16 Dec 2016 – Did Planet IX Tilt the Solar System?

Ann Morrison
By Ann Morrison January 4, 2017 16:45

Update as of 16 December 2016

John-Ann Strep carriers-Aerosol Calcium Carbonate-Judge says AG must give Exxon

Dr Deagle-Ann Fracking-Strep-Zika in Texas

Contents

Biosecurity: Flavivirus Zika

Biosecurity: Fusarium

Biosecurity: Poison

Biosecurity: Superbug

Radiation

Climate Change

Constitution – Crony Capitalism

Solar

Seismic

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Climate Change

Arctic Ozone Watch 12 December 2016

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA

Arctic Ozone Watch 12 December 2016

NASA

https://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/Scripts/big_image.php?date=2016-12-12&hem=N

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Antarctic Ozone Hole Watch 12 December 2016

NASA

Antarctic Ozone Hole Watch 12 December 2016

NASA

https://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/Scripts/big_image.php?date=2016-12-12&hem=S

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Northern Jet Stream much smaller than Southern

2016-12-15-1800-UTC-Wind-at-250hPa-Source-GFS-NCEP-US-National-Weather-Service-Orthographic-Projection

Nullschool

Nullschool

https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/isobaric/250hPa/orthographic/loc=-82.854,35.705

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National Current Large Fire Incidents for December 15, 2016

National Incident Fire Control

2016-12-15

National Incident Fire Control

https://fsapps.nwcg.gov/afm/

 

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Scientists Want to Give the Atmosphere an Antacid to Relieve Climate Change

It won’t solve the underlying problem, but “geoengineering” may have just gotten a bit safer.

Particle number density per cubic centimeter as a function of latitude and altitude

PNAS

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/12/07/1615572113.full.pdf

December 12, 2016, 2:27 PM CST

As long-term global average temperatures steadily rise, and international efforts to address them steadily fall short, some scientists and engineers are working on increasingly desperate solutions to the symptoms of global climate change.

One approach to “geoengineering” the earth is to mimic the natural atmospheric cooling effect that tends to follow the massive dispersion of sulfur dioxide into the air during a volcanic eruption. There are a few obvious problems with this approach. For instance, it’s unclear what nation or international body would be authorized to release the sulfur dioxide. The chemical is also a pollutant that can cause acid rain. It might indirectly both eat away at the layer of ozone that protects living things from ultraviolet light and warm the lower part of the stratosphere above the tropics, about 19 miles up.

A group of Harvard researchers led by David Keith, a professor of applied physics and public policy, just proposed a different solution in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. An aerosol of calcium carbonate would have a similar cooling effect as sulfur dioxide on the upper atmosphere and help protect the ozone layer as a bonus.

The approach is akin to giving the atmosphere a handful of antacid tablets. The aerosol would block some incoming solar energy and neutralize airborne acid particles that are bad for the ozone.

The new study opens the world’s atmosphere-seeding options beyond sulfur dioxide, which has caused much debate inside and outside the scientific community. Turning to a calcium compound that’s among the most common on earth “could have significantly less environmental risk than sulfate aerosol,” the authors write.

The paper echoes admonishments made last year in a National Research Council

The paper echoes admonishments made last year in a National Research Council study about “albedo modification,” a scientific phrase that means increasing the earth’s ability to reflect incoming sunlight. The committee that undertook the study was “concerned that understanding of the ethical, political, and environmental consequences of an albedo modification action is relatively less advanced than the technical capacity to execute it.”

To put it plainly: Knowing how to do something doesn’t necessarily make doing it a great idea.

Accessed at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-12/scientists-want-to-give-the-atmosphere-an-antacid-to-relieve-climate-change on December 14, 2016.

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Buzzing Ice Shelf Makes Waves in the Air Above

The resonant vibrations of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica are disturbing the atmosphere above it, creating huge ripples.

Antarctica is home to a number of ice shelves such as the Ross Ice Shelf

Credit Ted Scambos/NSIDC

Antarctica is home to a number of ice shelves. The formations are also found along Arctic coastlines. Credit: Ted Scambos, NSIDC

 

The Ross Ice Shelf extends from the edge of the Antarctic continent across the Ross Sea for hundreds of kilometers. Credit: Josh Landis/NSF

Hydrology, Cryosphere & Earth Surface Research Spotlight
Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

Researchers look at the link between ice shelf vibrations and atmospheric ripples.

By Mark Zastrow 7 December 2016

Earlier this year, scientists reported mysterious waves appearing in the skies above Antarctica. These enormous ripples occur in the stratosphere and above, like mountainous swells of air that rise and fall over a period of hours.

A new study by Godin and Zabotin suggests an unlikely cause: vibrations in the massive ice shelf below, which buzzes at the same frequency. If true, the finding may also help scientists better understand the ice shelf itself.

That frozen slab, the Ross Ice Shelf, is the size of France and is several hundred meters thick. It bobs, very slowly, atop the Ross Sea, where the Antarctic ice sheet flows off the continent and out across the water for hundreds of kilometers. The atmospheric waves reported earlier this year were observed at McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic base, situated on an island poking through the ice shelf.

Revealed through lidar observations, these waves propagate through the atmosphere, from altitudes of 30 up to 110 kilometers. As they move upward, they cause rivers of air 20 kilometers high to shift back and forth every 3–10 hours. At first, their origins were unclear, but they seemed unique to Antarctica, and they were seen during every lidar observation for 5 years at McMurdo but have never been observed at lower latitudes.

But the authors show that answer may be found in the Ross Ice Shelf below. As it sits on the water, buffeted by wind and waves, oscillations called resonant vibrations course through the ice like the faint ring of a bell lightly rapped. Although they’re barely perceptible and take hours to pass, the sheer size of the slab and the pressure it generates as it pulses against the air above it seem to create waves that propagate into the atmosphere above.

To test this hypothesis, the authors created some simple simulations, treating the ice shelf as a rectangular slab and modeling its interactions with the sea below it and the air above. With this, they found that the ice shelf’s natural resonant frequency and its main harmonics happen to fall neatly within the 3- to 10-hour-period range, the same as the atmospheric waves.

Another piece of evidence comes from the effects of Earth’s rotation, which are amplified close to the South Pole. The simulations showed that there is a natural limit to the frequencies of waves that can persist in the region: If the oscillations are too slow, the waves get swept away by the Coriolis force. And, as it turns out, that upper limit just happens to be around 10 hours, the same as in the lidar observations.

Next, the authors plan to create a more accurate simulation with actual terrain data of the ice shelf and the seafloor. With this improved model, they hope to use the atmospheric waves to probe the dynamics of the ice shelf itself. The properties of its deep, low-frequency resonances are hard to measure directly, but they could be revealed by analyzing the atmospheric waves that they generate. (Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, doi:10.1002/2016JA023226, 2016)

© 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
© 2016 American Geophysical Union. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons logo for the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license.
Accessed at https://eos.org/research-spotlights/buzzing-ice-shelf-makes-waves-in-the-air-above on December 13, 2016.

 

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Centennial glacier retreat as categorical evidence of regional climate change : Nature Geoscience : Nature Research

F1 Centennial glacier retreat as categorical evidence of regional climate change

NGEO

   Figure 1: The global record of glacier lengths5, for 158 glaciers with 20 or more individual observations (shown as dots).

 

The near-global retreat of glaciers over the last century provides some of the most iconic imagery for communicating the reality of anthropogenic climate change to the public. Surprisingly, however, there has not been a quantitative foundation for attributing the retreats to climate change, except in the global aggregate. This gap, between public perception and scientific basis, is due to uncertainties in numerical modelling and the short length of glacier mass-balance records. Here we present a method for assessing individual glacier change based on the signal-to-noise ratio, a robust metric that is insensitive to uncertainties in glacier dynamics. Using only meteorological and glacier observations, and the characteristic decadal response time of glaciers, we demonstrate that observed retreats of individual glaciers represent some of the highest signal-to-noise ratios of climate change yet documented. Therefore, in many places, the centennial-scale retreat of the local glaciers does indeed constitute categorical evidence of climate change.

Accessed at http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2863.html on December 14, 2016.

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New world record: Scientists certify monster Atlantic wave 62 feet tall

New world record Scientists certify monster Atlantic wave 62 feet tall 20161214

Washington Post

Enormous waves crash into the Cornish coast on February 5, 2014, during one of the most brutal storms on record for the United Kingdom. (Matt Clark/U.K. Met Office)
(This story was updated.)
By Jason Samenow December 14 at 12:20 PM

Can you imagine coming face-to-face with a wave six stories tall?

In February 2013, a buoy in the North Atlantic measured a towering 62-foot (19 meters) wave between Iceland and the United Kingdom.

In an announcement Tuesday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) concluded it was “the highest significant wave height” ever recorded by a buoy, surpassing the previous highest wave, measured at 59.96 feet in December 2007, also in the North Atlantic.

The giant wave formed in the wake of a powerful cold front charging across the Atlantic. Winds gusted to 50 mph.

“This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 meters. It is a remarkable record,” said Wenjian Zhang, assistant secretary general of the WMO.

