Jul 6, 2015

Supercharged Tuberculosis, Made in India -

Scientific American [feedly], India—On a drizzly Monday afternoon here a few weeks ago, patients crowded around a door in a hallway in P. D. Hinduja Hospital—a private, nonprofit facility that caters to around 350,000 people per year. There is a loud, steady roar of voices, and patients and nurses have to shoulder past one another to get through the door, which leads to the office of lung specialist Zarir Udwadia. The walls are clean and white, and the air carries the tangy smell of disinfectant.

Against one of those white walls a grizzled old man with a breathing tube in his nose lies moaning on a stretcher. Nearby, clutching a sheaf of prescriptions, the father of a sick college student tries to catch the attention of one of Udwadia's assisting physicians. Several families have traveled thousands of kilometers to be here. Many of these patients, like 19-year-old Nisha, an engineering student from the central state of Madhya Pradesh, have tuberculosis (TB). Nisha, who asked that her real name be withheld, has been treated for lung problems for more than a year, only to learn that inaccurate diagnoses and prescription errors have supercharged the disease rather than curing it. "My doctors kept on changing the drugs," says Nisha. Dressed in jeans and a floral-print blouse and black Buddy Holly–style horn-rimmed glasses, she speaks in a bright, optimistic voice, although her battle with TB has left her anorexic-thin.

By exposing Nisha's TB to various drugs without wiping it out, her doctors just made it stronger, a problem that Udwadia—the doctor who first identified extreme drug resistance in the germ—and other health experts say is becoming increasingly widespread in India. Too few diagnostic laboratories, too many poorly-trained health practitioners and thousands of infected people living in crowded, unsanitary conditions has made India home to the world's largest epidemic of drug-resistant TB. More than two million Indians every year get the highly contagious disease, and a patient dies every two minutes. Around 62,000 of these people harbor TB that is immune to at least four types of drugs, according to the World Health Organization, and as many as 15,000 may have an even more dangerous type called "extensively drug-resistant" TB that fights off almost every antibiotic in the medical arsenal.

Now, difficult-to-kill TB is no longer just India's nightmare. In June U.S. health authorities confirmed that an Indian patient carried this extreme form of the infection, called XDR-TB, across the ocean to Chicago. The patient drove from there to visit relatives as far away as Tennessee and Missouri. Health officials in several states are tracking down everyone with whom the patient—who is now quarantined and being treated at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland—had prolonged contact. The disease can be cured in only 30 percent of patients and sometimes requires surgery to remove infected parts of lungs. Although TB's slow rate of infection makes explosive epidemics unlikely, the Chicago episode shows how easy it might be for the illness to become a worldwide export.

Jul 2, 2015

Green buildings: @WIGreenBuilding alliance joins national organization

​By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel;

The Wisconsin Green Building Alliance, which has been independent for much of the past 16 years, is becoming a local office for the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Milwaukee-based organization promotes awareness of sustainable building practices through programs including annual awards recognizing newly built projects, as well as community and educational projects like the 30x30 Nature Challenge and the Green Apple Day of Service program.

The 22-year-old U.S. Green Building Council, based in Washington, D.C., is responsible for certifying green buildings under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, initiative.

Rob Zimmerman, president of the Wisconsin organization, called the move to integrate with the 22-year-old national organization "a strategic business decision which will allow us to enhance our operations and strengthen our focus on Wisconsin-based education and advocacy about the built environment."

As a result of the change, back-office functions will be handled by the national organization, freeing up the alliance's two employees to focus on local initiatives.

According to a news release, WGBA members will have increased access to professional education programs and certifications. "As an integrated chapter of USGBC we will have more time to focus on our mission and mission related projects & programming," said Korinne Haeffel, the alliance's executive director, in an email to members and Facebook post.

Please read more by ​By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel;


Wisconsin governor signs bill banning microbeads from Great Lakes

Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation on Wednesday that bans manufacturers from using tiny plastic beads in products after studies showed they are turning up in the Great Lakes and other waterways.

The small bits of plastics — known as microbeads — are added to products because of their abrasive qualities. They are flushed down sinks and toilets and eventually find their way into streams, rivers and lakes.

Scientists say the beads carry harmful environmental effects because they resemble fish eggs. Fish and other aquatic life eat them, absorbing toxins and potentially harming shorebirds — and possibly humans who consume the fish.

The bill signed by Walker was a rare example in recent years of bipartisanship on an environmental issue, with Republicans and Democrats both jumping in to co-sponsor the legislation.

It will phase out the manufacture and sale of products that contain microbeads. The synthetic beads will be phased out of personal care products by Dec. 31, 2017. The products will be fully phased out, including for over-the-counter drugs, by Dec. 31, 2019.

Other states have instituted bans, including Illinois.

Manufacturers are also voluntarily phasing out microbeads from products, or have already done so. They include Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and L'Oréal, the world's largest cosmetics company.

Two Republican legislators initially circulated the bill — Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Allouez) and Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma).

"It really offends me that these little plastic beads are in all of this stuff and we're sending it into our waterways," Cowles told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in January.

Cowles said in a statement Wednesday: "This legislation creates a level playing field and requires all of the personal care products industry to remove microbeads and protect our state's water bodies."

Research on the prevalence of the microbeads includes work by Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. In 2012, she found beads in water samples in Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

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Jul 1, 2015

Over 8,400 arrested in China for environmental crimes in 2014 - Number of criminal cases in 2014 double the prior decade. Facing mounting public pressure, leaders declare war on pollution, saying they'll abandon growth-at-all-costs economic model that's spoiled much of its water, skies & soil.

Chinese police arrested thousands of people suspected of environmental crimes last year, a minister told parliament Monday, while at the same time vowing to get serious about protecting the environment.

