An epidemic has been growing among the drug users in British Columbia. Deaths from overdoses have been climbing exponentially as the drug fentanyl has infiltrated the market. Vancouver’s safe injection site, Insite, conducted testing on drugs. Clients coming to the site to use drugs more safely were offered the opportunity to test their substances for fentanyl.
Drugs tests over a four week period this summer showed that 86% carried the possibly lethal chemical. Those that tests for heroin showed a 90% incidence of contamination with fentanyl.
Vancouver has two supervised drug injection sites, the only two in the country.
This latest increased danger to those who inject illicit drugs has activists calling for more sites to be set up across the country. The government has declared that the climbing number of deaths from overdoses to be a public health emergency.
In the first six months in BC there have been 371 deaths due to overdoses. 60% of the deaths involved fentanyl. In a move to try to help, health care workers have made available for the asking, overdose kits.
While Insite deals mainly with injection drug users, fentanyl is also being blamed for other drug deaths. It has been found in cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy and unknown mixtures.
Contrary to what many may think, illicit drug use is not limited to “down and outers” but may be found in all walks and income levels. Some of the dead have been only occasional drug takers. Underlining this is the death of superstar Prince in June from taking fentanyl. A grieving father of a 17 year old in Vancouver spoke about the death of his son when he took a pill laced with the deadly substance.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is about 100 times stronger than heroin and 80 times stronger than morphine. It has legitimate uses in surgery and the control of severe pain.
The drug can be synthesized by criminal chemists in black laboratories. It has been alleged that the source currently is Asia and that it is being imported by organized criminals.
If you or a loved one takes street drugs of any kind, it is most important to know your dealer. Even then, what was safe before may not be safe today. The web site Know Your Source may give you some safety tips, but the only truly safe way is to never take street drugs.
Know your source
Over 300 pigs imported for slaughter in Hong Kong have been found to have been tainted with salbutamol and clenbuterol, a banned substance. The drugs are supposed to be used to treat asthma, but can encourage quick growth in animals as well as encourage lean growth. They are sometimes consumed by sport cheats to gain advantage over ‘clean’ athletes.
Hong Kong imports over 90% of the pork consumed. Only 6% is produced in the former colony. Two hundred registered farms on mainland China supply the animals for slaughter. This amounts to about 4000 pig per day.
There is a testing system in place, but it seems to have failed the consumers. The government testing agency states that the animals are killed only after they have been tested and cleared, while the slaughter houses state that if they do not hear from the testing agency they kill the animals.
The suggestion that animals be tested and held for 24 hours before slaughter in order to ensure that all test results are in order was not well received. The added cost to the consumer was given as one reason. Another reason given was that it would not be healthy for the pigs to remain in crowded conditions before being killed.
There is an investigation as to whether the pigs were administered the drugs while on their way to market as the levels were “unusually high”.
The HK secretary for food and health castigated the inspection division and in a press conference put the blame squarely on them. The HK government stated that they would reimburse the merchants for the tainted meat.
Food scandals are an ongoing problem in the PRC. The site The Daily Meal has passed on what they saw as the top four food scandals of 2015. Perhaps the scandals will be fewer in 2016 due to new laws passed last October.
South China Morning Post
The Daily Meal
The Green Revolution made is possible for agriculture to increase yields exponentially, saving millions of people from starvation. Part of the Green Revolution of the 60s and 70s was the introduction of widespread irrigation that allowed crops to be grown in areas previously thought too dry.
In the American west, a huge underground aquifer known as the Ogallala Aquifer or the High Plains Aquifer, has provided water to eight states and supported extensive farming activities. Land once considered too dry to farm has become a major producer of grains to the world. The US crops in 2014 were valued at around USD 125 billion.
While the money associated with the sale of agricultural products is an important addition to the US economy, many people in developing countries depend on the generosity of that government in the form of food aid. That aid may be tapering off over the next few years as drought and the drawing down of water sources becomes more acute.
