Category Archives: Resources

EbolaWatch: Numbers, politics, orphans, burials


We begin with the latest case counts, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

Next, via the New York Times, a diagnosis:

Ebola-Stricken Countries Lagged in Health Systems

The world has spent more than $4 billion fighting Ebola, but according to a new report from Save the Children, it would have cost only $1.6 billion to bring health care systems up to minimum standards in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which might have prevented the outbreak or ended it faster.

Even before Ebola struck West Africa, more than 25 countries had health care systems worse than those in impoverished Liberia and Sierra Leone, the report also found.

The assessment, released last week, relied on typical health measures like infant mortality, childhood immunization rates and numbers of health care workers per capita. But it also included assessments of fairness, such as government health spending and how often the poorest of the poor had doctors, nurses or midwives present at births.

On to Liberia with numbers from StarAfrica:

Liberia’s deaths at 6,097 since Ebola epidemic – official

A total of 6,097 deaths were recorded nationwide since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic in Liberia, according to an official of the Incident Management System (IMS).

Dehwehn Yeabah who heads, the Dead Body Management Team of the IMS told the Ministry of Information’s daily briefing in Monrovia on Monday that the figure represents the combined total of both Ebola and non-Ebola deaths from March 2014 to February 2015 nationwide.

Yeabah explained that of this figure, 2,711 bodies were cremated, while 3,386 bodies were safely buried by burial teams around the country. According to Yeabah, oral swab procedures were performed on a total of 70.61 percent of the recorded bodies.

Next, via Sputnik, a declaration nears:

Liberia is Close to Be Declared Ebola-Free

Good news is coming from Liberia, as the country may soon be declared Ebola-free. To mark this, the government in Monrovia decided to dismantle a crematorium and remove drums containing the ashes of over 3,000 Ebola victims.

The Liberian government decided to dismantle a crematorium and remove drums that contain the ashes of more than 3,000 Ebola victims who were cremated at the height of the deadly epidemic.

Liberia began to cremate the bodies of Ebola victims after communities across the country rejected traditional burials, fearing that the deadly virus could contaminate the soil and spread further. At the same time, traditional burial practices include customs, like washing and touching of the dead, which could further spread the disease. Therefore, it was decided that it would be safer for everyone to cremate the bodies of the dead.

From the Associated Press, a major landmark:

Liberia removes Ebola crematorium as outbreak is contained

Marking the progress in controlling its Ebola outbreak, the Liberian government dismantled a crematorium and removed drums containing the ashes of more than 3,000 Ebola victims cremated during the height of the epidemic, whose last patient was discharged last week.

Liberia resorted to cremating the bodies of Ebola victims when communities rejected burials in their areas for fear the disease could spread and contaminate their soil and affect them. The cremations were very controversial because they were against traditional burial practices. But those customs, including washing and touching the dead, spread the deadly Ebola which brought the government to impose cremations.

Religious leaders gathered Saturday at the former crematorium outside Monrovia and prayed for the victims who came from many different religious groups, Acting Information Minister Isaac Jackson told The Associated Press.

More from FrontPageAfrica:

‘Gross Disrespect’: Ebola Victims Get Befitting Burial

It was a scene of grief and sorrow as the remains of nearly 3,000 victims of the deadly Ebola Virus were transferred from the Boys Town crematorium to the new cemetery specifically for Ebola burials, located at Disco Hill on the Roberts International Airport highway. Relatives of the dead showed up in their numbers clad in white suits and red head ties as the drums of bones were lifted from pickup trucks dripped with white and red binding cloths.

Cecelia Parker lost three of her relatives to the deadly Ebola virus, as she saw the drums filled with ashes, she broke down in tears. Like many of the families who showed up at the site the grief was difficult to endure. “I lost three persons and their ashes are in there; my sister, my two sisters, and a cousin and it hurts and you see me; my two sisters left eight children with me. Right now, I just need the government to help me with the education of the children,” she said weeping bitterly.

Marvin Wesley came all the way from Bomi County to see the last resting place of his relatives who succumbed to the deadly virus last year. He was in tears and said his heart was heavy because he lost two of his family members to the virus at the Island Clinic Ebola Treatment Unit. But Wesley said he is relieved that the ashes of his brothers have finally found a proper and decent resting place.

From the New Dawn, a political verdict:

Saah Joseph on Sierra-Leone’s Ebola Response

The head of the First Response Ebola Team from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Montserrado County Representative Saah Joseph, says his team in Sierra Leone was making all mobilization efforts in villages for awareness on the Deadly Ebola Virus.

Representative Joseph told the Truth FM Breakfast show on Monday that members of his the team walk were trekking from village to village and home to home to create awareness on the necessary preventive measures against Ebola, saying the First response has made a difference towards these efforts, and that the people of Sierra Leone were positively responding, as well as showing respect and trust in the team.

