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The Earth Is Full

Thomas L. Friedman - The New York Times - June 7, 2011

You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century — when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all — and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?

“The only answer can be denial,” argues Paul Gilding, the veteran Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur, who described this moment in a new book called “The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World.” “When you are surrounded by something so big that requires you to change everything about the way you think and see the world, then denial is the natural response. But the longer we wait, the bigger the response required.”

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Special Report: After Japan, Where's the Next Nuclear Weak Link?

Reuters - June 9, 2011

Imagine a country where corruption is rampant, infrastructure is very poor, or the quality of security is in question. Now what if that country built a nuclear power plant?

It may sound alarming but that is what could happen in many developing countries which are either building nuclear power plants or considering doing so - a prospect that raises serious questions after Japan's experience handling a nuclear crisis.

A trove of U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and provided to Reuters by a third party provide colorful and sometimes scary commentary on the conditions in developing nations with nuclear power aspirations.

In a cable from the U.S. embassy in Hanoi in February 2007, concerns are raised about storing radioactive waste in Vietnam, which has very ambitious plans to build nuclear power plants. Le Dinh Tien, the vice minister of science and technology, is quoted as saying the country's track record of handling such waste was "not so good" and its inventory of radioactive materials "not adequate."

Alarm Spreads as E. Coli Cases Rise Sharply (in Europe) - With Unusual Neurological Effects

June 1, 2011

The number of E. coli cases has risen dramatically in northern Germany, authorities announced Wednesday, with at least 180 new cases emerging in the past 24 hours in Hamburg and Lower Saxony alone.

The new figures came as doctors in Schleswig-Holstein reported that the bacterial illness was also causing unusual neurological effects including epilepsy.

Seventeen people – one in Sweden and the rest in Germany – have now died from the virulent form of enterohamorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), which can cause bloody diarrhoea and kidney failure known as haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS).

In the past day, the number of cases rose in Lower Saxony by 80 to 344, while in Hamburg another 99 cases were identified, bringing the total in the port city to 668.

“We are again seeing a clear rise in cases of people sick with EHEC and HUS,” Hamburg’s Health Minister Cornelia Prüfer-Storcks said. “The situation remains worrying and it is definitely too early to give any kind of all-clear.”

An 84-year-old woman who died on Sunday has now been identified as the 17th confirmed victim, the Lower Saxony Health Ministry announced Wednesday.

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Guardian -- "Food security: rising prices, climate change and a growing population"

The Guardian holds a periodic news round up and forums under their "Poverty Matters" series.

Below is a sample of the issues now being discussed:

 

 

Rising commodity prices, a changing climate and a growing population have combined to push food security to the top of the international agenda, and have also dominated coverage on the Global development site this week.

 

Our Global food crisis interactive highlights the big issues in the current food debate, through blogs, features, video, galleries and audio reports.

 

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Oil Spill Panel: White House Blocked Federal Scientists From Releasing Worst-Case Scenario For Gulf Disaster

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration blocked efforts by government scientists to tell the public just how bad the Gulf oil spill could become and committed other missteps that raised questions about its competence and candor during the crisis, according to a commission appointed by the president to investigate the disaster. In documents released Wednesday, the national oil spill commission's staff describes "not an incidental public relations problem" by the White House in the wake of the April 20 accident. Among other things, the report says, the administration made erroneous early estimates of the spill's size, and President Barack Obama's senior energy adviser went on national TV and mischaracterized a government analysis by saying it showed most of the oil was "gone." The analysis actually said it could still be there. "By initially underestimating the amount of oil flow and then, at the end of the summer, appearing to underestimate the amount of oil remaining in the Gulf, the federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem," the report says.

U.S. Institute of Peace: Briefing on Crime and Governance in Haiti

Dear colleagues, Haiti remains in a desperate state on essentially all measures of health and human security. The governance and crime issues are now moving to the forefront in the post-earthquake mission again, as the elections draw near. The health and human security issues will need to be addressed within any credible approach to the governance and management of the crime issues. If you are interested in how the U.S. Department of State and Rand are looking at Haiti's resilience, the upcoming U.S. Institute of Peace briefing on October 13 may of interest.

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BBC: Water map shows billions at risk of 'water insecurity'

About 80% of the world's population lives in areas where the fresh water supply is not secure, according to a new global analysis. Researchers compiled a composite index of "water threats" that includes issues such as scarcity and pollution. The most severe threat category encompasses 3.4 billion people. Writing in the journal Nature, they say that in western countries, conserving water for people through reservoirs and dams works for people, but not nature. They urge developing countries not to follow the same path. What we're able to outline is a planet-wide pattern of threat” Charles Vorosmarty City College of New York Instead, they say governments should invest in water management strategies that combine infrastructure with "natural" options such as safeguarding watersheds, wetlands and flood plains. The analysis is a global snapshot, and the research team suggests more people are likely to encounter more severe stress on their water supply in the coming decades, as the climate changes and the human population continues to grow. They have taken data on a variety of different threats, used models of threats where data is scarce, and used expert assessment to combine the various individual threats into a composite index.

Nosocomial Infections: Drug-resistant "Superbugs"

September 17, USA TODAY – (International) Drug-resistant ‘superbugs’ hit 35 states, spread worldwide. Bacteria that are able to survive every modern antibiotic are cropping up in many U.S. hospitals and are spreading outside the country, public health officials said. The bugs, reported by hospitals in more than 35 states, typically strike the critically ill and are fatal in 30 percent to 60 percent of cases. Israeli doctors are battling an outbreak in Tel Aviv that has been traced to a patient from northern New Jersey, said the director of infection control and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and president of the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists. The bacteria are equipped with a gene that enables them to produce an enzyme that disables antibiotics. The enzyme is called Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenamase. It disables carbapenam antibiotics, last-ditch treatments for infections that don’t respond to other drugs. “We’ve lost our drug of last resort,” he said. Source: http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/health/medical/2010-09-17-1Asuperbug17_ST_N.htm

Poverty Rate In U.S. Saw Record Increase In 2009: 1 In 7 Americans Are Poor

Why is it that Americans are discovering that the U.S. now has the largest increase in poverty in more than a half a century under the administration of a U.S. president that may be one of the most sympathetic to the needs of the middle class and the poor of all presidents during this period? One answer might be that it reflects a long tail of a previous president due to the engagement of elective wars with poor outcomes and disastrous tax and social policies. This will most likely be at the heart of the political rhetoric of the Democratic party during the the 2010 mid-term and 2012 presidential election. However, there may be a deeper truth, which our national leadership and the American public is missing, or is unwilling to speak about. American society has deep structural problems from long-standing policies and socio-poliical behaviors stemming back to the early 1980s and before, that have aggregated into disastrous unsustainable, yet well entrenched, societal patterns. The key question is "When will the sociopolitical climate be ripe for political leadership to emerge that can speak honestly with the American public about the federal debt?

Scientists Find Thick Layer Of Oil On Seafloor

As suspected by many scientists and residents along the Gulf Coast, the dispersants used by BP and natural processes have driven the oil from Deepwater Horizon to the bottom. Given the large amounts of petrochemicals covering the bottom of a huge area in the Gulf of Mexico, there is serious concern that the food chain is significantly disrupted in this area. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129782098

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