Category Archives: Wealth

InSecurityWatch: Threats, war, cops, hacks, Asia


We begin with the New York Times:

Governor Activates Missouri National Guard

Anticipating protests after the grand jury’s decision in the death of Michael Brown, Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri activated the National Guard on Monday.

The governor said the National Guard will play a limited role as it did during protests in August, providing security at command posts, fire stations and other locations.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Governor Nixon said in a statement.

Under the executive order, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will operate as a unified command, with the St. Louis County police responsible for security in Ferguson.

And then there’s this from the Independent:

Terrorism fuelled by state violence, extra-judicial killings and ethnic tensions

Terrorism has become dramatically more deadly and more widespread across the globe with a 60 per cent rise in the number of deaths and countries affected by major attacks, a study has found.

Fatalities from terrorist incidents rose from just over 11,000 in 2012 to nearly 18,000 last year, while the number of countries which experienced more than 50 deaths from terror attacks rose from 15 to 24, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).

The authors of the comprehensive annual survey of terrorist incidents and trends said that the vast majority of the bloodshed was restricted to five countries – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – where groups such as Isis (also known as Islamic State or Isil) adhering to extreme Wahhabist interpretations of Islam are leading attacks.

From the Los Angeles Times:

CIA intelligence gap hinders counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, Iraq

“It’s a black hole,” one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in discussing intelligence, on the challenge of tracking terrorists and assessing casualties in a war zone that is in effect off-limits to U.S. personnel.

U.S. counter-terrorism officials have identified about a dozen Americans fighting with militants in Syria or Iraq, for example, including some who have joined Islamic State. But U.S. intelligence analysts have struggled to develop a complete picture of their movements or what roles they play in the militant groups.

U.S. intelligence agencies have poured resources into the war since the spring, and the CIA has set up a training camp in Jordan for Syrian fighters. They also rely on information gathered from U.S.-backed rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army.

Nordic suspicions from TheLocal.se:

Isis sleeper cells suspected in Sweden

A defector from the rebel group Isis has told a Scandinavian broadcaster that his former organization has terrorist sleeper cells in Sweden awaiting orders.

The man told Norwegian news network NRK: “There are cells awaiting orders, and there is more than one group.” NRK met the defector at a secret location in Turkey, near the border to Syria.

The man claimed to have a background as a special soldier for Isis (also known as the Islamic State or IS) and said he had defected from the terror group a few months ago.

From Homeland Security News Wire:

Terror financiers operate freely in Qatar: U.S.

Qatar’s massive financial support of the most extreme Jihadist movements in the Middle East and North Africa is not exactly a secret – notwithstanding the sheikhdom rulers’ half-hearted denials, and the nominal membership of Qatar in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.

Qatar, with a small territory, about 250,000 citizens, and a lot of oil money – some derisively call it “a bank, not a country” — some years ago made the strategic decision that, in order be taken seriously as a regional actor, it had to do things differently. It could not compete with regional power-houses such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, so it decided to undermine and weaken both countries by undermining and weakening their rulers and their allies in the region.

Qatar has been doing so in two ways.

In November 1996 Qatar has launched Al Jazeera, which, in addition to some mainstream news reporting and relatively open studio debates and call-in shows, has been a tool of the Qatari government in its propaganda and disinformation campaign to undermine the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, other Gulf Sheikhdoms, and other moderate states in the region (note that this applies to Al Jazeera in Arabic. The English-language Al Jazeera operates in a manner which is largely similar to Western news outlets).

The other way Qatar has sought to weaken moderate government in the region is by providing massive financial aid to Jihadist groups in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories.

Notable, from the Los Angeles Times:

Putin vows to protect Ukraine separatists from defeat

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to prevent the defeat of allied separatists in eastern Ukraine while clinging to his insistence that Russia hasn’t been involved in the deadly, 7-month-old conflict.

In an interview with Germany’s ARD television, Putin repeated his claim that ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine are in danger of repression by a Kiev leadership he suggested was plotting to oust them en route to creating a fascist state.

“We are very concerned about any possible ethnic cleansings and Ukraine ending up as a neo-Nazi state,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin news service account of the interview. “What are we supposed to think if people are bearing swastikas on their sleeves? Or what about the SS emblems that we see on the helmets of some military units now fighting in eastern Ukraine?”

A shotgun wedding from Taiwan’s Want China Times:

US makes ‘fatal mistake’ driving China and Russia closer: Duowei

The United States is making a “fatal mistake” by antagonizing both China and Russia and forcing the two primary opponents closer together, says Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news website.

Washington turned against Moscow following the start of the Ukraine crisis in February this year, leading the European Union and Japan in imposing heavy sanctions against Russia. The increasing distrust between the two countries has been apparent, with Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama coming into contact for only 20-30 minutes during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit in Beijing last week, with neither leader having much to say to the other.

Putin also berated the US shortly before the ensuing G20 in Australia, accusing Washington of undermining the very trade institutions it created by imposing sanctions on Russia, a “mistake” that it said went against international law and trade agreements.

Trackin’ pistol-packin’, from MIT Technology Review:

Police in California and Texas Test Networked Guns

  • A chip that tracks how a police officer’s gun is being used could prove useful in investigations and court cases

When a police officer draws a firearm he or she often doesn’t have an opportunity to radio for backup.

YardArm, a California-based company, is building technology that will automatically alert headquarters in such situations. The company makes a chip that goes into the handle of a regular firearm and transmits data over a cell-phone network connection. The data transmitted includes the location of a gun and whether it has been unholstered or discharged. The company is also working to track the direction in which a gun is pointing. The data can be fed to a police dispatch system or viewed on a smartphone.

Founded in 2013, YardArm started out making a consumer product for monitoring a firearm’s location. But since many American gun owners object to technology or policies aimed at regulating firearms, it did not find many customers.

The despicable, enabling the despicable, via the New York Times:

Indictment of Ex-Official Raises Questions on Mississippi’s Private Prisons

In 1982, Christopher B. Epps, a young schoolteacher, took a second job as a guard at the facility known as Parchman Farm, the only prison operated at the time by the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Eventually he had to choose a path. “It worked out that I was making more as a correctional officer than as a teacher,” Mr. Epps would later recall in an interview for a corrections newsletter.

By the time he spoke those words in 2009, Mr. Epps was being feted as Mississippi’s longest-serving corrections commissioner. The state inmate population had quadrupled, five private prisons had been built to help house them, and, according to a federal grand jury indictment, Mr. Epps had found a new, secretive way to bolster his income.

The 49-count indictment, unsealed last week, accuses Mr. Epps of receiving more than $1 million in bribes from a former Mississippi lawmaker named Cecil McCrory, beginning in 2007. In exchange, the indictment charges, Mr. Epps helped secure lucrative corrections department contracts for private prison companies owned or represented by Mr. McCrory.

More penal despicability, via the Miami Herald:

Detention at Guantánamo grinds on: 13 years and counting, 148 captives remain

It’s the first Tuesday in November, just another day as Guantánamo grinds on toward the detention center’s 14th year as the most expensive prison on earth with no end in sight. President Barack Obama ordered it emptied in 2009, on his second day in office, and people here are dubious that it will be done before his last.

It will close “a year from now, six months from now, 10 years from now — I don’t know,” says Zak, a Pentagon employee who has served as the prison’s Muslim cultural adviser since 2005.

