Category Archives: Cancer

EnviroWatch: Vaccines, toxins, fracking, nukes


We begin with a vaccine crackdown, via the Mainichi:

Pakistan police arrest parents refusing kids’ polio vaccine

Hundreds of parents in northwest Pakistan were arrested and jailed on charges of endangering public security after refusing to give their children polio vaccinations, officials said Monday.

Parents targeted by police starting this past weekend were not arrested if they agreed to vaccinate their children, said Shakirullah Khan, a senior police officer in Peshawar.

Feroz Shah, a spokesman for the district administration in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said 471 people were jailed in the city and surrounding villages under government orders.

From Al Jazeera America, accommodation:

Most doctors agree to alter kids’ vaccine schedules

  • Physicians give in to parents’ wishes in order to build trust with families, study finds

Pediatricians are facing increasing pressure from parents to delay vaccinating their children — and most of them are complying despite concerns that they are putting the children at risk for contracting preventable illnesses such as measles and whooping cough, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

In a national survey of 534 pediatricians and family doctors sent out via email and mail in 2012, 93 percent of the doctors reported that the parents of children under age 2 asked them to spread out or delay the child’s vaccination schedule. And 21 percent of the doctors reported that at least 10 percent of the parents asked to delay the vaccine schedule, according to the survey conducted by Children’s Hospital Colorado, the University of Colorado and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most doctors said they agreed to do so, even though 87 percent of them thought that delaying the vaccine schedule was putting the children in danger of catching a vaccine-preventable illness. They complied either “often” or “always” 37 percent of the time and “sometimes” 37 percent of the time, while 26 percent of the doctors said they did so “rarely.”

Tallying up another outbreak, via Outbreak News Today:

Malaysia dengue death toll up to 62

With 25,000 cases of dengue fever reported in Malaysia during the first two months of 2015, the country appears on a trajectory to see more cases than last year’s 100,000.

In addition, the Malaysia Health Ministry has put the death toll due to dengue at 62, up eight in less than a week.

In 2013, Malaysia reported 79 fatalities, while last year, at least 189 deaths were counted.

Selangor continues to report the most cases in the country at nearly 15,000, or six out of 10 cases nationwide.

From Science, a reasonable move:

Escape of dangerous bacterium leads to halt of risky studies at Tulane

The apparent escape from a high-security lab of a dangerous bacterium that led federal officials last month to suspend research on certain high-risk pathogens at Tulane University has left questions about an ongoing investigation of the incident and broader risks.

According to a lengthy 1 March news article in USA Today, two rhesus macaques at the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Covington, Louisiana, that fell ill in early November later tested positive for infection with Burkholderia pseudomallei, which is found naturally in soil and water in Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Center researchers had been working with rodents on a vaccine for the bacterium, which can cause a sometimes serious illness called melioidosis in animals and people. The two macaques, which later had to be euthanized, and two other rhesus macaques that tested positive for the bacterium may have been exposed while being treated at the center’s hospital.

Adding to concerns, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigator who visited the site in late January fell seriously ill a day later and tested positive for Burkholderia pseudomallei. It is not clear whether the investigator, who has since recovered, was infected at Tulane or earlier during travel abroad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in February. The agency said it had suspended all studies at the center involving select agents, a list of dangerous viruses, bacteria, and toxins that are tightly regulated. That includes about 10 projects, USA Today reports.

Science covers a call for more:

More environmental action needed, European agency says

The latest big-picture analysis of the state of the environment in Europe finds that although the continent is making progress in energy efficiency, it is falling short in protecting biodiversity and natural resources. In some areas, the financial recession led to improvements in trends, but the gains may be short-lived, the report warns.

Every 5 years since 1995, the European Environment Agency provides a broad assessment of status and trends. The refrain is familiar to Andrew Jordan, an environmental policy analyst at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. “They’ve continuously said the same thing: We’re not moving as rapidly toward sustainable development as we should.”

Among the bad news:

  • Biodiversity is still declining: 60% of protected species have a conservation status that is unfavorable.
  • 91% of fish stocks assessed in the Mediterranean Sea were overfished in 2014.
  • Air pollution leads to 400,000 premature deaths annually.

From the Ecologist, meat hunger devastates Chinese ecology:

Meat boom propels China’s ecosystems into total collapse

  • China’s farming boom has massively increased food production, writes John Dearing – especially of meat. But it has come at a massive cost: the wholesale pollution and destruction of core ecosystems.

China’s push for more intense farming has kept its city dwellers well-fed and helped lift millions of rural workers out of poverty. But it has come at a cost.

Ecosystems in what should be one of the country’s most fertile region have already been badly damaged – some beyond repair – and the consequences will be felt across the world.

This is part of a long-running trade-off between rising levels of food production and a deteriorating environment, revealed in recent research I conducted with colleagues from China and the UK.

After the jump, mapping global pesticide runoff, a battle against Amazonian forest destruction, climatic causation for war in Syria, an offshore drilling vote in Southern California, Venezuelan anti-fracking campaigners target the U.S., the Dutch government issues a fracking apology, on to Fukushimapocalypose Now!, starting with evacuee return reluctance, uncertainty haunts restart plans for another nuke plant, Another city vows to eschew nuclear power, and a deadly Africna nuclear legacy lingers on. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, GMOs, toxins, nukes


We begin with an Indian outbreak, via BBC News:

Swine flu: India health minister urges calm

Indian Health Minister JP Nadda has urged the public not to panic, as the number of deaths so far this year from swine flu passed 900 from 16,000 cases.

Rajasthan and Gujarat are among the worst affected states. Officials in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, have announced restrictions on public gatherings as a precautionary measure.

The current outbreak, which began in December last year, is India’s deadliest since 2010.

A parallel development from Outbreak News Today:

Hong Kong adult flu deaths near 300, more H7N9 reported on the mainland

With the additional six influenza related fatalities reported in Hong Kong adults during the past day brings the total deaths in the city to 295, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health reported Friday.

Since the beginning of the year, Hong Kong has seen a 398 severe influenza cases requiring hospitalization, including the 295 deaths.

The vast majority of cases, nearly 96 percent, were A(H3N2) seasonal influenza.

In related news, the Health and Family Planning Commission of Anhui Province on Mainland China reported two additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9).

