Category Archives: Wealth

John Oliver tackles $1 trillion student loan debt


Yep, it now tops everything except mortgage debt, and lenders have more coercive power to collect it than do lenders of any other form of debt, while the parallel growth of for-profit colleges [like those owned by UC Regent Richard "Greasy Thumb" Blum, spouse of Sen. Dianne Feinstein] have fuekled the rapid growth of student loans. Blum also presided over the board of regents during the massive inflation in tuition that forced increasingly numbers of students to resort to borrowing to attend the University of California.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Student Debt

Program note:

John Oliver discusses student debt, which is awful, as well as for-profit colleges, who are awfully good at inflicting debt upon us.

Berkeley’s benefactor and the Gulf oil tragedy


The explosion of the Deepwater Horison offshore drilling platform at BP’s Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico on 20 April 2010 killed ten oil workers and began a massive oil spill causing massive environmental damage and leading to last week’s jury verdict that will cost more billions than it’s already paid out.

BP [nee the Anglo Iranian Oil Company] is the same oil giant that gave a half-billion to bankroll the Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley, in partnership with the University of Illinois, following a heated debate and protests which we covered back when we were reporting for the late Berkeley Daily Planet print incarnation.

Illinois is, of course, the state that provided Barack Obama’s platform for his senatorial run, leading to his election. Obama appointed as Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, a physicist who served as head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and who played a key role in landing Berkeley BP’s half-billion [for more, see here, and here].

With that out of the way, here’s a report from The Real News Network featuring a Jessica Desvarieux interview of Steve Murchie, campaign director for the Gulf Restoration Network, on lessons learned.

From The Real News Network:

Better Oversight and Less Drilling Needed to Protect the Gulf

From the transcript:

MURCHIE: BP has paid a substantial amount of money already and is lined up to pay substantially more. You know, we have to recognize that this is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and that BP is primarily responsible. So they’ve already pleaded guilty to criminal conduct. They paid $4 billion in fines for that. There’s a process underway through the Oil Pollution Act for them to pay additional compensation to people and the public who have been damaged by their actions. That’s everything from a bed-and-breakfast or a hotel that lost tourists, to companies that weren’t able to go out and catch fish, to state and local governments who lost tax revenue because they had to close their beaches and their fisheries. And so all of those entities, all of those people deserve to be compensated because of BP’s actions.

What Judge Barbier ruled on yesterday was the civil penalties under the Clean Water Act. And this is above and beyond compensation for the damage. It’s above and beyond criminal penalties. These are the civil penalties that for a corporation are really where the accountability comes in the American justice system. And so Judge Barbier, after sifting through the facts very carefully, came forth with a 153 page decision that proved that, to his satisfaction–and that’s the opinion that counts–that BP was grossly negligent, which allows for the largest possible fine under the Clean Water Act.

DESVARIEUX: Well, let’s go back. Why do you think this disaster was even able to happen? What role do regulations play in all this? Do you feel like there was enough of that to begin with?

MURCHIE: I think a lot of people would like to think of BP as some rogue oil company that was out of control. And that appears to be the case, according to the judge. But we have to remember that the regulators responsible for oversight of the offshore activities and the oil and gas industry in general in the Gulf were very lax, terrible practices happening with the federal agencies being way too cozy with the industry. And for observers like Gulf restoration network, we felt like the BP disaster was likely to happen at one point or another, and we and many other people had been pushing for reforms of the industry. And, unfortunately, it took a disaster to even get a bipartisan commission to come together to come up with recommendations. And while BP is being held accountable for their actions, many of the recommendations of that commission have yet to be implemented.

DESVARIEUX: So we’re talking essentially, just so I’m understand you correctly, Steve, is that there hasn’t been really any significant change in legislation to protect communities and the environment after such a disaster happened?

MURCHIE: There have been some reforms. The Obama administration made some changes to the federal agency that has provided some greater scrutiny, and that’s been helpful. I think the main thing that Congress has actually done, which is potentially going to have great benefit to the Gulf, is passing the Restore Act. And what that does is it dedicates those civil penalties under the Clean Water Act to come back to the Gulf states to be used for restoration. And that process is underway right now, to make sure that those billions of dollars that BP is going to pay will be put to use to bring back the Gulf.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, Dengue, water, nukes


From the Associated Press, or first Ebola item:

Obama warns Ebola outbreak could worsen

President Barack Obama says helping contain the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a U.S. national security priority but it’s going to be a long and difficult task.

He says the American military will be helping set up isolation units and equipment there and providing security for public health workers flocking in from around the world. But even then, he says “it’s still going to be months before this problem is controllable in Africa.”

Obama spoke on Ebola during a wide-ranging interview with NBC, conducted Saturday and broadcast Sunday.

BBC News offers hope:

Vaccine gives monkeys Ebola immunity

Vaccinated monkeys have developed “long-term” immunity to the Ebola virus, raising a prospect of successful human trials, say scientists.

The experiments by the US National Institutes of Health showed immunity could last at least 10 months.

Human trials of the vaccine started this week in the US and will extend to the UK and Africa.

But the Associated Press cautions:

Monkey study: Ebola vaccine works, needs booster

New monkey studies show that one shot of an experimental Ebola vaccine can trigger fast protection, but the effect waned unless the animals got a booster shot made a different way.