“My focus is to ensure that I have operationally effective and safe facilities for a mission with an indeterminate end date,” says Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, the 14th commander of the prison operation.

Bobby despicability, via the London Telegraph:

A million crimes reported by public left out of police figures

  • Watchdog warns that police are failing to record one in five crimes because of the ‘target culture’ in forces

Almost a million crimes a year are disappearing from official figures as chief constables attempt to meet targets, a study by the police watchdog has disclosed.

Its report exposed “indefensible” failures by forces to record crime accurately, and said that in some areas up to a third of crimes are being struck out of official records.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said violent crimes and sex attacks were particularly vulnerable to being deleted under “inexcusably poor” systems.

Although the report stopped short of accusing police of widespread “fiddling” it said there was an “undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces” and “wrongful pressure” by managers.

From Network World, a criminal marketing twist:

New ransomware CoinVault allows users to decrypt one file for free

Cybercriminals behind a new ransomware program called CoinVault are trying out a new psychological tactic to convince users to pay up—freebies.

The new threat was discovered by security researchers from Webroot and is similar in functionality to more prevalent ransomware programs like CryptoWall. It uses strong 256-bit AES encryption with keys stored on a remote server, it kills the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service so that users can’t use it to recover their files and only supports Bitcoin as a payment method.

Users are asked to pay 0.5 bitcoins—around $200 at the current exchange rate—in order to receive the key that decrypts their files, but the cost increases every 24 hours.

One aspect that sets CoinVault apart from other file-encrypting ransomware programs is that it allows users to see a list of encrypted files on their computer and choose one they can decrypt for free.

SecurityWeek covers more criminal despicability:

Research Finds 1 Percent of Online Ads Malicious

One percent does not sound like a lot, but multiple it by the right number, and it can be.

Such is the case when it comes to malicious advertising. In research recently presented at the 2014 Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver, a team of security experts from Ruhr-University Bochum, University College London and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) examined more than 600,000 online advertisements on 40,000 websites over a three-month period and used multiple detection systems to assess whether they were good or bad. The end result: one percent of the ads were found to be involved in suspicious or malicious activity such as drive-by downloads and link hijacking.

“While this is bad news for the advertising networks, advertisers and Internet users who are all under attack from the malware producers, the good news is there are several things available today that can stop malvertising,” said Giovanni Vigna, co-founder and CTO of Lastline, one of the members of the team that worked on the research. “One of these is the use of the sandboxing attribute in iframes within HTML5. None of the 40,000 websites we observed leveraged this mechanism, even though it could stop the link-hijacking that is by far the most prevalent method by which miscreants are getting past other security measures in order to distribute malware through advertisements.”

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Britain, attacks on immigrant housing in Germany, a Columbian general captured by rebels and a massive manhunt ensues, a disillusioned Mossad agent speaks out, Pakistani police thuggery, a killer Indian medical mob, illegal student protests in Myanmar, a crackdown on Hong Kong Occupy camp nears, more repercussions from the election of an Okianawa govenor opposed to a U.S. base move as activists work to expose the toxic legacy of Vietnam War-era Agent Orange exposures on the island, and a unique Californian match made in prison. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Bird flu, toxins, climate, & nukes


We begin with a series of reports on the global spread of avian flu outbreak, first with BBC News:

Bird flu: Egyptian woman dies of H5N1 virus

An Egyptian woman has died after coming into contact with birds infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

The 19-year-old woman died in hospital in the region of Assiut in the south of the country.

It was the second death in Egypt this year out of a total of seven confirmed cases, said Egyptian health officials.

It comes after several cases of birds infected with different types of the virus were discovered in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

And from Europe, via the London Telegraph:

Emergency measures announced to contain bird flu in Britain and the Netherlands

  • The European Commission announces measures including culling and banning sales of poultry products from affected areas

Emergency measures to contain outbreaks of bird flu in Britain and the Netherlands have been announced by the European Commission.

It comes after Environment Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that a virus found at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire was the ‘’highly pathogenic’‘ H5 strain of avian flu.

The transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands was banned after an outbreak of the H5N8 bird flu strain was confirmed at a chicken farm in the central province of Utrecht.

Neither outbreak involved the H5N1 version of the virus which has caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.

More from BBC News:

Bird flu: ‘Robust action’ on Yorkshire duck farm case

“Immediate and robust action” is being taken to stamp out bird flu following a confirmed case at a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire, the environment secretary has told the Commons.

Tests are yet to establish the strain, but the H5N1 form, deadly to humans, has been ruled out, Liz Truss said.

About 6,000 birds will be culled from Tuesday as a precaution and a 10km (6 mile) exclusion zone is in place.

Ms Truss repeated reassurances that there was no food safety risk.

And still more from DutchNews.nl:

Migrating birds blamed for spreading bird flu, two other Dutch farms declared healthy

Poultry experts from the European Commission believe the three cases of bird flu at farms in the Netherlands, Germany and Britain are due to migrating birds, news agency ANP says on Monday.

This infectious form of bird flu is more common in Japan and Korea and has probably been spread by infected birds, the experts say. There is no connection between the three farms where bird flu has been identified. In addition, two farms close to the Dutch farm where the disease was found at the weekend have been given a clean bill of health.

The movement of poultry, eggs and bird manure has been halted throughout the Netherlands for 72 hours following the discovery of a highly infectious variant of bird flu at a chicken farm in Hekendorp, south of Utrecht.

And a Japanese case from Jiji Press:

Suspected Bird Flu Case Reported in Tokyo

An avian influenza virus has been detected in a genetic test on the body of a common pochard collected in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, the Environment Ministry said Monday.

A further test will be carried out to examine whether the migratory bird was infected with a highly pathogenic bird flu virus. This would be the first bird flu case in Tokyo.

The ministry has designated a 10-kilometer radius of where the bird body was found as a priority monitoring zone. “There is little likelihood that humans get infected with bird flu in ordinary life,” a ministry official said.

Another critter, another ailment, via CBC News:

Sea star wasting disease likely caused by virus

  • Researchers don’t know what triggered recent deadly outbreak

Scientists have isolated a virus they are pretty sure is causing the mysterious disease that has killed millions of sea stars on the Pacific Coast from Southern California to Alaska by causing them to lose their limbs and eventually disintegrate into slime and piles of tiny bones.

A study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says a variety of densovirus is the likely cause of wasting syndrome among sea stars, also known as starfish. Varieties of densovirus are used as a biological control on cockroaches, and include the parvovirus that infects dogs.

Cornell University marine microbiologist Ian Hewson says they found larger amounts of the virus in sick sea stars than healthy ones, and the amount of virus increased as the disease progressed. Also, injecting material from sick sea stars that was filtered to concentrate virus-sized organisms caused healthy sea stars to get the disease.

From the Independent, a soap toxin:

Triclosan: Soap ingredient can trigger liver cancer in mice, warn scientists

A chemical ingredient of cosmetics, soaps, detergents, shampoos and toothpaste has been found to trigger liver cancer in laboratory mice, raising concerns about how safe it is for humans, scientists said.

Triclosan, a commonly used anti-bacterial agent added to bathroom and kitchen products, promotes the growth of liver tumours in mice fed relatively large quantities of the substance, a study has found.