Environment Minister Chen Jining told a bi-monthly session of the National People's Congress' standing committee that the number of criminal cases handed over to the police by environmental protection departments in 2014 reached 2,080, twice the total number during the previous decade. More than 8,400 people were arrested, according to a transcript of Chen's address published on the parliament's website. 

Facing mounting public pressure, leaders in Beijing have declared a war on pollution, saying they will abandon a decades-old growth-at-all-costs economic model that has spoiled much of China's water, skies and soil. 

But forcing growth-obsessed local governments and powerful state-owned enterprises to comply with the new laws and standards has become one of the Chinese government's biggest challenges.

"When Deng Xiaoping came to power, he decentralized power to the local government to stimulate economic growth. In essence he created a federal system with no checks," said Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center, referring to the reformist Chinese leader who took power in the 1970s. "Now the Chinese government has been playing catch up. They've been trying to create environmental regulations and laws and campaigns to check pollution. In the 1990s, this was a halfhearted check, because the Communist Party and government needed the economy to develop … Now that the pollution is a true threat to economic development, they've got to deal with it."

According to a 2013 report from the World Bank, environmental degradation and resource depletion costs China about 9 percent of its Gross National Income.

Beijing has repeatedly promised to strengthen monitoring and law enforcement, and a new environmental law in force since the beginning of January allows it to impose unlimited fines and jail sentences on repeat offenders.

"The environmental protection amendments were significant in that they said if local governments will not meet the standards, they won't get money for developing their economy," said Turner. "So the hammer has been coming down."

In his speech to congress, Chen said the central government had allocated 9.8 billion yuan ($1.58 billion) in special funds to control air pollution in 2014, which helped "leverage" additional private investment of 300 billion yuan.

Study shows 62% of large buildings are green, compared to 5% of small buildings

CBRE Study Finds Significant Gap Between Large and Small Office Buildings in Green Adoption in the U.S.

The post Study shows 62% of large buildings are green, compared to 5% of small buildings appeared first on HazMat Management.

US approves chemical reform Bill [hazmatmag]

It brings Congress another step closer to reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

The U.S. House of Representatives has aimagespproved a bipartisan Bill that would update the nation's industrial chemical regulations for the first time in nearly 40 years.

The Bill would make it easier for the Environmental Protection Agency to request new safety data on chemicals and regulate chemicals already on the market. Manufacturers would also be allowed to petition the EPA to issue a ruling on the safety of the chemicals in their products.

It brings Congress another step closer to reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

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NEWSWEEK: Fluoridation May Not Prevent Cavities, Scientific Review Shows

If you're like two-thirds of Americans, fluoride is added to your tap water for the purpose of reducing cavities. But the scientific rationale for putting it there may be outdated, and no longer as clear-cut as was once thought.  

Water fluoridation, which first began in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and expanded nationwide over the years, has always been controversial. Those opposed to the process have argued—and a growing number of studies have suggested—that the chemical may present a number of health risks, for example interfering with the endocrine system and increasing the risk of impaired brain function; two studies in the last few months, for example, have linked fluoridation to ADHD and underactive thyroid. Others argue against water fluoridation on ethical grounds, saying the process forces people to consume a substance they may not know is there—or that they'd rather avoid.

Despite concerns about safety and ethics, many are content to continue fluoridation because of its purported benefit: that it reduces tooth decay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Oral Health, the main government body responsible for the process, says it's "safe and effective."

A 21st Century Submarines arms race could see numbers exceeding the 1000 German U-boats of WW2

There were about 1000 German U-boats built over the course of World War 2.

The main German sub was the Type 7C which was about 800 tons and 67 meters (220 feet) long.

Currently the USA has about 55 nuclear submarines that cost about $1-3 billion each. On average the cost of each submarine is about $1.6 to 2 billion. The annual operating cost for any of these subs is approximately $21 million. The typical service life of a nuclear sub is about 30 years. Refueling and modernizing at the half-life point costs about $200 million. Near the end of the service life, another refueling and extensive overhaul for about $410 million will extend the life another 12 years, for a total service life of 42 years. This totals to about $3.6 billion in constant dollars over the lifetime of a Seawolf class sub.

Air independent diesel electric can cost about $100 to 300 million. Operating costs are lower. Automation can reduce the crew required and further reduce costs. Mass production of robot submarines could see unit costs at $50 million.

Roughly $100 million for the Swedish Gotland submarine

Current DARPA is a robotic surface ship but robotic submarines will likely be developed

James Fanell (x- Navy captain and naval expert), prediced China's Navy would grow to include 99 submarines of all types, four aircraft carriers, 102 destroyers and frigates, 26 corvettes, 73 amphibious ships and 111 missile craft. All told, Fanell predicted, the Chinese Navy of 2030 will comprise 415 ships. This is up from about 300 ships now. This is based upon a projection of the current rate of production for the Chinese Navy. China building about 10 new submarines each year.

If there were an escalation of the submarine arms race that is currently beginning and the shift to low cost Air independent diesel submarines continued, then the 55 expensive US nuclear submarines could eventually be replaced by 1000 to 2000 robotic submarines and AIP diesel submarines. The USA and China could afford to spend $5 to 15 billion per year building up to the 1000 to 2000 low cost and robotic submarine fleet levels over ten years.

'Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is 'like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,' says Rear Admiral Frank Drennan, commander of the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command. 

Read more » at Next Big Future

Jun 30, 2015

400 Million Fewer Animals Were Killed for Food Last Year Because People Are Eating Less Meat

Where there's less consensus, however, is how to affect change. While many vegans believe Meatless Mondays and other cutting-back-consumption campaigns don't push enough of a paradigm-shift, others argue that these are crucial first steps towards a more compassionate world.

