Daily Archives: July 17, 2009

Councilors’ vote to pull fluoride from Fort St. John’s water supply

Fort St. John’s drinking water might soon be free of fluoride.

Energeticcity.ca | Jul 13, 2009

At Monday night’s City Council Meeting, councilors agreed to remove the chemical from the City’s water supply.

Director of Infrastructure Victor Shopland, says the current amount of fluroide in the drinking water sits at .7 parts per million. Which, he says can be beneficial if a leak occurs.

Mayor Bruce Lantz says he would rather see the chemical banned, than decrease it by a small margin.

Councilor Larry Evans agrees. He says fluoride might have been slightly beneficial 40 years ago, but he says nowadays, the cons outweigh the pros.

On the June 24th meeting, concerned resident Dorothy Folk presented a report to Council, detailing the negative effects of fluoride in drinking water. She also provided 1200 signatures from residents who wanted the issue revisted. The last referendum on fluoride happened in the 1970’s.

Now, the City doesn’t have to go towards a referendum because of a change to the Community Charter. However, the City will seek ministerial approval before it impliments a ban.

Countries plan for mass vaccinations against swine flu


A Thai Muslim woman wear a mask as she sits waiting to undergo a medical check up in a hospital

AFP | Jul 15, 2009

ROME (AFP) — The “unstoppable” swine flu pandemic Tuesday raised fears of millions of cases by next year and countries talked about mass vaccinations, while South America sought a united front to combat the disease.

Italy predicted it may have dealt with between three and four million cases of swine flu by March 2010, the country’s deputy health minister Ferruccio Fazio said Tuesday.

He added that by the end of this year some 8.6 million Italians would have been vaccinated against the A(H1N1) virus, with the most vulnerable and those working in the emergency services given priority.

His comments came a day after the World Health Organisation said all countries were going to need vaccines against the virus because the swine flu pandemic was now unstoppable.

Italy with a total of 224 infections so far has not reported any deaths. Elsewhere in Europe Tuesday Croatia reported three new swine flu infections while Turkey said the number of swine flu cases has more than doubled in less than two weeks, reaching 95.

Talk of mass vaccination campaigns was reported around the globe with Germany saying it envisioned having to order some 25 million doses of a vaccine now under development to immunise nearly a third of its population.

Australia, the Asia-Pacific region’s worst-hit country, was bracing to immunise the entire population against swine flu and has already placed an advance order for 21 million courses of a vaccine.

Federal chief medical officer Jim Bishop, expressing hope that the government could launch a nationwide immunisation drive by October, warned that the “hard-edged” virus was now infecting young and healthy people.

Six people younger than 40 who had otherwise been healthy remained on life support in Sydney after swine flu severely damaged their lungs, officials said.

Australia is already in the southern hemisphere winter, and officials fear the consequences if swine flu mutates into something deadlier in combination with the regular strain of influenza.

With the global death toll from A(H1N1) now reaching at least 429, WHO director of vaccine research Marie-Paul Kieny said Monday that a swine flu vaccine should be available as early as September.

At the same time, WHO chief Margaret Chan Tuesday warned that poverty will prevent some countries from gaining access to swine flu vaccines, as she criticised a bias in favour of richer nations.

“Manufacturing capacity for influenza vaccines is finite and woefully inadequate for a world of 6.8 billion people, nearly all of whom are susceptible to infection by this entirely new and highly contagious virus,” she told delegates attending a World Intellectual Property Organisation conference in Geneva.

“The lion’s share of these limited supplies will go to wealthy countries. Again we see the advantage of affluence. Again we see access denied by an inability to pay,” she said.

In South America, health ministers from six countries will meet Wednesday to seek a coordinated response to fighting the epidemic, which Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has called “the worst in 50 years”.

Argentina, which alone has reported at least 94 flu-related deaths, will host the meeting of ministers from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Elsewhere on the continent, now in its winter season, Ecuador reported Tuesday the disease has spread to 14 of the country’s 24 provinces, with the total number of infections at 264 with three deaths.