Wave height is defined as the distance between crest (or top) of one wave and the trough (or bottom) of the next.

Storm Desmond People watch waves close to the harbor wall at Porthcawl

Ben Birchall/PA via AP

People watch waves close to the harbor wall at Porthcawl, South Wales, as Storm Desmond hits the United Kingdom on Dec. 5, 2015. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

The WMO explained the world’s biggest waves typically occur in the North Atlantic in winter as storms explosively intensify. “The area from the Grand Banks underwater plateaus off the Canadian coast around Newfoundland to south of Iceland and to the west coast of the UK, including the Rockall Trough, are prime candidates for wave records,” it said.

USA Today reported that larger waves have probably occurred than this 62-foot behemoth, but they have not been measured.

It’s also worth noting that this new record for “significant wave height” reflects the average height in a series of large waves.   Individual “rogue” waves, which are difficult to accurately measure, can be much higher. For example, during the October 1991 “Perfect Storm” off the East Coast of North America, a buoy 264 miles south-southeast of Halifax, Canada reported a peak wave height of 100 feet, according to Environment Canada.

Two unidentified competitors tackle a 30-foot wave at the 2016 Quiksilver

Ryan Moss/Washington Post

Two unidentified competitors tackle a 30-foot wave at the 2016 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau in Hawaii. (Ryan Moss)

The record for the highest wave ever surfed is a massive 78 feet (23 meters) at Nazare, Portugal, according to CNN.

The lag between the WMO announcement of the record wave and its occurrence on February 4, 2013, resulted from the time needed to analyze and verify the data.

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang’s chief meteorologist. He earned a master’s degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.

© 1996-2016 The Washington Post
Accessed at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/12/14/new-world-record-scientists-certify-monster-atlantic-wave-62-feet-tall/ on December 14, 2016.

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Close Look at a Crack on Larsen C

Antarctica is home to a number of ice shelves such as the Ross Ice Shelf

Credit Ted Scambos/NSIDC

In late August 2016, sunlight returned to the Antarctic Peninsula and unveiled a rift across the Larsen C Ice Shelf that had grown longer and deeper over the austral winter. Satellites spotted it in natural-color imagery. By November, the arrival of longer days and favorable weather made it possible for scientists to take a closer look.

December 13 2016_Close Look at a Crack on Larsen C

NASA

These photographs show close and wide views of the rift from the vantage point of NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft. NASA scientist John Sonntag snapped the photos on November 10, 2016, during an Operation IceBridge flight. The mission, which makes airborne surveys of changes in polar ice, completed its eighth consecutive Antarctic deployment later that month.

The rift in Larsen C measures about 100 meters (300 feet) wide and cuts about half a kilometer (one-third of a mile) deep—completely through to the bottom of the ice shelf. While the rift is long and growing longer, it does not yet reach across the entire shelf. When that happens, Larsen C will shed an iceberg about the size of Delaware.

Cracks and calving of ice from the front of an ice shelf are normal. Shelves are fed by glaciers and ice streams coming from the interior of the continent. They advance into the ocean until a calving event takes place. The shelf front retreats and then advances again. The whole cycle can occur over the span of a few decades.

But calving that happens faster than a shelf can re-advance can mean trouble for an ice shelf. For example, large and frequent calving events at Larsen B preceded that shelf’s final period of rapid disintegration, which occurred in just six weeks in 2002. Whether Larsen C will respond in a similar way remains to be seen, but that’s one reason why scientists plan to make observations before and after the next calving event.

Ice shelves float, so they do not directly contribute to sea level rise. They are important, however, because they buttress land ice and keep it inland. If a shelf disintegrates, glaciers that feed it can flow more quickly out to sea—a process that directly increases sea level.

Accessed at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=89257&eocn=home&eoci=iotd_image on December 13, 2016.

 

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Constitution – Crony Capitalism

Federal grants aim to boost container shipping on Mississippi River

Five of the six Marine Highway Grants awarded by the US Department of Transportation are geared for increasing container-on-barge services

Paul Sableman/Wikimedia Commons

   Hazy photo of the Mississippi River with a tugboat and the Gateway Arch in the distance.     Five of the six Marine Highway Grants awarded by the US Department of Transportation are geared for increasing container-on-barge services.     Paul Sableman |Wikimedia Commons
By Joseph Leahy • 13 hours ago from 1/3/2017 2:22 PM

The U.S. Department of Transportation is funding efforts to increase container-on-barge traffic along the Mississippi River.

Federal and local officials on Monday announced six Marine Highway Grants, including two aimed at boosting freight at the Port of St. Louis and America’s Central Port in Granite City.

Increasing containers on the nation’s inland waterways will be necessary to meet increasing demand over the next 30 years, said U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen.

“It’s really not a matter of ‘if’, it’s a matter of ‘when.’ 85 percent of all freight that’s moving domestically is moving on our roads and our rails. That is just not sustainable from a congestion stand point. We’re going to have to incorporate water into that transportation freight network,” he said.

According to Jaenichen, about 6 percent of the total domestic freight market takes place on inland waterways.

America’s Central Port is getting $713,000 for a program to shuttle containers along the Illinois River between Granite City and Channahon, Illinois, near Chicago.

Also, the Port Authority of St. Louis will work with a $96,000 grant to encourage container-on-barge freight among major shippers like Walmart, Home Depot and Target. The effort involves a partnership with the Inland River Port & Terminal Association, the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association and the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.

MRCTI Executive Director Colin Wellenkamp said the grant will help them work with companies that forward and assemble freight packages for large retail stores.

Fostering more U.S. freight capacity is needed to meet growing demand which is estimated to increase 45 percent by 2050, he said.

“The only way to do that is either build a bunch of new roads, a bunch of new bridges, and a bunch of new rail, which doesn’t seem like there’s an appetite at the national level for that. Or, we use something we already have sitting there waiting, which is the nation’s inland waterway system.”

The grant funding is among $5 million worth of federal Marine Highway Grants awarded to boost container-on-barge services.

© 2016 St. Louis Public Radio
Accessed at http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/federal-grants-aim-boost-container-shipping-mississippi-river on December 6, 2016.

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California lawmaker introduces bill to expedite terrorism-related comp claims

People visit a makeshift memorial to IRC shooting victims on Dec 6 2015 in San Bernardino California

Lowe Llaguno/Shutterstock.com

People visit a makeshift memorial to IRC shooting victims on Dec. 6, 2015 in San Bernardino, California./ Lowe Llaguno/Shutterstock.com
By Louise Esola 12/6/2016 12:50:00 PM

California State Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes has introduced a bill that would expedite the workers compensation process for those injured in terrorist attacks or workplace violence.

Assembly Bill 44, introduced Monday, comes on the heels of public outcry over the review process that has reportedly complicated treatment for injured workers in the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack on December 2, 2015. Fourteen people were killed and 22 seriously injured when two assailants fired into a rented banquet room at the county’s Inland Regional Center, where about 80 office workers were having a holiday party.

According to the legislative counsel’s digest, the bill would amend the labor code and “exempt medical treatment for employees or first responders who sustain physical or psychological injury as a result of an act of terrorism or violence in the workplace from the utilization review process and the independent medical review process, and would provide for an expedited proceeding before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board to resolve disputes regarding treatment.”

It would also apply retroactively to the employees and first responders injured in the San Bernardino terrorist attack and any other employees or first responders injured by an act of terrorism or violence in the workplace that occurred prior to January 1, 2018.

Assemblywoman Reyes represents the state’s 47th District, which includes parts of San Bernardino.

COPYRIGHT © 2016 BUSINESS INSURANCE HOLDINGS
Accessed at http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20161206/NEWS08/912310839/California-bill-to-expedite-terrorism-related-workers-comp-claims-AB-44-San-Bern?utm_campaign=06-Dec-2016-BreakingNewsAlert&utm_medium=email&utm_source=ActiveCampaign on December 6, 2016.

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Judge halts federal rule that would have expanded overtime pay to millions of workers

Judge halts federal rule that would have expanded overtime pay to millions of workers

Washington Post

By Jonnelle Marte November 22 at 9:04 PM
Secretary of Labor Thomas “Tom” Perez speaks next to President Obama in 2013. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

A Texas judge ruled Tuesday to put the brakes on federal rules that would have expanded overtime pay to more than 4 million workers.

A rule from the Department of Labor that was supposed to take effect next week would have made overtime pay available to full-time salaried employees earning up to $47,476 a year, more than doubling the current threshold of $23,660 a year.

Employees earning below that threshold would qualify to earn one and a half times pay for any time worked beyond 40 hours a week. The rule was set to go into effect December 1, 2016.

The injunction buys the judge more time to come to a final decision on the overtime rule, which was challenged by a slew of business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, as well as 21 states. The states and the businesses are disputing the salary component of the rule, arguing that the Labor Department does not have the authority to require that employers offer overtime to workers who earn below a certain amount.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that it was considering all of its legal options. “We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans,” the department said in a statement. “The department’s overtime rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rulemaking process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule.”