Some healthy people are rolling up their sleeves at the National Institutes of Health for the first human safety study of this vaccine in hopes it eventually might be used in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The NIH on Sunday published some of the key animal research behind those injections. One reason the vaccine was deemed promising was that a single dose protected all four vaccinated monkeys when they were exposed to high levels of Ebola virus just five weeks later, researchers reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

Is five weeks fast enough?

The Independent backgrounds:

Ebola outbreak: Why has ‘Big Pharma’ failed deadly virus’ victims?

Asked why a fully tested and licensed vaccine had not been developed, [Professor Adrian Hill of Oxford University] Hill said: “Well, who makes vaccines? Today, commercial vaccine supply is monopolised by four or five mega- companies – GSK, Sanofi, Merck, Pfizer – some of the biggest companies in the world.

“The problem with that is, even if you’ve got a way of making a vaccine, unless there’s a big market, it’s not worth the while of a mega-company …. There was no business case to make an Ebola vaccine for the people who needed it most: first because of the nature of the outbreak; second, the number of people likely to be affected was, until now, thought to be very small; and third, the fact that the people affected are in some of the poorest countries in the world and can’t afford to pay for a new vaccine. It’s a market failure.”

He said that producing a vaccine for Ebola was “technically more doable” than making one for other challenging and more widespread diseases such as TB, HIV and malaria, which receive more funding. “There’s a lesson here,” he said. “If we had invested in an Ebola vaccine, had it sitting there as the outbreak comes, you could have nipped it in the bud, been able to vaccinate the region where it started. What happened in Guinea was that it got out of control and spread. If you invest in having a relatively small amount of vaccine, available in the right place, as soon as anything happens, you could save huge amounts of money, not to mention lives.”

And from StarAfrica, a story that raises many questions:

Zimbabwe to introduce HIV self-testing

The Zimbabwean government will soon introduce HIV self-testing kits as a way to encourage people to know their HIV status, a senior Ministry of Health official said Sunday.The director of the ministry’s AIDS and TB Unit, Owen Mugurungi said the government was undertaking an assessment before the introduction of the HIV self-testing kits.

“By the end of the year we should be releasing preliminary results on the assessment which will guide us on the decisions we are supposed to make,” Mugurungi told the state-run Sunday Mail.

The development follows revelations that only 185,000 of the 196,000 people who went for HIV tests in 2013 collected their results.

Uganda’s Daily Monitor limits:

Guinea football team restricted to 25 people

  • The move seeks to minimise the risk of spreading Ebola in Uganda.

Government has restricted to 25 people the contingent of the Guinea football team, which is expected to play Uganda Cranes this Wednesday in Kampala in the African Cup of Nations Qualifiers.

The move, which seeks to minimise the risk of importing Ebola to the country, will only allow in players, coaches and support staff.

Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the minister of Health said at the weekend that no fans from Guinea would be allowed into the country.

From Punch Nigeria, a call from an organization with a controversial history:

Seadogs ask C’ River to set up isolation centres

Two chapters of the National Association of Seadogs in Cross River State on Saturday called on the state government to set up isolation centres as a proactive step to curtail the spread of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease.

Although Cross River had yet to record any case of EVD, the Jokaina and Frigate decks of NAS were of the view that it was taking the state government too long to establish quarantine centres.

They made the call in Calabar, the state capital, during an exercise organised to sensitise traders, motorists and the general public on preventive measure

StarAfrica covers a negative:

Zambia: Quarantined man tests negative to Ebola

The Zambian government has assured the public that the country has not recorded any cases of the dreaded Ebola fever in the country after a man suspected of having the disease tested negative to the virus.Ministry of Health spokesperson Kennedy Mulenga told journalists on Sunday that samples drawn from the man from Mumbwa west of the capital last week had tested negative to the deadly fever and the man had since been released from quarantine.

Residents of Mumbwa panicked last week when word went round that the man who exhibited symptoms similar to the fever was suffering from Ebola fever but Mulenga said the man had tested negative.

He said the ministry has assembled a rapid response team made up health personnel to carry out surveillance for the disease around the country especially at entry and exit points around the country.

From Punch Nigeria, another challenge:

Enemuo acted like a traditional healer —Medical council

If not for death, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, the country’s regulatory agency for the practice of medicine, would have disciplined the late Dr. Iyke Enemuo because he acted like a traditional healer.

Enemuo died after contracting the Ebola Virus Disease from the ECOWAS diplomat, Olubukun Koye, whom he treated in a Port-Harcourt hotel.

Fielding questions from journalists in Abuja, the Registrar of MDCN, Dr. Abdulmumuni Ibrahim, condemned the decision of the late doctor to treat a patient suffering from a contagious disease in a hotel.

While describing Enemuo’s action as highly unethical, Ibrahim said it was wrong to treat a patient outside a medical facility.

Off to Asia and another disease, first from China Daily:

1,145 dengue fever cases in S China

A total of 1,145 dengue fever cases have been confirmed in South China’s Guangdong province, with 31 in critical situation, according to a statement released by local health department.

Of the cases, 90 percent are confirmed in Guangzhou. There have been no deaths reported, the statement said.

Zhang Yonghui, director of the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, appealed to all citizens to take self-protective measure against mosquitoes and eradicate mosquitoes so as to prevent dengue fever.