Given that around 93 percent of people still eat meat, it's difficult to imagine that everyone will cease doing so anytime soon. A world that eats far fewer meat, however, is already on the way. Meat consumption has been steadily declining in the U.S.—by 10% per capita since 2007, in fact.

In that year,  for example, the U.S. raised and killed 9.5 billion land animals for food. As of 2014, that number plummeted by a whopping 400 million, says Paul Shapiro, Vice President, Farm Animal Protection for The Humane Society of the United States.

"What that means is that compared to 2007, last year almost half a billion fewer animals were subjected to the torment of factory farming and industrial slaughter plants–and that's despite the increase in the U.S. population," Shapiro explains.

Read more: http://latestvegannews.com/400-million-fewer-animals-were-killed-for-food-last-year-because-people-are-eating-less-meat/

Jun 29, 2015

Dutch court orders state to reduce emissions by 25% within five years to protect its citizens

​A court in The Hague has ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years, in a landmark ruling expected to cause ripples around the world.

To cheers and hoots from climate campaigners in court, three judges ruled that government plans to cut emissions by just 14-17% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change.

Jubilant campaigners said that governments preparing for the Paris climate summit later this year would now need to look over their shoulders for civil rights era-style legal challenges where emissions-cutting pledges are inadequate.

"Before this judgement, the only legal obligations on states were those they agreed among themselves in international treaties," said Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel for Urgenda, the group that brought the suit.

"This is the first a time a court has determined that states have an independent legal obligation towards their citizens. That must inform the reduction commitments in Paris because if it doesn't, they can expect pressure from courts in their own jurisdictions."

In what was the first climate liability suit brought under human rights and tort law, Judge Hans Hofhuis told the court that the threat posed by global warming was severe and acknowledged by the Dutch government in international pacts.

"The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts," the judges' ruling said. "Any reduction of emissions contributes to the prevention of dangerous climate change and as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead in this."

After a legal campaign that took two and a half years to get to its first hearing in April, normally dispassionate lawyers were visibly moved by the judge's words. "As the verdict was being read out, I actually had tears in my eyes," Roger Cox, Urgenda's lead advocate, told the Guardian. "It was an emotional moment."

Young activists in court said that the ruling had gone some way to restoring Dutch national pride, which has been dented as Denmark, Germany and even the UK overtook the Netherlands, once seen as a European climate leader, in the green economy race.

The Dutch Socialist party MP Eric Smaling cautioned though that "some people will feel proud but others are more unhappy about the influx of refugees. So far climate action has too much been the last baby of a relatively leftist elite." He called for a wide coalition to spread the climate action message before elections in early 2017.

The Dutch government has not decided whether to appeal the court's decision yet, but opposition politicians are steeling themselves for the prospect.

Stientje Van Veldhoven, an MP and spokesperson for the D66 Liberal opposition in parliament noted that the government had yielded to a comparable, if more limited, ruling ending gas extraction in part of the giant Groningen gas fields earlier this year.

"The government has never ignored a court ruling like this one before, but there has never been a ruling like this before either," she said. "Everybody has a right to appeal." Veldhoven has requested a parliamentary debate on Wednesday's court ruling.

In a statement on behalf of prime minister Mark Rutte's cabinet, the Dutch environment minister Wilma Mansfeld said that the government's strategy was to implement EU-wide and international agreements.

"We and Urgenda share the same goal," Mansfeld said. "We just hold different opinions regarding the manner in which to attain this goal. We will now examine what this ruling means for the Dutch state."

Some 886 plaintiffs organised by Urgenda had accused the Dutch government of negligence for "knowingly contributing" to a breach of the 2C maximum target for global warming.

Their legal arguments rested on axioms forbidding states from polluting to the extent that they damage other states, and the EU's 'precautionary principle' which prohibits actions that carry unknown but potentially severe risks.

A UN climate secretariat article obliging states to do whatever is necessary to prevent dangerous climate change was also cited. So was the UN climate science panel's 2007 assessment of the reductions in carbon dioxide needed to have a 50% chance of containing global warming to 2C.

Several legal sources said that ideas outlined in the Oslo principles for climate change obligations, launched in the Guardian in March, appeared to have been influential in the judge's reasoning.

James Thornton, the chief executive of the environmental law group ClientEarth, hailed what he said had been a "courageous and visionary" ruling, that would shape the playing field for future suits.

"There are moments in history when only courts can address overwhelming problems. In the past it has been issues like discrimination. Climate change is our overwhelming problem and this court has addressed it. The Dutch court's ruling should encourage courts around the world to tackle climate change now."

Serge de Gheldere, the president of Klimaat Zaak, which is pursuing an almost identical case to Urgenda's in Belgium said: "This gives us a lot of hope as it sets an incredible precedent. The government in Belgium will take a lot of notice of whats happened here today. This could be the first stone that sets an avalanche in motion."

Professor Pier Vellinga, Urgenda's chairman and the originator of the 2C target in 1989 said that the breakthrough judgement would have a massive impact. "The ruling is of enormous significance, and beyond our expectations," he said.

The court also ordered the government to pay all of Urgenda's costs.

​Please read on at

How St. Michael’s Hospital is preparing for a major HazMat disaster

 Imagine the scene: Hundreds hurt in a chemical, biological or nuclear incident in Toronto. Hospital staff gathered in their ambulance bay for a full-dress rehearsal of emergency decontamination plans...

The announcement came just after 2:10 p.m. at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital.

Outside, the weekday was mundane, but the announcement was anything but ordinary: "Pan Am venue. There's been an explosion. Suspected gas release."

With the subsequent call of "Code Orange CBRNe Stage 3," a group of doctors, nurses and clerical and support workers from across the hospital converged and suited up, comic hero quick, to attend the coming wounded.