When the Labor Department finalized the overtime rule in May, consumer advocates and union groups hailed the move as a major victory for low- to middle- income workers. Before the latest action, the regulation had not been updated in more than a decade. Supporters of the rule said many workers who put in 50 to 60 hours a week may end up earning less than minimum wage after all of their hours are factored in. The expectation was that the long-awaited rule, which was requested by President Obama in 2014, would boost paychecks for some workers putting in extra hours.

But the rule faced stiff opposition from small businesses, states, universities and other groups who said the higher threshold would raise costs. Instead of offering bigger paychecks, some groups predicted that they would have to switch employees from salaried jobs to hourly positions. Others said that some workers would be assigned fewer hours.

“Businesses and state and local governments across the country can breathe a sigh of relief now that this rule has been halted,” said Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt. He called the regulation “federal overreach” that could have led to job losses and created financial burdens for small businesses.

After the injunction was granted on Tuesday, some labor groups said they would keep pushing for new overtime rules. “The business trade associations and Republican-led states that filed the litigation in Texas opposing the rules have won today, but will not ultimately prevail in their attempt to take away a long-overdue pay raise for America’s workers,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for lower-wage workers.

Two separate lawsuits were filed against the overtime rule in September — one from a group of 21 states and one from the business groups. Their cases were combined in October.

Some small business groups said they were glad for the delay. Some states and businesses worried that the proposed threshold, which would have applied nationwide, did not take into account differences in cost of living in different areas. “The restrictive nature of the final rule ignores the diverse business models across industries in terms of how employees are compensated,” Karen Kerrigan, president and chief executive of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, said in a statement. “We are glad the court will give this rule the fair hearing it never received from DOL regulators.”

   © 1996-2016 The Washington Post
Accessed at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2016/11/22/judge-halts-federal-rule-that-would-have-expanded-overtime-pay-to-millions-of-workers/ on November 23, 2016.

 

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Exxon Wins Latest Legal Round in Climate Fight With Mass. AG

In virtually unprecedented ruling, federal judge in Texas says Massachusetts AG Maura Healey must answer questions about her climate investigation to Exxon lawyers.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey continues to battle Exxon in court

Boston Harbor

Clean Technicacom

Site of litigated ExxonMobil terminal (#23, top left)(massecon.com) Boston-Harbor-1-570×779.png
By David Hasemyer December 7, 2016

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she will appeal the latest ruling in Exxon’s favor in a Texas federal court. Credit: Getty Images

A federal judge reaffirmed an order that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey must submit to questioning by lawyers for ExxonMobil over her investigation of the oil industry giant.

U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade on Monday rejected Healey’s motion to cancel a deposition he had previously ordered, a virtually unprecedented decision that could expose the investigative tactics of a law enforcement agency to its target.

Kinkeade has ordered Healey to answer Exxon’s questions in a Dallas courtroom deposition December 13, 2016. The mandate is part of a sweeping discovery order issued by the judge in October that also could open the door for Exxon to plow through Healey’s internal records related to her investigation.

Healy filed a motion Tuesday asking Kinkeade to stay his order until she has time to file an appeal with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Tom McGarity, a University of Texas law professor, said the deposition order is unprecedented based on a judge believing a state prosecutor has allowed political bias to drive a case.

“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” he said. “The court certainly has the power to order a deposition, but I have never heard of that happening in anything like this.”

That bold order flowing from a Texas court has allowed Exxon wide latitude in defending itself against multiple investigations. It also foreshadows a new legal standard that could have chilling consequences on attorneys general across the county, McGarity and other legal experts warn.

“That’s a message to AGs that if they are considering bringing a case against industry, they could be open to questioning about their motive,” McGarity said. “That’s a message the AGs will hear. They may not be intimidated, but it is something that will be a factor in their decisions about what cases, what industry to pursue.”

Healey has been pushing back on the judge’s order that she both open her records to inspection by Exxon as well as travel to Texas to be interrogated by Exxon lawyers, saying that not only does Texas lacks jurisdiction but the order is extraordinary because it allows the target of her investigation to investigate her agency.

“Well-established precedent requires that depositions of high-ranking officials only occur in exceptional circumstances that are not present here,” attorneys for Healey argued in a motion to vacate the deposition order.

Healey had asked the judge to withdraw his deposition order, requesting it be stayed until a hearing could be conducted on all of the arguments being raised.

Saying only that he was rejecting Healey’s requests after “careful consideration,” Kinkeade let stand the deposition order in a one-page decision.

The judge earlier had ordered Healey to submit to Exxon’s written questions and appear in person for a deposition over her probe of the oil giant’s climate change research, saying it will allow him to determine whether “bias or prejudgment” influenced her decision to launch her investigation last April.

Legal experts say Healey likely would refuse to answer most questions. They also say that Exxon could agree to schedule the deposition in Massachusetts to better accommodate Healey’s schedule.

The deposition is part of a larger Exxon legal maneuver in which the company has asked Kinkeade for an injunction blocking both Healey’s investigation and the investigation underway by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who also has been put on notice that he may have to appear for a deposition.

Exxon did not respond to a request to comment on Monday’s ruling.

Schneiderman filed a motion Monday to block the deposition and discovery orders, saying they would undermine the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

“The discovery requests seek privileged, protected testimony, because the deposition of the Attorney General and Senior NYOAG attorneys would necessarily elicit privileged information, and the document requests and written discovery plainly seek privileged information,” according to the motion.

Healey has vowed to fight all of Exxon’s maneuvers.

“Allowing discovery to go forward here would set a troubling precedent by allowing the target of a state government investigation to confound and effectively halt state law enforcement efforts by filing suit in the target’s favored federal forum and permitting the target to ‘investigate the investigator,'” Healey’s attorneys said in a memorandum of law filed in support of the motion to dismiss the deposition.

Healey’s attorneys also said Exxon has betrayed its “contentious, even baiting” strategy for questioning Healey by asking her in written questions previously authorized by the judge to “State, identify, and describe the basis for Your belief that investigating a single company will help combat or limit climate change.”

“It illustrates precisely why depositions of high ranking officials is heavily disfavored.”

Exxon has argued that it should be allowed to question Healey to expose her alleged abuse of prosecutorial authority and her personal biases.

“The Attorney General has no discretion to misuse her prosecutorial powers to stifle ExxonMobil’s speech in an attempt to place a thumb on the scale of an ongoing policy debate,” according to the company’s response to Healey’s motion.

Allowing Exxon to question Healey in the midst of her investigation is like letting a mob figure question investigators about their probe of underworld crime, said Brad Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation.

“It turns law enforcement on its ear,” he said. “It removes the advantage of conducting an investigation without the subject of that investigation being privy to law enforcement’s strategy and tactics.”

That’s one reason federal courts do not generally interfere with state prosecutors, he said.

“What this ruling does is create a special set of rules for Exxon and presumably any other company with Exxon’s resources to second guess an attorney general’s ability to conduct investigations,” Campbell said.

Accessed at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/06122016/exxonmobil-climate-change-investigation-maura-healey-massachusetts-attorney-general-global-warming on December 12, 2016.

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Climate Advocates Fight Back Against Exxon’s Subpoenas

Climate Advocates Fight Back Against Exxon's Subpoenas 20161209

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

The oil giant, seemingly emboldened by a federal judge’s ruling it can poke into a state AG’s investigation, wants 350.org’s records, too. The group is refusing.

By David Hasemyer December 9, 2016

Climate activist group 350.org is taking on Exxon in a legal fight

The climate activism group 350.org has found itself in the unusual position of being subpoenaed by an oil company being investigated for climate fraud. Credit: PATRICK VALASSERIS/AFP/Getty Images

Update (December 12, 2016 at 5:05 am ET):

The group 350.org, as well as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund and Michael Northrop, the sustainable development program director of RBF, have filed motions to quash subpoenas issued against them by Exxon. The motions were filed in a New York federal court and argue Exxon’s subpoenas should be invalidated because the material being sought is protected by the First Amendment. Northrop is on the board of directors of ICN, and RBF and RFF are among 18 major funders of ICN.

In its continuing offensive to beat back investigations of possible climate fraud, ExxonMobil is now engaged in a fight with several environmental advocacy groups as it demands to see their records.

Exxon, in carrying out discovery in litigation about probes of its record, hit at least seven non-governmental organizations and individuals with subpoenas last month.

The subpoenas demanded documents and communications that could reveal behind-the-scenes involvement the organizations had with state attorneys general investigating or contemplating investigations of Exxon.

Now, several of those targeted by Exxon’s subpoenas have come out fighting, flatly refusing to comply and denouncing Exxon’s strategy. Many of them are also resisting subpoenas by an important Exxon ally, Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Science Committee. But Exxon’s actions are especially remarkable as an example of a giant corporation going after advocacy organizations for their activities.

“In our view, with its subpoena, Exxon Mobil attempts to abuse third-party discovery in its lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas by using it as a weapon against climate change activist groups like 350.org,” according to a letter to Exxon lawyers from 350.org attorney Abbe David Lowell. It referred to a federal court where Exxon is fighting the state attorneys general.

“Rather than seeking real discovery and information relevant to jurisdiction in the Lawsuit, the subpoena and other efforts to broadly investigate 350.org’s advocacy appear to he attempts to chill 350.org’s exercise of its First Amendment rights, including the rights to free speech, to free assembly and to petition government,” said the letter, written by Lowell, a leading free-speech lawyer.

