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Alabama Declares State of Emergency for the Flu Epidemic as the US Death Toll Rises

Alabama Declares State of Emergency for the Flu Epidemic as the US Death Toll Rises

Citing a strain on “overwhelmed” health resources, Governor Kay Ivey declared an official State of Emergency in Alabama on Thursday due to the rapidly spreading flu epidemic.

WHEREAS the State Health Officer has reported that an outbreak of the influenza virus has occurred in the State of Alabama; and

WHEREAS this outbreak poses a high probability of widespread exposure to an infectious agent that poses significant risk of substantial harm to a large number of people in the affected population; and

WHEREAS the health care facilities and personnel of the State are overwhelmed by the number of ill patients and taxed to such an extent that care of patients may now no longer be provided in the traditional, normal, and customary manner nor is the utilization of traditional, normal, and customary standards of care possible.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Kay Ivey, Governor of the State of Alabama, pursuant to relevant provisions of the Alabama Emergency Management Act of 1955, section 31-9-1 et seq., Code of Alabama (1975), on the recommendation of the State Health Officer, do hereby declare that a State Public Health Emergency exists in the State of Alabama. I direct the appropriate state agencies to exercise their statutory and regulatory authority to assist the communities and entities affected. I also direct the Alabama Department of Public Health and Alabama Emergency Management Agency to seek federal assistance as may be available.

FURTHER, I direct the following:

1. Health care facilities that have invoked their emergency operation plans in response to this public health emergency may implement the “alternative standards of care” plans provided therein, and such are declared to be the state approved standard of care in health care facilities to be executed by health care professionals and allied professions and occupations providing services in response to this outbreak.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

4 Big Ways Snow Can Benefit the Garden  

4 Big Ways Snow Can Benefit the Garden  

All of the snow accumulation from the extreme temperatures occurring through the country could be doing your garden some good. That right, folks snow is great for the garden!

Snow insulates plants and trees

Snow cover protects plants from harsh, drying winter winds which can freeze the ground and damage the root systems of shrubs and trees. In fact, without snow, cold weather could freeze the soil and further damage root systems in trees. You could say that snow it acts like an insulating blanket, and in wintertime, who doesn’t want an insulating blanket to stay warm? It works by trapping pockets of air that hold in heat for the plants. Mother Nature is a wondrous thing!

Beneath one foot of snow, the soil and the organisms within it are protected from changes in the air temperature above the snow surface. The moist surface of snow influences how much heat and moisture circulate between the ground and the atmosphere. For every inch of snow, you get 1 R-value of insulation. (R-value is a way to measure insulation). Although the R-value can vary with the type of snow, you can get a good idea of how insulating this really is to the garden.

Snow adds nutrients to the soil in the spring

The University of New Hampshire’s Department of Natural Sciences states that snow contains nutrients that penetrate into the soil and does some good for the plants that will grow in that soil later on in the year. Nutrients include nitro­gen (most prevalent), along with some sulfur and other trace elements. Studies even claim there are more of these nutrients bound up in snow than in the corresponding amount of rain.

Snow adds a slow release of moisture

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Monsanto, Bayer and Neoliberalism: A Case of Hobson’s Choice

Monsanto, Bayer and Neoliberalism: A Case of Hobson’s Choice

A Bayer marketing professional recently stated on Twitter that critics of GMOs deny choice to farmers. It’s a common accusation by the pro-GMO lobby. In a previous article, I noted the idea that GMOs offer increased choice is erroneous and that, by implication, corporations like Bayer or Monsanto restrict options. Much evidence suggests that GMOs provide a false choice.

However, to get drawn into endless debates about the whys and wherefores of GMOs tends to overlook the fact that GMOs belong to a particular model of agriculture which is increasingly being challenged. To quote Charles Eisenstein from a recent piece, what we should be talking about is the “choice between two very different systems of food production, two visions of society, and two fundamentally different ways to relate to plants, animals, and soil” (the table featured here provides concise insight into these visions).

The fact that someone chooses to market for a giant transnational company says much about a person’s allegiance to and belief in corporate power, let alone the prevailing economic system that company benefits from and the model of agriculture it promotes. Corporate-inspired visions of the world tend to define choice – and indeed how the world should be – within strict parameters.

Choice, development and the future of agriculture in India 

If current trends in India continue, it could mean dozens of mega-cities with up to 40 million inhabitants and just 15-20% of the population (as opposed to around the current 60% or more) left in an emptied-out countryside. It could also mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work.