He added that the people of Sierra Leone see the entire team as the representative of the Government and people of Liberia. He noted that five members from the Team have been deployed to the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia to test anyone coming and going out of the two countries, not only for Ebola cases, but any other related disease.

From AllAfrica, a call for support:

Liberia: Health Official Wants Support for Ebola Survivors

The Coordinator of the Ebola Survivors Network at the Ministry of Health, Rev. Meekie Glayweon, says the ministry is currently collaborating with partners to provide care for the estimated 2,000 Ebola survivors in the country.

Rev. Glayweon said more than 900 of the Ebola survivors reside in Montserrado County, the capital, according to the Liberia News Agency.

She disclosed that the World Food Program (WFP) is providing food items and cash support through mobile money to 2,000 survivors across the country for a period of three months.

Another political judgment, via the News:

‘Liberia Is Not Out Of The Woods’

…Ellen Tells ACP-EU Parliamentarians

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told parliamentarians of the Asian, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) and European Union (EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly that Liberia is not out of the ‘’woods’‘ yet but has made tremendous progress since the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease.

According to a Dispatch from Brussels, President Sirleaf made the statement when she addressed the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels on Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

The Liberian leaders said though there has been no new case in recent days, Liberians remain cautiously optimistic about progress made thus far in the fight against the disease. She said through a concerted regional approach that will handle clear surveillance programs, border monitoring, rapid response, upgrade of health facilities and systems, share health data and other information, the situation in the most affected countries will be addressed.

From the Monrovia Inquirer, a plea:

Ebola Orphans Cry For Help

Some Ebola orphans from the Taffi Dollars Children’s Welfare Center (TDCWC) yesterday gathered in front of the Ministry of Gender with placards requesting for support from government to enable them get back to school.

The children had lots of placards like “I am Joshua Kangar; I am from Dolo Town; my father, Rev. Brown Kangar died of Ebola so please help me.” Another one stated, “Thank God for Taffi Dollar Children’s Welfare Center (TDCWC).” Another placard read, “We are 100 children orphaned by Ebola sponsored by ALC at TDCWC.”

The Spokesperson for Taffi Dollars Children Academy, Julius S. Jarwood, in an interview with the Press also expressed concern over how the children have been left alone after their parents have died from the deadly Ebola virus.

AllAfrica covers a denial:

Liberia: Ebola Survivor Denied of Properties in Fuamah District, Lower Bong County

An Ebola Survivor is calling on the Government of Liberia and the International Communities to come to her aid by helping her in order to claim her late mother’s properties. Speaking to the Inquirer recently at the C.H. Rennie Hospital, Helena Henry said after the death of her mother, she also came down with the virus and was later taken to the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) at ELWA in Monrovia but survived by the grace of God.

She further narrated that eight persons along with her mother died from the virus, and as such, she is the only survivor in her family.

Madam Henry added that since the death of her mother, she has been asked by some citizens of Bong Mines in Fuamah District, Lower Bong County not to step in that part of the county, because they alleged that it was her mother who took the virus to the District, something she said, the situation has made it difficult for her to get her late mother properties back.

And from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a Sierra Leonean tragedy abroad:

Sierra Leone athlete freed in Britain, appeal raises 23,000 pounds

Jimmy Thoronka, a Sierra Leonean sprinter who competed in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and spent the winter sleeping rough in London after hearing his family had died of Ebola, was weighing up his options on Monday.

Thoronka was arrested on Friday for overstaying his visa, but was released from police custody a day later – to find that an online appeal had raised thousands of pounds to help him.

While competing in the Games last summer, Thoronka heard that his whole family had died in the Ebola epidemic ravaging the west African country.

After the Games, he wanted to go to London but his passport and money were stolen and he was afraid to go the police in case he was arrested, press reports said. Since reaching London, he had been sleeping rough.

MexicoWatch: Protest, vanishings, cops, torture


We begin with a protest, via teleSUR:

On Women’s Day, Mothers of Missing Mexican Students Head March

  • The mothers said the government’s recent removal of the attorney general will not end their efforts to find their loved ones.

The mothers of Ayotzinapa’s 43 missing students headed an International Women’s Day march Sunday in Mexico City.

The march was proceeded by an event late Saturday, titled “Women and Ayotzinapa”, where the mothers of the disappeared students spoke about their experiences and vowed to continue their search.

“We want to make it very clear to the federal government that we are not afraid. That is why we ask (people) to continue uniting and organizing, because they (the government) know where our sons and daughters are, and if they have not found them it’s because they have not wanted to,” said Carmen Cruz, the mother of one of the missing students.

And the first disappearances story, via Mexico News Daily:

Four mine employees believed kidnapped

  • They were returning home after a night shift at the Los Filos mine

State authorities said yesterday they are investigating the “possible deprivation of the liberty” of mineworkers in the municipality of Eduardo Neri. Juan Carlos Merino González, Juan Carlos Peña and Mauro Galicia were identified as missing. As of yesterday it wasn’t known who the fourth person was.