From the U.N. News Center, a call for help with a new outbreak:

Humanitarian community must move quickly to halt cholera spread in Malawi – UN

With 39 cases of cholera in the last two weeks, including two deaths, the United Nations children’s agency in Malawi is on high alert for spread in southern border areas where highly-populated camps for people displaced by the floods are located, according to a press statement released today.

With Malawi’s Ministry of Health having confirmed the cases – the first in the last three years – there are serious concerns that a rapid spread of infection could lead to a larger outbreak that already over-burdened health services may not be able to contain.

“As humanitarian actors in Malawi, we need to move quickly to stop any further spread of this disease,” said UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Malawi, Mahimbo Mdoe. “These displaced populations are extremely vulnerable, particularly those with low-immunity, such as malnourished children.

UNICEF is working to support the Government with mobile health services, as well as safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, which are critical factors in preventing the spread of cholera.”

The New York Times covers a vaccination crackdown:

Pakistani Officials Issue Arrest Warrants Over Refusals of Polio Vaccine

Determined to curb Pakistan’s polio crisis, police officials in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa said Friday that they had issued hundreds of arrest warrants for parents for refusing to vaccinate their children.

“We had 13,000 to 16,000 refusal cases,” the deputy police commissioner for Peshawar, Riaz Khan Mahsud, said in an interview. “There is total determination on our part. We shall convince parents of the good of vaccinating their children, but if they refuse, we shall detain them. There is no leniency.”

The police in other districts of the province also reported issuing warrants, though no official total was released.

And BBC News conforms a diagnosis:

Distinct stages to chronic fatigue syndrome identified

Distinct changes in the immune systems of patients with ME or chronic fatigue syndrome have been found, say scientists.

Increased levels of immune molecules called cytokines were found in people during the early stages of the disease, a Columbia University study reported. It said the findings could help improve diagnosis and treatments.

UK experts said further refined research was now needed to confirm the results.

From BBC News again, the human condition:

Leukaemia mutations ‘almost inevitable’, researchers say

It is “almost inevitable” that your blood will take the first steps towards leukaemia as you age, researchers show.

The cancer is often associated with children, but some types become more common with age.

The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, showed 70% of healthy people in their 90s had genetic errors that could lead to leukaemia. The researchers warn that the number of cases could soar as life expectancy increases.

China Daily covers a crusade:

Former celebrity TV anchor on crusade against pollution

A former celebrity TV presenter has released a self-funded documentary about smog, inspired by her sick daughter.

Chai Jing’s one-year project, Under the Dome, marks a comeback for the former presenter and journalist with China Central Television following the birth of her child. It adds a sentimental touch to a matter of public interest with Chai not only an independent observer but also a concerned mother.

After ending a decade with the state broadcaster early last year, Chai shunned public attention to focus on taking care of her daughter, who was diagnosed with a tumor as a fetus and underwent surgery as a new-born baby.

“I saw smog through my daughter’s eyes,” Chai said while presenting her film. She recounted how the little girl was confined indoors, patting the window to vent her frustration at being unable to play outside.

From CCTV America, a related story:

Chinese government investigation uncovers high polluting factories

Program notes:

Officials from China’s environment protection agency said they’ve carried out a series of undercover investigations. They sought-out high levels of pollution discharged by factories across the country. CCTV’s Jie Bai reported on the startling results they uncovered.

From Al Jazeera America, the impact of skepticism:

In the war over GMO labeling, Big Food loses the PR battle

  • Analysis: Food industry efforts to quash labeling initiatives further hurt genetically modified foods’ image

Despite two decades of assurances from biotechnology firms, food processors, federal regulators and even a substantial share of scientists that GMO foods are safe, ballot initiatives and citizen petitions seeking labels on GMO foods are springing up as quickly as the industry can pay — or sue — to defeat them. Meanwhile, sales of foods labeled GMO-free have been steadily gaining ground on consumer shopping lists, and polls suggest that more Americans than ever favor labels that identify GMO foods.

This has even some supporters of genetic engineering wondering if it’s time to rethink the labeling question. “If you give people a choice and value, that wins,” said David Ropeik, a risk-communication consultant. He has begun calling on the industry to let go of its “fear of fear” and embrace GMO labeling, which is required in at least 64 other nations, including Japan, Australia, Russia, Brazil and more than a dozen European countries.

A related story from the Guardian:

Trans-Pacific Partnership could prevent clearer food labelling – health advocates

  • Under the free trade deal, a foreign company could sue the government if sales dropped after labelling was introduced, says the Public Health Association

Australia’s Pacific free-trade deal could stand in the way of clear country-of-origin labelling being considered by the Abbott government in the wake of the hepatitis A outbreak linked to imported frozen berries.

Michael Moore of the Public Health Association said under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) a foreign company may be able to sue the Australian government for loss of revenue as a result of Australian products being given an “unfair advantage”.

The agreement, which is being negotiated in secret, includes Australia, New Zealand, the US, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan. The deal would bring down the trade and legal barriers between member countries as well as their foreign corporations.

From the Los Angeles Times, public disservants:

LAFD failed to inspect hundreds of hazardous sites, state says

The Los Angeles Fire Department has failed to properly inspect hundreds of hazardous sites scattered across the city, exposing the public to increased risks from potential spills and mishandling of toxic substances, according to a state report released Friday.

The 24-page California Environmental Protection Agency study found breakdowns in numerous aspects of the LAFD’s oversight and monitoring of chemical factories, laboratories and other storage facilities that deal with dangerous substances.

“Their program has fallen apart,” said Jim Bohon, head of the state unit that conducted the review. “They are failing in environmental management in a very gross way.”

Another firefighter crackdown, via BBC News:

Argentina fire chief sacked over Patagonia blaze

The head of Argentina’s national fire control agency has been sacked as a huge forest fire threatens to engulf a renowned national park in Patagonia.

Jorge Barrionuevo was sacked during a visit to the region by the government chief of staff.

The fire is advancing towards Los Alerces National Park, which is home to larch trees dating back more than 1,000 years. The flames have already destroyed 200sq km (77 sq miles) of forest.

From the New York Times, hopefully better late than never:

Mexico Moves to Save Endangered Porpoise

The Mexican government is making a final effort to save the vaquita, a tiny porpoise that has been driven to the edge of extinction as a result of illegal fishing for another endangered species that is served as a delicacy in China.

Scientists say that fewer than 100 of the vaquita, a marine mammal, remain in its habitat, the northern Gulf of California. Several thousand fishermen working there depend on the yearly shrimp catch for a modest living.