Farming for a Small Planet

Farming for a Small Planet

People yearn for alternatives to industrial agriculture, but they are worried. They see large-scale operations relying on corporate-supplied chemical inputs as the only high-productivity farming model. Another approach might be kinder to the environment and less risky for consumers, but, they assume, it would not be up to the task of providing all the food needed by our still-growing global population.

Contrary to such assumptions, there is ample evidence that an alternative approach—organic agriculture, or more broadly “agroecology”—is actually the only way to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, healthful food. Inefficiency and ecological destruction are built into the industrial model. But, beyond that, our ability to meet the world’s needs is only partially determined by what quantities are produced in fields, pastures, and waterways. Wider societal rules and norms ultimately shape whether any given quantity of food produced is actually used to meet humanity’s needs. In many ways, how we grow food determines who can eat and who cannot—no matter how much we produce. Solving our multiple food crises thus requires a systems approach in which citizens around the world remake our understanding and practice of democracy.

Today, the world produces—mostly from low-input, smallholder farms—more than enough food: 2,900 calories per person per day. Per capita food availability has continued to expand despite ongoing population growth. This ample supply of food, moreover, comprises only what is left over after about half of all grain is either fed to livestock or used for industrial purposes, such as agrofuels.1

Despite this abundance, 800 million people worldwide suffer from long-term caloric deficiencies. One in four children under five is deemed stunted—a condition, often bringing lifelong health challenges, that results from poor nutrition and an inability to absorb nutrients. Two billion people are deficient in at least one nutrient essential for health, with iron deficiency alone implicated in one in five maternal deaths.2

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Coastal States Protest Trump’s Offshore Drilling Plan

Coastal States Protest Trump’s Offshore Drilling Plan

Offshore

Less than a week after the Trump Administration proposed to open almost the entire U.S. coast to oil and gas drilling, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke backtracked and took Florida off the table for offshore oil and gas exploration. Now many are wondering why just Florida was given a pass.

Opposition by coastal states, both East and West, had already been strong, even before Secretary Zinke said on Tuesday that he supports Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott’s position that “Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

“As a result of discussion with Governor Scott’s and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms,” Secretary Zinke said in a statement posted on Twitter.

But taking Florida off the table sparked even more backlash from nearly all other coastal states along the Pacific and the Atlantic, with governors and representatives demanding the states they represent be exempt, too.

Analysts see the administration’s move as opening a wider legal crack in the offshore drilling plan, with states and environmentalists waiting in the wings to start suing.

Potential lawsuits could further derail the timeline of the process that would turn this initial draft plan into a proposed final program. Mounting uncertainties over the timeline and legislation could deter oil companies from planning to spend big on exploration, while drilling along the coastal areas could be challenged by states and could increase risks for oil firms’ budget planning and possible legal expenses. Then there is the price of oil in a few years’ time to consider, as well as the fact that companies in the U.S. are increasingly earmarking investments into onshore shale at the expense of conventional offshore.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster

Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster

Photo by Jeremy Buckingham | CC BY 2.0

It’s January, yet methane hydrates in the Arctic are growling like an incensed monster on a scorching hot mid-summer day. But, it is January; it’s winter, not July!

On January 1st Arctic methane at 2,764 ppb spiked upwards into the atmosphere, which, according to Arctic News: “Was likely caused by methane hydrate destabilization in the sediments on the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.” (Source: Unfolding Arctic Catastrophe, Arctic News, January 2, 2017) Once again, with emphasis, it’s January; it’s winter, and there’s little or no sunshine above the Arctic Circle. So, what gives? Why are alarming levels of methane spewing into the atmosphere in the dead of winter?

For starters, record low sea ice volume, which has been dropping like a leaden weight for years because of human-generated (anthropogenic) global warming. That’s a recipe for trouble, big time trouble as methane hydrates (lattices of ice that entrap methane molecules) get exposed to warmer water. In that regard, average sea ice volume throughout 2017 was at record lows.

Making matters worse yet, extraordinarily warm water currents flow into the Arctic from nearby ocean waters that have been absorbing 90% of global warming. Ergo, Arctic water in thin ice does not cool down without a lot of thick ice to melt the warm water currents. So, abnormally warm water remains into winter months and, in time, reaches sediments at the bottom of the ocean, disrupting methane hydrates, which have stored tonnes of methane over millennia. However, in due course, all hell breaks loose with large-scale methane eruptions, one of those “Naw, it can’t be happening” moments.