Located in the Guerrero Gold Belt, Los Filos is Mexico’s largest gold mine. The gold belt is not far from the city of Iguala, where 46 students were massacred in a joint operation involving municipal police and a criminal gang last September.

At least 10 people were kidnapped in nearby Cocula last month, one of whom was connected with the Media Luna mine project, owned by another Canadian mining firm, Torex Gold Resources Inc.

Al Jazeera America covers more vanishings:

Terror in Coahuila: Up to 300 disappeared in Mexico’s forgotten massacre

  • 43 missing students sparked outrage around the world, but earlier atrocity in northern Mexico went virtually ignored

In March and April of 2011, the Zetas kept the northern municipalities of Allende, Piedras Negras, Nava, Zaragoza and Morelos — all close to the U.S. border — under constant attack. They fired their arms, set fire to several businesses and disappeared at least 300 people, according to testimony from residents. Gang members operated without a trace of military or civic intervention.

The majority of these cases happened in Allende, so that time referred to as the Allende Massacre.

Local media, fearing reprisals, did not report the violence until years later. Armando Castilla, the publisher of the newspaper Vanguardia de Coahuila, says his publication was the first to report the case, in December 2013. In April of 2014, Allende’s Mayor Luis Reynaldo Tapia Valadez told the national outlet La Jornada, “There are approximately 300 [victims], but it’s not out of the question that there are a few more.”

It wasn’t until January 2014 that the Coahuila government launched a formal investigation into the case. In December the state’s attorney general, Homero Ramos Gloria, said the investigation found evidence of only 28 disappearances, not 300. The state says it does not know the status of another 1,808 missing people.

From Mexico News Daily, corruption:

14 police arrested; gunmen attack mayor

  • Federal officers suspects in kidnapping as violence continues in Matamoros

Citizens of Matamoros have had good reason to doubt the effectiveness of security efforts in their city following a rash of violence in recent weeks.

Further reasons to do so came with the arrest of 14 Federal Police officers on kidnapping charges and an armed attack on the mayor on Saturday.

The federal Attorney General confirmed the detention of the officers after a local businessman was freed by army and navy forces. He had been held for at least two days while his captors sought a ransom payment of US $2 million.

And from teleSUR, condemnation:

UN: Torture by Mexican State is Widespread

  • A report by the U.N. special rapporteur on torture claims that abuse and torture are a regular occurrence in Mexico.

A report by the U.N. Human Rights Council, set to be released on Monday, states that torture by the Mexican state has become a regular occurrence.

The 22-page report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez was leaked to Mexican weekly magazine, Proceso. The report is the product of an investigation conducted by Mendez in Mexico in April and May of last year.

“Torture and abuse are widespread in Mexico,” states Mendez’ report.

Proceso states that the U.N. report includes allegations of physical violence, electric shock, suffocation, sexual assault, and psychological abuse. Mendez reveals that multiple elements of the state are guilty of utilizing torture, from local police, to state and federal police, as well as the armed forces.

And to close, our Ayotzinapa protest image of the day, via Damjd Designz:

Mexico has a skeleton in the closet

The watery demands of what we consume


A fascinating video, with links to scientific journal article [free] at the links.

From Grist:

Here’s how much water goes into making your food

Program notes:

Want to know how much water goes into your burger or beer? We compiled some data from several Water Footprint reports for your viewing pleasure.

To explore the data more, check out these reports:

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, climate, oil, & nukes


We begin with an epidemiological warning in Casa esnl’s neighborhood via Outbreak News Today:

Berkeley officials warn of possible measles exposure at local libraries

Just one week after Berkeley health officials warned of a possible measles exposure at the La Mediterranee restaurant, city officials say an adult who may have measles (it has not yet been confirmed) was at the City of Berkeley West Branch Library throughout the day on February 27 and February 28, and was at the Central Branch Library on the afternoon of February 27 only.

Individuals who were at these locations could have been exposed. Patrons of these libraries during these dates should monitor themselves for symptoms until March 21. The risk is very slight for those who have received the recommended two doses of the measles vaccine.

On the days in question, the person had not yet developed the tell-tale rash -a circumstance that contributes to the rapid spread of the highly infectious, airborne virus- so did not know that the illness might be measles-. Symptoms can develop between 7 and 21 days after exposure to the virus.

From the Guardian, more on a story covered here in our previous EnviroWatch:

Health costs of hormone disrupting chemicals over €150bn a year in Europe, says study

  • Lower IQ, adult obesity and 5% of autism cases are all linked to exposure to endocrine disruptors found in food containers, plastics, furniture, toys, carpeting and cosmetics, says new expert study

Europe is experiencing an explosion in health costs caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that is comparable to the cost of lead and mercury poisoning, according to the most comprehensive study of the subject yet published.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the human hormone system, and can be found in food containers, plastics, furniture, toys, carpeting and cosmetics.