The research is the latest to link triclosan with cancer and liver disease, but other scientists have urged caution over the findings suggesting that they do not prove a direct causal link between the chemical and the ill health of people exposed to it.

Monitoring the threatened, via the Guardian:

More than 22,000 species feature in conservationists’ ‘under threat’ list

  • Japanese yen for Pacific bluefin tuna, climate change and demand for minerals from animals’ habitats put species at risk

A fluorescent pink slug and one of the world’s most expensive fish are among the species included in an update to the list of the world’s most threatened animals.

Mankind’s demand for the wood, stone and oil where the species live, as well as using them for food, is blamed for pushing many towards the brink of extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said in its authoritative Red List update.

The Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis), a meaty fish prized in Japan that was previously listed as a species of least concern, has seen numbers decline by up to a third over the past two decades leading it to be reclassified as vulnerable. The main threat to the species is its value as sashimi – one fish can fetch more than $100,000 (£64,000).

The appetite for sashimi is also blamed for the decline of the Chinese pufferfish (Takifugu chinensis), one of the world’s most toxic fish. It is now classified as critically endangered, the Red List’s most severe listing and the final step before extinction.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, water woes:

EPA administrator: Surprise at focus of backlash to clean-water rule

The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was taken aback by parts of the response to a proposed clean-water rule that has riled agriculture interests nationwide.

In a wide-ranging Monday morning roundtable discussion sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she expected some of the push-back on what is known as the “ Waters of the United States” proposal. But not all of it.

The rule came about because the 1972 Clean Water Act pretty clearly cover rivers, lakes and year-round wetlands – but other waters aren’t so obvious, such as wetlands that dry up some months of the year.

U.S. farm interests reacted strongly to the proposal, saying it would vastly increase the EPA’s authority – something the agency disputes. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other farm groups were part of a deluge of nearly 500,000 comments that came in on the rule, as of last count; the EPA and Army Corps hope to finalize the rule next year.

From the Guardian, pipeline resistance:

South Dakota Sioux tribe calls Keystone XL pipeline approval ‘act of war’

  • Pipeline’s prospective route runs through Rosebud reservation
  • Tribe president: ‘I pledge my life to stop these people harming our children’

A Native American tribe in South Dakota has called a congressional vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline an “act of war” and vowed to close the reservation’s borders if the US government tries to install a pipeline there.

The prospective route for the pipeline, which would connect Canadian tar sands fields to the Gulf coast, runs through the 922,759-acre (1,442 sq mi) Rosebud Sioux reservation in south-central South Dakota. The House of Representatives voted 252-161 on Friday to approve the pipeline.

“I pledge my life to stop these people from harming our children and our grandchildren and our way of life and our culture and our religion here,” the tribe president, Cyril Scott, said on Monday. He represents one of nine tribal governments in the state.

Scott said he will close the reservation’s borders if the government goes through with the deal, which is scheduled to come up for a Senate vote on Tuesday.

A video report from Democracy Now!:

Naomi Klein: Reject Keystone XL Pipeline, We Need Radical Change to Prevent Catastrophic Warming

Program notes:

House lawmakers passed legislation Friday to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline to bring carbon-intensive tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. The Senate is expected to vote this week on a similar pro-Keystone bill backed by Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. Landrieu is facing a tough battle to keep her seat in a runoff next month against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who also happens to be the sponsor of the pro-Keystone bill in the House. Landrieu spoke last week about her support for Keystone. We speak to Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.”

From the Guardian, greasing the skids:

Carmichael mine: environmental impact will be unknown for years

  • Government backdown means Indian owners won’t be required to replace razed critically endangered habitat until two years into the project

Construction of Australia’s largest ever mine will be well underway before its impact upon the environment is known, with a requirement to replace critically endangered habitat razed by the project pushed back by two full years after a backdown by the federal government.

Documents seen by Guardian Australia show that the government scaled back its initial environmental conditions for the Carmichael mine in central Queensland following a request by Adani, the proponent.

The changes effectively mean the $16.5bn mine’s impact on crucial groundwater supplies, beyond the 297bn litres it will extract from aquifers, will be largely unknown until the project is at an advanced stage.

After the jump, Peru’s bloody forest wars, more African tribes displaced ads their lands are seized, a calamitous polar bear population decline as attacks on humans rise, a presidential confrontation over Aussie climate reticence, the long trail of safety violations before a deadly Tex pesticide plant leak, a most-wanted list for environmental criminals, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with those with endlessly leaking tunnels and gubernatorial pleas for waste disposal consultations and for closure or yet another plant. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Dancing, death, angst, and hope


And the latest from the African media. . .

We’ll begin with the latest poll of American healthcare concerns from Gallup, with Ebola now ranking number three, above cancer and heart disease:

BLOG Ebola

Next, and on the lighter side, a video report from Agence France-Presse:

Health workers in Sierra Leone dance to cheer up Ebola patients

Program note:

Staff tackling the Ebola virus at a treatment centre in Sierra Leone face death every day but that doesn’t mean they can’t look on the brighter side. They’ve taken to dancing to cheer up their patients.

What’s next? Dancing with the SARS?

And on the very serious side, this from the Associated Press:

Red Cross officials: Ebola flaring anew in Africa

Red Cross officials helping to lead the fight against Ebola in West Africa said Monday the virus is still spreading, and they’re having trouble recruiting health care workers to combat it.

Antoine Petitbon of the French Red Cross said that it’s easier for him to recruit people to go to Iraq, despite the security hazards there. He said the French Red Cross is facing an unprecedented problem: Sixty percent of people it signs up to work in the Ebola zone subsequently back out due to pressure from families and friends.

Birte Hald, head of emergency operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that after a recent surge of optimism that the virus was coming under control, especially in Liberia, it “is flaring up in new villages, in new locations.” On Monday, Hald said, a team of international experts was being set to Mali to assist that nation’s health authorities in stemming an outbreak of Ebola there.

From the Los Angeles Times, Californians prepare to head to the hot zone:

California National Guard prepares for Ebola mission in West Africa

A unit of the California Army National Guard has been ordered to mobilize for possible deployment to West Africa to support U.S. and international efforts to stem the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The linguist detachment of the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion is among six National Guard battalions nationwide ordered for involuntary mobilization under an order signed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The others are in Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Iowa and Kansas.

None of the approximately 1,200 soldiers from the battalions will provide direct medical care to Ebola patients, the Army National Guard said in its announcement Sunday. Another 900 Army reservists are also being mobilized for what the Pentagon calls Operation United Assistance.

The Guard soldiers and reservists will provide training on Ebola and malaria prevention and also medical readiness, the Army said.

A reminder from the National Journal:

Why It’s Too Early to Forget About Ebola

The Ebola outbreak is far from over in West Africa. Pay attention, America.

Americans are googling Taylor Swift more than they’re googling Ebola.

The panic that gripped the country following four diagnoses of the virus in the United States seems to have faded into a collective amnesia following a three-week period with no new Ebola cases.

But the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach ignores the crisis that continues to plague West Africa. Funding for the international response has lagged, and positive developments in Liberia have resulted in premature optimism about a situation that we still don’t fully have a grasp on. Health experts have said all along that the only way to eliminate the risk of infection in the U.S. is to end the outbreak there—and we’re still far, far away from the finish line.

