Years after the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, it is still radioactive and dangerous. In spite of the 30 year or more timeline to clean up the mess, Japan has moved ahead to re-start other nuclear reactors.
While the Japanese have a reputation for bravery, the reopening of the Sendai nuclear plant in the shadow of Sakurajima volcano may be considered a touch foolhardy. Sakurajima volcano is that nation’s most active and currently increasing in activity. Local residents were advised in August that they may have to evacuate quickly.
The Sendai One reactor is 50 km from the active volcano and in the vicinity of five caldera, indicating massive eruptions in the past. Japanese authorities have stated that any danger is negligible. To reinforce that confidence, Sendai Two was restarted on October 15.
Other restarts are in the pipeline. Shikoku Electric has their Ikata 3 reactor approved for restart and Kansai Electric’s Takahama 3 and 4 reactors are likely to get the go-ahead to resume power generation early in 2016.
While the ruined Fukushima complex is still festering, the Japanese government has engaged a UK company, Ame Foster Wheeler to conduct a study to help develop a strategy to deal with the massive amount of radioactive waste collected in the efforts to clean up the plant. Some of the radioactive water is being stored in leaky tanks that periodically leak highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Many tonnes of contaminated soil have simply been black bagged and stacked in open air outside areas.
Japan has tightened safety regulations for restarting their nuclear reactors, but many are on the coastline and vulnerable to tsunamis which is what finished off the Fukushima complex. Japan is also active seismically which means frequent earthquakes and active volcanoes. In addition, the country is often hit with destructive typhoons.
The Fukushima accident and meltdown displaced about 150 000 people and left whole towns empty and unusable.
ABC Net News
Nuclear Energy Institute
Refugees -- too many, too much noise, too much garbage. Humans are messy creatures and when you have a mass exodus from a war zone you get some unwanted side effects. Millions of people have been displaced by the wars in the Middle East and many are risking their lives to start anew in safer places.
Some countries in Europe are slamming their borders shut, saying that they cannot cope with the thousands of people on the move. Hungary has shut its borders. Chain link and razor wire greet the refugees. The Hungarian authorities have threatened to deport the refugees to their home countries, no matter that there is a particularly nasty war raging.
Slovakia is stopping people at its borders and only allowing smaller groups to transit their territory.
Some countries like Sweden, Austria and most notably Germany have committed to take many of the asylum seekers. But Der Spiegel is reporting that in Germany the welcome mat is beginning to wear thin. The small village of Hesepe in Lower Saxony has 2 500 residents. They are currently hosting 4 000 safety seekers. Disruption to the usual way of life is inevitable, yet the residents remain remarkably hospitable.
Other areas have not been so welcoming. Bigots and white supremists have been blamed for fire bombing a recently completed apartment building planned to house refugees.
Germany has registered over 400 000 people fleeing warfare between September 5 and October 15, a staggering number. Basic supplies and shelters are lacking in many areas.
With winter fast approaching, Chancellor Angela Merkel made an emergency trip to Turkey to speak with their president about slowing the crush of people. It is not clear if any real changes would be made in Turkey to entice refugees to stay in that country. While that state has basic facilities for refugees, some have been lingering there three and four years. They are not allowed work permits so remain supplicants of the state. President ErdoAan has stated that he would not turn Turkey into “a concentration camp” for the benefit of Europe.
The plight of the people trying to reach safer ground is the lead story on the television news stations. Cold rain is falling on the people and children are falling ill. There seems to be no coordinated plans to deal with the reality of the large movement of people.
To add to the difficulties of housing and sheltering the refugees, hundreds of thousands of migrants have targeted Europe as a way to a better life. Italy has borne the brunt of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
Yet what Europe is currently coping with may be just the beginning of mass human movements. It has been predicted that global warming in the next 50 years will displace hundreds of millions of people who can no longer survive in their traditional homelands.
UN Refugee Agency
A British nurse, Pauline Cafferkey, is fighting for her life in a London hospital. She had volunteered to work during the Ebola virus crisis last year. She served with the Save the Children hospital in Sierra Leone.
Upon deplaning in Heathrow in late December, she reported not feeling well, but was cleared to continue to Glasgow. Shortly afterwards she became acutely ill and was transferred to a London hospital equipped to deal with EVDs. She made a recovery from the infection and was discharged from the hospital in late February. She then went about her business.