The new series of reports by 18 of the world’s foremost experts on endocrine science pegs the health costs of exposure to them at between €157bn-€270bn (£113bn-£195bn), or at least 1.23% of the continent’s GDP.

“The shocking thing is that the major component of that cost is related to the loss of brain function in the next generation,” one of the report’s authors, Professor Philippe Grandjean of Harvard University, told the Guardian.

“Our brains need particular hormones to develop normally – the thyroid hormone and sex hormones like testosterone and oestrogen. They’re very important in pregnancy and a child can very well be mentally retarded because of a lack of iodine and the thyroid hormone caused by chemical exposure.”

And number for another outbreak, via Outbreak News Today:

Chikungunya cases rise by 9,000, most new cases from Colombia

While some countries in the Caribbeans have seen their chikungunya situation get under control, in fact Dominica declared their outbreak over earlier this week, some areas of South America are reporting an increase in cases of the mosquito borne viral disease.

During the past week, Colombia saw an increase of 7,848 cases bringing the country’s total to more than 185,000 suspected and confirmed cases, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), by far the most on the continent.

Colombia has also reported three chikungunya related fatalities. Other South American countries seeing an increase in confirmed chikungunya cases include Bolivia (+45), Ecuador (+147) and Paraguay (+130).

Still anouther outbreak this time from StarAfrica:

Mozambique warns against the deadly dengue outbreak

Mozambique´s Health authorities in the northern province of Nampula have warned against outbreak of dengue, a deadly fever, that is transmitted by the bite of female mosquitoes and causes severe pain, reports said on Saturday.

State-controlled Radio Mozambique quotes the provincial health chief, Jocelina Clavete as saying that at least 90 samples of suspected cases were taken and analyzed at the hospital in Nampula, of which 50 percent tested positive. She said further laboratory tests are being carried out on suspected patients in the region.

There is no vaccine for dengue, which kills an estimated 20,000 people each year and infects up to 100 million around the world, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, experts say the number of people infected each year could be more than three times the WHO estimate.

From the Guardian, dry resignation in the Golden State:

California farmers resign themselves to drought: ‘Nobody’s fault but God’s’

  • Despite efforts to dig deeper into the earth to get at diminishing groundwater, the spectre of desertification may cost Central Valley farmers too much to carry on

As California faces a likely fourth year of drought, demand for drilling in the Central Valley has exploded. Hammond’s company, Arthur & Orum, can barely keep up: its seven rigs are working flat-out, yet a white folder with pending requests is thicker than three telephone books.

The waiting list has grown to three years, leaving many farmers to contemplate parched fields and ruin in what has been one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. It supplies half of America’s fruit, nuts and vegetables.

“We’re overwhelmed. We’re going crazy,” said Hammond. “Everyone is in a desperate situation. Everyone has a sad story.”

Arthur & Orum has bought an additional rig for $1.2m, and out-of-state drillers have moved into the area. But as drills criss-cross the landscape, boring ever deeper into the earth, there is a haunting fear: what if they suck up all the groundwater? What if, one day, the water runs out?

And CCTV America covers another kind of environmental devastation:

Patagonia forest fires may be worst in Argentina’s history

Program notes:

Fires have been raging in the thousands of years old forests of southern Argentina in Patagonia. While the operation to save the local environment is still on-going, the question is how and why the fires started in the first place. The Patagonia forest fires have been called the worst fires in the country’s history.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, on the wrong track?:

Derailments put oil train expansion in the crosshairs

After a BNSF Railway oil train derailed and burst into flames Thursday near Galena, Ill., at least one community group has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend permits for rail expansions along the upper Mississippi River.

Of the 70 oil trains a week that leave North Dakota’s Bakken region for coastal refineries, more than half of them funnel through a roughly 400-mile stretch from Minnesota’s Twin Cities to the Quad Cities on the Illinois-Iowa border.

BNSF and Canadian Pacific haul both crude oil and ethanol on both sides of the Mississippi River, and the region has become a bottleneck. BNSF alone plans to spend more than $780 million in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois this year to add new track and improve signal systems.

Because the projects affect wetlands along the river, the railroads must seek permits under the federal Clean Water Act. And as elsewhere in the country, the permitting process has become a primary tool of community and environmental groups to slow or stop the growth of such rail shipments.

And a similar problem north of the border, via the Guardian:

Third oil train in less than a month derails in Ontario and starts fire

  • CN Rail has seen three derailments in Canadian province since 14 February
  • No injuries reported in Saturday blaze

Train operator CN Rail said on Saturday a train carrying crude oil had derailed in northern Ontario, setting off a fire at the site. There were no reports of injuries.

It is the third CN oil train derailment in northern Ontario in less than a month, and the second in the same area.