And the wounded came — by foot and car and gurney. With broken limbs, dizziness and concussions, many coughing and sputtering from their exposure to the toxic cloud, they straggled in.

They came to a hospital immediately locked down by the code orange CBRNe call, a top-order emergency declaration alerting staff that patients exposed to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive contaminants were on their way.

And the St. Mike's team, now sheathed head to toe in protective haz-mat suits, stood in front of a decontamination tent — unfolded and inflated within 10 minutes in the hospital's ambulance bay — to meet them.

Of course, on this mid-June day, the patients and their injuries were fake. Indeed, there was a festive spirit among the dozen or so hospital workers, clad mainly in T-shirts and shorts, who'd volunteered to be soaped up and hosed down by their colleagues.

But with the Pan Am Games set to begin on July 10, the exercise had a decidedly serious side in light of the security concerns such international events bring.

The timing of the exercise was a fortunate coincidence, says Dr. Sara Gray, chair of the hospital's emergency preparedness committee.

The $25,000 "decon tent," which received funding three years ago, had recently been delivered and her team needed to train in the new facility.

But, Gray adds, the Queen St. E. hospital's proximity to the athletes village and several other Pan Am venues would make it the city's primary medical response centre in the event of a real terrorist attack.

"The timing for us was just lucky," she says. "We had a previous tent that we did so much training on that it developed holes."

The purpose of the CBRNe decontamination response team and its tent is twofold, Gray explains. "The goal of this is always to make sure that you don't have the contaminated people (and whatever is on them) inside your hospital. It's also saving the patients, because usually whatever the chemical is, it's toxic enough that it's going to be dangerous to them if it stays on too long."

The tent and team can be deployed for a single patient or handle a maximum of 100, Gray says.

And the size of the response would be proportional to the number of incoming injured, with dozens of hospital staff being trained in classrooms and in haz-mat suit exercises to prepare for disasters large and small.

The suits themselves dictate that staff by the dozens be familiar with them and the decontamination protocols and duties for which they're worn.

Sealed and waterproof, they lock in body heat and on hot days can incapacitate anyone wearing one within 15 minutes.

"We would have to be able to swap people in and out very rapidly in the event of a real incident," says Lee Barratt, a nurse educator in the hospital's emergency department and a key team co-ordinator.

That means workers of all stripes are trained for haz-mat duties.

"We have to prepare people for our team who have no clinical experience at all," Barratt continues.

"One day they're working in the print shop, the next they're part of our decon team. So these exercises are critically important."

Meanwhile, in a true contamination incident, physicians and nurses would be called en masse to the emergency department, which would be culled of all but the most critically ill or injured patients as the decon team worked just outside.

Reports from attack or accident sites, paramedics, physicians and suited nurses in the ambulance bay would also be pointing doctors in the ER to likely antidotes they'd need. St. Mike's has medications to treat dozens of radiological, biological or chemical agents available on site.

The hospital would also co-ordinate with police to seal off streets and sidewalks near the hospital, and haz-mat-suited security staff would steer any errant pedestrians away from the tent.

​Please read more By Joseph Hall from source:

Bill Gates to double green energy investments

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has said he plans to double his investment in wild-eyed yet potentially game-changing renewable energy projects - and has urged governments to do the same.

When it comes to tackling climate change, Bill Gates' visions for the future are quite literally sky-high.

Predicting that his personal investments into novel green technologies could double to $2 billion (1.78 billion euros) over the next five years, Gates said that one of the companies he is betting on is a pioneer of high-altitude wind power.

To get a sense of what that means, picture flying wind turbines, kites or kite balloons that tap the energy of the jet stream at 20,000 feet.

"I wish governments would help those guys out because there's a 10-percent change it's the magic solution," Gates told the Financial Times in an interview published on Friday.

Nuclear recycling

But floating power stations were just one of the potentially revolutionary innovations Gates touted as he applauded governments, the United Nations and environmental protection advocates for raisingawareness of climate change.

He said he has poured about $1 billion into dozens of nascent companies developing futuristic solutions for battery storage, artificial photosynthesis and nuclear reactors that run on depleted - as opposed to enriched - uranium.

That last one could be especially relevant as countries struggle to find suitable locations for disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

Gates also said he had already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in companies pursuing "nuclear recycling," the lion's share of which has gone to a company called TerraPower that develops reactors capable of going decades without refueling because they run on their own waste.

Power plants from plant power

Another area of interest included "solar chemical" power, which is based on the process plants use to make food. In this case, artificial devices would absorb sunlight and use it to extract hydrogen from water and then convert it into fuel.

But as far as the world's richest man is concerned, the best way to promote such innovation - and ultimately find the silver bullet for climate change - is for governments to spend more on research and development and less on subsidies in the renewables sector.

"Because there's so much uncertainty and there are so many different paths, it should be like the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Project in the sense that the government should put in a serious amount of R&D," Gates said.

Please continue reading from: DW.COM 

Despite Regulatory Nod, Cheap Ebola Test Still Undeployed

According to an article in Nature, the researchers who developed an inexpensive, reliable field test for the Ebola virus are frustrated by the delay they've seen in actually having that test deployed. Known as the Corgenix test after the company which developed it, this diagnostic tool "could not replace lab confirmation, but it would allow workers to identify infected people and isolate them faster, greatly reducing the spread of disease," according to infectious-diseases physician Nahid Bhadelia. However, though it's been approved both by the US FDA (for emergency use) and the World Health Organization, its practical use has been hampered by country-level regulations. Just why is unclear; the test seems to be at least as effective as other typical tests, and in some ways better.One concern was that the test might fail to detect the virus in some cases of Ebola. But the independent field-validation1 (in Sierra Leone) shows that the kit was as sensitive at catching cases as the gold-standard comparison — a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test that amplifies and detects genetic sequences that are specific to Ebola in blood and other bodily fluids.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

heatwave in Karachi has now claimed over 1,240 lives

The heatwave in Karachi has now claimed over 1,240 lives, with a miserably inadequate response from the government. The mortuaries have been running out of space for the dead and have not been functioning properly due to the energy crisis. 
Please continue reading from: Environmental Health News

Fukushima Not Even Close To Being Under Control | OilPrice.com

Fukushima's still radiating, self-perpetuating, immeasurable, and limitless, like a horrible incorrigible Doctor Who monster encounter in deep space.