“The Ebola focus we had over the past month really has been largely on that in the U.S.; many of us kept saying, ‘Don’t take the eye off the ball in West Africa,’ “ said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “[But] the interest and concern has focused on a few cases in the U.S. This is not surprising—people think, ‘Am I going to contract Ebola? If it’s over there, it’s not my problem.’”

The Guardian registers a protest:

Kaci Hickox accuses governors of exploiting Ebola fears for political gain

  • Nurse says Chris Christie disregarded science and constitution
  • ‘Politicians who tell lies … will hopefully never make it to the White House’

Kaci Hickox, the nurse who found herself in the middle of a political storm when she was quarantined on her return from west Africa despite testing negative for Ebola, has launched a blistering attack on two “overzealous” state governors, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Paul LePage of Maine, whom she accused of seeking to advance their careers at her expense.

Of the former, who is widely seen as a possible Republican nomination for president in 2016, she said: “Politicians who tell lies … will hopefully never make it to the White House.”

Writing for the Guardian, Hickox said: “I was quarantined against my will by overzealous politicians.”

“My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear. Christie and my governor in Maine, Paul LePage, decided to disregard medical science and the constitution in hopes of advancing their careers.”

From the Washington Post, lending a hand:

In Ebola fight, private foundations provide critical financial aid

The U.S. emergency response team working on Ebola in Kemena, Sierra Leone, was stuck. The vehicle they had been using to transport patients, deliver oral rehydration packets and do other critical work had two flat tires. It was early October, a time when things seemed to be spiraling out of control in the epicenter of the crisis, and there wasn’t a moment to waste.

The stranded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers knew just where to call for help: a little-known nonprofit — the CDC Foundation — that received millions of dollars in donations in recent months from Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and other philanthropists.

Within the hour, the organization authorized enough money for the staff to make the repairs. And within the week, it had ordered, paid for and shipped to the region about 200 additional pickup trucks and four-wheel-drive cars — $5 million worth.

And from New York Times, the latest press-attracting casualty:

Doctor Being Treated for Ebola in Omaha Dies

A surgeon who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, Dr. Martin Salia, died Monday while being treated in a biocontainment center in Omaha.

“We used the maximum amount of supportive care and every advanced technique available in an effort to save his life,” said Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“We are reminded today that even though this was the best possible place for a patient with this virus to be, that in the very advanced stages, even the most modern techniques that we have at our disposal are not enough to help these patients once they reach the critical threshold,” Dr. Gold said.

More from the Washington Post:

A doctor’s mistaken Ebola test: ‘We were celebrating. . . . Then everything fell apart’

When Martin Salia’s Ebola test came back negative, his friends and colleagues threw their arms around him. They shook his hand. They patted him on the back. They removed their protective gear and cried.

But when his symptoms remained nearly a week later, Salia took another test, on Nov. 10. This one came back positive, sending the Sierra Leonean doctor with ties to Maryland on a desperate, belated quest for treatment and forcing the colleagues who had embraced him into quarantine.

“We were celebrating. If the test says you are Ebola-free, we assume you are Ebola-free,” said Komba Songu M’Briwa, who cared for Salia at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center in Freetown. “Then everything fell apart.”

Salia is now in critical condition at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, his family left to wonder what would have happened if he had received earlier treatment.

Al Jazeera America covers blowback to celebrity tragedy traipsing:

‘We got this, Bob Geldof, so back off’

  • As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it’s a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good

The original campaign, and similar well-meaning Western efforts, have led to an image of an Africa full of countries, and people, unable to help themselves and constantly looking to foreigners for help.

When it was announced last week that, in response to Ebola, Geldof was planning to record a song he thinks is terrible for the fourth time, there was an eruption of criticism from Africans on Twitter and elsewhere.

Though the original song was recorded to raise money for Ethiopia, African critics say the stigma its simplistic message left behind affected not only that country, but a continent of 54 hugely-varied nations.

Detractors say an unintended legacy hinders investment, hurts tourism and inspires the sort of aid that has a negative impact.

NHK WORLD covers more Japanese preparations:

Govt., city to discuss safety steps for Ebola lab

The government and a city within Tokyo Metropolis will start drafting safety measures for an advanced laboratory of infectious diseases to handle possible Ebola cases.

Health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki on Monday visited a branch of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Musashimurayama City.

The facility’s laboratory is capable of analyzing the Ebola virus and other highly dangerous pathogens as well as developing vaccines for them.

From BBC News, more help on the way:

New Zealand to send Ebola medics to W Africa

New Zealand’s government has approved the deployment of 24 medical workers to West Africa to help fight Ebola.

The volunteers, backed by an investment of NZ$2m (£1m; $1.6m), will be based at the new 100-bed clinic being set up by Australia in Sierra Leone.

New Zealand also committed NZ$1m to a WHO fund to help Pacific nations prepare for a potential outbreak there.

On to the pharma front, first with Voice of America:

Researchers Turn to Deadly Tobacco for Ebola Cure

Notorious for its cancer-causing properties, the nicotine-rich product could soon prove to be effective in treating Ebola. A biopharmaceutical company in Guelph, Canada, called PlantForm, is currently testing a trial drug with the hopes of having it on the market in three to four years.

The company’s president and CEO, Don Stewart, said these are exciting times for the tobacco industry, long seen as a threat to good health.

“The possibility of creating, at very low cost, drugs for Ebola, is an exciting opportunity for us all.”

Next, via Reuters:

No safety concerns yet in trials of GSK’s Ebola vaccine

Almost 200 people have received GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental Ebola vaccine in trials in the United States, Britain, Mali and Switzerland, and the safety data so far are “very satisfactory”, scientists said on Monday.

The trials, which began just over two months ago, have been using healthy volunteers, rather than patients with Ebola, to test whether the vaccine is safe for humans.

The experimental shot uses a single Ebola virus gene from a chimpanzee virus to generate an immune response. Because it doesn’t contain any infectious virus material, it can’t infect those being vaccinated.

A plea, via the Liberian Observer:

“Ebola Must be Isolated, not the people”

European Union Ebola Coordinator and Commissioner for Humanitarian and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides has urged countries unaffected by the Ebola Virus Disease not to discriminate against or isolate people of Ebola affected countries, but isolate the disease itself.

Commissioner Stylianides’ statement comes in the wake of isolation and discriminatory measures by many countries including Morocco, Australia and Canada to prevent people of Ebola affected countries from entering their countries.

Speaking at a brief press conference on November 14 at the EU’s Mamba Point office, Mr. Stylianides reiterated that “we want to isolate the disease, not the people.  We must not allow fear to dictate our actions.  This is the foundation of our commitment and solidarity.”

Commenting further on strategies to curb the disease and take precautionary measures to prevent future outbreaks, the EU Commissioner said now is the time to begin thinking about a plan to build infrastructures, especially the healthcare delivery system on a long-term basis, noting that success cannot be assured without a long-term plan.

And from the Associated Press, an upbeat assessment:

Hagel credits US military with Ebola progress

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday there are encouraging signs of progress against the Ebola virus in West Africa, and he said the U.S. military can take some credit for containing it.

Hagel told a group of 101st Airborne Division soldiers Monday that it is too early to say when the U.S. military’s Ebola mission in Liberia and Senegal will be finished.

“We’re not at the end yet,” he said.