A CN spokeswoman, Emily Hamer, said the crew on the eastbound freight train reported that cars derailed about 2.45am near Gogama, Ontario, about 125 miles north of Sudbury. She said emergency crew were assessing the site and activating an emergency response plan. Photos on social media showed a large fireball at the site.

A CN freight train derailed on Thursday east of Hornepayne; on 14 February 29 cars of a CN freight train carrying crude oil derailed in a remote area south of Timmins, Ontario.

Obama notes an oily problem, via CBC News:

Canadian oil extraction is ‘extraordinarily dirty’ process, Obama says

  • Keystone XL pipeline vetoed by president in February

U.S. President Barack Obama has some less-than-laudatory words for Canada’s oil industry in a new example of his increasingly critical take on the oilsands.

He was asked about the Keystone XL pipeline during a town-hall session Friday — and he launched into an explanation of why so many environmentalists oppose it.

“The way that you get oil out in Canada is an extraordinarily dirty way of extracting oil,” Obama said during the event at a South Carolina college. “Obviously,” he added, “there are always risks in piping a lot of oil through Nebraska farmland and other parts of the country.”

After the jump, yet more oil woes — in the form of corruption — in Brazil, a deeply endangered species, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with watery woes, a reluctance to return, and California researchers get a look at the reactor [plus video], and another reminder of nuclear sins of the past. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Parents, kidnaps, cartels, water


We begin with another story about the parents of missing students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa, via teleSUR English:

Ayotzinapa parents set on searching military bases

Program notes:

The parents of the 43 forcibly disappeared students of the Ayotzinapa teacher training school have not given up on their demand to search for their loved ones on military bases. As federal officials continue to backtrack on their January promise to permit such a search, mounting evidence indicates some degree of military participation in the crimes committed against the students in Iguala, Guerrero, last September 26. Parents also point to documentation of the historic precedent of military participation in disappearances of activists, union leaders and guerrillas during the “dirty war” that began in the 1960s and continued for several decades. Clayton Conn reports for teleSUR.

From teleSUR, yet another Guerrero kidnaping:

Four Workers Kidnapped in Mexican State of Guerrero

  • Violent crime remains a major problem in Guerrero despite a build up of troops and federal police in the area by the Mexican president.

An armed group kidnapped four workers in the violence-plagued state of Guerrero, Mexico on Thursday night.

A statement by the attorney general’s office confirmed that four workers at a Mexico mine owned by Goldcorp Inc. had gone missing.

According to the attorney general’s office, an armed group intercepted the workers as they were leaving the site of the Los Filos mine in the municipality of Eduardo Neri.

From Borderland Beat, cartels and mining — a bad combination:

Mining Companies’ Rapacity Devastates Entire Villages in Coahuila

Sabinas is the center of coal mining country in northern Mexico called the carbonifera.  It is a relatively peaceful little city of about 50,000 people and a total population in the municipality (county) of about 60,000.   Cloete is a small village adjacent to the city of Sabinas and is where the Sabinas’ city dump (land fill) is located.

For the last decade or so it is believed that the Zeta cartel has been active in coal mining in the area and in the last few years possibly in control of the mining operations there since 2009.

José Reynol Bermea Castilla, who according to the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) is alleged to be the operator for Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the Z-40, leader of Los Zetas in the illegal exploitation of coal mines in Coahuila, was recorded before a criminal court .

He was known as the #1 Zeta in Coahuila in charge of coal mining.   It has been reported that illegal coal mining generated between $500,000 to $1,000,000 a week for the Zetas.

Next, today’s Ayotzinapa image, via Noticias Ayotzinapa:

He's got a book! He's got a book!

He’s got a book! He’s got a book!

Mexico News Daily covers another debacle to tarnish the luster of the ever-brassy Enrique Peña Nieto:

Project questioned for cost, transparency

  • Monterrey aqueduct cost soars to 47 billion pesos

A federation of business owners and several non-governmental organizations have called for the postponement of a major water distribution project intended to serve the city of Monterrey.

Coparmex Nuevo León has proposed postponing the Monterrey VI aqueduct, alleging 15 irregularities in the project, from a massive increase in cost to lack of transparency.

President Alberto Fernández Martínez told a press conference that the biggest concern is the project’s soaring cost: it was initially estimated at 17.6 billion pesos, or US $1.1 billion. The latest figure is 46.9 billion.

Another irregularity is a lack of transparency, a concern that has been aggravated by the involvement of Grupo Higa, a company that has won many government contracts and whose owner has close ties with President Peña Nieto.

teleSUR covers yet another Peña privatization, following in the wake of legislation authorizing a partial privatization of the state oil monopoly:

Experts Warn Against Approval of Mexico’s Water Bill

  • Academics and experts have expressed their rejection to a proposed bill that will legalize the privatization of water distribution and administration

Legal and environmental experts warn of the negative short term and long term effects as well aslegal issues if Mexican lawmakers of the lower house approve a controversial bill that will make the private distribution and administration of water legal throughout the country.