An Exxon spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Exxon’s assault on the advocacy groups and individuals can be traced to an October discovery order against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

The order, issued by a Texas federal court judge overseeing Exxon’s lawsuit to block Healey’s investigation of the company, was initially interpreted as opening the door for an in-depth review by Exxon of her office’s internal communications and other records related to the investigation.

But, emboldened by that order, Exxon launched an offensive. It went on record as saying every one of the 17 attorneys general who teamed up in March to form the AGs for Clean Power coalition could become targets of subpoenas.

The company set its sights on the environmental groups in October, sending a letter cautioning them to preserve documents and correspondence related to their interactions with the attorneys general. Exxon also told them to hold on to their communications with members of the press.

In addition to raising a constitutional objection, 350.org’s lawyer cited 13 other general objections to the subpoena, which he said goes beyond seeking documents that could be relevant to Exxon’s lawsuit against Healey.

The Exxon subpoena to 350.org lays out a dozen areas the company wants to explore through a comprehensive review of the organization’s internal records.

“This request includes any communications in which 350.org advocated that an Attorney General initiate an investigation of ExxonMobil, participate in the Green 20 Press Conference, announce approval for or alignment with the investigation of ExxonMobil by any Attorney General, and/or collaborate, cooperate, or work in concert with Attorneys General who were or are investigating ExxonMobil,” according to the subpoena. The press conference was March 30 and featured former Vice President Al Gore who praised the attorneys general.

The subpoena also sought records in a number of other areas including:

  • Communications pertaining to decisions of an attorney general regarding whether to investigate Exxon.
  • Communications in which 350.org advocated that an attorney general initiate an investigation of Exxon.
  • Fees or expenses paid to Gore in connection with his participation in or attendance at the news conference announcing the attorneys general coalition.
  • Documents, recordings, or materials presented during a 2012 conference focused on holding the fossil fuel industry responsible for climate change.
  • Records concerning the actual or anticipated participation of Exxon or other fossil fuel companies or trade associations in the international climate negotiations in Paris last December.
  • Documents and communications concerning fundraising for candidates for political office, including fundraising for any member of the attorneys general coalition.

“We must be doing something right to get subpoenaed by the world’s largest oil company. Clearly the revelations about Exxon’s climate cover-up have hit a nerve,” said Jamie Henn, 350.org communications director.

“Rather than admitting the truth, Exxon is trying to distract the public by directly attacking us. Instead they’re just proving our point: when faced with an opportunity to come clean, Exxon is falling back on its long history of deceit, denial and delay.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists is another organization resisting an Exxon subpoena. Jay Ward Brown, an attorney for the organization and for its director of science and policy, Peter Frumhoff, said all of the information Exxon wants is publicly available on the organization’s website, yet he raised a series of objections that signal the organization will not be bullied.

“Dr. Frumhoff objects to the Requests on the ground that ExxonMobil is not entitled to have its cake and eat it, too,” according to a letter from Brown to Exxon.

“In the underlying litigation, ExxonMobil alleges that the requests by the Attorneys General for the company’s own climate change-related documents are part of an ‘apparent effort to silence, intimidate, and deter those possessing a particular viewpoint’ from participating in the ‘debate’ over climate change.

“It appears that such intimidation is precisely ExxonMobil’s intent in issuing the subpoena to Dr. Frumhoff.”

Accessed at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/07122016/exxonmobil-climate-change-investigation-350-bill-mckibben-rex-tillerson-lamar-smith-science on December 12, 2016.

 

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Solar

Did the Mysterious ‘Planet Nine’ Tilt the Solar System?

Spaceweather.com

Previous research suggested that Planet Nine would possess a highly tilted orbit compared with the relatively thin, flat zone in which the eight official planets circle the sun. This led scientists to investigate whether Planet Nine’s slant might help explain other tilting seen elsewhere in the solar system. [The Evidence for ‘Planet Nine’ in Images (Gallery)]
By Charles Q. Choi, Space.com Contributor | October 19, 2016 01:15pm ET
Artist’s illustration of the putative Planet Nine, which may lie undiscovered in the outer solar system.   Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC) PASADENA, Calif. —

The putative “Planet Nine” may have tilted the entire solar system, researchers say.

In January, astronomers revealed evidence for the potential existence of another planet in the solar system. Researchers suggest that if this world — dubbed Planet Nine — exists, it could be about 10 times Earth’s mass and orbit the sun at a distance about 500 times the distance from the Earth to the sun.

 

Now, researchers suggest that Planet Nine’s influence might have tilted the entire solar system except the sun.

“Planet Nine may have tilted the other planets over the lifetime of the solar system,” said study lead author Elizabeth Bailey, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Prior work found that the zone in which the eight major planets orbit the sun is tilted by about 6 degrees compared to the sun’s equator. This discrepancy has long been a mystery in astronomy.

An anomaly in the orbits of distant Kuiper Belt objects points to the existence of an unknown planet orbiting the sun

Space.com

Researchers say an anomaly in the orbits of distant Kuiper Belt objects points to the existence of an unknown planet orbiting the sun. Here’s what we know of this potential “Planet Nine.”   Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics artist

Bailey and her colleagues ran computer simulations that suggest that the tilt of the eight official planets can be explained by the gravitational influence of Planet Nine “over the 4.5-billion-years-ish lifetime of the solar system,” Bailey told Space.com.

Bailey did note that there are other potential explanations for the tilt of the solar system. One alternative is that electrically charged particles influenced by the young sun’s magnetic field could have interacted with the disk of gas and dust that gave rise to the planets in ways that tilted the solar system. Another possibility is that there might have been an imbalance in the mass of the nascent sun’s core.

“However, all these other ways to explain why the solar system is tilted are really hard to test — they all invoke processes that were possibly present really early in the solar system,” Bailey said. “Planet Nine is the first thing that has been proposed to tilt the solar system that doesn’t depend on early conditions, so if we find Planet Nine, we will be able to see if it’s the only thing responsible for the tilt, or if anything else may have played a role.”

The scientists detailed their findings yesterday (October 18, 2016) at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences and European Planetary Science Congress in Pasadena, California.

Purch Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
Accessed at http://www.space.com/34448-planet-nine-solar-system-tilt.html on December 5, 2016.

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104 fireballs NASA Meteoroid Environment Office All Sky Fireball Network

104 fireballs on 20161213

NASA Meteoroid Environment Office

Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth’s atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on Spaceweather.com.

On Dec. 13, 2016, the network reported 104 fireballs.

(49 Geminids, 45 sporadics, 5 December Monocerotids, 3 sigma Hydrids, 1 , 1 December Leonis Minorid)

 

In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point–Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue).

Accessed at ©2016 Spaceweather.com. All rights reserved. This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips On December 13, 2016.

 

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Seismic

Volcanic Activity for the week of 7 December-13 December 2016

Volcanic Activity for the week of 7 December-13 December 2016

USGS/Smithsonian

Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program

The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report is a cooperative project between the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program. Updated by 2300 UTC every Wednesday, notices of volcanic activity posted on these pages are preliminary and subject to change as events are studied in more detail. This is not a comprehensive list of all of Earth’s volcanoes erupting during the week, but rather a summary of activity at volcanoes that meet criteria discussed in detail in the “Criteria and Disclaimers” section. Carefully reviewed, detailed reports on various volcanoes are published monthly in the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network.

http://volcano.si.edu/reports_weekly.cfm#vn_282080

 

Name Location Activity  
Cerro Hudson Chile New
Chirinkotan Kuril Islands (Russia) New
Copahue Central Chile-Argentina border New
Langila New Britian (Papua New Guinea) New
Sabancaya Peru New
Bagana Bougainville (Papua New Guinea) Ongoing
Dukono Halmahera (Indonesia) Ongoing
Kilauea Hawaiian Islands (USA) Ongoing
Nevado del Ruiz Colombia Ongoing
Reventador Ecuador Ongoing
Sheveluch Central Kamchatka (Russia) Ongoing
Sinabung Indonesia Ongoing
Turrialba Costa Rica Ongoing

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Sheveluch, Central Kamchatka, Russia Aviation Color Code was raised to Red

Sheveluch | Central Kamchatka (Russia) | 56.653°N, 161.36°E | Elevation 3283 m

KVERT reported that during 2-9 December lava-dome extrusion onto Sheveluch’s N flank was accompanied by strong fumarolic activity, dome incandescence, ash explosions, and hot avalanches. Satellite images showed a thermal anomaly over the dome on clear days, and ash plumes drifting 60 km NW on 8 December.

On 10 December explosions generated ash plumes observed in satellite images that rose to altitudes of 10-11 km (32,800-36,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 320 km NNE and N. The Aviation Color Code was raised to Red. Satellite images later that day showed a thermal anomaly over the volcano but no ash emissions; the leading edge of the ash plume released earlier was 910 km NNE, drifting at an altitude of 11 km (36,000 ft). The Aviation Color Code was lowered to Orange.