Hagel toured the pre-deployment training that is given to soldiers before they go to West Africa. The soldiers are providing logistics and other support there but are not in direct contact with people infected with the virus. Nevertheless, soldiers are required to undergo 21 days of quarantine upon their return.

After the jump, its on to Africa and an Ebola blackout in the Sudanese press, Ebola fears in the Cote d’Ivoire, on to Mali and a critical time ahead, hundreds monitored for symptoms, and a presidential visit to the border, next to Guinea and villages reluctantly opened and a French clinic readied, then on to Liberia, with accommodations for survivors, a plea to reform responsiveness, a legislator’s call for permanent hospitals rather than mobile emergency treatment units, and Chinese help arrives, plus the woes of the pregnant in Sierra Leone. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Shootings, parents, rage, pols


We begin with another shooting, first from teleSUR:

Mexican Students Shot by Police

  • One student was shot in the leg and another grazed by a bullet, according to early reports.

At least two people were shot Saturday as an individual alleged to be a police officer fired on students at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) who were meeting to discuss their participation in the upcoming national strike.

One student was shot in the leg while another was grazed by a bullet, although both of them are in stable condition, according to early reports.

The incident occurred around 13:00 pm (local time), when a group of soldiers and federal police officers occupied the entrance of the iconic university as students held a meeting on the national strike called for November 20 in protest of the disappearance of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa teachers’ training college.

According to eyewitnesses, a car of the Office of the General Prosecutor (PGR) parked outside of the auditorium where the meeting took place, with four armed men getting out of the car. A number of the students asked them to leave the grounds before one of men from the car opened fire on the group.

The four individuals managed to escape in a taxi and left the car in the parking lot.

Photos of an injured student from the Pugrider Tumblr:

BLOG Mexico student

The accompanying text:

Around noon, members of the PGJ (Procuraduría General de Justicia. Like, special cops) entered the UNAM, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, which, as it’s name says, is autonomous, so the police has no right to go in and, well, do their job. It’s out of their jurisdiction.

The problem started when these agents were seen taking pictures of some students, (who may have been pacifical anarchists, but were doing nothing at the moment) when these students asked them what were the photos for, they started running. A group of people, including more students, followed them, either to stop them or make them leave, but one of the agents took out a gun and started shooting. Several times. Hitting a student in the leg, and even a dog. Luckily, no one else. Now outside of the University, a couple of these ‘cops’ fled in a cab, while a third one, the one who shot, was arrested by the regular Police Department itself.

Later, members of this Police Department (Public Safety Secretary) went to University grounds (once again, they can’t do this) and, in an attempt of getting students out of where the morning shooting happened, a violent conflict started. The Police retreated but is still in the outside of the University.

Please share this, what we want is to make some noise about our situation. We won’t remain silent about how we’ve constantly been opressed for no reason. Not anymore.

Mexico City, November 15, 2014.

More from teleSUR:

Mexico University Rector Allegedly Aiding Student Repression

  • The case of the 43 missing students has mobilized university students in numbers not seen in many years and the state is responding with repression

Alberto Bravo, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) told teleSUR in an exclusive interview that the President of UNAM, Jose Narro is, “complicit not only in the repression that occurred this past Saturday but also in other incidents where police have entered the campus.”

Bravo also told teleSUR that Narro, “maintains close ties with the [governing] Institutional Revolutionary Party,” and that as a result he works to preserve the image of the government. He also stated that, “inside the university there are many complaints regarding police harassment and there are many infiltrators.” He added that these complaints have not been pursued and those who speak out against the authorities face intimidation tactics.

On Saturday, police from the office of the Attorney General of the Federal District shot and injured two students. The shooter arrived alongside 3 other officers and university police at the Che Guevara auditorium and began photographing the students at which point they were told to leave, the shooter then took out a gun and fired.

But it’s not just students who have been protesting. Teachers are taking to the streets as well, as CNN reports:

Teachers of missing students riot

Program notes:

With little developments in the mystery of 43 missing students in Guerrero, Mexico, the community is outraged.

From Reuters, more blowback for the abduction of the 43:

Main Mexico leftist party on verge of dissolution, leader says

The elder statesman of Mexico’s main leftist party said on Sunday the group was on the verge of falling apart after a series of mistakes and the disappearance of 43 students in a state it runs in the southwest of the country.

Three-times presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas said the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which finished runner-up in Mexico’s last two presidential elections, had lost its moral authority and needed urgent reform.

The PRD, which Cardenas helped found in 1989, rules Guerrero state and the city of Iguala, where the government said 43 trainee teachers were abducted by police on the night of Sept. 26 and apparently handed over to a drug gang and killed.

A president besieged, via the Guardian:

Mexico’s president faces wave of fury across country over fate of missing student teachers

The brutal killing of 43 students has become a national cause, and the government’s inaction and perceived disdain risk a social explosion and political instability

The pent-up fury of the parents reflected the intensity of the violent protests that marked a dramatic week in Mexico, which has deepened the political crisis facing President Enrique Peña Nieto as he returns from a week-long trip to China and Australia, seen by many as a sign of disdain for the suffering and anger at home.

The most significant thing the president said during his trip was on an outward stopover in Alaska, when he condemned an arson attack on the door of the ceremonial presidential palace in Mexico City. “Mexican society says no to violence,” he said, referring to the burning door. “We say yes to justice, order, harmony, tranquillity, and we say yes to the application of justice.”

The president made no mention of the fact that, immediately before the door was set on fire, the streets of the capital were filled with thousands of peaceful demonstrators. Many had carried banners proclaiming “ya me cansé”, which means “I’m tired” or “I’ve had enough”. The phrase was used by the attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, to cut short questions at the end of a press conference two days earlier, in which he had revealed the government’s new claim that the students were probably massacred in a rubbish tip not far from Iguala, hours after they had been arrested by municipal police and handed over to a local drug gang called Guerreros Unidos on 26 September.

And an inconvenient complication, via Reuters:

Mexican president promises answers on tainted luxury home

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said late on Saturday the government would next week give answers about a luxury house acquired by his wife that has raised questions about the ethical standards of his administration.

Days after the government canceled a $3.75 billion rail contract won in an uncontested bid by a Chinese-led consortium, local media reports identified the property as linking one of the Mexican partners in the group to Pena Nieto.

Reports about the house have swelled a recent tide of public anger about the government, which has been under heavy fire for its management of the disappearance of 43 students in the southwest of the country in late September.

And from teleSUR, presidential thuggery:

Mexican President Warns of Further Force Against Protestors

  • At a press conference, Enrique Peña Nieto said he will address corruption allegations this week and issued a warning over protests demanding justice in the case of the 43 missing the Ayotzinapa protesters

Mexican President Peña Nieto has said that while he will try to establish a dialogue with protesters demanding justice over the 43 missing students but warned that the state will use force “when all other mechanisms to restore order have been exhausted.”

His remarks, during a Saturday night press conference, came just hours after the police in the capital shot and injured two students at a meeting planning solidarity events for the 43. Later 500 heavily-armed police forcefully entered the campus of the university, provoking clashes with students.

Peña Nieto condemned the violent acts of some protesters during recent weeks, although, he said that the government understands the pain and concern of the Mexican population for the atrocities carried out in Ayotzinapa.