“The law has many inconsistencies in terms of being constitutional,” said Maria del Carmen Carmona, a researcher at the Institute of Legal Investigations at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM),  in an interview with teleSUR. “It violates the human right to water and threatens the right to health and nutrition.”

According to Carmona current law recognizes the priority of water consumption for that of individual use, rather than for private interests. She affirms that the law seeks to change this priority, which could in turn permit greater degrees of pollution in the resource as well as a reduction for agricultural production.

The accompanying teleSUR English video report:

Mexico: Bill to privatize water distribution passes committee

Program notes:

The first steps in committee have been hurdled by ruling party lawmakers in Mexico for final approval of the General Water Law. The legislation would enable private companies to handle water distribution and infrastructure. Critics charge that it is a first step toward privatization of the precious resource. Social organizations are calling for mass demonstrations to oppose the bill. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, climate, water, nukes


We begin with measles, via Deutsche Welle:

Berlin measles epidemic reaches new high

  • A measles outbreak in Berlin continues to see a rise in new cases. Calls for compulsory vaccination are becoming ever louder, with a strong majority of Germans supporting a new law in favor of vaccination.

A measles outbreak in Berlin continues to see a rise in new cases. Calls for compulsory vaccination are becoming ever louder, with a strong majority of Germans supporting a new law in favor of vaccination.

Berlin saw 111 new cases of measles this week, health officials said on Friday, making it the worst for new infections since the current outbreak began in October.

A spokeswoman for the State Office of Health and Social Affairs said 724 people had sickened since the start of the epidemic, an overwhelming majority of whom had not been vaccinated. Around a quarter of the infected patients have required hospital treatment. Seventy babies under the age of one have also caught the illness.

The outbreak has provoked new calls for vaccination against measles and other preventable diseases to be made compulsory in Germany. According to a survey commissioned this week by public service broadcaster ARD, 72 percent of Germans are in favor of compulsory vaccination.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a climate/illness linkage:

Malaria resurfaces in Rio as drought displaces mosquitoes

Malaria has resurfaced in Rio de Janeiro as a historic drought in Brazil’s southeastern region is driving mosquitoes in the Atlantic Forest to seek water in areas frequented by people, such as waterfalls.

“The mosquitoes in this area habitually lay their eggs in water collected in bromeliads (plants), deep in the forest,” said infectologist Alberto Chebabo.

“So the drought probably forced them to look for water in more humid places, such as rivers and waterfalls, where people often go at this time of year,” Chebabo, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said in a recent interview.

“This may have increased contamination.”

From Outbreak News Today, an old familiar returns:

Chickenpox outbreaks in California and Indiana schools

The vaccine preventable childhood disease, chickenpox, has been implicated in school outbreaks in California and Indiana, according to local health officials.

In Santa Barbara County, CA, the health department  has confirmed 5 cases of chickenpox and 1 case of shingles associated with a yet unnamed local school in the county. The majority of confirmed cases were in children who were not vaccinated.

In Central Indiana, parents received an email yesterday notifying them that there are an unspecified number of confirmed cases of chickenpox in the Carmel Clay Schools. Indiana law requires that all students in kindergarten through 12th grade have two doses of the varicella vaccine, unless the child has a history of chickenpox.

From CBC News, Big Pharma victims get a long-delayed payout:

Thalidomide survivors to receive $125,000 lump sum payment each

  • Compensation package also includes up to $168 million for ongoing medical assistance

The federal government is offering a $125,000 lump-sum payment to each of Canada’s 95 thalidomide victims.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the money is tax free and intended to cover urgent health-care needs.

The long-awaited compensation package also includes a total of up to $168 million for ongoing medical assistance based on individual circumstances.

“I would like to express heartfelt sympathy and great regret for the decades of tremendous suffering and personal struggle that exposure to thalidomide has inflicted on survivors and their loved ones,” Ambrose told a news conference in Edmonton.

From BBC News, a subject we’ve been devoted to since our first posts:

Sex-change chemicals in Potomac

An investigation into the cleanliness of rivers feeding Washington’s Potomac River has revealed the presence of sex-changing chemicals.

Pollutants which contain the chemicals, known as endocrine disrupters, were found in several tributaries and in the smallmouth bass fish living within. The US Geological Survey (USGS) study followed the discovery of high numbers of intersex fish in the Potomac basin.

Endocrine disrupters can mimic or block hormones in the body. Either naturally occurring or man-made, they can interfere with the endocrine system causing birth defects and reproductive irregularities.

More from BBC News:

Chemicals linked to problems with otters’ penis bones

Otters’ reproductive organs may be affected by chemicals in our waterways, according to scientists.