And in Peru, some 15,000 doctors have called for a nationwide protest on Wednesday to demand better prevention against swine flu, which has claimed at least five lives and infected around 2,000 people so far in that country.

“We demand addressing adequately the needs of hospitals in order to prevent further mistakes in the treatment of swine flu and to avoid more deaths,” Leoncio Diaz, president of the Peruvian Medical Federation (FMP), told AFP.

An infant boy died in a Madrid hospital due to a medical error after his mother died from swine flu. She was Spain’s first fatality from the disease.

Morocco’s king announced Tuesday he will charter a plane to repatriate the remains as well as family members.

Italy plans mass vaccination for swine flu

Associated Press | Jul 15, 2009

Italy is planning a mass vaccination campaign to immunize 8.6 million people from swine flu by the end of the year.

The Health Ministry said Tuesday the vaccine will be given to about 15 percent of the population, including those under age 65 who are especially at risk or have chronic diseases and “essential” personnel, such as police officers, firefighters and health workers.

Deputy Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio says another wave of vaccinations is planned for February, targeting children aged 2-20.

He said the vaccinations would reduce the spread of the virus, possibly limiting the number of cases in Italy to 3-4 million by March, instead of some 13 million if nothing is done.

So far Italy has reported 224 cases of swine flu and no deaths.

Minnesota experiences record cold wind chills for July

July wind chill — record chill likely

MinnPost | Jul 17, 2009

By Paul Douglas

* Record (cool) July 16 in St. Cloud – high only 66 F. More records likely today, including the Twin Cities, where the predicted high is 64. The record for the coolest high on July 17 at MSP is 66, set in 1939. We should break it.

* Minnesota waking up to rare July wind chill – feels like 40s out there this morning.

* Gray, almost October-like Friday, temperatures hold in the 60s (50s far north). More records may be set for the coolest July 17 on record.


Mysterious, Glowing Clouds Appear Across America’s Night Skies

Noctilucent clouds

The sky over Omaha on July 14th, snapped by Mike Hollingshead at Extreme Instability

Wired | Jul 16, 2009

By Alexis Madrigal

Mysterious, glowing clouds previously seen almost exclusively in Earth’s polar regions have appeared in the skies over the United States and Europe over the past several days.

Photographers and other sky watchers in Omaha, Paris, Seattle, and other locations have run outside to capture images of what scientists call noctilucent (”night shining”) clouds. Formed by ice literally at the boundary where the earth’s atmosphere meets space 50 miles up, they shine because they are so high that they remain lit by the sun even after our star is below the horizon.

The clouds might be beautiful, but they could portend global changes caused by global warming. Noctilucent clouds are a fundamentally new phenomenon in the temperate mid-latitude sky, and it’s not clear why they’ve migrated down from the poles. Or why, over the last 25 years, more of them are appearing in the polar regions, too, and shining more brightly.

“That’s a real concern and question,” said James Russell, an atmospheric scientist at Hampton University and the principal investigator of an ongoing NASA satellite mission to study the clouds. “Why are they getting more numerous? Why are they getting brighter? Why are they appearing at lower latitudes?”

Glowing Clouds Filmed from Space Station

Nobody knows for sure, but most of the answers seem to point to human-caused global atmospheric change.

Noctilucent clouds were first observed in 1885 by an amateur astronomer. No observations of anything resembling noctilucent clouds before that time has ever been found. There is no lack of observations of other phenomena in the sky, so atmospheric scientists are fairly sure that the phenomenon is recent, although they are not sure why.

Over the last 125 years, scientists have learned how the clouds form. At temperatures around minus 230 degrees Fahrenheit, dust blowing up from below or falling into the atmosphere from space provides a resting spot for water vapor to condense and freeze. Right now, during the northern hemisphere’s summer, the atmosphere is heating up and expanding. At the outside edge of the atmosphere, that actually means that it’s getting colder because it’s pushed farther out into space.

It’s not hard to see how a warming Earth could change those dynamics: as the globe heats up, the top of the atmosphere should get colder.

“The prevailing theory and most plausible explanation is that CO2 buildup, at 50 miles above the surface, would cause the temperature decrease,” Russell said. He cautioned, however, that temperature observations remain inconclusive.