The fishermen’s gillnets, stretching for miles across the sea, have long been a lethal threat to the vaquita, which become entangled in them and die. But over the past few years a new threat has emerged: illegal fishing for a large fish called the totoaba whose swim bladder is dried and cooked in soup in China, where some consumers believe it has medicinal properties. The vaquitas are also caught and killed in the nets set for totoaba.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with a bureaucratic beatdown from the Asahi Shimbun:

Nuclear watchdog takes TEPCO to task for delay in leakage report

The nation’s nuclear watchdog body slammed Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Feb. 27 over its failure to disclose information on the leakage of radioactive rainwater into the sea from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Plant operator TEPCO disclosed many months later that a drainage ditch near the wrecked reactors showed high concentrations of radiation and rainwater had leaked into the sea outside the enclosed harbor.

“TEPCO must reflect seriously (on the delay). We are concerned that the company’s efforts to secure a safe environment will be unable to obtain trust (from the people),” said NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka during a meeting in Tokyo that TEPCO President Naomi Hirose attended.

Next, a visitor, via Kyodo News:

Abe views Fukushima site for radioactively contaminated waste

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday viewed a site in Fukushima Prefecture for interim storage facilities for radioactively contaminated soil and other waste generated in cleanup work following the 2011 nuclear disaster.

“I hope to speed up the decontamination work to ensure reconstruction,” Abe said as he looked at the facilities under construction from the roof of the Futaba town hall under the guidance of Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa.

The mayor asked Abe for constant support for the town’s reconstruction given that the local authorities took the bitter decision to host the facilities.

From the Asahi Shimbun, a hot zone drive-through, complete with a roadside radiation meter:

Entire Joban Expressway set to open with completion of Fukushima stretch

A major artery connecting Tokyo to the coastal Tohoku region will open March 1, with the completion of the final stretch that runs past the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

BLOG FufuksignThe final 14.3-kilometer section connecting the Joban-Tomioka interchange with the Namie interchange, both in Fukushima Prefecture, is to open after prolonged construction delays due to the nuclear disaster that unfolded in March 2011.

However, along one stretch, running 8 km, radiation levels are high enough that residents are not permitted to return to their homes for the foreseeable future.

Finally, from NHK WORLD, something else to worry about:

IAEA: Japan needs more anti-nuclear terror steps

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have acknowledged overall improvements in anti-terror measures at nuclear facilities in Japan. But they say more needs to be done to safeguard them.

The IAEA team, comprising 8 experts from the US and 5 other countries, stayed in Japan for 2 weeks through Friday.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority says the experts heard about anti-terror legislation and resources from officials with the authority, the National Police Agency and related ministries and agencies.

The experts also visited the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizokuka Prefecture and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s research center in Ibaraki Prefecture to see what’s being done to make them safe from terrorism.

And now for something completely different


This time, it’s a story about cancer and ‘shrooms, those wonderful little mushrooms from which we derive psilocybin, a drug that opens the doors of perception with a gentleness and thoroughness radically different from the harsher effects of LSD [at least from our own considerable experience back in the Sixties, and a few times since].

And we’ve had our own battle with a very serious form of cancer [and one not quite so serious as well]. Sadly, we were devoid of access to the mushrooms where we fought out battles prostate and bladder cancers, and this video will make clear why we regret that lack of access.

From the New Yorker:

Magic Mushrooms and the Healing Trip

Program notes:

Eddie Marritz, a cinematographer and photographer in remission from small-cell carcinoma, was a participant in one of N.Y.U.’s Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety research studies. Marritz, and the researchers, take us through the experience.

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, toxins, climate, nukes


From the UN News Center, a call for vaccination action in Europe:

UN health agency ‘taken aback’ as measles resurfaces in Europe, calls for widespread vaccination

European policymakers, healthcare workers, and parents must step up their efforts to vaccinate children against measles amid an ongoing outbreak across the continent, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, warning that a recent resurgence in the disease threatened Europe’s goal of eliminating measles by the end of 2015.

According to UN data, over 22,000 cases of the virus have surfaced across Europe during the 2014 to 2015 biennium with the outbreak spreading to seven countries. This comes despite a 50 per cent drop from 2013 to 2014.

“When we consider that over the past two decades we have seen a reduction of 96 per cent in the number of measles cases in the European region, and that we are just a step away from eliminating the disease, we are taken aback by these numbers,” Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, affirmed in a press release.

“We must collectively respond, without further delay, to close immunization gaps. It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years’ efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time,” she added.

Vastly unvaccinated in Africa, via the Liberian Observer:

70% Un-vaccinated children at Risk for Measles

An official of the Ministry of Health is encouraging all parents and guardians to take their children for the third phase of the nationwide Measles Immunization Program, to be launched from April 10-16 in all 15 counties.

“The Measles Immunization Program was delayed due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that led to thousands of deaths. Parents must now be very serious in ensuring that their children take the measles immunization to avoid risks,” Mr. Clarke stressed.

Mr. Adolphus Clarke is the Deputy Program Manager for the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI). He noted that the exercise is geared towards protecting children against future outbreaks of the disease.

From SciDev.Net, a potentially much-needed new drug undergoes testing:

Tuberculosis drug candidate begins clinical safety trial

The first clinical safety trial on a tuberculosis drug since 2009 is now under way.

The phase I trial of TBA-354 will involve 50 volunteers from the United States, according to the TB Alliance, the not-for-profit product development partnership sponsoring the trial.

In preclinical studies, the compound showed more potent antibacterial and sterilising activity than pretomanid (PA-824), a related substance now in phase II and phase III clinical trials to assess its safety and efficacy, the alliance announced last week.

It said that the six years that passed between TBA-354 and the last drug to undergo Phase 1 trials shows that the pipeline of drugs to combat tuberculosis is disconcertingly empty.

From the University of California, cat-derived ailment complications:

Increased risk from toxoplasmosis

A third of all humans carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis — a disease commonly associated with cats, HIV-AIDS patients and pregnant women — with scientists long believing healthy immune systems control the parasite and prevent the disease from emerging. But new research by professor Kirk Jensen of the University of California, Merced, shows the parasite might be more dangerous than previously believed.

In a paper published Feb. 24 in mBio — an open-access journal presented by the American Society for Microbiology — Jensen shows that secondary exposure to most parasite strains found in South America can lead to uncontrolled infection and disease, which in humans can cause severe congenital infection or lesions in the retina and brain.