Source: Kamchatkan Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT)

 

Ebeko Paramushir Island (Russia) New
Langila New Britian (Papua New Guinea) New
Sheveluch Central Kamchatka (Russia) New
Bagana Bougainville (Papua New Guinea) Ongoing
Colima Mexico Ongoing
Dukono Halmahera (Indonesia) Ongoing
Fuego Guatemala Ongoing
Katmai United States Ongoing
Kilauea Hawaiian Islands (USA) Ongoing
Nevado del Ruiz Colombia Ongoing
Sabancaya Peru Ongoing
Suwanosejima Ryukyu Islands (Japan) Ongoing
Turrialba Costa Rica Ongoing

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Re-suspended ash from the 1912 eruption of Novarupta, Katmai, Alaska

Katmai United States Ongoing

A plume of volcanic ash hangs over the Gulf of Alaska in this natural-color image. The plume is not the product of an active volcano; it is re-suspended ash from the 1912 eruption of Novarupta, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. High winds previously stirred up ash in the area in October 2015.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image on December 2, 2016.

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=89220

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Earthquakes for the week ending 8 December 2016

Earthquakes for the week ending 15 December 2016

USGS

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map

.

UTC 2016-12-10 16 24 36 M6.1 – 83.9 mi WNW of Arawa, Papua New Guinea 97.6 mi depth

UTC 2016-12-10 16 24 36 M6_1 - 83_9 mi WNW of Arawa Papua New Guinea 97_6 mi depth

USGS

.

UTC 2016-12-09 19:10:07 M6.9 – 58.5 mi WSW of Kirakira, Solomon Islands 12.8 mi depth

UTC 2016-12-09 19 10 07 M6pt9 - 58pt5 mi WSW of Kirakira Solomon Islands 12pt8 mi depth

USGS

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Magnitude 5.0 earthquake near The Geysers is strongest in decades

UTC 2016-12-14 16 41 05 M5pt0 - 5pt6 mi WNW of The Geysers California 0pt56 mi depth

USGS

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake struck 4 miles west northwest of Geysers, California at 8:41 this morning. Multiple aftershocks, including one of a magnitude 3.0, have followed the initial quake. Photo: USGS
SF Gate Staff Updated 12:41 pm, Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake struck 4 miles west northwest of Geysers, California at 8:41 this morning. Multiple aftershocks, including one of a magnitude 3.0, have followed the initial quake.

The United States Geological Survey says a magnitude 5.0 earthquake near The Geysers Wednesday was the largest recorded quake to hit the seismically-active area in 30 years.

The quake hit at 8:41 AM local time, less than a mile from the surface. A second smaller quake hit five minutes later.

“The earthquake was the largest in the Geysers area in the past 30 years. This magnitude 5.0 earthquake is only marginally larger than previous earthquakes at the Geysers,” USGS Research geophysicist J. Ole Kaven wrote to SFGATE. “This earthquake occurred on the western margin of where previous seismicity has been located.”

Kaven says eight magnitude 4.5-4.6 earthquakes have hit within 12 miles of the epicenter over the past past 30 years. The area has long been studied by seismologists examining the role of steam power generation in seismic activity.

“The historical record of earthquakes in this area suggests that earthquakes as large as today’s are likely to be near the upper magnitude limit,” wrote Kaven. “Unlike the Rodgers Creek-Maacama fault to the southwest of the Geysers, there are no mapped, through-going faults in the steam field that are likely to sustain large (greater than magnitude 6.0) quakes. As long as steam production continues at the Geysers, earthquakes will occur.”

Sseveral people reported feeling the shaking on social media, there were no early reports of significant damage or injury resulting from either earthquake. More information on this earthquake is available on the USGS event page.

Hearst Newspapers © Copyright 2016 Hearst Communications, Inc.
Accessed at http://www.sfgate.com/earthquakes/article/largest-earthquake-the-geysers-10796299.php on December 14, 2016.

 

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Radiation

Nine Mile Point New York Event 52425 SCRAM Hot Shutdown Vibrations

Nine Mile Point New York Event 52425 SCRAM Hot Shutdown Vibrations

NRC

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/42555888/ns/us_news-life/

 

Power Reactor Event Number: 52425
Facility: NINE MILE POINT Region: 1 State: NY
Unit: [1] [ ] [ ] RX Type: [1] GE-2,[2] GE-5
NRC Notified By: BENJAMIN ARIOLA HQ OPS Officer: HOWIE CROUCH
Notification Date: 12/10/2016 Notification Time: 12:31 [ET]
Event Date: 12/10/2016 Event Time: 08:48 [EST]
Last Update Date: 12/10/2016 Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY
10 CFR Section: 50.72(b)(2)(iv)(B) – RPS ACTUATION – CRITICAL, 50.72(b)(3)(iv)(A) – VALID SPECIF SYS ACTUATION
Person (Organization): ART BURRITT (R1DO)

 

Unit SCRAM Code RX CRIT Initial PWR Initial RX Mode Current PWR Current RX Mode
1 M/R Y 100 Power Operation 0 Hot Shutdown

 

Event Text

MANUAL REACTOR SCRAM DUE TO HIGH MAIN TURBINE VIBRATIONS

“On December 10, 2016 at 0848 EST, [operators at] Nine Mile Point Unit 1 manually scrammed the reactor due to high vibrations on the Main Turbine. Cause of the high vibrations is being investigated.

“Following the scram, the High Pressure Coolant Injection (HPCI) system automatically initiated as expected. At Nine Mile Point Unit 1, a HPCI system actuation signal on low reactor pressure vessel (RPV) level is normally received following a reactor scram, due to level shrink. HPCI is a flow control mode of the normal feedwater system and is not an emergency core cooling system. At 0849, RPV level was restored above the HPCI system low level actuation set point and the HPCI system initiation signal was reset. Pressure control was established on the turbine bypass valves, the preferred system. No Electromatic relief valves actuated due to this scram.

“Nine Mile Point Unit 1 is currently in Hot Shutdown, with reactor water level and pressure maintained within normal bands. Decay heat is being removed via steam to the main condenser using the bypass valves. The offsite grid is stable with no grid restrictions or warnings in effect.

“The unit is currently implementing post scram recovery procedures.”

The licensee has notified the state of New York Public Service Commission and the NRC Resident Inspector.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, December 12, 2016
Accessed at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/2016/20161212en.html on December 15, 2016.

 

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RADCON on 15 December 2016 Five of Concern-Watch

Four of Concern 20161215

RADCON

© Copyright 2012-2014 Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center, LLC (netc.com).All information that is produced by netc.com websites belongs to Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center, LLC   (netc.com).
https://netc.com/
NETC.COM   © 2014

 

  1. Station ID 5:812   Grand Junction, CO, US

CPM: current 661 Low 202 High 661

Average 311(CPM of Gamma in energy range 600-800keV)

Last updated: 2016-12-15 06:06:00 GMT-0600

 

  1. Station ID 5:915   San Diego, CA, US

CPM: current 423 Low 243 High 502

Average 305(CPM of Gamma in energy range 600-800keV)

Last updated: 2016-12-15 06:02:00 GMT-0600

 

  1. Station ID 5:948   Yuma, AZ, US

CPM: current 378 Low 246 High 435

Average 284(CPM of Gamma in energy range 600-800keV)

Last updated: 2016-12-15 06:37:00 GMT-0600

 

  1. Station ID 5:913   Las Vegas, NV, US

CPM: current 231 Low 105 High 255

Average 155(CPM of Gamma in energy range 600-800keV)

Last updated: 2016-12-15 06:24:00 GMT-0600

 

  1. Station ID 5:711   San Antonio, TX, US

CPM: current 224 Low 57 High 224

Average 128(CPM of Gamma in energy range 600-800keV)

Last updated: 2016-12-15 06:34:00 GMT-0600

 

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Biosecurity: Flavivirus Zika

Outcomes of Infant Possible Zika Virus Infection in the United States, as of 30 Nov 2016

Pregnancy Outcomes in the United States and the District of Columbia

Liveborn infants with birth defects* 32
Includes aggregated data reported to the US Zika Pregnancy Registry

as of November 30, 2016

Pregnancy losses with birth defects** 5
Includes aggregated data reported to the US Zika Pregnancy Registry

as of November 30, 2016

What these numbers show

These numbers reflect the number of poor outcomes among pregnancies with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection that have been reported to the pregnancy surveillance systems. Reported numbers may increase or decrease as preliminary information is clarified.

The number of live-born infants and pregnancy losses with birth defects are combined for the 50 US states, and the District of Columbia. To protect the privacy of the women and children affected by Zika, CDC is not reporting individual state, tribal, territorial or jurisdictional level data.

CDC is using a consistent case inclusion criteria to monitor brain abnormalities and other adverse pregnancy outcomes potentially related to Zika virus infection during pregnancy in the US states and territories. Puerto Rico is not using the same inclusion criteria; CDC is not reporting numbers for adverse pregnancy outcomes in the territories at this time.