The global changes that appear to be reshaping noctilucent cloud distribution could be much more complex, said Vincent Wickwar, an atmospheric scientist at Utah State University whose team was first to report a mid-latitude noctilucent cloud in 2002. Temperature does not explain their observations from around 42 degrees latitude.

“To get the noctilucent clouds you need temperatures that are about 20 degrees Kelvin colder than what we see on average up there,” Wickwar said. “We may have effects from CO2 or methane but it would only be a degree or a fraction of a degree.”

Instead, Wickwar’s explanation is that a vertical atmospheric wave discovered in their LIDAR data lowered the temperature in the region above their radar installation near Logan, Utah. But then you have to ask, he noted, “Where’d the wave come from?”

They don’t really have an answer yet. Other facilities around the world with similar LIDAR capacity haven’t reported similar waves. And the Rocky Mountains, near Wickwar’s lab, can cause atmospheric waves, which could be a special feature of his location.

Other theories abound to explain the observed changes in the clouds. Human-caused increases in atmospheric methane, which oxidizes into carbon dioxide and water vapor, could be providing more water for ice in the stratosphere. Increases in the amount of cosmic or terrestrial dust in the stratosphere could also increase the number of brightly shining clouds.

Two years into Russell’s NASA project, more questions exist than firm answers. They will have at least three and a half more years, though, to gather good data on upper atmospheric dynamics.

The recent observations of noctilucent clouds at all kinds of latitudes provide an extra impetus to understand what is going on up there. Changes are occurring faster than scientists can understand their causes.

“I suspect, as many of us feel, that it is global change, but I fear we don’t understand it,” Wickwar said. “It’s not as simple as a temperature change.”

Killings of Russia’s Human-Rights Activists Continue

APTOPIX Russia Activist

Lana, center, 15-year-old daughter of slain rights activist Natalya Estemirova, cries in a mourning procession while heading to a cemetery for burial in Koshkeldy, 70 km (44 miles) east of Grozny, Chechnya, Thursday, July 16, 2009. Weeping mourners escorted the body of Natalya Estemirova through Chechnya’s capital on Thursday, honoring the activist whose brazen kidnapping and execution-style killing shocked Russia’s beleaguered human rights community and prompted international outrage. AP Photo

Time | Jul 16, 2009

By John Wendle / Moscow

The fight for free speech and human rights in Russia suffered another devastating blow on July 15, when the body of Chechnya’s most outspoken human-rights activist was found dumped by the side of a road. Natalya Estemirova, 50, had been killed execution-style, shot in the head and chest, just hours after being kidnapped from outside her home in Grozny, the capital of the republic situated in Russia’s troubled North Caucasus region. The murder has sparked international outrage and prompted calls for a closer look at the atrocities that have been committed in the North Caucasus, and in Chechnya especially, since the start of Russia’s Chechen wars in 1994.

Estemirova, a researcher and activist for the highly respected Russian human-rights-defense organization Memorial, was abducted early Wednesday morning as she was walking to catch a bus to work. According to Memorial head Oleg Orlov, who spoke with neighbors who had witnessed the kidnapping, she was hustled into a white car by four unknown men. Eight hours later, police found her body in the violence-plagued neighboring republic of Ingushetia. (Read “Moscow Removes Ingushetia President.”)


The Putin Murders

“She was fearless, and boldly defended the truth and protected the interests of people,” Shamkhan Akbulatov, head of Memorial in Chechnya, told Russian news agency Itar-Tass. “She was killed because of her professional work.” Prosecutors investigating the case agree, saying the murder was linked either to her work or a personal enemy.

Indeed, Estemirova’s determined efforts over the past decade to uncover and document extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances and kidnappings in Chechnya had made her many enemies, including Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, the republic’s Kremlin-backed President. She had also become a thorn in the side of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who as President presided over the Second Chechen War, which began in 1999 and ended in 2002. (See pictures of Putin.)