“There are a few strains of the Toxoplasma parasite present in North America and Europe, but in South America, there are many strains,” said Jensen, a professor in the university’s School of Natural Sciences. “We found these South American strains are really good at evading the immune system.”

After an initial infection, the immune system is typically primed and ready to protect against repeat offenses by the same parasite or disease. This is how vaccines protect humans from infectious diseases like measles. However, Jensen said, “There are known cases where pregnant women who were seropositive — and therefore should have been protected from toxoplasmosis — developed congenital infection following travel to South America.”

From Outbreak News Today, another outbreak:

Uganda: Hundreds sickened by typhoid; adulterated beverages and foods suspected

As of yesterday, more than 500 people were confirmed admitted to designated treatment centres after being diagnosed with typhoid, the Health Ministry reports.

The source of the bacterial outbreak is suspected to be due to adulterated beverages and foods prompting health officials to warn the public of the capital of Kampala.

Preliminary laboratory investigations of sampled beverages and foods obtained from  the Kampala central business district contained the Salmonella bacterium.

Dr Monica Musenero, the assistant commissioner in-charge of epidemiology and epidemic diseases at the Health ministry said, “We took samples of water, juices, and foods from areas where the outbreak hit hard. We suspect the outbreak is caused by something in the category of juice or water that is widely consumed by people,” said Dr Musenero. “The 1st laboratory samples tests and epidemiological links have hinted on water, but it’s still too early to mention which type of water,” she said.

From SciDev.Net, a climate change to spreading diseases:

Warming climate accelerates spread of vector-borne diseases

Health agencies need to take into account disease evolution in warming environments as climate change could alter the development of vector-borne diseases, two studies have found.

The “vector” in a vector-borne disease refers to an infected human or animal that transmits pathogens or parasites and causes disease in human populations.

Climate change can impact “all relevant aspects” of vector-borne diseases, including the locations of host populations and the availability of vectors, says Nina Fefferman, a biologist and part of a team from Rutgers University in the United States behind one of the studies.

The research focused on Aedes japonicus japonicus, a species of disease-carrying mosquito native to Japan and Korea, whose range has expanded since the 1990s to parts of Europe and the Hawaiian archipelago. The study found that populations of the mosquito on the island of Hawaii and in the American state of Virginia were capable of “rapid evolutionary change” and adaptation to their new environment.

As a result, vector-borne disease could become a greater threat to human health as the global climate warms, the study found. Its authors say that climate change studies need to play a greater role in national and global efforts to eradicate these diseases.

From BBC News, a death toll reevaluation:

Tobacco ‘kills two in three smokers’

The death risk from smoking may be much higher than previously thought – tobacco kills up to two in every three smokers not one in every two, data from a large study suggests.

The study tracked more than 200,000 Australian smokers and non-smokers above the age of 45 over six years. Mortality risk went up with cigarette use, BMC Medicine reports.

Smoking 10 cigarettes a day doubled the risk, while 20-a-day smokers were four to five times more likely to die.

From Environmental Health News, polluting the poor:

EPA to investigate North Carolina for civil rights violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has accepted a civil rights complaint filed against the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and will investigate whether lax regulation of industrial pig farms disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Last week the EPA announced it would proceed two days after Environmental Health News reported about the complaint and new research that found high levels of fecal bacteria in water near industrial pig farms in eastern North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer also wrote an editorial about the research and said the state needs to be “more vigilant” about pig waste.

The complaint was filed last September by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and is being led by Earthjustice.

FrontPageAfrica covers medical fraud in Liberia:

High Risk Zone for Fake Drugs: Pharmacy Under Scrutiny

One of Liberia’s leading pharmacies, Abeer Pharmacy has been ranked the top pharmacy that imports and sells fake drugs in the country. Mr. David Sumo, head of the Liberia Medicine and Health Products regulatory authority, explains that the pharmacy usually brings in anti-malaria pills, such as lonart, quinine and pain killers. He added that Abeer Pharmacy has repeatedly failed to abide by the standard of the regulatory agency.

“I know most of you will be surprised to hear this, the pharmacy has failed our test many times, and we’ve put this particular pharmacy in the high-risk zone,” Mr. Sumo said. He advised people dealing in fake drugs to desist and called on everyone, especially those who have mini-drug stores to look at the expiration date properly before purchasing the drugs.

LMHRA was set up in 2001 to register all medicines that are locally-manufactured, imported, distributed, sold and used in Liberia. It also has a mandate to prepare and keep the registry of medicines used in both the private and public sector in Liberia and to remove from the registry and prohibit the manufacturing, importation, distribution sale and use of any medicine which quality, safety or efficacy is brought to question. The body also has the power to set up a quality control laboratory to undertake laboratory analysis of all medicines imported and used in Liberia.

From United Press International, another kind of medical fraud:

Iowa scientist pleads guilty to fraud in AIDS vaccine study

A former Iowa State University scientist on Wednesday pleaded guilty to fraud for faking the results on an AIDS vaccine study funded by the federal government.

Dong-Pyou Han pleaded guilty to two felony counts of making false statements. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped two other counts of the same charge.

Dong-Pyou, 57, admitted he faked data in the study that cost the government between $7 million and $20 million. He said he inserted human antibodies into the blood of rabbits to make it appear as though an experimental vaccine he was studying helped protect the animals against HIV.

After the jump, a Big Agra pesticide lie, Big Agra pesticides pose global surface water dangers, plastics pose a major danger to imperiled coral reefs, clear evidence of manmade carbon atmospheric heat-trapping, a village to be abandoned because of climate change, Occupy targets Rio’s Olympic golf course in an environmental reserve, a massive fish die-off in Rio’s Olympic waters, massive pollution in a Mexican river, how liberal California unions bankroll fracking, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a demand for a probe of a radioactive leak coverup, fishers outraged over the leak coverup, Radioactive water drainage changes contemplated, and, finally, evacuees fail to heed claims the hot zone is safe. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, climate, fuels, nukes


We begin with a measles death, via Agence France-Presse:

Toddler dies as measles outbreak hits German capital

A toddler suffering from measles has died in the German capital, health authorities said Monday, amid the country’s worst outbreak in years and a debate about vaccinations.

The 18-month-old boy died on February 18, the first known fatality among more than 570 recorded measles cases since October in the German capital, a Berlin health department official told AFP.