Experts studying the reproductive health of the mammals in England and Wales were concerned to find a decrease in the weight of otters’ penis bones.

Other health problems in males included an increase in undescended testicles and cysts on sperm-carrying tubes. Experts suggest that, based on previous research, the changes could be linked to hormone-disrupting chemicals.

The study, funded by the Environment Agency, was co-authored by the Chemicals, Health and Environment (CHEM) Trust and the Cardiff University Otter Project, and features on BBC One series Countryfile.

The Guardian examines an ancient toxic pollutant:

20th century lead pollution in South America was worst in two millennia

  • Lead pollution tripled after 1960s to highest levels on the continent in 2,000 years, despite region’s long history of mining

Mankind’s increasing potential to damage and then partially remediate the environment has been underlined by a new study of lead pollution found in Bolivian ice cores.

Swiss researchers found that less than half a century of leaded gasoline use in South America caused more Pb pollution (lead in the periodic table) than anything else in the previous two millennia, despite the long, precolonial history of mining and metal work in the region.

While this confirms one of the enormous negative impact of motor traffic and increased fossil fuel use, the study also showed that intervention by policymakers can make a significant difference because Pb levels dropped rapidly following the introduction of unleaded petrol.

From Reuters, Big Pharma doing what Big Pharma Does to atone for doing it:

GSK sacks 110 China staff in wake of drug bribery case: sources

Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), which was fined 3 billion yuan ($479 million) in China last year for bribery, is dismissing 110 employees in the country for misconduct, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The British company confirmed it had taken disciplinary action against staff whose conduct contravened its values and code of conduct but declined to specify the number involved. The misconduct took place before mid-2013, GSK added in a statement.

The dismissals follow detailed investigations into wrongdoing by employees in the wake of the corruption scandal, which badly damaged the drugmaker’s reputation and hit its business in a fast-growing emerging market.

Chinese police first accused GSK of bribery in July 2013, alleging the firm had funneled as much as 3 billion yuan to travel agencies to facilitate bribes to doctors and officials.

From the New York Times, what could possibly go wrong?:

F.D.A. Approves Zarxio, First Biosimilar Drug

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first so-called biosimilar drug for use in the United States, paving the way for alternatives to an entire class of complex and costly drugs to go on the market.

The drug, called Zarxio, produced by Sandoz, Inc., is used to help the body make white blood cells in cancer therapy and is a close copy of an existing medication called Neupogen. It was approved in Europe in 2009 as Zarzio but has not been used in the United States, in part because no regulatory pathway existed to bring copies of biologic drugs to market.

But in January an expert panel unanimously recommended that the F.D.A. approve it, and the agency on Friday announced that it had taken the panel’s advice.

To to California parched, first with the Los Angeles Times:

Rising temperatures are amplifying drought effects, study finds

Climate change is increasing the risk of severe drought in California by causing warm periods and dry periods to overlap more often, according to a new study.

Rising temperatures resulting from increased greenhouse gas emissions mean warm and dry periods are coinciding more frequently, the study authors say. And that is amplifying the effects of low precipitation.

“The key for drought stress is not just how much precipitation there is,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, the paper’s lead author and an associate professor at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. “Temperature is an important influence on the water available in California.”

Higher temperatures decrease soil moisture, increase evaporation and intensify California’s annual dry season. All of these accentuate the effects of below-normal precipitation.

From the paper [PDF], published by in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, three graphs representing the drought index, precipitation, and temperatures in California over the span between 1896 and 2014:

BLOG Cal drought

And a side effect, from the Los Angeles Times:

A dry January pulled down water conservation rate in California

After getting a gold star for saving water in December, California’s conservation efforts flagged in January.

Urban water use figures released Tuesday by the state show that Californians in January again fell far short of the 20% conservation goal set a year ago by Gov. Jerry Brown. Statewide, water use dropped 8.8% from January 2014’s level. In December, it was down 22.2% from the same month a year earlier.

The reason lies in the weather extremes between the two months. December was wet, and people turned off their sprinklers. They apparently turned them back on the next month, which was the driest January on record in parts of the state.

After the jump, still more California water woes and an El Niño letdown, water woes in a Caribbean island, Europe adopts climate talking points, dangerous Indian program gets revived, drug violence and illegal mines fuel a Colombian refugee crisis, China purges a hugely popular pollution documentary, and on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with that leak thing, radioactive agricultural waste piles up, up to six more years for communities to recover, an interactive regional food radiation map debuts, and fears still keep the seafood industry in recession. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, a last case?, and politics


We begin with the latest numbers for the three countries hardest hit in West Africa, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

Next, the last curve of weekly new case reports from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control [PDF]:

BLOG Ebola curve

FrontPageAfrica covers a Liberia with no active cases known:

‘Am Overjoyed’: Liberia’s Last Ebola Survivor Walks Out

Beatrice Yardolo, 58, was all smiles as she walked out of the Chinese-run Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia. Her brush with the deadly Ebola Virus left a chilling effect on her and members of her immediate family. She was presented a bouquet of red flowers and a panda teddy bear as she exited the ETU in the SKD community in Paynesville.