While the Latin American Herald Tribune voices neoliberal anxiety:

Mexico’s Central Bank: “Social Developments” Could Hurt Investor Confidence

Recent “social developments” in Mexico could have an adverse impact on investor confidence, the central bank said, according to the minutes of its most recent policy meeting.

Although the Bank of Mexico did not mention any event in particular, all indications are the monetary authority was referring to the case of 43 missing teacher trainees in the southern state of Guerrero – which has made headlines worldwide – and nationwide protests demanding their safe return.

That perception stems from statements Thursday by Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray, who pointed to the potential negative repercussions of the missing students’ case on the national economy.

And CNN turns the focus on those most impacted by the crimes of Iguala:

Crying for justice, clinging to hope: The parents of Mexico’s missing 43

In parental torment over what became of his son and 42 other missing Mexican students, Isrrael Galindo rejects official accounts they apparently were massacred. He hopes that somehow his son and the others are still alive.

“I think they have him arrested or locked up. I don’t know where he is, but if I knew, I would go get him,” Galindo said of Israel, 19, his namesake son with a different spelling.

“I want him to know that I love him,” he added, beginning to weep. “I want him alive.”

Anguish overwhelms Galindo and grows daily, ever since the aspiring primary school teachers disappeared September 26 in a violent clash with police during a political protest that also left six people dead, including three other students.

More on the parents, from Reuters:

Parents of Mexico missing students lead rally

Program notes:

Parents of 43 students who have gone missing in Mexico lead rallies demanding the government bring back their children alive. Yiming Woo reports.

And to close, via the Associated Press, a judicial story:

Mexico begins court proceeding in other crimes for mayor investigated in missing students case

A federal judge has opened a court proceeding against the former mayor of a southern Mexico city in crimes that preceded the case of 43 missing students from a teachers’ college.

The Federal Judiciary Council said in a statement late Saturday that Jose Luis Abarca has been charged with organized crime, the kidnapping of seven people and the killing of another in crimes that occurred before the students disappeared. Abarca was mayor of Iguala, in Guerrero state, when the students went missing.

Abarca has been behind bars since he and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, were arrested Nov. 4 in a crowded Mexico City neighborhood.

EnviroWatch: Health, climate, fuel, nukes


From RT, new hope for people like Ted Kennedy and our own mother who died of brain cancer:

Cannabis combined with radiotherapy can make brain cancer ‘disappear,’ study claims

Two cannabis components can have a significant effect on the size of cancerous tumors in the brain, especially when combined with radiotherapy, according to new research. The study says the growths can virtually “disappear.”

The research was carried out by specialists at St Georges, University of London and published in the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics journal.

There are some 85 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but the two that had a demonstrably positive effect were tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Combining their use alongside radiotherapy shows a drastic effect, the study claims.

And a possible source of the medication from the Guardian:

Can Zambia save its environment with marijuana?

  • Green party’s presidential candidate Peter Sinkamba is promising voters to cut country’s dependency on mining – by growing and exporting marijuana

For decades, Zambia has staked its economic fortunes on copper mining. But when voters in this southern African nation go to the polls in January to select a new president, at least one candidate will be looking to send that tradition up in smoke.

On Friday, Peter Sinkamba will announce his candidacy on the Green party ticket to replace the late President Michael Sata, who died on 29 October from an undisclosed illness. Sinkamba, regarded as Zambia’s leading environmentalist for his battles against the country’s big copper mines, is running on an unlikely platform, especially in this socially conservative nation: legalising marijuana.

His plan, first announced in April, calls for cannabis’ legalisation for medicinal use in Zambia, which would be a first in Africa. The surplus crop would be exported abroad, earning Zambia what Sinkamba claims could be billions of dollars.

A serious cause for concern from BBC News:

Warning over plastics used in treating premature babies

US researchers have warned that premature babies are being exposed to high levels of a potentially dangerous chemical in plastics.

A study suggested babies may be exposed to high levels of a phthalate called DEHP in medical equipment. Some US healthcare providers have banned the use of DEHP, and other products were available, the researchers said.

The UK is currently re-evaluating its position on phthalate use in devices. Evidence on the safety of phthalates in humans has been inconclusive, but European regulators have classified DEHP as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Tragedy on the Subcontinent from the New York Times:

India Sterilization Deaths Linked to Pills Tainted With Rat Poison, Officials Say

The women who died after sterilization surgery in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh might have been given antibiotic pills contaminated with rat poison, a senior official said on Friday.

Sonmoni Borah, the divisional commissioner in the district of Bilaspur, in Chhattisgarh, said that tablets of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin that were seized in police raids of Mahawar Pharma, a small company supplying medicines to the state government, were found to contain the chemical zinc phosphide.

“If you do a quick Google search, you will find it is rat poison, and the women were displaying symptoms similar to poisoning,” Mr. Borah said in a telephone interview. State officials issued an urgent warning on Friday to practitioners across the state, telling them to stop distributing or using ciprofloxacin “with immediate effect,” he said.

Another outbreak threatens, from MercoPress:

Fears of a new Chikungunya viral strain in Brazil with the coming of summer

The Chikungunya outbreak which continues to affect thousands of Caribbean residents since it first appeared in St. Martin last year has been relatively self-limiting in the United States, due to the fact that the current strain only spreads through the Aedes egypti mosquito vector, which is uncommon on the US Eastern seaboard.

But recent diagnoses of a new viral strain in Brazil may turn the current hemispheric spread of the crippling disease on its head. The strain – which is prevalent in some African states and which has been the cause of several outbreaks in South-east Asian countries – readily infects the Aedes albopictus mosquito, a hardier species which is common along the US East Coast, and which is adapted to colder climates.

Brazil has recorded over 200 cases of Chikungunya – predominantly in the country’s east-coast Bahia state – but according to Kansas State University virologist Stephen Higgs, the African strain in Brazil has not yet developed the type of dangerous mutations observed in South-east Asia.

Such mutations could make the strain up to 100 times more infectious to mosquitoes, says Higgs, allowing the vectors to become more easily infected and pass the virus on to humans. The virus itself has been shown to develop rapid adaptive mutations, underscoring fears of eventual epidemic circulations of the new strain.

From Reuters, and closer to the U.S.:

Mexico detects first case of mosquito-borne chikungunya virus

Mexico has detected its first domestic case of the painful mosquito-borne viral disease chikungunya in the southwest of the country, the state government of Chiapas said on Saturday.

Chikungunya is spread by two mosquito species, and is typically not fatal. But it can cause debilitating symptoms including fever, headache and severe joint pain lasting months.

The government of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, said an 8 year old girl became the first person to contract the disease in Mexico, and that she was treated in hospital in the town of Arriaga. The girl has since been released.

Polio-vaccine-pressured Pakistan, from the Express Tribune:

Travel restricted for Pakistanis without polio certificate, says IHC

In a meeting held by the International Health Committee, restrictions have been placed on Pakistani’s travelling abroad without a polio certificate, Express News reported Saturday.

The committee had declared Pakistan to be a nation responsible for spreading the polio virus across the globe.

Between July and now, three cases of polio have arisen in Afghanistan, for which the committee attributes blame to Pakistan.

In attempts to eradicate polio in six months, the International Health Committee have come down hard on Pakistan and ordered that no Pakistani could travel abroad without a polio certificate.