The resurgence of the preventable disease in Germany, as well as in parts of the United States, coincides with a movement among some parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.

From the Guardian, a response:

Measles death in Germany prompts calls for mandatory vaccinations

  • Death of 18-month-old boy is the first fatality among 574 reported cases in the country’s worst measles outbreak in more than a decade

A senior German health official has called for mandatory measles vaccinations after an 18-month-old boy died of the disease amid the country’s worst outbreak in more than a decade.

The Berlin health minister, Mario Czaja, confirmed on Monday that the child – who had not been immunised against measles – died in hospital on Wednesday, the first fatality among 574 cases reported since the outbreak began in October.

The death has intensified a debate in Germany over whether parents should be forced to have their children immunised. Czaja said: “This case shows that measles is a very serious disease. I am in favour of mandatory vaccination.”

A killer bug with a broad turf, via Outbreak News Today:

CRE ‘nightmare bacteria’ not unique to UCLA

The Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), or “nightmare bacteria” as CDC director Dr Tom Frieden once called them, is not unique to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, despite all the media coverage.

Since first being detected in a North Carolina hospital in 2001, only Maine, Idaho and Alaska have not reported a confirmed CRE case caused by the KPC enzyme and about a third of states have reported CRE cases caused by the NDM enzyme.

In fact, according to a report by Charlotte, NC press, the Carolinas HealthCare System- Lincoln (CHS) has reported 3 cases since the beginning of the year.

The latest casualties, via Al Jazeera America:

‘Superbug’ kills 2 in North Carolina

  • Hospital officials confirm at least 18 cases of same antibiotic-resistant bacteria found at UCLA medical center

Health officials at the Carolinas HealthCare System confirmed that an antibiotic-resistant “superbug” — the same one that killed two people in California earlier this year — has claimed the lives of two people in North Carolina in recent months.

Health officials on Sunday afternoon said that two residents of the Charlotte, North Carolina area have died in recent months from carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. Three people acquired CRE while in Carolinas HealthCare System hospitals this year, and about 15 people with existing infections have been treated in the hospitals, the officials said.

The Charlotte-based hospital system is screening for people with CRE and is isolating those who are infected, according to Dr. Katie Passaretti, who is in charge of infection prevention at Carolinas HealthCare.

RT America covers consequences of historically unprecedented home sanitation:

For healthier kids, skip the dishwasher, just hand wash – study

Program notes:

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics reports on the link between using your dishwasher and the health of your child. The study says that parents who reported using the dishwasher were more likely to have children with asthma and eczema.

From the Washington Post, a notable debunking:

Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say

  • New study: We should stop fighting marijuana legalization and focus on alcohol and tobacco instead

Compared with other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

Those are the top-line findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.

And all the way at the bottom of the list? Weed — roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed a low mortality risk to its users.

The Post’s accompanying graphic:

BLOG Cannabis

While the Guardian covers the ongoing consequences of a tragedy largely spared the U.S. by the effort of one diligent FDA employee [and what better proof of the high value of regulatory oversight of Big Pharma?]:

German thalidomide survivors continue fight for compensation

  • Government accused of hindering disabled people born with the effects of Contergan drug from accessing promised money

Christiane Seifert takes a visitor around her ground-floor flat in Hamburg. She opens a window with her shoulder, the patio door with her bare foot. At her computer, she sits bolt upright and uses her toes to type her emails. With a pointed chin she flicks off the light as she leaves the room. The 54-year old deftly demonstrates just a few of what she calls the “tricks” she uses to manage her everyday life.

Born without arms in January 1961, Seifert is a thalidomide survivor. Her mother was prescribed the drug, which was first marketed in the late 50s in West Germany under the name Contergan, to counteract the effects of morning sickness, with devastating consequences. Seifert was one of up to 7,000 born in Germany with phocomelia, or malformation of the limbs, 60% of whom died.

More than half a century later, Seifert, who is loquacious and funny, is still struggling for recognition for her plight.

“If even one person had ever come to visit me in that time to see how I cope with life, to assess my needs, or even invited me to go and show them what I can or cannot do,” she said. “But no one has ever even asked”.

From teleSUR English, allegations of a a dramatic spike in war-caused cancers in Gaza:

Cancer cases increase in Gaza due to Israeli enriched uranium

Program notes:

The cases of cancer in the Gaza Strip have increased alarmingly due to the use of enriched uranium and white phosphorus in Israeli weapons. The situation is aggravated by Israeli restrictions on the entrance of equipment and medicine for treating cancer, which force Palestinians to go abroad to receive medical treatment.

And from News Corp Australia, climate change accelerating gaseous reuptions in Siberia:

More Siberian methane blowholes found in permafrost

SIBERIA’S blowholes are exploding in numbers: Up to 20 have now been located, raising new fears the warming permafrost is releasing its deadly methane reserves.

A new report in the Siberian Times has backed up the discovery of four enormous craters in the Siberian tundra last year with news of up to 20 more, smaller vents.

“It is important not to scare people, but this is a very serious problem,” Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky of the Russian Academy of Sciences told the Times. “We must research this phenomenon urgently to prevent possible disasters. We cannot rule out new gas emissions in the Arctic and in some cases they can ignite.”

After the jump, climate changed blamed in the European grain production stall, the Brazilian water crisis deepens, the Keystone controversy continues, pseudo-regulation in a gas pipeline disaster. Shell calls a halt to a tar sands project, Canadian declares its oil train upgrades inadequate, the largest Amazon deforester busted, and a leak sought in Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Nukes, health, water, & climate


We begin with something more to think about, via RT:

Wildfires to create second wave of radiation poisoning from Chernobyl

Norwegian scientists say global warming will lead to more wildfires in the forests surrounding the site of the 1986 nuclear accident, leaving Europeans exposed to radioactive elements still present in the exclusion zone around the plant.

“A large amount of Caesium-137 still remains in the Chernobyl forests, which could be remobilized along with a large number of other dangerous, long-lived, refractory radionuclides. We predict that an expanding flammable area associated with climate change will lead to a high risk of radioactive contamination with characteristic fire peaks in the future,” said the abstract of a study published in Ecological Monographs magazine by the respected Norwegian Institute for Air Research.

The US Environmental Protection Agency describes Caesium-137 as a “highly radioactive” material that “increases the risk of cancer” and can cause death through severe exposure.

Of the 85 petabecquerels (a measure of radioactivity) released following the accident at the plant, between two and eight still remain in the soil.