Here’s the problem: On average, sea surface temps were 23.35°F warmer during the period October 1 to December 30, 2017 compared to the 30-year average temperature. On October 25th, the sea surface was as warm as 63.5°F.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What We Can Learn 100 Years After the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918

What We Can Learn 100 Years After the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918

It has been 100 years since the Spanish flu infected 500 million people around the globe and wiped out an estimated 20 million to 50 million of them. (source)

And here we are, potentially on the cusp of another influenza pandemic. H3N2, or the “Australian flu” is making the rounds this year and has spread to the UK, among other countries. This map from the UK Sun shows the spread – and the potential for a pandemic.

This flu is particularly deadly. 745 people died from it in Australia in late 2017.

The NHS says that Australian flu symptoms have rapid onset:

  • a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
  • aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • dry, chesty cough
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea or tummy pain
  • nausea and being sick

The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also have ear pain and lethargy.

As well, the “Japanese Flu” and the “French Flu” are two other strains that are running rampant, although their symptoms aren’t as severe as those of the Aussie H3N2. The Japanese Flu, also known as the Yamagata flu, is less serious but far more contagious. The French Flu is H1N1 and has been deadly for some sufferers.

The United States is having a bad year also.

Here in the US, an epidemic is rapidly becoming deadly and overwhelming hospitals.

18 people have died in Dallas, Texas from the flu and 27 have died in California. Hospital waiting rooms are jammed with flu victims, the doctors are running out of medication, ambulance services are strained and even IV bags are in short supply. Influenza is widespread in 36 states, according to the CDC.

Here’s the CDC’s map of the flu’s spread throughout the US as of the last day of 2017.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Dormant/Extinct Volcano Erupts for First Time in Recorded History

Another dormant volcano has suddenly awakened erupting in a rather spectacular fashion, spewing lava for the first time in known history, It sent an ash cloud 2.1 kilometers into the sky. This ancient volcano on Kadovar Island, which is northeast of Papua New Guinea, has been dormant throughout hu8man history until January 5th, 2018.  It began to erupt at around noon, local time. The volcanic island is about 24 kilometers from the northern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea. Our model is also showing that there will be a rise in volcanic activity as we move into 2024. We previously warned:“If we see a series of volcanic eruptions in the VEI 6 category or greater within 2018, expect to see a very sharp turn down in temperature and Global Cooling will take on rapid change going into 2024.”It is truly fascinating how this correlates to the change in the energy output of the sun.

Five Spills, Six Months in Operation: Dakota Access Track Record Highlights Unavoidable Reality–Pipelines Leak

Sections of pipe sit at an Energy Transfer Partners LP construction site for the Sunoco Inc. Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline project near Morgantown, Pennsylvania, U.S. on Aug. 4, 2017. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued four notices of violation after "inadvertent" spills of drilling fluids associated with horizontal directional drilling for the project. Photographer: Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo: Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg News/Getty Images

FIVE SPILLS, SIX MONTHS IN OPERATION: DAKOTA ACCESS TRACK RECORD HIGHLIGHTS UNAVOIDABLE REALITY — PIPELINES LEAK

REPRESENTATIVES FROM Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, traveled to Cambridge, Iowa, in October to present a series of $20,000 checks to emergency management departments in six counties. The money was, in part, an acknowledgement of the months of anti-pipeline protests that had taxed local agencies during construction, but it was also a nod to the possibility of environmental contamination. One of the counties had pledged to use its check to purchase “HazMat operations and decontamination training/supplies.” Less than a month later, in Cambridge, the Iowa section of the Dakota Access pipeline would experience its first spill.

According to the standards of most state environmental agencies, it was a small spill that wouldn’t require much attention from emergency managers. On November 14, “excessive vibration” caused 21 gallons of crude to leak out of a crack in a weld connection at one of the pump stations, which are situated along pipelines to keep the product moving and monitor its flow. Since the leak was contained at the site, it went unreported to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, although it did make it into a federal pipeline monitoring database.

The Dakota Access pipeline leaked at least five times in 2017. The biggest was a 168-gallon leak near DAPL’s endpoint in Patoka, Illinois, on April 23. According to federal regulators, no wildlife was impacted, although soil was contaminated, requiring remediation. DAPL went into operation on June 1, along with its under-the-radar sister project, the Energy Transfer Crude Oil pipeline, a natural gas pipeline converted to carry crude. Together, the two make up the Bakken pipeline system. ETCO leaked at least three times in 2017.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pesticide Use Threatens Health in California

Pesticide Use Threatens Health in California

President Trump boasts about all the regulations that he has eliminated but he never mentions the important good that many of these rules were  doing, as Dennis J Bernstein explains.