The Ogallala Aquifer is becoming depleted. It is estimated that the reservoir may have filled 15 000 years ago. Some of it is replenished in the rainy season, but states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas lack enough rainfall to balance the water withdrawal. The US Department of Agriculture is taking steps to educate and support those in the dry land states to slow the depletion of the resource.
The depletion of ground water is not confined to the USA. Aquifers in S. America and N. Europe and Russia are in good shape. Those in Mexico, North Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Upper Ganges Valley and the N. China Plain are being drawn down faster than they are being replenished.
A find of fossil water in Libya has allowed for extensive agriculture in what was once desert. Using fossil water is much like mining for a valuable ore. It will not be replenished.
With the combination of a rapidly increasing population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2040, the demands on water supplies will continue to increase whether it is for agriculture, energy production, drinking.
[Fossil water or paleowater is groundwater that has remained sealed in an aquifer for a long period of time. Water can rest underground in “fossil aquifers” for thousands or even millions of years.18 Oct 2010]
The World Health Organization is scrambling to deliver enough yellow fever vaccine to cities in central Africa. An epidemic is burning through the populations of non-immune people in the urban centres. The potentially lethal disease is spread by mosquitoes. The Aedes adgypti is the species that is the vector.
Conditions in the rapidly growing urban centres in Africa make for easy mosquito breeding. The close proximity of non-immune people in often poor conditions make for the potential for rapidly spreading epidemics.
The potentially lethal disease is completely preventable with a one-time vaccination. The vaccine has not been a top priority for quite some time. Only four facilities are producing the vaccination and it takes a year and a half to complete the process. Currently about 6 million doses are available world wide.
The outbreak in Kinshasa, DRC, needs 16 million doses to quell the epidemic. The current epidemic started in Angola. The oil exporting country had cut back on public sanitation projects due to the drop in oil revenues which set up a perfect mosquito breeding scenario. Mosquitoes can lay eggs in very small amounts of still water that will hatch into disease carriers.
The disease was initially misdiagnosed as food poisoning which allowed it to spread unchecked. When it was correctly identified, a series of mistakes like improper refrigeration, no syringes to administer the vaccine and what still has the health workers mystified, one million doses gone missing. Because mosquitoes don’t respect political boundaries it has now spread to the centre of the continent.
Kinshasa is trying to cope with the epidemic coupled with lack of vaccine by spraying insecticide over any surfaces that may harbour A. Egypti. They are also doing a garbage sweep to try to reduce the number of breeding sites.
The spread of yellow fever and the apparent fumbling of the initial outbreak has WHO worried. Cases have popped up in Kenya but also in China which houses A. Aegypti. In fact any country that can support that breed of mosquito is vulnerable to the disease if it enters the insect population there.
A aegypti mosquito are now distributed to every continent.
The Washington Post
Dozens hacked to death in DR Congo
64 bodies have been recovered in the DRC province of North Kivu.
The death toll is expected to rise as searchers continue scanning the area.
The attacks occurred in the town of Beni near the DRC Uganda border. The gruesome scene was still developing when the 64 bodies hacked to death were discovered.
The massacre was blamed on the Allied Democratic Force(ADF), a nominally Muslim group that opposes the current president of Uganda.
The ADF suffered losses in Uganda and now shelters in the border forests of the DCR. The fight between the governing body in Uganda and the ADF has been continuing for 20 years and has resulted in at least 600 civilian deaths.
The number of women and girls raped has not been confirmed.
It is commonly used as a weapon of war in these vicious wars. Abductions of children commonly occur.The ADF has been condemned for its violations of basic human rights.
The area around Beni is rich in natural resources.
The ADF has been financing of their guerilla actions through the sale of wood and gold. It has also been alleged that Sudan has helped to finance the terrorist group as it furthers their interests in a proxy war with Uganda.
The DRC is undergoing political unrest at this time as well as the current president is seeking to change the constitution to allow him to be re-elected for a third term.
The Congolese president has called on the top commander of the UN peacekeepers to be deported. He has declared Scott Campbell a “persona non grata” because of his criticism of local police.
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