The poor birth outcomes reported include those that have been detected in infants infected with Zika before or during birth, including microcephaly, calcium deposits in the brain indicating possible brain damage, excess fluid in the brain cavities and surrounding the brain, absent or poorly formed brain structures, abnormal eye development, or other problems resulting from damage to brain that affects nerves, muscles and bones, such as clubfoot or inflexible joints, and confirmed hearing loss.

What these new numbers do not show

These numbers are not real time estimates. They will reflect the outcomes of pregnancies reported with any laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection as of 12 noon every Thursday the week prior; numbers will be delayed one week.

These numbers do not reflect outcomes among ongoing pregnancies.

Although these outcomes occurred in pregnancies with laboratory evidence of Zika virus infection, we do not know whether they were caused by Zika virus infection or other factors.

Where do these numbers come from?

These data reflect pregnancies reported to the US Zika Pregnancy Registry. CDC, in collaboration with state, local, tribal and territorial health departments, established this system for comprehensive monitoring of pregnancy and infant outcomes following Zika virus infection.

The data collected through this system will be used to update recommendations for clinical care, to plan for services and support for pregnant women and families affected by Zika virus, and to improve prevention of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.

The US Zika Pregnancy Registry and the Puerto Rico Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System are covered by an assurance of confidentiality. This protection requires us to safeguard the information collected for the pregnant women and infants in the registries.

* Includes microcephaly, calcium deposits in the brain indicating possible brain damage, excess fluid in the brain cavities and surrounding the brain, absent or poorly formed brain structures, abnormal eye development, or other problems resulting from damage to the brain that affects nerves, muscles and bones, such as clubfoot or inflexible joints, and confirmed hearing loss.

**Includes miscarriage, stillbirths, and terminations with evidence of the birth defects mentioned above

Accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/pregnancy-outcomes.html on December 1, 2016.

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Advice for people living in or traveling to Brownsville, Texas

Zika cautionary area in Brownsville, TX

Texas guidance areas 20161214

CDC

Map of Brownsville, Texas where a locally-transmitted case of Zika was reported Brownsville, TX. Yellow shows areas where pregnant women should consider postponing travel.

On December 14, 2016, CDC issued guidance related to Zika for people living in or traveling to Brownsville, Cameron County, TX. On November 28, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported the state’s first case of local mosquito-borne Zika virus infection in Brownsville. Additional cases of mosquito-borne Zika have been identified in the area, suggesting that there is a risk of continued spread of Zika virus in Brownsville. As a result, CDC has designated Brownsville as a Zika cautionary area (yellow area).

CDC designates areas for Zika virus transmission prevention in the continental United States and Hawaii as red or yellow.

Guidance for Zika cautionary areas (Yellow areas)

Zika cautionary area (yellow area): A geographic area where local spread of Zika virus has been identified, but there is not yet any evidence of widespread, sustained local spread. Although the specific level of risk in yellow areas is unknown, there is still a risk to pregnant women. Brownsville, TX, is currently designated as a yellow area.

Travel

Pregnant women who live in other areas should consider postponing travel to Brownsville, TX.

Prevention

Pregnant women, women trying to get pregnant, and their partners who live in or travel to Brownsville should be aware of local Zika virus transmission and should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.

Pregnant women and their partners who live in or travel to Brownsville should use condoms every time they have sex or not have sex during the pregnancy.

Testing and Diagnosis

Pregnant women who live in, traveled to, or had sex without a condom with someone who lives in or traveled to Brownsville on or after October 29, 2016, should be tested for Zika virus.

Pregnant women with symptoms of Zika should be tested for Zika virus.

Pregnant women without Zika symptoms with ongoing risks for exposure (they live in or frequently travel [daily or weekly]) to Brownsville should talk to their healthcare provider to obtain routine testing for Zika virus in both the first and second trimesters.

Pregnant women without Zika symptoms who had limited travel to Brownsville or who had sex without a condom with a person who lives in or traveled to Brownsville should be tested for Zika virus.

Pregnancy Planning

Women who had limited travel to Brownsville or had sex without a condom with a person who lives in or traveled to Brownsville may consider waiting at least 8 weeks after symptoms started or last possible exposure before trying to get pregnant.

Men who had limited travel to Brownsville or had sex without a condom with a person who lives in or traveled to Brownsville may consider waiting at least 6 months after symptoms started or last possible exposure before trying to get their partner pregnant.

People living in Brownsville should talk to their healthcare provider about the possible risk for Zika infection and about their pregnancy plans.

Women who live in or frequently travel to Brownsville who are diagnosed with Zika should wait at least 8 weeks after symptoms started before trying to get pregnant.

Men who live in or frequently travel to Brownsville who are diagnosed with Zika should wait at least 6 months after symptoms started before trying to get their partner pregnant.

Given the limited data available about the persistence at the time of conception, some couples with a partner with possible Zika virus exposure may choose to wait longer or shorter than the recommended period to try to get pregnant.

Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/zika/intheus/texas-update.html on December 14, 2016.

 

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Fusarium conference hears of disease resurgence

Western Canada’s worst crop disease is still a serious issue, researchers say

Manito Co-operator_Fusarium head blight severity on the Prairies

Canadian Grain Commission

Fusarium head blight severity on the Prairies.photo: Canadian Grain Commission
By Allan Dawson, Reporter, Published: December 2, 2016, Cereals, Crops, News

This was one of the worst years for fusarium head blight in western Canadian spring wheat — a sobering backdrop to the 8th Canadian Workshop on Fusarium Head Blight, held here November 20-22, 2016.

More than 200 scientists from Canada, the United States, Germany, England, Australia, Switzerland and beyond reviewed the latest research into fusarium head blight, a yield- and quality-robbing fungal disease.

“The 2016 western Canadian wheat harvest is potentially the worst on record for fusarium head blight (FHB) damage and DON (deoxynivalenol, a mycotoxin) levels in many crop districts,” Canadian National Millers Association president Gordon Harrison told the meeting. “Fusarium damage is 1.5 to five times more than experienced in recent years.”

 

The United States suggests flour contain no more DON than one part per million and some millers and food processors may demand less.

“A significant portion of the (Canada Western Amber) durum (CWAD) wheat harvest (used to make pasta) may be unmarketable as milling grade,” Harrison said.

No. 2 and 3 Canada Western Red Spring wheat (CWRS) — Canada’s top bread-making wheat — also has high levels of DON, he said.

Downgrading could cost Prairie farmers $1 billion in lost revenue, Harrison estimated.

Presumably some of those losses will be offset by crop insurance payments and some farmers might be eligible for aid under AgriStability.

Still it’s a huge economic hit, and not just for farmers, but grain companies that will have less wheat to sell and disappointed customers with long memories.

“The predominant degrading factor this year is fusarium,” Tom Graefenhan, the Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC) microbiology program manager said on the sidelines of the conference. “I think it is important not to panic. We continue to work on the issues in a co-ordinated and dedicated way.”

Durum wheat, which is more susceptible to FHB than other spring wheats, has been hard hit in southwestern Saskatchewan, where FHB isn’t usually a problem because of drier weather.

Based on preliminary data collected from the CGC’s harvest sample survey, about 40 per cent of the durum wheat still making food grade has been downgraded due to FHB and 25 per cent has been downgraded to below food grade.

CGC data shows the percentage of fusarium-damaged kernels (FDK) — a measure of disease severity — hit a new high in Saskatchewan in 2016.

The severity in Manitoba and Alberta wasn’t as bad as several previous years (see graph).

However, FHB is wider spread in all three provinces than ever before and the trend line is rising.

The combination of more disease — and in many areas greater damage within fields — is making it harder for grain companies to find good wheat to blend with heavier-damaged lots, Graefenhan said.

“It is probably the biggest challenge we’ve had in wheat supply in 21 years of contracting,” Bob Beard, cereal development director for Warburtons, the United Kingdom’s biggest baker, said in an interview on the sidelines of the 3rd Canadian Wheat Symposium November 24, 2016. “You cannot use wheat that is over specification (for DON). We are lucky to be working with our farmers and the companies we are and have been able to secure additional supplies to make good the shortfall. But in some areas 60 per cent of our program is not usable, which mirrors probably what you’re seeing elsewhere on the Prairies.”

Warburtons imports around 190,000 tonnes of high-quality, identity-preserved spring wheat from Western Canada annually to blend with a similar volume of U.K. wheat to make bread.

While Warburtons expects to get enough western Canadian wheat to meet its needs in 2016-17, it will be tight, Beard said.

“It’s not all bad. There are some regions where some of our farmers have growing surplus and we have taken that surplus gladly. But in other areas it has been decimated.”

FHB’s spread is worrisome, Harrison said. His member mills need about three million tonnes of domestically produced wheat annually.

More FHB will require more testing and increased costs for millers, he said. Harrison also noted DON hasn’t caused an adverse health problem in Canada in 25 years, and he doesn’t expect any now.

Canada’s grading system uses fusarium-damaged kernels (FDK) as a proxy for DON, but Harrison said since the traditional correlation between the two no longer exists grades should be based on DON levels instead of FDK.

Sheryl Tittlemier, the CGC’s grain safety program manager, says correlation still exists, but given the concerns the CGC will investigate further.

The Alberta Wheat Commission recently suggested grades be based on DON levels, which would require testing at the elevator.