Jiji Press imposes a closure:

Shinjuku Gyoen Closed amid Dengue Outbreak

Japan’s Environment Ministry closed Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden on Sunday as many domestic dengue fever infections have taken place in nearby Yoyogi Park recently.

Although no infection in Shinjuku Gyoen has been reported, the park will be closed for the time being, according to the ministry.

The ministry will catch mosquitos in the park and check whether they carry the dengue virus.

From the Guardian, another outbreak closer to home:

US has seen nearly 600 measles cases this year, CDC says

  • Outbreaks linked to trend of parents not vaccinating children
  • Deadly disease had been virtually eradicated in US

The United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.

Authorities have confirmed 592 cases between 1 January and 29 August, a jump caused mainly by parents refusing to vaccinate their children, according to the latest monthly report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest figures from summer continue a troubling trend reported in May when the US recorded 288 cases of measles since January – the most in a five-month period since 1994.

From the Associated Press, a water woe:

Water shortages lead to ‘tanker mafia’ in India

While New Delhi has had water troubles for decades, the shortage has become critical in recent years as the city’s population has grown with little or no planning, rising from 9 million in 1991 to almost 17 million today.

Even many of the wealthiest neighborhoods get water for just an hour in the morning, with residents rushing to turn on pumps and fill storage tanks when the municipal supply flows.

The most urgent problem, though, is getting water to the sprawling neighborhoods of illegally constructed buildings, home to 40 percent of the city’s residents and largely without water lines. The city’s water agency, the Delhi Jal Board, sends 900 tankers onto the crowded roads every day. In some neighborhoods, a tanker passes every few minutes, its load sloshing down its sides.

RT covers an agricultural woe:

India ozone pollution kills enough crops to feed nearly 100mn poor a year – study

Millions of tons of India’s major crops get damaged yearly due to air pollution – leaving a third of the country’s impoverished people short on nutrition, a joint US-India study reveals.

In the space of just one year, ozone pollution has deprived the Indian economy of millions of tons of wheat, rice, soybean and cotton – the country’s main crops. Losses of $1.29 billion translate as food for 94 million people living below the poverty line. These figures were made public in research titled “Reductions in India’s crop yield due to ozone”, recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

India’s Air Monitoring Center has already pointed out the soaring rates of pollution in the country, comparing the national capital Delhi to Chinese Beijing – one of the most polluted cities in the world – as of years 2011-2014. But rising emissions also worry scientists, who are studying severe ozone pollution in some of India’s most populated regions.

Next up, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with astonishing numbers from  the Japan Times:

Two trillion becquerels of radioactive material may have escaped No. 1

Some 2 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and cesium-137 may have flowed into the bay of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant during the 10 months to May this year, it was learned Sunday.

The amount exceeds by 10 times the limit of radioactive material releases Tepco set before the March 2011 meltdown accident at the power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

At the plant, tainted groundwater may be flowing into the bay, and highly radioactive water may be leaking into the bay from reactor buildings through trenches.

According to Tepco documents, some 4.8 billion becquerels of strontium-90 and 2 billion becquerels of cesium-137 are estimated to have flowed into the plant’s bay per day, based on their average concentrations near a water intake for the Nos. 1-Nos. 4 reactors between August last year and May this year.

NHK WORLD drops in:

New industry minister visits Fukushima Daiichi

Japan’s new industry minister says the government will do all it can to decommission the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Yuko Obuchi became Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister last week. She made her first inspection of the plant in Fukushima Prefecture on Sunday. Obuchi thanked plant workers for the difficult work they are doing. She said the decommissioning of the reactors is moving forward.

She stressed that for the future of Japan and Fukushima’s recovery, the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates Fukushima Daiichi, must work together to overcome many difficulties.

From BBC News, another fuel, another problem:

Brazil’s ex-Petrobras director Paulo Roberto Costa claims corruption

An ex-director of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras has accused more than 40 politicians of involvement in a kickback scheme over the past decade.

Paulo Roberto Costa – who is in jail and being investigated for involvement in the alleged scheme – named a minister, governors and congressmen.

They were members of the governing Workers party and two other groups that back President Dilma Rousseff.

And to close, this from News Corp Australia:

Stephen Hawking says Higgs boson has potential to destroy entire universe

SCIENTIST Stephen Hawking has warned that the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle, could cause space and time to collapse.

But there is time for lunch: It may take trillions of years to topple.

The British professor said that at very high energy levels the Higgs boson – the subatomic particle which gives us our shape and size – could become so unstable that it would cause space and time to collapse.

More proof San Francisco has jumped the shark


First up, a video from KRON 4 in San Diego:

Electric Unicycles All the Rage

Program note:

Sometimes you don’t need “wheels” to get around.

KRON 4 Tech Reporter Gabe Slate finds one of the hottest new transportation trends in San Francisco involves just one wheel and a motor.

We yield the commenting to Kevin McDonald of Valleywag:

With every tech boom, we get an awkward and doomed walking replacement. First there was Segway, heralded by Steve Jobs as being “as big a deal as the PC” and now strictly used by gross tourists and mall cops. Now, San Francisco’s “tech hipsters” are tooling around town on “self-balancing unicycles.”

KRON 4 interviewed Focus Designs, which calls their electric unicycle “the SBU,” but they are not the only manufacturers of these devices.