On to the measles, first with Outbreak News Today:

Chicago area measles situation grows, 8 cases to date

In a follow-up to a report on a measles cluster in suburban Chicago several days ago, Cook County Public Health reports an additional three confirmed cases, bringing the total to eight.

These cases include two adults and six infants all of whom are unvaccinated. Seven of these cases are associated with the KinderCare Learning Center in Palatine, health officials note.

On Feb. 5, the Palatine KinderCare Center, where the majority of cases are linked, described the steps they are taking to prevent the spread of measles, these include: excluding unimmunized children and staff who may have been exposed to measles from our center for 21 days; better cleaning of the facilities; being vigilant about enforcing the policy of excluding children from care who are sick and limiting access to the infant room to only parents or other adults dropping off or picking up an infant.

Salon covers the rebirth of a practice many parents followed in pre-vaccine days to give their kids early exposures to diseases which were far more dangerous in later years:

“The way God intended”: California parents are having ‘measles parties’ instead of vaccinating their kids

  • We have hit peak crazy

Marin County is the odd hippie commune in the college that is the United States. You know what I’m talking about — that rundown house on the edge of campus which you would walk by only to get to the Arts Center, because passing by meant watching unwashed students spitting kombucha into each other’s mouths. It’s disgusting, but your attitude is live and let live, just as long as they don’t try to use your mouth as a fermented bread spittoon.

Why am I being so cruel to Marin County? Because the county, what could be considered the hub of the U.S.’s anti-vaccination movement and recent measles outbreak, is allowing its residents to have measles parties. Yep, parties for infected and uninfected kids to intermingle, so that they might contract the illness in a milder form and establish immunity.

The rumor of these parties spread when KQED reported that Julie Schiffman, a local mother who decided not to vaccinate her children, declined an invitation to one.

From Outbreak News Today, a reminder that measles can come from many places:

Georgia reports 1st measles case in 3 years, considered an imported case

Georgia health officials reported Monday of the state’s first reported case of measles since 2012.

The patient is an infant that arrived in Atlanta from outside of the U.S. and is being cared for at Egleston at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).

State public health officials said they know the child left Kyrgyzstan headed for Istanbul, Turkey. He was symptomatic on the flight. After a layover in Chicago, the final destination was Atlanta on February 4, local media reports.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is working with CHOA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify anyone who may have been exposed to the pa

From the World Health Organization Measles Fact Sheet, released today:

Measles

Key facts

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  • In 2013, there were 145,700 measles deaths globally – about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour.
  • Measles vaccination resulted in a 75% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide.
  • In 2013, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 73% in 2000.

During 2000-2013, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

The disease remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Approximately 145 700 people died from measles in 2013 – mostly children under the age of 5.

From Newswise, worthy of consideration:

Exposure to Mercury, Seafood Associated with Risk Factor for Autoimmune Disease

  • Among women of reproductive age, exposure to mercury at levels generally considered safe associated with markers of immune system disorders

One of the greatest risk factors for autoimmunity among women of childbearing age may be associated with exposure to mercury such as through seafood, a new University of Michigan study says.

The findings, which appear in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that mercury – even at low levels generally considered safe – was associated with autoimmunity. Autoimmune disorders, which cause the body’s immune system to attack healthy cells by mistake, affects nearly 50 million Americans and predominately women.

“We don’t have a very good sense of why people develop autoimmune disorders,” says lead author Emily Somers, Ph.D., Sc.M, an associate professor in the departments of Internal Medicine in the division of Rheumatology, Environmental Health Sciences, and Obstetrics & Gynecology at the U-M Medical and Public Health Schools.

“A large number of cases are not explained by genetics, so we believe studying environmental factors will help us understand why autoimmunity happens and how we may be able to intervene to improve health outcomes. In our study, exposure to mercury stood out as the main risk factor for autoimmunity.”

Autoimmune disease – which can include such conditions as inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis – is among the 10 leading causes of death among women.

The New York Times covers an ill wind blowing across Southern Nevada. the heart of the state’s tourism-driven gambling industry:

In Nevada, a Controversy in the Wind

For the past few years, the geologists Brenda Buck and Rodney Metcalf have combed the wild terrain of southern Nevada, analyzing its stony dunes and rocky outcroppings — and to their dismay, tallying mounting evidence of a landscape filled with asbestos.

Asbestos occurs naturally in many parts of the country, mostly in the West but also along some mountain ranges in the East. But in Nevada, the scientists found, natural erosion and commercial development were sending the fibers into the wind.

Worried about the possible health risks, Dr. Buck and Dr. Metcalf, professors of geoscience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, reached out to experts in asbestos-related diseases. With data from Nevada’s cancer registry, an epidemiologist prepared a preliminary report that outlined what she felt was a troubling pattern of mesothelioma — a cancer often related to asbestos exposure — among residents of the affected areas.

But if the scientists expected to be applauded by state officials for their initiative, they were mistaken.

Upon learning of the report, the Nevada Department of Health forced the epidemiologist, Francine Baumann of the University of Hawaii, to withdraw a presentation of the findings at a scientific conference and revoked her access to the state cancer registry. Dr. Metcalf and Dr. Buck offered to meet with state officials but say they were rebuffed.

More corruptio politico from National Journal:

From Bad To Worse at Scandal-Ridden Safety Agency

  • White House is reviewing EPA IG report on Chemical Safety Board

The independent agency that investigates chemical accidents is under fire from seemingly every corner of the government—from the White House on down.

The White House is reviewing a damning inspector general report against the head of the Chemical Safety Board, Rafael Moure-Eraso. Members of Congress also are unhappy, with several committees on the case. And there’s a federal investigation into the leaked identity of an agency whistleblower.

It’s yet another bit of unwanted attention for the board, which has been beset for years by accelerating internal troubles, shoddy morale, and a backlog of incomplete reports.

A controversial motion passed late in the night at a recent meeting in California has only added fuel to the fire, since it appears to close observers and insiders that it wipes out a number of reforms while consolidating power in the chairman’s office.

After the jump, the opening gambit for “climate modification,” a very important — and costly — reminder of climatic hubris, climate woes confront African infrastructure, a fowl legal decision, a holocaust of regal butterflies, herbicidal fears for the whopping crane, a native mammalian extinction event on the Aussie horizon, Panamanian wetlands protection, corrupt environmental oversight in China, fracking triggers a Midwestern seismic revolution, another U.S. coal plant shuts down, a 4,000-acre mega array opens in the Golden State as solar prospects dim, and groundwater radiation spikes from Vermont nuclear plant. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Health, GMOs, fuels, and nukes


Plus allegations of green papal paganism. . .