Infectious sausage, via BBC News:

One in 10 sausages ‘carries risk of hepatitis E virus’

One in 10 sausages and processed pork meat products in England and Wales could cause hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection if undercooked, experts warn.

There has been an “abrupt rise” in the number of cases in England and Wales as people do not realise the risk, scientists advising the government say. Sausages should be cooked for 20 minutes at 70C to kill the virus, they said.

Although serious cases are rare, HEV can cause liver damage or be fatal.

Wikidemiology, via the Los Angeles Times:

Scientists use Wikipedia search data to forecast spread of flu

Can public health experts tell that an infectious disease outbreak is imminent simply by looking at what people are searching for on Wikipedia? Yes, at least in some cases.

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory were able to make extremely accurate forecasts about the spread of dengue fever in Brazil and flu in the U.S., Japan, Poland and Thailand by examining three years’ worth of Wikipedia search data. They also came up with moderately success predictions of tuberculosis outbreaks in Thailand and China, and of dengue fever’s spread in Thailand.

However, their efforts to anticipate cases of cholera, Ebola, HIV and plague by extrapolating from search data left much to be desired, according to a report published Thursday in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. But the researchers believe their general approach could still work if they use more sophisticated statistics and a more inclusive data set.

Keystone pipelined, from BBC News:

Keystone XL pipeline approval passes House

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The legislation will now be put to a vote in the Senate next week, where its prospects are unclear.

The 875-mile (1,408km) pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the US state of Nebraska where it joins pipes running to Texas.

President Barack Obama is said to take a “dim view” of the legislation, but has not directly threatened a veto.

More from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Keystone pipeline good for Canada, not U.S., Obama says

As a pro-Keystone XL effort gathered bipartisan steam in Congress, President Barack Obama suggested that the controversial pipeline may be good for Canada but doesn’t offer much to Americans.

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed – by a 252-161 vote – a pro-Keystone XL bill intended to force Mr. Obama to approve the Canadian oil export project.

It was the ninth time the House of Representatives has passed a pro-Keystone XL measure. The Senate is expected to take up a similar bill next week.

More from the Christian Science Monitor:

Keystone XL pipeline: Obama says he ‘won’t budge’

A Keystone bill swept to easy approval in the House Friday, with 31 Democrats joining the Republican majority, and a parallel bill is scheduled for Senate action next week.

Mr. Obama saying he’ll act on immigration reform because Congress has failed to, while Congress is acting on Keystone to try to end what many lawmakers view as presidential obstructionism.

And now Obama is squaring off formally against fellow Democrats, as well as Republicans.

A Keystone bill swept to easy approval in the House Friday, with 31 Democrats joining the Republican majority, and a parallel bill is scheduled for Senate action next week, with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana as a lead sponsor. (Until now Senate majority leader Harry Reid has kept the issue off the Senate floor, in a bid to protect Democrats from a divisive vote.)

After jump, heads in sand in G20 climate protest as Obama shines a spotlight on Abbott and lobbyists battle over the Great Barrier Reef, one of climate change’s more striking effects, a legal battle over the humanity of chimps, then it’s on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with new questions over health risks, more radiation spikes, the new governor takes the tour, and a waste site decision delayed again, China mulls adding more new nuclear power plants, and an appetite for an Iranian nuclear deal. . . Continue reading

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


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

An Anti-Love Song To Ebola

Program notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hill confronts an enigma:

CDC still mystified by Ebola infections in Dallas

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

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

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

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

From Reuters, a mixed report:

Mali rushes to contain Ebola outbreak, Liberia signals progress

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

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

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

Numbers from StarAfrica:

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

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

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

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

The latest numbers, via the World Health Organization:

BLOG Ebola cases

From AllAfrica, about damn time:

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

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

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

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

From StarAfrica, a plea to high places:

G20 leaders petitioned over Ebola crisis

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

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

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

Jiji Press covers subsequent lip service:

G-20 Leaders Resolved to Contain Ebola Crisis

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

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

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

A pledge, via the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

Another pledge, via the Liberia News Agency:

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

  • Monrovia — Euros To Ebola Fight in West Africa

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

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

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

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

As Ebola fight grows, some countries are noticeably absent

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

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

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

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

From the Guardian, self-criticism:

Ebola: Médecins Sans Frontières critical of its own delays

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

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

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

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

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

WHO sees few promising Ebola drugs in pipeline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testing profitably, via CBC News:

Ebola vaccine clinical trial in Halifax overwhelmed with volunteers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asian preparations from NHK WORLD:

Nurses participate in Ebola training workshop

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

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

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

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

EnviroWatch: Flu, fuels, pols, toxins, & nukes


And a whole lot more. . .

First, a microbial invasion, via the Japan Times:

Highly pathogenic bird flu virus detected in Shimane

A highly pathogenic strain of bird flu has been found in Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture, the Environment Ministry said Thursday.

The H5N8 subtype was detected from two samples of droppings of migratory Bewick’s swans that were collected on Nov. 3, the ministry said.

The ministry has designated 10 km from the spot in question as an intensive wild bird monitoring area and decided to send an emergency investigation team there.

The H5N8 subtype is the same virus strain as the bird flu that broke out at a poultry farm in Kumamoto Prefecture in April.

From BBC News, a watershed moment:

World is crossing malnutrition red line, report warns

Most countries in the world are facing a serious public health problem as a result of malnutrition, a report warns.

The Global Nutrition Report said every nation except China had crossed a “malnutrition red line”, suffering from too much or too little nutrition.

Globally, malnutrition led to “11% of GDP being squandered as a result of lives lost, less learning, less earning and days lost to illness,” it added.

And from ABC Australia, via Journeyman Pictures, a troublesome question:

Catalyst: Extreme Weather – How our climate is not just becoming warmer, but also increasingly extreme and unpredictable.

Program notes:

The world has undergone some frightening weather extremes in recent years: from scorching heat waves in Europe to apocalyptic floods in Australia and blizzards in the Middle East. Record temperatures, both high and low, are constantly being smashed across the world. At first glimpse, the emission of greenhouse gases may only seem to account for high temperatures. But as Anja Taylor discovers, warmer average temperatures are tampering with the mechanics that drive all kinds of weather events across the world. It seems like the term ‘global warming’ may be misleading, since mankind will need to face up to more frequent extreme and unpredictable weather in the future.

A fracking fatality, via the Los Angeles Times:

Fracking accident leaves 1 dead, 2 injured in Colorado

The rupture of a pipe at a Colorado fracking site left one Halliburton employee dead and two seriously injured Thursday morning, law enforcement and company officials said.

Workers were trying to warm a frozen pipe at a site near Fort Lupton, Colo., about 30 miles north of Denver, when it burst around 9:30 a.m., Sgt. Sean Stanridge, public information officer for the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, told the Los Angeles Times.

One person died at the scene and the injured were taken to area hospitals. One underwent surgery, and both are expected to survive, Stanridge said.

The industrial site is operated by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., and Halliburton employees are contracted to work on the grounds, Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen said.

Another fracking hazard from the Denver Post:

Fracking sand in oilfields stirs up a serious health risk for workers

Health concerns about oil field fracking have been focused on the mixed brew of chemicals injected into wells. But it is another innocuous-sounding substance — sand — that poses a more serious danger to workers.