“You get a lot of looks, and you will be the center of attention,” brags the SBUs’ pitchman, somehow missing that riders will be getting stares for all the wrong reasons.

As you might imagine, these things, which are basically the social equivalent of Google Glass for your feet, are a hit with the code jockeys behind Silicon Valley’s hottest companies. The motorized unicycle’s marketing team targets people “that are just out of college” and notes that that Twitter, Google, and Facebook employees are “really in love with the product because they are early adopters.”

EnviroWatch: Ebola, dengue, water, & nukes


First up, via Reuters, the latest grim numbers:

EU pledges 140 million euros in Ebola aid as West Africa toll tops 2,100

The European Union on Friday pledged 140 million euros ($180 million) to boost the fight against Ebola in West Africa, where the death toll in the worst outbreak on record has passed 2,100 people.

More than six months into the crisis, the disease is spreading faster than ever and organizations across the world are scrambling cash and supplies to the region. But the World Health Organization (WHO) said the lack of trained staff was hobbling the response.

“The situation is going from bad to worse,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the EU commissioner responsible for humanitarian aid. “We are helping make a difference on the ground but the needs are outpacing the international community’s capacity to react.”

From Reuters, a campaign:

U.N. to set up Ebola crisis center, aims to stop spread in six to nine months

The United Nations plans to set up an Ebola crisis center to coordinate the response to the deadly virus and to strive to halt its spread in West African countries in six to nine months, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Friday.

Ban called on the international community to provide $600 million needed for supplies in West Africa, where more than 3,500 confirmed or probable cases of the hemorrhagic fever have been reported and more than 1,900 people have died since March.

“The number of cases is rising exponentially. The disease is spreading far faster than the response. People are increasingly frustrated that it is not being controlled,” Ban told reporters.

StarAfrica liberates:

Ebola: Cameroon quarantines, releases 60 migrants

The Minister of Public Health, André Mama Fouda in Yaounde has authorized the return home from Nigeria of 60 Cameroonian migrants who were quarantined earlier this week due to Ebola, the ministry announced Friday.The migrants had been placed in isolation in Ekok and Ekondo Titi (South-west) and put under observation for 21 days, the incubation period for the virus.

Cameroon shares a 1,500km land border with Nigeria, a country where cases of Ebola have been reported in recent months.

As part of its prevention and response plan, the Cameroonian authorities have prohibited any movement of people and goods from or into Ebola-hit countries.

The Associated Press diagnoses:

US doctor infected with Ebola in stable condition

A doctor who became infected with Ebola while working in Liberia is sick but in stable condition and communicating with his caregivers at the Nebraska Medical Center, officials said Friday.

Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, is being treated at a 10-bed special isolation unit, the largest of the United States’ four. It was built to handle patients with highly infectious and deadly diseases, according to Dr. Mark Rupp, chief of the infectious diseases division at the center.

Sacra— the third American aid worker sickened with the virus — arrived at 6:38 a.m. Friday at the Omaha hospital. Sacra was wheeled on a gurney off the plane at Offutt Air Force Base, transferred to an ambulance and then wheeled into the hospital, said Rosanna Morris, chief nursing officer for the medical center.

More from USA Today:

U.S. doctor will be treated without experimental drug

With all supplies of an experimental drug exhausted, doctors and nurses caring for the third Ebola patient to return to the USA will rely on conventional methods of treating symptoms and preventing complications.

Physician Richard Sacra, 51, arrived Friday at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha’s special Biocontainment Unit, one of only four such specialized units in the USA, which is designed for patients with dangerous and highly infectious diseases. Although Sacra works as a family physician in Worcester, Mass., he is also an experienced medical missionary, and he returned to Liberia to replace staff who had fallen ill with Ebola.

Smith and several other doctors with the unit repeatedly said Sacra’s transfer to Omaha posed no threat to the public, noting Ebola is transmitted through close contact with an infected person.

From TheLocal.at, an alarm in Austria:

Suspected case of Ebola in Linz

A 15-year-old boy with Ebola-like symptoms is being treated in an isolation ward in Upper Austria. The young man was admitted to Linz General Hospital on Friday morning, suffering from a high fever.

He has recently returned from a trip to West Africa, where there have been more than 3,000 cases of the disease since it was first identified in Guinea in February.

Blood samples from the patient have been sent to Vienna for analysis. A result is expected by Saturday morning.

From Reuters, another quarantine:

Sierra Leone to impose 4-day, countrywide anti-Ebola ‘lockdown’

Sierra Leone will impose a four-day, countrywide “lockdown” starting Sept. 18, an escalation of efforts to halt the spread of Ebola across the West African nation, a senior official in the president’s office said on Friday.

Citizens will not be allowed to leave their homes between Sept. 18-21 in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading further and allow health workers to identify cases in the early stages of the illness, said Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, a presidential advisor on the country’s Ebola task force.

“The aggressive approach is necessary to deal with the spread of Ebola once and for all,” he told Reuters. As of Friday, Sierra Leone has recorded 491 of the total of 2,097 deaths blamed on Ebola in West Africa since March, U.N. figures showed.

The San Francisco Chronicle allocates:

White House asks for $30M for CDC’s Ebola efforts

The White House on Friday sent Congress a request for $30 million to pay for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s efforts to help contain the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.

The administration wants the money added to a spending bill to keep government agencies running until mid-December and comes on top of $58 million it requested above current levels to speed the production of promising drugs to fight the deadly disease.