Fukushima will likely go down in history as the biggest cover-up of the 21st Century. Governments and corporations are not leveling with citizens about the risks and dangers; similarly, truth itself, as an ethical standard, is at risk of going to shambles as the glue that holds together the trust and belief in society's institutions. Ultimately, this is an example of how societies fail.

Tens of thousands of Fukushima residents remain in temporary housing more than four years after the horrific disaster of March 2011. Some areas on the outskirts of Fukushima have officially reopened to former residents, but many of those former residents are reluctant to return home because of widespread distrust of government claims that it is okay and safe.

Part of this reluctance has to do with radiation's symptoms. It is insidious because it cannot be detected by human senses. People are not biologically equipped to feel its power, or see, or hear, touch or smell it (Caldicott). Not only that, it slowly accumulates over time in a dastardly fashion that serves to hide its effects until it is too late.

Chernobyl's Destruction Mirrors Fukushima's Future

As an example of how media fails to deal with disaster blowback, here are some Chernobyl facts that have not received enough widespread news coverage: Over one million (1,000,000) people have already died from Chernobyl's fallout.

Additionally, the Rechitsa Orphanage in Belarus has been caring for a very large population of deathly sick and deformed children. Children are 10 to 20 times more sensitive to radiation than adults.

Zhuravichi Children's Home is another institution, among many, for the Chernobyl-stricken: "The home is hidden deep in the countryside and, even today, the majority of people in Belarus are not aware of the existence of such institutions" (Source: Chernobyl Children's Project-UK).

One million (1,000,000) is a lot of dead people. But, how many more will die? Approximately seven million (7,000,000) people in the Chernobyl vicinity were hit with one of the most potent exposures to radiation in the history of the Atomic Age.

The exclusion zone around Chernobyl is known as "Death Valley." It has been increased from 30 to 70 square kilometres. No humans will ever be able to live in the zone again. It is a permanent "dead zone."

Additionally, over 25,000 died and 70,000 disabled because of exposure to extremely dangerous levels of radiation in order to help contain Chernobyl. Twenty percent of those deaths were suicides, as the slow agonizing "death march of radiation exposure" was too much to endure.

Fukushima- The Real Story

In late 2014, Helen Caldicott, M.D. gave a speech about Fukushima at Seattle Town Hall. Pirate Television recorded her speech

Dr. Helen Caldicott is co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and she is author/editor of Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe, The New Press, September 2014. For over four decades Dr. Caldicott has been the embodiment of the anti-nuclear banner, and as such, many people around the world classify her as a "national treasure". She's truthful and honest and knowledgeable.

Fukushima is literally a time bomb in quiescence. Another powerful quake and all hell could break loose. Also, it is not even close to being under control. Rather, it is totally out of control. According to Dr. Caldicott, "It's still possible that Tokyo may have to be evacuated, depending upon how things go." Imagine that!

According to Japan Times as of March 11, 2015: "There have been quite a few accidents and problems at the Fukushima plant in the past year, and we need to face the reality that they are causing anxiety and anger among people in Fukushima, as explained by Shunichi Tanaka at the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Furthermore, Mr. Tanaka said, there are numerous risks that could cause various accidents and problems."

Even more ominously, Seiichi Mizuno, a former member of Japan's House of Councillors (Upper House of Parliament, 1995-2001) in March 2015 said: "The biggest problem is the melt-through of reactor cores… We have groundwater contamination… The idea that the contaminated water is somehow blocked in the harbor is especially absurd. It is leaking directly into the ocean. There's evidence of more than 40 known hotspot areas where extremely contaminated water is flowing directly into the ocean… We face huge problems with no prospect of solution."

At Fukushima, each reactor required one million gallons of water per minute for cooling, but when the tsunami hit, the backup diesel generators were drowned. Units 1, 2, and 3 had meltdowns within days. There were four hydrogen explosions. Thereafter, the melting cores burrowed into the container vessels, maybe into the earth.

According to Dr. Caldicott, "One hundred tons of terribly hot radioactive lava has already gone into the earth or somewhere within the container vessels, which are all cracked and broken." Nobody really knows for sure where the hot radioactive lava resides. The scary unanswered question: Is it the China Syndrome?

Following the meltdown, the Japanese government did not inform people of the ambient levels of radiation that blew back onto the island. Unfortunately and mistakenly, people fled away from the reactors to the highest radiation levels on the island at the time.

As the disaster happened, enormous levels of radiation hit Tokyo. The highest radiation detected in the Tokyo Metro area was in Saitama with cesium radiation levels detected at 919,000 becquerel (Bq) per square meter, a level almost twice as high as Chernobyl's "permanent dead zone evacuation limit of 500,000 Bq" (source: Radiation Defense Project). For that reason, Dr. Caldicott strongly advises against travel to Japan and recommends avoiding Japanese food.

Even so, post the Fukushima disaster, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed an agreement with Japan that the U.S. would continue importing Japanese foodstuff. Therefore, Dr. Caldicott suggests people not vote for Hillary Clinton. One reckless dangerous precedent is enough for her.