The battle to protect farmworkers and their families from dangerous pesticides has been going on for decades. But it has always been an uphill struggle because of the power and the money behind the mammoth petrochemical industry. In 2017, farmworkers, their families continued to be exposed to toxic sprays that drift into school zones and other populated areas.

Migrant workers harvest lettuce at Lakeside Organic Gardens in Watsonville, CA on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. (USDA photo by Bob Nichols)

While there have been some improvements and restrictions at the California state level, experts and activists in the field say not nearly enough is being done. And compounding the problem, EPA Director Scott Pruitt took swift action against new regulations that were about to be put into place under President Obama

Dr. Ann Lopez, Director of the Center for Farmworker Families, based in Felton, California,has taught courses in biology, environmental science, ecology and botany in the biology department at San José City College for many years. She is an independent researcher whose research addresses the human side of the binational migration circuit from the subsistence and small producer farms of west central Mexico to employment in California’s corporate agribusiness.

Dr. Lopez has worked with over 33 farmworker families in the Salinas and Pajaro valleys. She has also studied 22 of their family farms in the west central Mexico countryside, and has received recognition and awards for her work.

Dr. Lopez,author of The Farmworkers Journey, was awarded the Human Agenda Ecological Sustainability Award in 2014 and the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County, Inc. awarded her with the Community Game Changer Award in 2015.

I spoke to Dr. Lopez on Dec. 27, 2017 at her office in Felton, California.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Individual vs collective: Are you responsible for fixing climate change?

individual vs collective responsibility for climate action man riding bike

The other day I saw a tweet that had escaped its platform of birth to become a Facebook meme. I can’t find it, but it said something like:

“Can we all please stop acting like ordinary people are to blame for climate change because we won’t take 5 minute showers and go vegan, and not the corporations that make billions from destroying the planet”.

I think this neatly gets to the crux of something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Individual vs collective responsibility for climate action.

Individual action is important

We all need to take responsibility for climate change and take action in our own lives. In fact, it’s hypercritical to demand change unless we do so. Climate change is a big problem, but we can solve it by all doing our bit for the planet, by making small everyday choices.

Do you agree? This a very prevalent view, maybe the most prevalent view on climate change. We’re all to blame and being green is a worthy lifestyle choice.

In the rest of this post I’m going to explain why I’m not keen on this framing. But first we’re going to discuss what’s right about it.

This view does have some merit, let’s be fair. Everyone does contribute to climate change and so we all hold some responsibility, and some power. Many people actually find that very empowering, and I can see why.

Our individual choices do matter.

It’s easy to see little things like buying organic vegetables, using a reusable coffee cup, biking to work, taking shorter showers, taking your own bags to the store and buying recycled paper as so trivial that they won’t make a difference.

But sustainable lifestyle choices do make a difference in the following ways:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

This was Sydney before “Climate Change” hit — fifty degrees

This was Sydney before “Climate Change” hit — fifty degrees:

Penrith may have recorded 47.3C for at least one-second this week, but Windsor is only 23 km north-east of Penrith, and on January 13th, 1939, it recorded 122F or 50.5C with an old fashioned liquid thermometer,  not a modern noisy electronic one.

Apparently, climate change makes our extreme heat less extreme.

Furthermore, this was not measured on a beer crate in someones back-yard, but on the historic Windsor Observatory which was built in 1863 by John Tebbutt F.R.A.S who had discovered The 1861 comet, and published many scientific reports in Astronomical Journals. His meteorological observations are published at Harvard in 1899 (among others). Tebbutt died in 1916, so it’s not clear what instrument the 122 F was recorded on in 1939, but a Stevenson Screen had been installed around 40 years earlier, and the measurement was made by Mr Keith Tebbutt, presumably his son.

Tebbutt’s portrait graced the back of our 100 dollar note from 1984 -1996.

See, Many Collapse in the Heat: Thursday Jan, 12, 1939, The Northern Star

Windsor Observatory

Windsor Observatory | Photo: Winston M. Yang Wyp

All part of Greater Metropolitan Sydney

In 1939, I doubt either town was considered part of Sydney. But now both are on the metro network. Penrith is 54km from the CBD, Windsor, 56km. Notably, Windsor is a few train stops closer than Richmond, which the BOM acknowledges recorded 47.8C in 1939 on January 14, three days after the high of 122F recorded at Windsor.

Apparently Penrith that particular day, January 11th, was 110F, while Richmond was 115F or 46.1C. Neither Penrith nor Windsor appear to be recognised in BOM climate records.