Her most recent research included contributions to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that accused the Chechen government of burning more than two dozen homes in punitive attacks against the families of suspected rebels. She also exposed the recent summary public execution of a young suspected separatist by a security officer in Chechnya. On the day of her murder, a 600-page report that she had helped research was released by Russian human-rights groups. The report exhaustively documents atrocities committed by all sides during the two Chechen wars and concludes that there is sufficient evidence to demand that Putin, among other officials, be held to account for war crimes carried out while he was in power.

“In Chechnya, the government creates an atmosphere of fear and mistrust,” Estemirova said in 2007, as she accepted HRW’s Human Rights Defender Award. “Those who witness abuse keep silent, for if they speak, they can soon become a victim. Can you imagine living each day wondering who might turn you in to the government for saying the wrong thing?”

Estemirova’s murder marks the second assassination of a Russian human-rights figure this year, after the shooting of lawyer Stanislav Markelov in January, and the seventh killing in 10 months of opponents of Kadyrov, including two in broad daylight in central Moscow. “It seems to be open season on anyone trying to highlight the appalling human-rights abuses in Chechnya,” said Kenneth Roth, HRW’s head, in a statement. “It’s high time the Russian government acted to stop these killings and prosecute those responsible.” (Read “Murder in Moscow: A Lawyer Gunned Down.”)

While human-rights activists in Russia have been pointing the finger at Kadyrov — “I know, I am sure of it, who is guilty for the murder of Natalya … His name is Ramzan Kadyrov,” said Orlov, Memorial’s chairman, in a statement on the organization’s website — the Interfax news agency reports that hours after the murder, Kadyrov released a statement calling those who carried out the killing “monstrous” and saying that they “deserve no support and must be punished as the cruelest of criminals.”

The White House has also condemned the killing, calling it “especially shocking” that it happened a week after President Barack Obama met with activists, including those from Memorial, in Moscow. “Such a heinous crime sends a chilling signal to Russian civil society and the international community, and illustrates the tragic deterioration of security and the rule of law in the North Caucasus over the last several months,” said White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer in a statement. (See pictures of Obama in Russia.)

And in Moscow, Russian President Dimitri Medvedev responded swiftly to news of Estemirova’s murder, in sharp contrast to the three-day silence from then President Putin that followed the killing of crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a friend and colleague of Estemirova’s. Medvedev expressed “indignation” and said the government would “take all necessary measures” to solve the crime. (Read “Murder, Russian-Style: Political Assassination.”)

Yet many in the human-rights community doubt the will of the government to solve the murder of one so committed to unearthing crimes committed by the Kremlin. For Medvedev, Estemirova’s killing represents a twofold problem. It brings into ever-increasing doubt the claims he made when elected last year that he would restore the rule of law in Russia, and it highlights the rising level of violence in the North Caucasus, where the Kremlin has backed Kadyrov in a mostly successful effort to quell fighting in Chechnya. Now the methods of Kadyrov, and those of the Kremlin, have been called into question, and the chance for justice in the Caucasus looks increasingly slim.

News reports: Obama born in Africa

Ghana paper calls Africa ‘continent of his birth’

WorldNetDaily | Jul 11, 2009

An African news site and an MSNBC broadcaster have delivered new references to President Obama’s birthplace as being outside of the United States, even as a controversy has developed over a letter purporting to be from the president claiming Kapi’olani hospital in Honolulu as his birth location.

Network correspondent Mara Schiavocampo was reporting on the celebratory atmosphere in Accra, Ghana, immediately prior to Obama’s visit to the west African nation today.

Interviewing a person who appeared to be a shop operator, she suggested, “Barack Obama is Kenyan … but Ghanaians are still proud of him.”

Her report talks about the party atmosphere and the Obama fan clubs who has posted “Welcome home” signs.

“Although this may seem insignificant, it clearly stated an assumption about Obama’s heritage that is clearly understood by African citizens and NBC as well,” a WND reader said.

Meanwhile, a report at Modern Ghana also posted in advance of the president’s visit cited his birthplace on the continent of Africa.

“For Ghana, Obama’s visit will be a celebration of another milestone in African history as it hosts the first-ever African-American president on this presidential visit to the continent of his birth,” the report said.