The White House is also seeking additional flexibility for the Homeland Security Department to cope with the thousands of unaccompanied Central American children still arriving at the southern border.

More from Homeland Security News Wire:

HHS awards $24.9 million contract to accelerate development of Ebola drug

The development of a medication to treat illness from Ebola will be accelerated under a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). HHS says that this contract supports the government-wide response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The $24.9 million, 18-month contract with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., of San Diego, California, may be extended up to a total of $42.3 million. HHS notes that it is seeking additional proposals for the advanced development of antibody treatments, antiviral drugs, and vaccines against the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

The development of a medication to treat illness from Ebola will be accelerated under a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). HHS says that this contract supports the government-wide response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Xinhua gets defensive:

China imposes stricter port inspection for precaution against Ebola

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever has been listed as a quarantinable disease as the country’s health authorities pass harsher port inspections for people and goods entering from affected areas.

All Chinese ports of entry will carry out stricter quarantine measures, said the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) in a statement published on its website on Friday.

People, vehicles, goods and mail from infected areas will be thoroughly inspected, said the NHFPC.

The New York Times reckons:

Ebola Is Taking a Second Toll, on Economies

Airlines have canceled their flights to the countries most affected. Prices of staple goods are going up, and food supplies are dwindling. Border posts are being closed, foreign workers are going home and national growth rates are projected to plummet.

Ebola — the reality and the hysteria over it — is having a serious economic impact on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, three West African nations already at the bottom of global economic and social indicators. Aggravating both the financial and social consequences, these countries and their frightened neighbors are imposing concentric circles of quarantines, cutting off neighborhoods, regions and even whole nations.

International medical authorities have warned against such practices, arguing that they will worsen suffering and deprivation, and do little to stop the spread of the disease. But many African nations have gone ahead anyway, sealing borders, barring entry to residents of the affected countries and barring their airlines from flying to those countries. Senegal has even refused to allow humanitarian flights with urgently needed supplies and medical personnel to take off from Dakar, the West African hub for international aid agencies. South Africa and Kenya, two of the continent’s economic heavyweights, have restricted entry to people coming from the Ebola zone.

But Ebola isn’t the only disease Africans fear, as revealed in this report from the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, covering a little known but very serious disease:

28 put under nodding disease surveillance

At least 28 children suspected of having the nodding syndrome have been placed under close surveillance in Amida and Akwanga sub-counties in Kitgum District.

According to the nodding syndrome focal person in Kitgum District, Dr Geoffrey Akena, 20 cases were reported in Okidi Parish and eight in Akwang Sub-county.

“We are not committing ourselves that these cases are nodding syndrome, but 60 per cent of the signs and symptoms the children present are those of nodding syndrome,” Dr Akena said.

And from the Daily Monitor again, yet another concern:

Medics jailed over fake HIV results

A magistrate’s court in Luweero District has remanded two medical staff on charges of conspiring with a patient to falsify HIV/Aids status results.
Ms Teopista Nansubuga and Mr Muhamad Walubiri attached to Penny Clinic in Kasana Town, were sent to jail on Wednesday.

They were charged with doing an act likely to spread disease contrary to provisions of the Penal Code Act. Ms Nansubuga pleaded guilty but Mr Walubiri denied the charges.

Grade One Magistrate Harriet Namata remanded them until September 8 when they will reappear in court. Ms Nansubuga will be coming to know her sentence after she pleaded guilty to the offence while Mr Walubiri will find out when his trial will start.

From the Washington Post, other bugs, other woes:

Six more deadly microbes found improperly stored in NIH and FDA labs

Workers searching government laboratories in the wake of the July discovery of smallpox have found six more improperly stored, dangerous microbes — including ricin and the bacteria that cause plague.

On Friday, officials at the National Institutes of Health said the search on its sprawling Bethesda campus had turned up five different misplaced substances in recent weeks. All of the microbes are considered so dangerous- they are known as select agents– that the federal government requires them to be stored in special high secure facilities. Instead, these vials were in regular labs, often part of collections of samples that date back decades.

Simultaneously, the Food and Drug Administration said it had found vials of staphylococcus enterotoxin, a frequent cause of foodborne illness, at a lab within the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition that was not registered to handle it.

And from Japan, another piece of bad news about a growing outbreak from Jiji Press:

Japan Confirms 1st Dengue Case Away from Yoyogi Park

Japan’s health ministry said Friday it has confirmed the first dengue fever infection that is believed to have taken place in a central Tokyo park away from Yoyogi Park, where most of the recent cases seem to have originated.

A resident of Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, in his 30s developed symptoms on Saturday. He went to hospital in the eastern Japan prefecture Monday and was confirmed positive Friday from a test by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The man, who is in stable condition, has not traveled abroad or visited Yoyogi Park recently.

More from the Wall Street Journal:

Japan Steps Up Efforts to Contain Dengue

Japanese authorities stepped up their efforts Friday to deal with an outbreak of dengue fever, sealing off Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo and closing a seaside park in the neighboring city of Yokohama as the number of people infected reached at least 66.

While most of the affected people appear to have contracted the disease from mosquitoes in Yoyogi Park, at least one of the 66 picked up dengue in Shinjuku Central Park about a kilometer away, suggesting that mosquitoes carrying the disease have spread to another location.