Government overseers of workplace safety first highlighted the problem three years ago and issued a hazard alert a year later warning that high levels of fine quartz sand around fracking operations could lead to silicosis and other lung illnesses.

But efforts to update the 44-year-old exposure limits on sand dust are dragging on. Engineering solutions to the problem are still being researched. And, while many energy companies are taking steps to lessen the amount of what is referred to as “respirable crystalline silica” by scientists or “frac sand” by oilfield workers, the industry, with support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is also opposing much in proposed new regulations.

From EcoWatch, a fracking fail:

Fracking Support Plummets Among Americans

Fracking is quickly losing favor with Americans, a new Pew Research Center poll finds.

As more stories emerge about the dangers posed by the toxic fallout from the aggressive drilling process to communities near the operations, support for fracking tilts negative for the first time, with 41 percent favoring increased use of fracking and 47 percent opposing it. That’s a huge swing from 20 months ago. In Pew’s March 2013 poll 48 percent supported more fracking while only 38 percent opposed it.

Support for fracking has dropped most steeply among women and people under 50, whose opinions turned against it by 10 points, while shifting slightly against it among those over 50 by two points. Fifty-four percent of women now oppose fracking, with only 31 percent supporting it. Among men, 52 percent support it with 40 percent opposed, representing a three-point drop from March 2013. People 18-29 moved from 49/41 in support to 53/39 against, while those 30-49 who formerly favored it 48/41 now oppose it 50/38.

Tar sands heat up, via BBC News:

Keystone XL pipeline to get vote in Congress

The House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. The move comes as Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu has pushed for a similar vote in the Senate as she fights a runoff campaign for her seat.

The 875-mile (1,408km) pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the US state of Nebraska where it joins pipes running to Texas.

President Barack Obama could find the approved bill on his desk next week. The White House has not directly threatened a veto of the legislation if it passes both chambers.

More from Reuters:

Keystone bill unlikely to rescue Landrieu in U.S. Senate runoff

A push by U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu to pass a bill authorizing the contentious Keystone XL pipeline is unlikely to give the Louisiana Democrat a significant boost against her Republican challenger in a December runoff, political analysts said on Thursday.

Landrieu, who faces an uphill battle to win a fourth term against Republican congressman Bill Cassidy, is renewing efforts to pass the measure unpopular with many Democrats as she fights to retain her seat in a state increasingly inhospitable to her party.

“It’s really too little, too late,” said G. Pearson Cross, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette political scientist. “Doing this only when her job is in peril will be seen as not significant – or desperate.”

Still more from The Hill:

Senate nears 60 on Keystone

Supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline are nearing 60 votes in the Senate ahead of a vote next week on whether to approve the project.

With passage of a pipeline bill in the House all but assured, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) says she is “confident” she can rally the 60 votes needed for a filibuster-proof majority in the upper chamber.

“It is ready for a vote and we have the 60 votes to pass it,” Landrieu said on Wednesday.

From RT, costly ignorance:

Shell ignored ‘risk & hazard’ of Nigeria pipes, downplayed size of 2008 spills – court documents

Royal Dutch Shell was aware that its Nigerian pipelines were poorly maintained prior to the 2008 Bodo oil spills, and later underestimated the size of the leaks to avoid paying compensation, Amnesty International reported after studying court documents.

Fifteen-thousand members of the Bodo community are suing Shell in London’s High Court, claiming the two oil spills in 2008 devastated an area of up to 90km in Ogoniland, southern Nigeria. The oil giant earned $450 billion in revenues last year.

“The result was an environmental catastrophe for the Bodo Community and the biggest loss of mangrove habitat in the history of oil spills. The 40,000 residents of the Bodo Community primarily relied on fishing and their way of life and source of livelihoods has been destroyed for years to come,” said Martyn Day, a senior partner at Leigh Day, which is representing the plaintiffs.

Among the documents obtained by Amnesty from the ongoing case is an internal note written by an employee eight years before the spills, which says “the remaining life of most of the Oil Trunklines [in the area] is more or less non-existent or short, while some sections contain major risk and hazard.”

From BuzzFeed, another fuel, another court:

CEO In Charge Of West Viriginia Mine That Killed 29 People Could Get 31 Years In Prison

Don Blankenship is facing conspiracy charges for his role in the worst U.S. mining disaster in 40 years.

In 2010, a mine in West Virginia exploded, killing 29 people. Now, the boss of the company in charge of the mine is facing criminal charges and up to 31 years in prison.

Don Blankenship was the chairman and CEO of Massey Energy Company in April 2010, when an explosion tore through Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. The mine included a maze of passageways more than 1,000 feet underground, and none of the miners who were inside at the time survived. The death toll ultimately climbed to 29, making the explosion the worst mining disaster in 40 years.

Investigations traced the source of the explosion to worn out cutting gear that created a spark and ignited coal dust and methane.

And from Yale Environment 360, black lung returns:

A Scourge for Coal Miners Stages a Brutal Comeback

Black lung — a debilitating disease caused by inhaling coal dust — was supposed to be wiped out by a landmark 1969 U.S. mine safety law. But a recent study shows that the worst form of the disease now affects a larger share of Appalachian coal miners than at any time since the early 1970s.

Experts at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that, by 2012, the rate of severe black lung had reached 3.2 percent of workers in the Central Appalachian coalfields of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. That’s a nearly tenfold increase over the disease prevalence 15 years earlier — a shocking statistic. In a brief report published in the September 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, NIOSH researchers said, “Each of these cases is a tragedy and represents a failure among all those responsible for preventing this severe disease.”

Black lung is caused by inhaling coal dust. The accumulation of dust particles in the lungs makes it hard to breathe. As the disease progresses, victims develop a cough or shortness of breath.

“Living with black lung is thinking about every breath you take,” former miner Robert Bailey Jr. told a congressional committee earlier this year.

And from MintPress News, another occupational hazard:

EPA Finally Updating Pesticide-Use Guidelines For Farm Workers

  • Advocates say a draft of the updated Worker Protection Standard is imperfect, but still offers greater protections to laborers in one of the country’s most hazardous industries

U.S. regulators are moving into the final stages of a major update to guidelines on the use of pesticides by agricultural workers, changes that labor advocates have been urging for more than a decade.

Indeed, it’s been almost a quarter-century since the Environmental Protection Agency updated the guidelines, known as the Worker Protection Standard. These rules not only have a direct impact on the health and well-being of the country’s estimated two million farmworkers but also on their families and communities. Pesticides and related residues, which can easily be brought home on clothing, are a key example of the broader impact of agricultural regulations and guidelines.

When the EPA released a draft of its update to the Worker Protection Standard in February, the agency’s administrator Gina McCarthy lauded it as a “milestone” for farmworkers. She also noted that protecting agricultural laborers from pesticide exposure “is at the core of EPA’s work to ensure environmental justice.”

After the jump, an Eurocratic GMO supporter’s job eliminated, warm waters melting Antarctic icecap, a bag ban not in the bag, Australian environmental policy diminished, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! and hot waste bagged up with no permanent place to go, decades of work ahead and little cause for hope, hot water woes and complications tunneling in, and a hot head at the moment of crisis, public opposition ignored, a new nuclear plant gets an operational deadline, and an aging plant’s operator asks a four-decade operating extension, and a costly retirement plan for two hundred reactors. . . Continue reading