According to Arnie Gundersen, an energy advisor with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, as reported in The Canadian on August 15, 2011: "The US government has come up with a decision at the highest levels of the State Department, as well as other departments who made a decision to downplay Fukushima. In April, the month after the powerful tsunami and earthquake crippled Japan including its nuclear power plant, Hillary Clinton signed a pact with Japan that she agreed there is no problem with Japanese food supply and we will continue to buy them. So, we are not sampling food coming in from Japan."

Please continue reading from: OilPrice.com

Jun 25, 2015

House passes bill to overhaul toxic chemical safety laws; 1976 bill has never been reformed

For the first time in nearly 40 years, the House passed legislation to overhaul toxic chemical safety laws, Cristina Marcos reports for The Hill. Legislation, which passed Tuesday by a 398-1 vote, "would require the Environmental Protection Agency to review chemicals in products and issue risk management regulations in an expedited manner." A January 2014 chemical spill contaminated drinking water supplies for hundreds of thousands of people in Charleston, W.Va., and surrounding communities.  

The Toxic Substances Control Act law was originally enacted in 1976, Marcos writes. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), the bill's author, said, "The time is now to update this outdated law." Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) "warned that toxic chemicals needed to be reined in to protect public health," Marcos writes. Pallone said, "Toxic chemicals can be found in the products we use every day and are steadily building up in our bodies and the environment. Consumers are worried about chemicals like BPA and triclosan, but they don't know how to avoid them. Something needs to change." (Read more

Why North Dakota’s oil fields are so deadly for workers, one dead every 6 weeks

On average, someone in the Bakken oil fields dies every six weeks – at least 74 people have died on the job there since 2006. But the major oil companies that have profited most from the boom often evade accountability when accidents happen.

Across North Dakota, deeply entrenched corporate practices and weak federal oversight inoculate energy producers against responsibility when workers are killed or injured, while shifting the blame to others. Oil companies also offer financial incentives to workers for speeding up production – potentially jeopardizing their safety – and shield themselves through a web of companies to avoid paying the full cost of settlements to workers and their families when something goes wrong.

Reporter Jennifer Gollan investigates the death of Brendan Wegner and why the Bakken oil fields are so dangerous.


Jennifer Gollan, Reporter: When Brendan Wegner left Wisconsin for the Bakken oil fields, his parents had no idea North Dakota was the deadliest place to work in America.

Kevin Wegner, Brendan's Father: I was happy for him. I didn't know oil rigs were dangerous.

Jennifer Gollan: Brendan was hired to work for a small oil service company.

Kevin Wegner: The guy told him, you put your time in here and in a year, year-and-a-half, you'll be up over a hundred thousand dollars a year. For a 21-year-old kid, that's pretty exciting.

Jennifer Gollan: Brendan got the job because he worked as an electrical lineman and was good with heights.

Kevin Wegner: If you've ever seen a workover rig, there's stacks of pipes in there. His job would be to stand up there and uncouple them or couple them together. And the day of the accident was actually his first day working on the rig.

Jennifer Gollan: A blowout. Oil shot 50 feet in the air. Brendan was trapped. The well's operator had injected salt water to make the well safe to work on. Even so, the well exploded.

Jebadiah Stanfill, Former Oil Field Worker: Yeah, that looks like the rig site to me.

Jennifer Gollan: Jebadiah Stanfill was working on a nearby rig and rushed over.

Jebadiah Stanfill: I go out there and asked him where everybody's at and how many are there. He just says, "Derrick man's dead. The derrick man's dead."
That's when I looked up and saw what I later find out is Brendan burning in the derrick.

Please continue reading from: Reveal

How We Make Cars Is a Bigger Environmental Issue Than How We Fuel Them

Around two billion cars have been built over the last 115 years; twice that number will be built over the next 35-40 years. The environmental and health impacts will be enormous. Some think the solution is electric cars or other low- or zero-emission vehicles. The truth is, if you look at the emissions of a car over its total life, you quickly discover that tailpipe emissions are just the tip of the iceberg.

An 85 kWh electric SUV may not have a tailpipe, but it has an enormous impact on our environment and health. A far greater percentage of a car's total emissions come from the materials and energy required for manufacturing a car (mining, processing, manufacturing, and disposal of the car ), not the car's operation. As leading environmental economist and vice chair of the National Academy of Sciences Maureen Cropper notes, "Whether we are talking about a conventional gasoline-powered automobile, an electric vehicle, or a hybrid, most of the damages are actually coming from stages other than just the driving of the vehicle." If business continues as usual, we could triple the total global pollution generated by automobiles, as we go from two billion to six billion vehicles manufactured.

The conclusion from this is straightforward: how we make our cars is actually a bigger environmental issue than how we fuel our cars. We need to dematerialize — dramatically reduce the material and energy required to build cars — and we need to do it now.

These facts are demonstrated in a 2009 report by the National Academy of Science, Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use. That report considers the total human and environmental damage stemming from the various stages of automotive use: the manufacture of the vehicle, the manufacture of the vehicle's fuel, and the operation of the vehicle. The chart below illustrates that tailpipe emissions are only a small part of the total emissions picture:

cost of manufacturing the fuel and vehicle

Thus, the prevailing marketing and policy focus on drivetrains (e.g. gasoline vs. electric) has clouded the debate and drawn attention away from the larger problem: the emissions and other environmental damage stemming from the manufacturing of cars.