We begin with a report on the report [PDF] from which we drew today’s Map of the day, via Deutsche Welle:

WHO says bad lifestyle choices continue to kill millions annually

  • The World Health Organization has said that the number of people dying prematurely due to bad lifestyle habits is continuing to rise. It has called on national governments to take action to reverse the trend.

A report released by the World Health Organization on Monday said that unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcohol abuse, as well as consuming too much salt, sugar and fat were leading to sicknesses that killed around 16 million people each year – up from 14.6 million in 2000. Another major factor was a lack of physical activity.

The report said such habits led to such non-communicable diseases as cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, lung disease and various forms of cancer. Such illnesses, the report said, killed 38 million people worldwide in 2012, 16 million of whom were under the age of 70 – which is classed by the WHO as premature.

The United Nations agency estimated that of these, more than 80 percent occurred in countries with developing and emerging economies.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation documents an evolving threat:

Drug-resistant malaria: The world’s next big health crisis?

Malaria death rates dropped by 47 percent between 2000 and 2014 worldwide but it still killed some 584,000 people in 2013, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Much of the success in fighting the disease is due to the use of combination therapies (ACTs) based on artemisinin, a Chinese herb derivative, which is now under threat as malaria parasites have been building up resistance to the drugs.

Experts say Myanmar, which has the largest malaria burden in the region, is the next frontier in the spread of resistance to artemisinin.

Positioned between the Andaman Sea and the Himalayas and bordering India and China – home to 40 percent of the world’s population – Myanmar is in a unique position to halt the spread of resistance to India and Africa.

“We need to act fast to avoid a big catastrophe,” said Pascal Ringwald of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme. “The consequences could be disastrous.”

The Japan Times covers a mystery:

Mystery kidney disease ravaging Sri Lankan community

V.G. Karunawathie is only 40 years old, but she is dying, and no one knows why. Her kidneys have stopped working, and now she’s kept alive by a pump that filters waste from her blood twice a week through a snorkel-like tube implanted into her neck.

The cause of her disease, which affects an estimated 70,000 to 400,000 people in Sri Lanka’s rice basket, has baffled doctors and researchers for two decades. Even the World Health Organization has not been able to pinpoint what’s killing as many as 10 people a month in Karunawathie’s village — ravaging one house while sparing the next — as it creeps farther and farther into neighboring areas.

The disease mirrors equally confounding conditions plaguing thousands of farmworkers in parts of India, Egypt and Central America. Suspected causes include chronic dehydration and the heavy use and misuse of agrochemicals. In Sri Lanka, fertilizer use is among the heaviest in the world.

No one cause has been identified, but theories abound. Many believe a combination of factors could be at play — from toxic algae and hard ground water to heavy metal exposure and high fluoride in drinking water.

From the Associated Press, a spreading fowl affliction:

Scientists: Tumor-causing virus widespread in wild turkeys

Wildlife biologists tracking a tumor-causing virus first diagnosed in eastern wild turkeys five years ago have found the virus is far more widespread — but less deadly — than expected.

The new study eases fears among wildlife managers and hunters that lymphoproliferative disease virus — which can turn a turkey’s head into a gruesome mass of scabby tumors and clog its airway — isn’t to blame for a drop in the wild turkey population.

In 2009, scientists at the University of Georgia diagnosed the virus in a tumor-riddled wild turkey from Arkansas, the first time it was found outside of domestic turkeys in Europe and Israel. A follow-up study found the virus in numerous healthy turkeys shot by hunters in 17 states from Colorado to Maine.

Some positive health news from the Washington Post:

Coffee may be able to lengthen your life and lower your risk of depression

True, coffee drinkers are more likely than nondrinkers to smoke, eat red meat, skimp on exercise and have other life-shortening habits, according to a large 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

But even after adjusting for such factors, they found that people age 50 to 71 who drank at least one cup of coffee per day had a lower risk than nondrinkers of dying from diabetes, heart disease or other health problems when followed for more than a decade. That may be due to beneficial compounds in coffee such as antioxidants — which might ward off disease — and not caffeine. Decaf drinkers had the same results.

Coffee is not just a pick-me-up; it also has been linked to a lower risk of depression. In a study led by the Harvard School of Public Health that tracked 50,000 women for 10 years, those who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day were 20 percent less likely to develop depression than nondrinkers. Another study found that adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee were about half as likely to attempt suicide as decaf drinkers or abstainers. The researchers speculated that long-term coffee drinking may boost the production of “feel good” hormones such as dopamine.

And from the Washington Post again, another health crisis of our own making:

Wounds of war that never heal

Scientists have discovered what a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, suffered by a quarter-million combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan looks like, and it’s unlike anything they’ve seen before: a honeycomb pattern of broken connections, primarily in the frontal lobes, our emotional control center and the seat of our personality.

“In some ways it’s a 100-year-old problem,” said Vassilis Koliatsos, a Johns Hopkins pathologist and neuropsychiatrist. He was referring to the shell-shock victims of World War I, tens of thousands of soldiers who returned home physically sound but mentally wounded, haunted by their experiences and unable to fully resume their lives.

“When we started shelling each other on the Western Front of World War I, it created a lot of sick people . .?.?. [In a way,] we’ve gone back to the Western Front and created veterans who come back and do poorly, and we’re back to the Battle of the Somme,” he said. “They have mood changes, commit suicide, substance abuse, just like in World War I, and they really do poorly and can’t function. It’s a huge problem.”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation covers another global warming impact:

Food diversity under siege from global warming, UN says

Climate change threatens the genetic diversity of the world’s food supply, and saving crops and animals at risk will be crucial for preserving yields and adapting to wild weather patterns, a U.N. policy paper said on Monday.

Certain wild crops – varieties not often cultivated by today’s farmers – could prove more resilient to a warming planet than some popular crop breeds, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

But these wild strains are among those most threatened by climate change.

Ensuring food security and protecting at-risk species as the climate changes is one of “the most daunting challenges facing humankind”, the paper said.