Extreme heat of long ago — 48.2C (118F) at Windsor in 1896:

Thanks to Warwick Hughes, who has been looking at Windsor historic records too:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Flu Outbreak: Medicine Shortages And A Rising Death Toll In California

Flu Outbreak: Medicine Shortages And A Rising Death Toll In California

flu

A severe flu outbreak has struck California making the medicine used to treat the illness sparse, and filling emergency rooms with those suffering from the symptoms. The death toll is also rising rapidly as more and more people are succumbing to the virus.

According to the LA Times, health officials said Friday that 27 people younger than 65 have died of the flu in California since October, compared with three at the same time last year. Nationwide and in California, flu activity spiked sharply in late December and continues to grow. For example, the emergency room at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica typically treats about 140 patients a day, but at least one day this week had more than 200 patients mostly because of the flu, said the ER’s medical director, Dr. Wally Ghurabi. “The Northridge earthquake was the last time we saw over 200 patients,” Ghurabi said.

The flu season normally peaks in February, but experts claim that this year, it’s peaking early, and that’s why there have been so many flu victims.  The flu season is typically worst around February but can reach its height anytime from October to April. Though influenza had only killed three Californians at this time last year, it had taken 68 lives by the end of February, according to state data.

Many California doctors, however, maintain that the recent surge has been unusually severe. “Rates of influenza are even exceeding last year, and last year was one of the worst flu seasons in the last decade,” said Dr. Randy Bergen, clinical lead of the flu vaccine program for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Get used to saying ‘bomb cyclone.’ This is our climate now.

REUTERS / Brian Snyder

Get used to saying ‘bomb cyclone.’ This is our climate now.

Now that one of the strongest nor’easters on record has swirled off to Canada, it’s time to talk about what everyone was thinking during the storm: Is this just what happens now?

Short answer: yes. Get used to it. Wild storms like this week’s massive coastal cyclone will be part of winters in the Anthropocene.

This storm’s frightening name — the “bomb cyclone” — was derived from an obscure meteorological term and caught on after President Donald Trump’s terrifying tweet about nuclear weapons. The storm wasn’t as scary as all that, obviously, but it still spread havoc.

The storm ravaged a swath of the country from Florida to Maine. In South Carolina, rare snow blanketed downtown Charleston. In South Florida, stunned iguanas fell from the trees.

Boston also witnessed its largest coastal flood in history. Amid the usual scenes of buried cars and cute dogs playing in the snow, we also saw waves crashing through a seawall into homes and fire trucks plowing through flooded streets on their way to high-water rescues. At one point, the National Weather Service in Boston warned people not to ride the icebergs that were floating in on the high tide. That’s … unusual.

Storms like this one have always threatened to flood coasts. Seven of New York City’s 10 worst coastal floods on record have been from nor’easters. With rising seas and warming wintertime oceans juicing the power of cyclones, there’s good reason to expect that huge winter storms will pose an increasingly severe risk to coastal communities in the Northeast. In fact, it’s exactly what we expect will happen with climate change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

GMOs, Global Agribusiness and the Destruction of Choice 

GMOs, Global Agribusiness and the Destruction of Choice 

One of the myths perpetuated by the pro-GMO (genetically modified organisms) lobby is that critics of GMOs in agriculture are denying choice to farmers and have an ideological agenda. The narrative is that farmers should have access to a range of tools and technologies, including GM crops.

Before addressing this issue, we should remind ourselves that GMOs have been illegitimately placed on the commercial market due to the bypassing of regulations. Steven Druker’s book Altered Genes,Twisted Truths (2015) indicates that the commercialisation of GM food in the US was based on a massive fraud. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) files revealed that GM foods first achieved commercialisation in 1992 but only because the FDA covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about their dangers, lied about the facts and then violated federal food safety law by permitting GM food to be marketed without having been proven safe through standard testing.

If the FDA had heeded its own experts’ advice and publicly acknowledged their warnings that GM foods entailed higher risks than their conventional counterparts, Druker says that the GM food venture would have imploded and never gained traction anywhere.

It is highly convenient for the pro-GMO lobby to talk about choice while ignoring such a massive subversion of democratic procedures and processes which could (and arguably is) changing the genetic core of the world’s food.

The denial of choice is a very important accusation. But just what is it that critics are said to be denying farmers? The pro-GMO lobby say that GM crops can increase yields, reduce the use of agrochemicals and are required if we are to feed the world. To date, however, the track record of GMOs is unimpressive.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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