Dematerialization is the only effective path for reducing the environmental damages stemming from automobiles. Dematerialization will lead to:

  • Far fewer emissions from both manufacturing and operation
  • Much lower material and energy inputs in manufacture
  • Dramatically better gas mileage
  • Lower wear on roads
  • Fewer fatalities from car accidents

We need to focus our innovation not simply on automobile products, but in equal amounts on the process by which those products are made. Such process innovation needs to accomplish two equally important goals:

  • Dematerialization of our cars: dramatically reducing material and energy inputs and waste
  • Democratization of car manufacturing: giving small teams a set of affordable tools to enable them to design, build, and scale a wide range of complex vehicle structures.

Letting the little guy create: Democratizing manufacturing

To dematerialize manufacturing, we first need to democratize it. Traditional automakers are held captive by the massive capital investments required to build cars using traditional methods. Every one of today's car companies, from Toyota to Tesla, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in every car factory it has built. That means they must organize everything they do around generating a maximum return on that huge fixed-cost investment. As industry analyst Horace Dediu observes: "Production is everything. Capacity utilization is the first priority for an auto manufacturer. Capacity is why firms are not allowed to die and entrants are not allowed to enter. If you want to find the Next Big Thing in automobiles, look for a new production system."

Democratizing car manufacturing requires that small teams have a set of affordable tools enabling them to make cars of their own design. Such a tool set would empower people in car manufacture the same way Arduino empowered people in electronics. Arduino's modular platform hides its complexity behind an easy-to-use interface, which created an explosion of hardware and software innovation. Because of Arduino, many of the latest tech products in the Internet of Things — from Kickstarter devices to home automation — have been built not by huge corporations, but by small, nimble teams.

Divergent Microfactories set out to build an industrial-strength Arduino for cars — a kind of "Carduino." The key enabling technology we've developed is what we call a "Node." A Node is a 3D-printed alloy connector that joins aerospace-grade carbon fiber tubing into standardized building objects. This simple tool allows a small team to design and build car chassis that range from two-seat sports cars to pickup trucks. Just like the Arduino, the Node hides its underlying complexity behind a simple, easy-to-use interface.

Small teams using fewer materials: Democratizing meets dematerializing

The Node-based chassis solves the bigger problems we set out to address. It drives both dematerialization and democratization. A traditional chassis can weigh more than 1,000 pounds, whereas Divergent Microfactories has built a prototype that weighs about 100 pounds (61 pounds of aluminum and 41 pounds of carbon fiber), and is much stronger and more durable. All of the nodes and carbon fiber tubing that make up a car chassis fit into the backpack in the photo below. The chassis requires dramatically less material and energy to produce.


All of the nodes and carbon fiber tubing that make up a car chassis fit into this backpack. Image courtesy of Kevin Czinger.

A dematerialized car is a greener, lighter, and safer car that can be made locally. It will cause less wear on roads and fewer fatalities in accidents. A super-lightweight car built with this technology generates only a third of the total health and environmental damage of an 85 kWh all electric car. The objective: drive that down to a quarter or less. And it can be made locally and built to last.

light-weight DM vehicle

14 species have been moved from the “endangered” category to the “critically endangered

In the most recent update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, 14 species have been moved from the "endangered" category to the "critically endangered (possibly extinct)" category. The update illustrates the worldwide crisis facing many species around the globe in the face of habitat loss and degradation.

The IUCN's Red List compiles data and evidence from researchers from all around the world. The list now includes information about 77,340 different species, of which 22,784 are threatened with extinction.

The list of species considered critically endangered now includes ten species of orchids found only in Madagascar, which are threatened by forest loss and illegal collection. Another species is a Magnolia tree, Magnolia emarginata, found only in Haiti, and has lost an estimated 97 percent of its forest habitat in the past century.

Two species of crabs are now considered critically endangered, Karstama balicum andKarstama emdi, which are only found in a single cave in Bali. The crabs are threatened by human activity in the cave, such as tourism and frequent religious ceremonies.

While many species are in dramatic decline, no species have been moved into the "extinct" category. However, this may be due in part to the difficulty of gathering sufficient evidence to prove an species has in fact disappeared. "It takes a long time of gathering negative evidenced before we can say, 'ok, that species has gone'," Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN's Red List told New Scientist.

Please continue reading from: 

Preliminary DNR blessing moves Waukesha Great Lakes water bid forward

Waukesha cleared a significant hurdle Wednesday in its push for a new water supply when state environmental officials announced a preliminary decision that the city's request to tap into Lake Michigan could be approved under a Great Lakes protection compact. 
Please continue reading from: JSOnline.com NewsWatch

Closing in on 50 years of being wrong - Paul Ehrlich says again environmental collapse is coming

Next Big Future

Paul Ehrlich says we are entering the sixth great mass extinction.

Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction

There have been papers which show that species and area relationships always overestimate extinctions.

Ehrlich became well known for his controversial 1968 book The Population Bomb, which asserted that the world's human population would soon increase to the point where mass starvation ensued Among the measures he suggested in that book was population control, to be used in his opinion if voluntary methods were to fail. 

Julian Lincoln Simon, a Cornucopian economist has argued that overpopulation is not a problem in itself, and that humanity will adapt to changing conditions. Simon argued that in the long run, human creativity would constantly improve living standards, and that the Earth's resources were, in effect, infinite. Ehrlich called Simon the leader of a "space-age cargo cult" of economists convinced that new resources would miraculously appear and reasserted the idea that population growth was outstripping the earth's supplies of food, fresh water and minerals. This exchange led to the Simon-Ehrlich wager, a bet about the trend of prices for certain metals that he made in 1980 with, and lost to, Julian Simon

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Jun 24, 2015

Recycling Is Dying...