Grain exporters are doing some of that now, as well as testing a portion of loaded cars “to avoid surprises,” Rhyl Doyle, Paterson Global Foods’ director of export trading said on the sidelines of the meeting.

More testing is a good idea, University of Minnesota plant pathologist Ruth Dill-Macky told the meeting, as food markets decrease their tolerance for mycotoxins.

“I think that is going to necessitate us implementing high-speed mycotoxin testing at sales points in order to segregate grain lots in years when we do have lots of fusarium head blight so we can keep the toxins, as best we can, out of grain streams and not be commingling lots that may have different levels of toxin in them,” she said.

FHB is on the rise because of the weather (the disease thrives under warm, moist conditions, increased corn production (corn also produces FHB) and more conservation tillage (FHB persists in wheat residue).

Farmers can’t control the weather and corn and reduced tillage aren’t going away, she said. But there are things farmers can do to manage FHB with an integrated approach. It starts with encouraging farmers to grow wheats that are more FHB tolerant.

Eliminating susceptible cultivars is really key to preventing this disease from gaining traction,” Dill-Macky said. “And while we can make incredible strides in developing germplasm that has resistance, it’s important for us to remember that there are still varieties out there that are moderately susceptible or more susceptible and it is actually very important for us to find ways to discourage growers from having those, or discourage wheat breeders from releasing those varieties, so we can have varieties that are resistant or moderately resistant on the vast majority of acreage.”

Farmers also have better fungicides to control FHB, including Prosaro, Caramba and Proline. But they must apply them at the right time — within seven days of flowering, using 20 gallons of water per acre to get good coverage. Dill-Macky recommended spraying in the evening or morning so dew can help get the product on the wheat heads.

Farmers also need to know some of those fungicides also contain strobilurins, which control leaf spots, but can increase DON levels, even when applied pre-heading.

Plant breeders and molecular scientists are searching hard for new forms of FHB resistance. The more resistant a variety is the less FHB will be able to colonize its residue, she said.

A wide range of transgenic genes has and is being tested but “we haven’t seen the silver bullet and I don’t think that is really going to happen. However, increased regulation is making it harder to field test genetically modified wheat.”

“I think we have some potential to make progress in this area if we aren’t challenged… by the legal side of doing things,” Dill-Macky said.

© 2013–2016, FBC Communications LP
Accessed at http://www.manitobacooperator.ca/news-opinion/news/2016-spring-wheat-crops-on-the-prairies-hit-hard-by-fusarium/ on December 9, 2016.

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Fusarium used as Biological Weapon during World War II

Fusarium_verticillioides

Wikipedia

Fusarium verticillioides 01.jpg

Fusarium From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fusarium

Fusarium verticillioides

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Ascomycota
Class: Sordariomycetes
Order: Hypocreales
Family: Nectriaceae
Genus: Fusarium
Species: see text

Fusarium is a large genus of filamentous fungi, part of a group often referred to as hyphomycetes, widely distributed in soil and associated with plants. Most species are harmless saprobes, and are relatively abundant members of the soil microbial community. Some species produce mycotoxins in cereal crops that can affect human and animal health if they enter the food chain. The main toxins produced by these Fusarium species are fumonisins and trichothecenes.

The name of Fusarium comes from Latin fusus, meaning a spindle.

Taxonomy

The taxonomy of the genus is complex. A number of different schemes have been used, and up to 1,000 species have been identified at times, with approaches varying between wide and narrow concepts of speciation (‘lumpers’ and ‘splitters’).[1][2][3]

Phylogenetic studies indicate seven major clades within the genus.[3]

Subdivision

Various schemes have subdivided the genus into subgenera and sections. There is a poor correlation between sections and phylogenetic clades.[3]

Sections previously described include;

Arachnites

Arthrosporiella

Discolor

Elegans

Eupionnotes

Gibbosum

Lateritium

Liseola

Martiella

Ventricosum

Roseum

Spicarioides

Sporotrichiella

Species

Selected species include;

  1. avenaceum
  2. bubigeum
  3. culmorum
  4. graminearum
  5. langsethiae
  6. oxysporum
  7. poae
  8. sporotrichioides
  9. tricinctum
  10. verticillioides
  11. virguliforme

Etymology

The name of Fusarium comes from Latin fusus, meaning a spindle.

Pathogen

Fusarium chlamydospores

Fusarium macroconidia

The genus includes a number of economically important plant pathogenic species.

Fusarium graminearum commonly infects barley if there is rain late in the season. It is of economic impact to the malting and brewing industries, as well as feed barley. Fusarium contamination in barley can result in head blight, and in extreme contaminations, the barley can appear pink.[4] The genome of this wheat and maize pathogen has been sequenced. F. graminearum can also cause root rot and seedling blight. The total losses in the US of barley and wheat crops between 1991 and 1996 have been estimated at $3 billion.[4]

Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense is a fungal plant pathogen that causes Panama disease of banana (Musa spp.), also known as fusarium wilt of banana. Panama disease affects a wide range of banana cultivars, which are propagated asexually from offshoots and therefore have very little genetic diversity. Panama disease is one of the most destructive plant diseases of modern times, and caused the commercial disappearance of the once dominant Gros Michel cultivar. A more recent strain also affects the Cavendish cultivars used as a substitute for Gros Michel. It is considered inevitable that this susceptibility will spread globally and commercially wipe out the Cavendish cultivar, for which there are currently no acceptable replacements.

Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. narcissi causes rotting of the bulbs (basal rot) and yellowing of the leaves of daffodils (Narcissi).

In humans

Some species may cause a range of opportunistic infections in humans. In humans with normal immune systems, fusarial infections may occur in the nails (onychomycosis) and in the cornea (keratomycosis or mycotic keratitis).[5][6] In humans whose immune systems are weakened in a particular way, (neutropenia, i.e., very low neutrophils count), aggressive fusarial infections penetrating the entire body and bloodstream (disseminated infections) may be caused by members of the Fusarium solani complex, Fusarium oxysporum, Fusarium verticillioides, Fusarium proliferatum and, rarely, other fusarial species.[7]

Use as human food

Fusarium venenatum is produced industrially for use as a human food by Marlow Foods, Ltd., and is marketed under the name Quorn in Europe and North America.

Some consumers of fusarium products have shown food allergies similar in nature to peanut and other food allergies. People with known sensitivities to molds should exercise caution when consuming such products. [8]

Biological warfare

Mass casualties occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s when Fusarium-contaminated wheat flour was baked into bread, causing alimentary toxic aleukia with a 60% mortality rate. Symptoms began with abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and prostration, and within days, fever, chills, myalgias and bone marrow depression with granulocytopenia and secondary sepsis occurred. Further symptoms included pharyngeal or laryngeal ulceration and diffuse bleeding into the skin (petechiae and ecchymoses), melena, bloody diarrhea, hematuria, hematemesis, epistaxis, vaginal bleeding, pancytopenia and gastrointestinal ulceration. Fusarium sporotrichoides contamination was found in affected grain in 1932, spurring research for medical purposes and for use in biological warfare. The active ingredient was found to be trichothecene T-2 mycotoxin, and it was produced in quantity and weaponized prior to the passage of the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972. The Soviets were accused of using the agent, dubbed “yellow rain”, to cause 6,300 deaths in Laos, Kampuchea, and Afghanistan between 1975 and 1981.[9][10] The “biological warfare agent” was later purported to be merely bee feces,[11][12] but the issue remains disputed.

Following an outbreak of Fusarium oxysporum that affected coca plantations in Peru, and other crops planted in the area, the United States has proposed the use of the agent as a mycoherbicide in drug eradication. In 2000, a proposal was passed to use the agent as part of Plan Colombia. In response to concerns use of the fungus could be perceived as biological warfare, the Clinton Administration “waived” this use of Fusarium. A subsequent law passed in 2006 has mandated the testing of mycoherbicide agents – either Fusarium oxysporum or Crivellia papaveracea – in field trials in U.S. territory.[13] Use of Fusarium oxysporum for these tests has raised concerns because resistant coca from the previous outbreak has been widely cultivated, and the fungus has been implicated in the birth of 31 anencephalic children in the Rio Grande region of Texas in 1991[citation needed], the loss of palm trees in Los Angeles, and eye infections from contact lens solutions.[14] The alternative Crivellia papaveracea is less well known; despite decades of study in the Soviet biowarfare lab in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the relevant mycotoxins reportedly have not yet been isolated, named, or studied.[13]

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.
Accessed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusarium on December 9, 2016.

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Biosecurity: Poison

Valero Blames Corpus Christi Water Problem On “Third Party Operations”

Corpus Christi, Texas, Water Use Plans

Gannett-cdn.com

http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/82c086b556a69a7ed722fe055e5113a8c5732cf1/c=0-8-747-570&r=x404&c=534×401/local/-/media/2016/12/16/TXGroup/CorpusChristi/636174702805932242-image1.png
Valero Blames Corpus Christi Water Problem On Third Party Operations 20161215

www.sacurrent.com/screen shot

   screenshot, valero.com
Posted By Michael Barajas on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 1:30 PM

In Corpus Christi, there are now hundreds of thousands of people who can’t use tap water for fear of industrial chemicals that may have seeped into the city’s water system, causing a run on bottled water, long lines at local grocery stores, and closed schools.