RT America covers the latest fracking concern:

Newly found chemicals in fracking wastewater lead to cancer

Program notes:

University researchers have discovered two new pollutants in fracking wastewater that can have potentially devastating effects on waterways and those who depend on them. Professor Avner Vengosh identified both ammonium and iodide in samples taken by his team, which says that the two chemicals have never before been linked to the natural gas extraction process. Although not deadly by themselves, according to scientists, when combined with other substances used by the natural gas drilling industry, they become carcinogenic. Dr. Ken Carlson of Colorado State University explains the importance and of the findings to RT’s Ben Swann.

From the Guardian, barttle lines drawn:

GM crop vote was just the beginning of Europe’s biotech battle

  • A recent EU vote allows states to cultivate GM crops, with the first expected to be grown in the UK in 2017, but big hurdles remain

Scientists, politicians and activists expect the first commercially cultivated GM crops to be planted in England in 2017 after an EU vote for new GM crop rules last week, but the battle for biotechnology is far from done.

GM serves as a proxy and arena for a dizzying range of debates in the EU splitting industry and environmentalists. These cover trade deals, agricultural herbicide use, subsidiarity (dealing with social issues at a local level), evidence-based science and the precautionary principle.

With an average GM crop costing between $200m-$300m to bring to market, and potential returns that run into billions, lobbyists on all sides are sharpening their pencils in the corridors of Brussels.

The first item on their agenda may be a commission review of GM authorisation rules expected by May. The EU’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, ordered the rethink into ways that GM authorisations could be blocked after states criticised the current need for a qualified majority of EU leaders at Council meetings.

And from Al Jazeera America, wingnut miscalculation?:

Conservatives misfire on ‘pagan green’ pope’s encyclical

  • American right wing mounts myopic attack on pontiff’s anticipated letter on environment

Though Pope Francis won’t release his encyclical letter on the environment until this summer, the conservative contingent of the American commentariat has already rendered its verdict. Feverish disavowals of the encyclical — the contents of which are known only by subject matter and not one jot by text — have appeared in major conservative outlets, from Fox News to Forbes to sundry right-wing Catholic magazines. What is the substance of their furor?

The sheer diversity of complaints issuing from those who have no specific knowledge of the letter’s content should be enough to indicate a more general animus motivating these hypothetical gripes. In Forbes, Steve Moore accused Francis of advancing a “modern pagan green religion” and proclaimed that the encyclical will, through circuitous routes, “make the poor poorer.” On a Dec. 30 edition of Fox News’ “Special Report,” correspondent Doug McKelway surmised that the letter would put Francis in line with “environmental extremists who favor widespread birth control.” Crisis magazine, a hard-right Catholic publication, featured a piece by Rachel Lu suggesting that the unpublished encyclical “smack[s] of intellectual faddism,” while Maureen Mullarkey opined in a First Things post that the pope’s letter is evidence that “he is an ideologue and a meddlesome egoist.” A pompous pagan pope with no concern for the poor doesn’t sound much like the foot-washing Francis we all know, but the accusation that the pontiff is an ideologue is likely more telling than the author intended.

After all, climate change is just another proxy war for the greater struggle between progressivism and conservatism in the United States. Siding with the environment is, in some reactionary circles, tantamount to condemning the values of the right. The partisan split over climate change is evident even within the GOP: Only 25 percent of tea partyers believe climate change is taking place, compared with 61 percent of their more centrist Republican compatriots. In other words, the farther right you are on the conservative spectrum, the less likely it is that you believe climate change is real.

The Toronto Star covers impending ecological ravishment north of the border:

Ontario’s biologists called clear-cut logging plan ‘big step backwards’

  • Earthroots says scientists’ comments in 2010 reveal ‘heated debate’ about the mercury impact of clear-cutting on fish and human health.

Ontario’s fisheries biologists were scathing about a guide approved in 2010 that laid out conditions for controversial clear-cut logging across the province, with some calling it a “big step backwards,” according to documents obtained through freedom of information requests.

When a regional director with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry complained about its inadequate review process, he was told there was pressure from senior management and industry to move fast.

Four years after the guide was approved, Ontario gave the go-ahead to its 10-year provincial logging plan one year ago.

Environmental agency Earthroots obtained the documents from the ministry a few days after the province rejected a request from Grassy Narrows, a First Nations reserve about 80 kilometres north of Kenora, for an individual environmental assessment into the impact of clear-cut logging on that community.

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

TEPCO racing against time to process 280,000 tons of tainted water at

Tokyo Electric Power Co. will likely fall short of fulfilling its pledge to process all highly radioactive water stored at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by the end of March.

Another key TEPCO deadline in March is also on shaky ground because of technical failures and other issues at the site.

Contaminated water has been a persistent problem since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, triggered the triple meltdown at the plant. Every day, tons of groundwater becomes highly radioactive after seeping into the basements of the reactor buildings where melted nuclear fuel remains.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Fukushima site in September 2013, TEPCO promised to process all of the tainted water by the end of March this year to eliminate the possibility of radioactive water leaking into the surrounding sea.

On Jan. 15, 280,000 tons of radioactive water remained in storage tanks on the plant’s premises.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, trans-Pacific help:

U.S. nuclear cleanup specialist goes from Hanford to Fukushima

Working in Japan and with his family still living in Richland, Wash., Matthew McCormick has one of the longest commutes in the world.

“I don’t make it very often, only when family calls or the lawn needs to be mowed, that kind of stuff,” he joked.

But McCormick, 55, wouldn’t have it any other way: After working at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state for 12 years, he’s helping to lead the cleanup at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which melted down in March 2011.

“It’s a personal commitment,” McCormick said in a recent interview at his office in Tokyo’s Shimbashi district.”When the accident happened, it was just a terrible thing. I had a personal connection with the people of Japan. And my heart just went out to them.”

And to close, via the Yomiuri Shimbun, folks have a beef with the beef:

N-rumors push beef prices down in Fukushima Pref.

Beef cattle farmers in Fukushima Prefecture, who purchase calves to rear and fatten for market, are suffering due to the persistently low wholesale prices for their beef.

Although nearly four years have passed since the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, groundless rumors about radioactive contamination persist, and wholesale prices of Fukushima beef remain about 10 percent lower than the average market price.

Furthermore, in the five years until last year, the price of calves jumped 150 percent. Cattle farms say they are making hardly any profit, and businesses continue to shut down.

The accompanying graph illustrates Fukushimapocalypse Now! beef malaise:

BLOG Fukubeef