Health ministry figures indicate that 24 of those infected after visiting Yoyogi are in other parts of the country, including Osaka prefecture in western Japan and the northern island of Hokkaido. That suggests the possibility that dengue fever could spread elsewhere in the country if those infected people outside the capital were bitten by mosquitoes during the weeklong period before symptoms of the illness emerge.

From the Guardian, news about another epidemic:

EU under pressure to allow GM food imports from US and Canada

Large businesses lobbying intensely to undermine safety regime in new trade deal, campaigners warn

Britain and other European Union member states are under increasing pressure from North American business groups to open their borders to imports of genetically modified food as part of negotiations for a new Transatlantic trade deal, environmental campaigners have warned.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is being negotiated among European governments, the US and Canada, with the active participation of dozens of large businesses. It has already attracted strong criticism from democracy campaigners, who say it could mean the UK could have to open the National Health Service further to private companies, and complaints against large companies could be treated in secret without proper legal recourse.

The potential impacts on food safety are less apparent as the negotiations are being conducted without public consultation. Progress on signing the partnership is expected to be hastened later this year when new EU commissioners are appointed.

After jump, sea levels already rising and threatening cities, California drought relief hopes dim, a whale of a recovery, water tragedies in Mexico, drought grief in Brazil, palm oil threats, Aussie environmental danger, lava losses, free weed in Berkeley, a tar sands appeal, a Chinese land grab in Africa, a rampaging beaver, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalyse Now!. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: The rich got richer


From a Reuters report on data on that that 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances cited in today’s Chart of the day:

The Fed survey released suggests that wealth and income is concentrated not just within the top 1 percent, as some analyses have suggested, but actually among a slightly broader slice of the ultra-rich: the top 3 percent.

From 2010 to 2013, average income for U.S. families rose about 4 percent after accounting for inflation, the survey showed. All of the income growth was concentrated among the top earners, the survey showed, with the top 3 percent accounting for 30.5 percent of all income.

The disparity was even greater by wealth, with the top 3-percent holding 54.4 percent of all net worth in 2013, up from 51.8 percent in 2007 and 44.8 percent in 1989.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, oceans, toxins, nukes


Bit under the weather and posting late, so we’ll start right in with the ongoing story of the year, first with CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: ‘We need action now,’ says CDC director Tom Frieden

  • Ebola treatment reduced to places where people go to die: international president of Doctors Without Borders

Despite tremendous efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak on the part of governments in West Africa, cases continue to increase rapidly, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns.

Dr. Tom Frieden gave an update on the outbreak to reporters on Tuesday, one day after his return from the West African countries most affected by the outbreak: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“The number of cases continues to increase and is now increasing rapidly. I’m afraid that over the next few weeks those numbers are likely to increase further and significantly. There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down, but that window is closing. We need action now to scale up the response. We know how to stop Ebola. The challenge is to scale it up to the massive levels needed to stop this outbreak,” Frieden said.

The CDC director said it was upsetting during his visit to see the shortage of hospital beds and the lack of a rapid response needed to prevent a single cluster of Ebola from becoming a large outbreak.

Another alarm via the Japan Times:

U.N. issues dire warning about food shortages in Ebola-hit nations

Labor shortages and disrupted cross-border trade caused by the deadly Ebola outbreak have sparked “grave food security concerns” in the worst-hit countries, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Restrictions on movement in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has led to panic buying, food shortages and severe price hikes, especially in towns and cities, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization said.

“Access to food has become a pressing concern for many people in the three affected countries and their neighbors,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO regional representative for Africa.

“With the main harvest now at risk and trade and movements of goods severely restricted, food insecurity is poised to intensify in the weeks and months to come. The situation will have long-lasting impacts on farmers’ livelihoods and rural economies.”

From the Washington Post, the latest First World victim:

Another U.S. doctor in Liberia tests positive for Ebola

A U.S. physician working in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola, the missionary organization SIM USA announced Tuesday.

The unnamed missionary doctor was treating obstetrics patients at the organization’s ELWA hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, and was not working with Ebola patients in the facility’s isolation unit, which is separate from the main hospital, according to a news release from the organization. He isolated himself immediately upon developing symptoms and has been transferred to the Ebola isolation unit.

The doctor is the fourth American to be diagnosed with the hemorrhagic disease that has killed more than half the people who have become infected during the current outbreak in West Africa. Another physician, Kent Brantly, and a missionary volunteer, Nancy Writebol, who also were working at ELWA hospital, were treated with an experimental medication and brought back to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where both recovered.

From Reuters, chaos on the ground:

Liberian doctors strike, food prices spike as West Africa struggles to contain Ebola outbreak

Doctors in Liberia were out on strike on Tuesday as they struggled to cope with the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, while the United Nations warned the spread of the disease in West Africa was causing food shortages in one of the world’s poorest regions.

Governments and aid organizations are scrambling to contain the disease, which has killed more than 1,500 since March. Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said 800 more beds for Ebola patients were urgently needed in the Liberian capital Monrovia alone, while in Sierra Leone highly infectious bodies were rotting in the streets.

Putting further pressure on the ability of the region’s governments to spend money on healthcare, the epidemic has also put harvests at risk and sent food prices soaring in West Africa, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

The FAO issued a special alert over food security for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three countries most affected by the outbreak, which was detected in the forests of southeastern Guinea in March.