On October 9th she was again in a London hospital fighting for her life. Her last reported condition is critical.
Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said the news was “frankly staggering.” The Independent
She is the first person to be diagnosed with a life threatening resurgence of the disease.
Previously some of the survivors had health complications that included rashes, infections and eye problems. There is growing evidence that the virus may remain in the body for months after fighting off the disease. The eye and central nervous system as well as testes and pregnant uteri are suspected capable of harbouring it.
There have been studies undertaken to discover whether the disease might be present in semen. It is. It has been present as long as nine months after the initial infection. Now it is recommended that recovered men should be issued with condoms and either refrain from sex or practice safe sex until their semen has been tested twice and shown to be EV free.
The danger is not merely theoretical. There has been a confirmed transmission of EVD between a man who recovered and his sexual partner who caught the disease and died. The connection has been confirmed by tracing the genes involved.
There have been 65 people identified as close contacts with nurse Cafferkey. Twenty-five have received the vaccination against the virus. The vaccination has proved effective in West Africa.
Medical News Today
Were you born in the summer or winter? New research is beginning to show that babies born in June, July and August generally have a life-long health advantage. Those infants born in December, January and February start life with a health deficit and those born in October fare the worst of all.
Dr. John Perry, University of Cambridge, was the lead researcher in a massive, 450 000 person study of birth and seasonality. Keying on birth dates rather than education, wealth or many other factors ensured a cross section of British society. The results were valid across society.
“When you were conceived and born occurs largely ‘at random’ – it’s not affected by social class, your parents’ ages or their health – so looking for patterns with birth month is a powerful study design to identify influences of the environment before birth.” Dr. Perry, UK Biobank
Seasonality of pregnancies was found to affect the fetus in utero, setting up programming in the baby that continued throughout its life. Key findings for summer babies were:
A factor that seems to play an important part is Vitamin D, also known as the Sunshine Vitamin. They found that the second trimester seemed most important in the pregnancy for have a positive effect on the fetus.
While humans can manufacture all the vitamin D they need to stay healthy, they can only do it if their skin is exposed to sunlight. Those people living where there is cold weather tend to use up their store of the essential vitamin if they don’t supplement with diet. In Canada, cow’s milk, infant formula and margarine are artificially supplemented with it. Oily fish can supply vitamin D.
The Sunshine Vitamin has long been known to protect teeth and bones. It has more recently thought to be protective of the immune system, important in preventing diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and cancers. Now it seems it is protecting us even before we are born.
Medical News Today
Dietitians of Canada
Scientists working at the US National Institute of Health have made some intriguing discoveries about ALS aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease and officially as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is a neurodegenerative disease which has no treatment and no cure. All people who develop it will have a shortened life span.
They have found that in people with ALS have viral particles that have become activated. These viral particles have been carried along in the people’s DNA and become activated. Viral particles in human DNA are normal but usually not active. Often they simply sit there doing nothing and are referred to as “junk DNA”.
Dr. Avindra Nath observed that sometimes people with HIV exhibited symptoms akin to ALS but these symptoms could be reversed with the use of antiviral drugs. It inspired him to study the possibility that a class of viruses known as retroviruses may have a role in causing the neuron destroying disease. They devised a study using a mouse model. The mice were genetically engineered to activate the retrovirus carried in their genetic code. They exhibited signs of death of motor neurons, the same neurons that die in humans with ALS.
Then they treated some of the mice with an antiretroviral drug. The mice improved.
It is very early days yet, but Dr. Nath is optimistic and has planned Stage 1 testing.
We may have discovered a precision medicine solution for treating a neurodegenerative disorder," said Dr. Nath. Science Daily
What triggers the start of this deadly disease is still unknown. There are two kinds of ALS – Sporadic and Familial. Familial presents a greater risk of developing the disease through inheritance. Sporadic trigger is unknown, but the ALS Association mentions that military veterans are twice as likely as the rest of the population to develop this neurodegenerative disease.
Viruses are a strange group of infective particles. They are unable to reproduce on their own, but require the hijacking of a host’s DNA to reproduce. They stitch themselves into the genome of a host cell and subdue its defenses in order to produce more viral particles. Often the infected cell dies. Sometimes they stitch themselves into a host’s DNA and ride along for generations before causing a disease.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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