City officials blamed a “back-flow” incident in Corpus Christi’s industrial area, which they say may have allowed as much as 24 gallons of the chemical Indulin AA-86, an asphalt emulsifier, to enter the water system. In an advisory issued late Wednesday, officials urged residents to avoid all contact with the water until further notice, warning them that boiling, freezing, filtering, or in any way trying to disinfect the water will not make it safe for use. “Only bottled water should be used for all drinking, beverage and food preparation (including baby formula and juice), making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes or clothes, washing hands, and bathing until further notice,” according to the city’s alert.

While city officials haven’t yet said which company is responsible for releasing the chemical into the water supply, San Antonio-based oil company Valero owns and operates a large refinery complex in the city’s so-called “refinery row” that produces multiple grades of asphalt. In a statement to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times today, Valero spokeswoman Lillian Riojas blamed the issue on “third party operations” around Valero’s asphalt terminal.

“We do not believe this issue is being caused by Valero’s Corpus Christi refineries. While the City continues to investigate this issue, we do not believe the City’s water has been impacted,” the statement said. “We believe this issue is isolated to a lateral industrial line. Valero is offering its resources to assist the City in isolating the issue and to help confirm this has not impacted the City’s water supply.” (We’ve asked Riojas for clarification and will update if we hear back.)

Meanwhile, the Caller-Times reports that H-E-B and Walmart have both contacted shipping centers to ensure more bottled water is sent to a city that, at least for right now, desperately needs it.

Update 3pm: A Corpus Christi law firm says it has already filed a lawsuit against Valero over the incident. On the firm’s website, attorney Bob Hilliard writes: “[T]his case demonstrates the human and societal suffering caused when the drive for corporate profits takes priority over the safety of ordinary people. Valero Marketing and Supply Company, Valero South Texas Marketing Company, Valero Bill Greenhey [sic] Plant, and Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions, Inc. have wantonly and recklessly exposed unsuspecting business owners, employees, and residents of South Texas to toxic chemicals, contaminated their water and forced the closure of their businesses.”

© 2016 San Antonio Current
Accessed at http://www.sacurrent.com/the-daily/archives/2016/12/15/valero-blames-corpus-christi-water-problem-on-third-party-operations on December 16, 2016.

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Indulin AA-86 an asphalt emulsifier MSDS

Indulin AA-86 an asphalt emulsifier MSDS

OHSA

http://media.ksat.com/document_dev/2016/12/15/Indulin-AA-86_1481823810113_8584834_ver1.0.pdf

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EPA’s Study of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources

Hydraulically Fractured Well Locations

EPA

Executive Summary

People rely on clean and plentiful water resources to meet their basic needs, including drinking, bathing, and cooking. In the early2000s, members of the public began to raise con­cerns about potential impacts on their drinking water from hydraulic fracturing at nearby oil and gas production wells. In response to these concerns, Congress urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas and drinking water in the United States. The goals of the study were to assess the potential for activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle to impact the quality or quantity of drinking water resources and to identify factors that affect the frequency or severity of those impacts. To achieve these goals, the EPA conducted independent research, engaged stakeholders through technical workshops and round tables, and reviewed approximately 1,200 cited sources of data and information. The data and information gathered through these efforts served as the basis for this report, which represents the culmination of the EPA’s study of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on drinking water resources.

The hydraulic fracturing water cycle describes the use of water in hydraulic fracturing, from water withdrawals to make hydraulic fracturing fluids, through the mixing and injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids in oil and gas production wells, to the collection and disposal or reuse of produced water. These activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances. Impacts can range in frequency and severity, depending on the combination of hydraulic fracturing water cycle activities and local- or regional-scale factors. The following combinations of activities and factors are more likely than others to result in more frequent or more severe impacts:

  • Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources;
  • Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources;
  • Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources; and
  • Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.

The above conclusions are based on cases of identified impacts and other data, information, and analyses presented in this report. Cases of impacts were identified for all stages of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. Identified impacts generally occurred near hydraulically fractured oil and gas pro­duction wells and ranged in severity, from temporary changes in water quality to contamination that made private drinking water wells unusable.

The available data and information allowed us to qualitatively describe factors that affect the frequency or severity of impacts at the local level. However, significant data gaps and uncertainties in the available data prevented us from calculating or estimating the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. The data gaps and uncertainties described in this report also precluded a full characterization of the severity of impacts.

The scientific information in this report can help inform decisions by federal, state, tribal, and local officials; industry; and communities. In the short-term, attention could be focused on the combinations of activities and factors outlined above. In the longer-term, attention could be focused on reducing the data gaps and uncertainties identified in this report. Through these efforts, current and future drinking water resources can be better protected in areas where hydraulic fracturing is occurring or being considered.

https://www.epa.gov/hfstudy

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4 dead this year as outbreak of new Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria hits Alaska

Strep Throat

PPPictionary

Strep throat is caused by group-A streptococcus bacteria. These bacteria are spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of persons who are infected, or through contact with infected wounds or sores on the skin. Note the moderate redness of the oropharynx (soft palate) and tonsillitis caused by the pathogen.   http://www.ppdictionary.com/bacteria/gnbac/pyogenes.htm
   Author: Laurel Andrews Updated: 5 days ago from 1/3/2017 2:22 PM Published 6 days ago

Update 11 a.m. Tuesday:

The Alaska section of epidemiology reported Tuesday morning that an additional death in Fairbanks was not originally included in its data. The story has been updated to reflect four deaths due to group A strep infection, instead of three, as previously reported.

Original story:

A new strain of group A Streptococcus [GAS or _Streptococcus pyogenes_] bacteria first identified in Fairbanks in early 2016 has caused an outbreak in Anchorage, mainly among the homeless population, a state health department official said Monday afternoon.

At least 28 people in Fairbanks and Anchorage have been hospitalized since the bacteria were identified, and four have died due to different invasive diseases, said Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist and chief of the Alaska section of epidemiology with the Department of Health and Social Services.

“This outbreak is a new strain that we’ve never seen before. So having this increased number of cases of group A strep is not atypical,” McLaughlin said.

Group A Streptococcus bacteria can cause a wide range of infections, McLaughlin explained. Those range from less-severe strep throat and wound infections to potentially fatal toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis, a quick-spreading bacterial skin infection that kills the body’s soft tissue.

Every year in Alaska, about 60 to 90 people with invasive diseases from group A strep are identified, McLaughlin said. An invasive disease is one where germs enter normally germ-free parts of the body.

The outbreak is the largest since public health officials began doing surveillance on the bacteria in 2000, McLaughlin said.

The strain was first identified in early 2016 in Fairbanks. Ten people in the Interior community were hospitalized due to infection, and two died.

Those cases trickled in, with one or two a month. No new cases have been seen in Fairbanks in several months, McLaughlin said.

The strain was then identified in Anchorage in July, and an outbreak started in October, when the number of cases shot up, McLaughlin said. In Anchorage, 18 people have been hospitalized, two people have died, and another two cases are suspected, pending lab results.

Six of the Anchorage patients have developed necrotizing fasciitis. Two have developed toxic shock syndrome, a rare bacterial infection.

One person has lost an arm and another person lost “multiple digits,” McLaughlin said. One had cellulitis — a bacterial skin infection — and the other had toxic shock syndrome.

Of the three people who have died in Alaska, one had toxic shock syndrome, another had sepsis, where bacteria enter the bloodstream, and the third had pneumonia, McLaughlin said. The fourth had a combination of sepsis, toxic shock syndrome, and necrotizing fasciitis.

People who are more susceptible to illness from group A strep tend to be the elderly, very young people and those with health complications, McLaughlin said. Many people have been “colonized” by the bacteria but may not get sick, he said.

“From data that have been published nationally, there can be a higher risk in certain racial demographic groups,” McLaughlin said, including Native Americans. “It’s unclear why that is,” he said.

The cases in Alaska have mostly been middle-aged Alaska Native men, McLaughlin said, and many have stayed at Anchorage homeless shelters. Alcohol abuse is another common condition noted on medical charts, McLaughlin said.

Of the four who died, one was elderly, McLaughlin said. In Anchorage, one person was homeless but the second was not. All four who died were Alaska Natives, according to McLaughlin.

Group A strep has about 220 different strains. New strains are not commonly identified, McLaughin said. When they are, they are often associated with outbreaks, as people have not developed immunity to it.

At Brother Francis Shelter, staff has been prioritizing education on how to identify symptoms, said program director Lisa Caldeira.

Public health officials are interviewing patients and offering antibiotics to anyone with whom the patients have had close contact, McLaughlin said. They are distributing fact sheets about the bacteria, and working with hospitals to promptly identify wound infections and more serious illnesses.

© 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing. All rights reserved.
Accessed at https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/health/2016/11/28/3-dead-this-year-as-outbreak-of-new-strep-bacteria-hits-alaska/ on December 5, 2016.

 

Ann Morrison
By Ann Morrison January 4, 2017 16:45
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