Another alarm via the Guardian:

Ebola outbreak: call to send in military to west Africa to help curb epidemic

  • Head of Médecins sans Frontières urges UN to dispatch disaster response teams as cases and deaths continue to surge

Military teams should be sent to west Africa immediately if there is to be any hope of controlling the Ebola epidemic, doctors on the frontline told the United Nations on Tuesday, painting a stark picture of health workers dying, patients left without care and infectious bodies lying in the streets.

The international president of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), Dr Joanne Liu, told member states that although alarm bells had been ringing for six months, the response had been too little, too late and no amount of vaccinations and new drugs would be able to prevent the escalating disaster.

“In west Africa, cases and deaths continue to surge,” she said. “Riots are breaking out. Isolation centres are overwhelmed. Health workers on the frontline are becoming infected and are dying in shocking numbers.

“Others have fled in fear, leaving people without care for even the most common illnesses. Entire health systems have crumbled.”

From BBC News, yet another alarm:

Ebola outbreak: West Africa food harvests ‘at risk’

The Ebola outbreak is putting food harvests in West Africa “at serious risk”, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns.

It has raised a special alert for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three countries worst affected.

Rice and maize production will be particularly affected during the coming harvest season, says the FAO.

The food shortages are expected to worsen in the coming months.

A complication from MercoPress:

Ebola outbreak in Congo is the indigenous ‘Zaire strain’ and not connected to West Africa

Results from virus sequencing of samples from the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been analyzed and they belong to the so called Zaire strain, in a lineage most closely related to a virus from the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, DRC.

The Zaire strain of the virus is indigenous in the country. Ebola first emerged in 1976 in almost simultaneous outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) and South Sudan (then Sudan).

Confirmatory testing was done at Gabon’s Centre International de Recherches Médicales in Franceville, a WHO collaborating centre. Earlier, testing in DRC confirmed Ebola in 6 of 8 samples.

The outbreak is located in the remote Boende district, Equateur province in the north-western part of the country.

And from the continent via Punch Nigeria:

Kaduna records first suspected Ebola case

KADUNA has recorded its first suspected case of the Ebola Virus Disease with 19 years old student from Zaria being put under monitor at the isolation centre at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria.

The suspect, an undergraduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, has been said to be exhibiting symptoms of the deadly EVD.

Kaduna State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Thot Dogo, confirmed this to one our correspondents in Kaduna on Tuesday.

From BBC News, underway:

Ebola vaccine human trial begins in the US

The first of several Ebola vaccine trials has begun in the US with researchers studying how human immune systems respond to it.

Twenty healthy adult volunteers are being tested at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland.

The trial has been brought forward amid an outbreak of the disease in West Africa that has killed at least 1,500.

No volunteers will be infected with the Ebola virus but the vaccine has performed well in primate trials.

Next, a short video of the virus and the way it works from Agence France-Presse:

Ebola virus

Program note:

More than 1,500 people have already died as a serious Ebola epidemic sweeps parts of west Africa.

United Press International prescribes:

Ebola outbreak in West Africa can be stopped with 3 steps, says CDC

According to Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are “Three keys to stop Ebola: more resources, technical experts and global, coordinated approach.”In the hardest hit countries, like Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, more resources are essential.

Frieden described a recent visit to an Ebola clinic where “I went to a new ward that opened with 35 beds — and in less than a week they had 63 patients, many lying on the floor.”

Such resource shortages, he said, points to “a need for data to better trace where Ebola is beginning to spread. And there is a basic need for infrastructure like trucks, jeeps and motorcycles. Perhaps most importantly, there is need for a functional emergency operations center at either the national or the district levels directing an efficient response.”

JapanToday tests positive:

Japanese researchers develop 30-minute Ebola test

Japanese researchers said Tuesday they had developed a new method to detect the presence of the Ebola virus in 30 minutes, with technology that could allow doctors to quickly diagnose infection.

Professor Jiro Yasuda and his team at Nagasaki University say their process is also cheaper than the system currently in use in west Africa where the virus has already killed more than 1,500 people.

“The new method is simpler than the current one and can be used in countries where expensive testing equipment is not available,” Yasuda told AFP by telephone.

From the Associated Press, no comment needed:

Obama addresses West Africans on facts about Ebola

President Barack Obama is telling the people of West Africa that stopping the spread of Ebola won’t be easy, but “we know how to do it.”

In a video message the White House has released, Obama says the first step is to know the facts.

He goes on to say that Ebola is not spread through the air, like the flu, or from such casual contact as sitting next to someone on a bus. Obama says the most common method of infection is touching the sweat, saliva or blood of someone who is sick or who has died from the disease, or coming into contact with a contaminated item.

On to another continent and another outbreak via the Asahi Shimbun:

Dengue fever cases jump to 34 as outbreak spreads around Japan

Health ministry officials announced on Sept. 2 that 12 more cases of dengue fever have been confirmed from mosquitoes at Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, with the outbreak spreading farther across the country.

The latest patients reside in Tokyo, Osaka, Aomori and Yamanashi prefectures. Like the 22 other cases already confirmed, the 12 individuals have not gone abroad recently, but have visited Yoyogi Park in Shibuya Ward and its vicinity.

All 12 of the latest patients are in stable condition. There is no vaccine or medicine, but proper treatment can lower the mortality rate to under 1 percent.