Her face beamed with a smile as she reached her home and danced with joy with other members of her large family cheering her on. The classroom teacher’s departure from the ETU marks a milestone in the fight against the Ebola Virus in Liberia.

“I feel happy to be back home after being away for three weeks, I’m happy to see my family,” she said. The lone survivor praised health workers for the level of attention given her while she was receiving treatment in the ETU. “God comes first, but the Chinese ETU played a major role to have me back on my feet again,” Yardolo said. Mrs. Yardolo lost three members of her family, including a brother to the disease and the rest of her family could have been exposed if the Chinese ETU had not taken sick people.

From the New Dawn, a cautionary note:

Ebola Not Over

-Nyesuah caution Liberians

The Head of the Incident Management System of the National Ebola Task Force of Liberia, Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyesuah has warned Liberians that the fight against the deadly Ebola virus or EVD was not over, even though there was only one suspected case in the whole country.

Minister Nyesuah told a local radio talk show in Monrovia on Thursday that the last Laboratory confirmed Ebola case was on Feb 13, 2014, and since then, there’s been no confirmed case.

According to Minister Nyesuah, since last year, there were 4 cases from 102 contacts, noting that 80-percent of such contacts were from Montserrado County, while 20-percent were in Margibi County.

He said all of the contacts traced were taken care of by trained nurses at the Ebola Treatment Units.

He indicated that most of the counties have exceeded the 21 days without any new case, while some cases that were reported were taken to the laboratory and examined.

From the Monrovia Inquirer, more caution:

Maintaining Our Present Ebola Status

Yesterday, the last Ebola patient in Liberia was released while Montserrado, one of the hard-hit counties has gone 13 days without any new case of the virus. The last Ebola patient was released from the Chinese Ebola Treatment Center in Congo Town yesterday.

The patient was released yesterday after going a week without any new cases of the virus. The last Ebola patient, Beatrice Yardolo, 58, left the Chinese-run treatment center yesterday following two weeks of treatment.

On Wednesday, the head of the Ebola Management Team, Tolbert Nyenswah, told the Ministry of Information regular press briefing that Monrovia that had few cases in recent months has gone 12 days without any new case of Ebola.

We are indeed elated that the last Ebola patient has left the ETU. We are also happy because of the inhumane treatments Liberians went through and the number of lives taken away by the vicious pestilence in just six to seven months.

StarAfrica covers survivor needs:

Liberia: Health official urges support for Ebola survivors

Liberia is currently collaborating with partners and institutions to provide care for the estimated 2000 Ebola survivors in the country, a top government official said on Friday.The Coordinator of the Ebola Survivors Network at Liberia’s Ministry of Health, Reverend Meekie Glayweon said more than 900 of the Ebola survivors reside in Montserrado County which hosts the capital Monrovia.

She disclosed that the World Food Program (WFP) is providing food items and cash support through mobile money to 2,000 survivors across the country for a period of three months.

She added that the United Nations Children’s Fund is also giving $150 to each child who survived the virus or lost his or her parents or guardians to the disease.

On to Sierra Leone with a strange development from the Associated Press:

Sierra Leone’s ruling party expels vice president

Sierra Leone’s Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana has been expelled from the ruling party, the national broadcaster reported late Friday.

The announcement came as Sam-Sumana was one week into a self-imposed 3-week quarantine, following the death of one of his body guards of Ebola. The broadcaster reported that according to the constitution Sumana remains vice president of the country.

The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation made the announcement late Friday after a meeting of the National Advisory Council of the ruling party, the All Peoples Congress.

According to the broadcast news item, Sam-Sumana was expelled for several reasons including allegations that he presented a fake Master’s degree certificate and that he was involved in the formation of a new political party.

And an reimposition, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

NERC re-imposes burial procedures

The National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) has re-imposed ‘Standard Operating Procedures for the burial of corpses’ and reiterated that all corpses must be buried in a safe and dignify manner by approved burial teams within twenty-hours of death, without exception and irrespective of whether they have died in hospital or tested positive for Ebola symptoms.

Chief Executive Officer of NERC, Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh, announced the sudden u-turn yesterday while updating journalists on the present status of national response to the Ebola outbreak.

The re-imposed burial guidelines comes as opposition activists clashed with police yesterday as they accuse the ruling party of wanting to bury their national publicity secretary, Musa Tam Sam, who died this week after a protracted illness, ‘the Ebola way’.

But Conteh claimed the decision to re-impose safe burial practices stemmed from the fact that the recent upsurge in the outbreak has been fuelled by unsafe burial practices, and that it would be very tough for the country to record zero cases for 42 days if safe burial rites were not practiced.