult fish generally return three and a half years later to the rivers where they were released.

And yet another, via Grist:

Living close to a fracking well could have given you that rash

A new study from Yale University – claimed by the lead author to be the largest of its kind – shows a correlation between living in proximity to a fracking well and symptoms of skin and upper respiratory problems.

The study, which was published today, surveyed 180 households in Washington Co., Pa., which lies about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh and has developed into a hotbed of fracking activity in recent years – the county now plays host to over 1,000 wells. It specifically sampled houses dependent on ground-fed water wells, which can be susceptible to contamination from chemicals used in fracking.

The results? Those who lived less than 0.6 miles away from a well were twice as likely to report health issues as their friends who lived over 1.2 miles from it.

From the Guardian, a rare upbeat note:

Ozone layer shows signs of recovery after 1987 ban on damaging gases

  • Continued rises in other greenhouse gases, as well as illicit usage of carbon tetrachloride, still has potential to undo gains

The ozone layer that shields life from the sun’s cancer-causing ultraviolet rays is showing its first sign of thickening after years of dangerous depletion, a UN study said on Wednesday.

Experts said it showed the success of a 1987 ban on manmade gases that damage the fragile high-altitude screen, an achievement that would help prevent millions of cases of skin cancer and other conditions.

The ozone hole that appears annually over Antarctica has also stopped growing bigger every year, though it will be about a decade before it starts shrinking, said the report, coproduced by the World Meteorological Organisation and the UN Environment Programme.

And another from the Independent:

Bacteria found in honeybee stomachs could be used as alternative to antibiotics, scientists claim

  • Bacteria found in honeybees could be used as an alternative to antibiotics and in the fight against antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA, scientists have claimed.

For millenia, raw unmanufactured honey has been used to treat infections.

Scientists believe its effectiveness could lie in a unique formula comprised of 13 types of lactic acid bacteria found in the stomachs of bees. The bacteria, which are no longer active in shop-bought honey, produce a myriad of active anti-microbial compounds.

The findings could be vital both in developing countries, where fresh honey is easily available, as well as for Western countries where antibiotic resistance is an increasingly concerning issue.

From the Guardian, delegitimizing Aussie environmentalism:

Queensland passes laws to stop ‘vexatious’ green groups

  • Laws that limit the capacity of most Queenslanders to object to new mines have been savaged as an attack on democracy

New state laws will prevent most Queenslanders going to the land court to object to proposed mining projects.

The government says the Mineral and Resources (Common Provisions) bill will stop green groups and others launching “vexatious” objections just to delay projects.

Green groups, the Labor opposition and minor parties have savaged the government’s bill, which passed parliament on Tuesday. They say the new law is an attack on democracy because it limits the capacity of most Queenslanders to object to mining proposals.

The laws mean only directly affected landholders, their neighbours and local councils can now go to the court.

Next up, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with Jiji Press:

National Road in Fukushima No-Go Area to Fully Open

The Japanese government plans to fully open a national road that runs north-south along the coast of Fukushima Prefecture on Monday for the first since the March 2011 nuclear accident in the northeastern Japan prefecture, it was learned Wednesday.

The closed 14-kilometer section of Route 6 in a no-go area, where the annual radiation level tops 50 millisieverts, will be open to free traffic after the completion in August of decontamination work, officials said.

The government is expected to announce soon how much the radiation level has been reduced there, according to the officials.

The Japan Times reveals a cover-up attempt:

Tokyo lodged protest over March 2011 U.N. report saying Fukushima plant not under control

The Foreign Ministry unofficially lodged a protest over a U.N. report released immediately after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that described the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as not being under control, sources said Wednesday.

At the time, a series of hydrogen explosions occurred in the plant’s reactors as Tokyo Electric Power Co. was unable to cool them sufficiently.

In making the protest, the Foreign Ministry said the expression in the report was too strong, the sources said, indicating the government underestimated the disaster, in which meltdowns occurred in reactors 1, 2 and 3.

From the Guardian, ongoing consequences:

Fukushima nuclear disaster: three years on 120,000 evacuees remain uprooted

  • Japan’s 2011 plant meltdown has torn apart close families, leaving elderly relatives isolated and villages uninhabited

More than three years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster more than 120,000 people from the region are living in nuclear limbo with once close-knit families forced to live apart.

Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday gave the green light for two nuclear reactors at Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai plant in south-west Japan to restart, but communities are anxious over the safety aspects. The nuclear industry in Japan has been mothballed since the meltdown.

But the Asahi Shimbun announces the inevitable, given the current government:

NRA approves safety at Kagoshima nuclear plant; paperwork next step

The Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture formally passed tougher safety checks on Sept. 10, but the plant operator must submit a mountain of paperwork before it can restart its reactors.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s approval is the first since new safety standards were established following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. That means safety checks have effectively been completed for a resumption of operations of the Sendai plant’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors.

As the next step, Kyushu Electric Power Co., the operator of the Sendai plant, will have to submit to the NRA construction plans that include designs of equipment and the company’s new safety regulations detailing operation procedures and accident responses.

And for our final item, more from the Japan Times:

Japan’s regulator OKs nuclear plant return while pushing to close old reactors

Japan is nearing the end of its first full year without nuclear power since 1966 and public mistrust of the sector remains high after the 2011 Fukushima triple meltdown, the worst such disaster since Chernobyl.

The government is pressing regulators to make the tough decision on whether to decommission the oldest of the country’s 48 reactors, which face higher safety hurdles than the rest. Weeding out reactors that are 40 years old or more may help win public trust in the rest of the industry.

“For myself, I would like to proceed with smooth decommissioning (of some plants) and at the same time the restart of nuclear power stations certified as safe,” Yuko Obuchi, the new minister for economy, trade and industry, who oversees the nuclear industry, said last week.

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.