Next up, water woes, starting with this from Bloomberg:

Halliburton to Pay $1.1 Billion to Settle Spill Lawsuits

Halliburton Co. agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a majority of lawsuits brought over its role in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The agreement is subject to court approval and includes legal fees, the Houston-based company said in a statement today. Halliburton was accused by spill victims and BP Plc of doing defective cementing work on the Macondo well before the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Halliburton blamed the incident on decisions by BP, which owned the well.

The settlement comes as the judge overseeing oil-spill cases weighs fault for the disaster. An agreement now averts the company’s risk of a more costly judgment for some spill victims and removes much of the uncertainty that has plagued Halliburton for the past four years as investors waited to see the payout tally. With its biggest piece of liability resolved, Halliburton can refocus its attention on developing new oilfield technology that will help it boost profits worldwide.

From Jiji Press, the unspeakable:

Japan to Resume Research Whaling in Antarctic Ocean

Japan’s Fisheries Agency said Tuesday that it will resume research whaling next fiscal year in the Antarctic Ocean but will only catch Antarctic minke whales, which are relatively abundant.

The new policy of excluding fin and humpback whales, which Japan has been allowed to catch certain numbers of, comes after the International Court of Justice last March ordered the country to end its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.

In the ruling, the ICJ said that Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic Ocean does not fall under the category of scientific research, which is allowed.

While the Guardian has some good news:

Abbot Point port developers to ditch Great Barrier Reef seabed dumping plan

  • Developers are set to submit a new proposal in which dredged sediment is disposed of on land rather than at sea

A plan to dump 5m tonnes of seabed sediment into the Great Barrier Reef marine park is set to be ditched following an outcry from environmentalists and some scientists.

The developers of the Abbot Point port, near the Queensland town of Bowen, are about to submit a new proposal which will mean the dredged seabed is disposed of on land rather than at sea, according to the Australian Financial Review.

It’s understood that the proponents, North Queensland Bulk Ports, GVK Hancock and Adani Group, will forward the plan within the next two weeks to Greg Hunt, the federal environment minister. Hunt’s office said the minister hadn’t yet seen the alternate proposal.

Hunt has already approved a plan to dredge 3m cubic metres, equivalent to 5m tonnes, of seabed in order to expand Abbot Point for an increase in coal exports.

The Guardian again, with another kind of water woe:

Bushfire centre forecasts increased threats in southern Australia

  • Rain patterns raise risk of forest fires on eastern seaboard and grass fires further south

Successive seasons of high rainfall in some areas and a long, dry spell in others have delivered a mixed bag of increased bushfire threats for southern Australia this year.

A two-year rain deficit and a predicted warm, dry spring will increase fire risk in forested areas along the eastern seaboard and south-west Western Australia over the warmer months, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre has predicted.

But higher-than-average rainfall has increased the risk of grass fires on the Nullarbor Plain, in the mid-west and desert regions of WA and much of South Australia’s Eyre peninsula and mid-north.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with this from the Asahi Shimbun:

4 workers hired to decommission Fukushima plant plan 90 million yen suit on unpaid hazard pay

Four workers involved in the decommissioning process at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant plan to sue the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., and the general contractors who hired them for skimming off their danger allowances.

According to their lawyers, the workers say that TEPCO and their employers failed to ensure that they received the hazard pay to which they are entitled.

They are demanding a total of 90 million yen ($865,385) in damages.

The lawsuit, expected to be filed at the Fukushima District Court on Sept. 3, would be the first such suit to be brought by workers at the plant, the lawyers said.

The Japan Times recalls:

Fukushima workers tried to save reactor 1 through venting

Less than 12 hours after the quake-triggered tsunami hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex on March 11, 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Co. sought government approval for the unprecedented step of releasing radioactive steam from troubled reactors to reduce the dangerous buildup of pressure.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, however, would soon become distrustful of Tepco because of delays in starting the venting operations, which were aimed at preventing damage to the reactor containment vessels.

“Tepco said it wanted to do venting. So I told Tepco to do it, but it didn’t,” Kan recalled. “I asked why, but there wasn’t a reply. I thought things would go wrong if they kept going on like this.”

From the Asahi Shimbun, the stipulations:

Fukushima governor sets 5 conditions for storing radioactive waste

The Fukushima governor issued five conditions for accepting radioactive debris at a planned interim storage facility, including a law stipulating that the waste will be moved outside the prefecture within 30 years.

Governor Yuhei Sato’s demand for the legislation came at a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Sept. 1. During the talks, Sato conveyed the decision of the prefecture and the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which co-host the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, to accept construction of the storage facility.

“(Giving consent to the construction) will force the localities to bear an enormous burden, but we had to make a heart-wrenching decision to accept it in order to expedite rebuilding and the recovery of the environment,” Sato said.

And for our final item, combinatorial diasterism from NHK WORLD:

NRA to study possible volcano eruptions

Japan’s nuclear regulator is set to work on criteria for determining levels of volcanic eruptions that would affect nuclear power operations.

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority, or NRA, requires nuclear power plant operators to take specific measures if volcanic activity could affect operations. The measures include removing nuclear fuel from the facilities.

The NRA held a meeting on Tuesday with volcanologists to discuss how to deal with what might be seen as signs of massive volcanic eruptions.