HughPickensAaron C. Davis writes in the Washington Post that recycling, once a profitable business for cities and private employers alike, has become a money-sucking enterprise. Almost every recycling facility in the country is running in the red and recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipalities are paying to dispose of their recyclables instead of the other way around. "If people feel that recycling is important — and I think they do, increasingly — then we are talking about a nationwide crisis," says David Steiner, chief executive of Waste Management, the nation's largest recycler.
The problem with recylcing is that a storm of falling oil prices, a strong dollar and a weakened economy in China have sent prices for American recyclables plummeting worldwide. Trying to encourage conservation, progressive lawmakers and environmentalists have made matters worse. By pushing to increase recycling rates with bigger and bigger bins — while demanding almost no sorting by consumers — the recycling stream has become increasingly polluted and less valuable, imperiling the economics of the whole system. "We kind of got everyone thinking that recycling was free," says Bill Moore. "It's never really been free, and in fact, it's getting more expensive."

One big problem is that China doesn't want to buy our garbage anymore. In the past China had sent so many consumer goods to the United States that all the shipping containers were coming back empty. So US companies began stuffing the return-trip containers with recycled cardboard boxes, waste paper and other scrap. China could, in turn, harvest the raw materials. Everyone won. But China has launched "Operation Green Fence" — a policy to prohibit the import of unwashed post-consumer plastics and other "contaminated" waste shipments. In China, containerboard, a common packaging product from recycled American paper, is trading at just over $400 a metric ton, down from nearly $1,000 in 2010. China also needs less recycled newsprint; the last paper mill in Shanghai closed this year. "If the materials we are exporting are so contaminated that they are being rejected by those we sell to," says Valerie Androutsopoulos, "maybe it's time to take another look at dual stream recycling."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Dow chemical weedkiller may cause cancer, WHO agency says.

Environmental Health News
Based on limited evidence from laboratory animal studies and inadequate evidence in humans, 2,4-D is "possibly carcinogenic to humans," the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a Lyon, France-based arm of the WHO, said Tuesday in a statement. 

EPA picks academic partners for toxic data updates

This year's academic partners are the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Mercyhurst University

The post EPA picks academic partners for toxic data updates appeared first on HazMat Management.

Number of veterans waiting one month for an appointment has increased 50% in past year

One year after an audit of the Department of Veterans Affairs found that 120,000 veterans were told they had to wait 90 days for medical care, "the number of veterans on waiting lists of one month or more is now 50 percent higher than it was during the height of last year's problems, department officials say," Richard Oppel reports for The New York Times. Rural areas are home to 5.6 million veterans.  

"The department is also facing a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall, which could affect care for many veterans," and "is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap," Oppel writes.

VA clinics have made moves to see more patients, seeing 2.7 million more patients in the past year than the year before, while also referring 900,000 patient to outside physicians, Oppel writes. "But what was not foreseen, department leaders say, was just how much physician workloads and demand from veterans would continue to soar—by one-fifth, in fact, at some major veterans hospitals over just the past year."

"Physician workloads—as measured by an internal metric known as 'relative value units'—grew by 21 percent at hospitals and clinics in the region that includes Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina; by 20 percent in the Southern California and southern Nevada regions; and by 18 percent in North Carolina and Virginia," Oppel writes. "And by the same measure, physician care purchased for patients treated outside the department grew by 50 percent in the region encompassing Pennsylvania and by 36 percent in the region that includes Michigan and Indiana."

"Those data include multiple appointments by individual patients and reflect the fact that patients typically now schedule more appointments than they did in the past."Oppel writes. "But even measured by the number of individuals being treated, the figures are soaring in many places: From 2012 to 2014, for example, the number of patients receiving treatment grew by 18 percent at the Las Vegas medical center; by 16 percent in Hampton, Va.; and by 13 percent in Fayetteville, N.C., and Portland, Ore." (Read more)

China’s Air Is Much Worse Than India’s, World Bank Report Shows - WSJ

Made with Datawrapper for The Wall Street Journal

India's capital may have the worst air quality in the world on some days, but a new report shows that nationally, the air in the world's second-most-populous country is far less polluted than in China.

In fact, China's air is more than twice as dirty as India's, according to recently released estimates by the World Bank.

The bank's "Little Green Data Book" of environmental indicators, unveiled last week, included a new gauge of air pollution. To the standard measures of environmental health–including forest cover and carbon emissions–it added PM 2.5 levels, which measure airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns.

These tiny pollutants are microscopic and can enter the lungs and even pollute a person's blood stream. They are linked to severe health problems including lung cancer.

"These data show that in many parts of the world exposure to air pollution is increasing at an alarming rate and has become the main environmental threat to health," the forward of the World Bank book said. "Exposure to ambient PM 2.5 pollution in 2010 resulted in more than 3.2 million premature deaths globally."

Nuclear Energy and Uranium Bet Updates "current uranium supply situation is unsustainable".

Next Big Future
Michael Dittmar wrote a series of posts about nuclear energy that was published on The Oil Drum in 2009. In the first post of the series, he said that uranium "civilian uranium stocks are expected to be exhausted during the next few years" and "the current uranium supply situation is unsustainable". Basically lack of uranium production from uranium mines would cause lack of nuclear fuel which would result in steadily dropping nuclear power generation. I made a series of three bets with Dittmar.

1. World Uranium production (I won in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. Lost in 2014)
2. World Nuclear power generation bets going to 2018 (I won in 2010, lost 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
3. Uranium production in Kazakhstan (I won 2010, 2011)

So out of 13 bets, I have won 7 bets and lost 6.

For 2015, Canada Cameco has started production at Cigar Lake. The igar Lake operation is expected to produce 6 million to 8 million pounds of uranium oxide (2308 to 3077 tU) in 2015, ramping up to full annual production rate of 18 million pounds per year (6920 tU) by 2018.

Japan should begin nuclear restarts in August for 2 reactors.

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