Whooping cough epidemic in Western Australia

Four babies have already died as whooping cough cases shot up in Western Australia.

A record number of more than 3,500 cases were reported last year, more than double the 2010 total. Four babies have died from the infection in as many years and the Health Department is urging parents to be prepared for more cases.

The department’s Paul Armstrong says whooping cough in the community seems to be rising. “In 2011 we had the highest number of cases reported to us of whooping cough, we know that whooping cough epidemics happen every three to four years, and we’re well overdue in WA for a whooping cough epidemic,” Mr Armstrong said.

Health Minister Kim Hames says parents must take responsibility for the vaccination of their children. “Whatever you hear of the risks of vaccination – of a whole range of different things – are totally outweighed by the risk of the disease itself,” he said. “Measles kills, whooping cough kills. All of those diseases that you can now get a vaccination to stop, can kill children.

Global warming in Bangkok

This fall’s flooding in Thailand killed more than 700 people while costing 54 billion dollars in damage and lost revenue.

partial map ofT hailand with northen sections flooded

Flooding in Thailand, Oct. 2011


Scientists and weather forecasters are worried about the fate of the capital city, Bangkok. It’s built on a delta of the river Chao Phraya, and has canals as well as roads (flood map).

* Weather patterns are changing and rainfall patterns are becoming more erratic.Typhoons may appear in unexpected places.

* Typhoons have increased from one every 7 or 8 years to one every 3 or 4 years

* The temperature in Thailand has risen two degrees in the last forty years. Consequently, storms have more energy and are more intense.

* Precipitation during the monsoon has risen by 15%. During the rainy season, a metre of rain can fall in less than an hour.

In addition, the city will end up under water:

* The sea level is rising 3 mm per year.

*The city is based on a river delta. Bangkok is sinking into its soft clay substrate about 4 cm a year as water is pumped out.

* In a really big storm, as much as 30 square km will be flooded with overflow from the river and polluted water from the canals.

map of city of Bangkok with winding river through it

Bangkok's flood embankments

The King, a hydrological engineer, has made flood control a priority for thirty years. The city is protected from flooding by overflow ponds and channels that take water from upriver directly to the sea. Pumps can lower the level of the canals 20 cm, helping the city to drain. But it’s not enough to control the damage from typhoons and rising sea levels.  But there’s no magic in mega0projects. People are leaving their homes near the canals. They remember the great flood of 2538 (1995 in our calendar). They’re piling up sandbags and building barriers and raising their houses.

Coastal erosion is fierce and soil is constantly being washed away in the southern part of the city. One temple has been surrounded by water in the last twenty years and the lower levels are flooded. The village it served has been washed away in the last fifteen years.  Only the telephone poles remain.

New York City is another city that is vulnerable to rising sea levels.

The chambered nautilus isn’t protected?

Silly me. I would have thought that the unique biological status of the chambered nautilus as the irreplaceable last example of the shelled cephalopods that cruised the Devonian seas would have given it protection. I was wrong. Our penchant for making beautiful ornaments out of its murdered shells is soooo much more important! Loving the chambered nautilus to death. I mean, hell! There are all of six known populations.

“The Crusades through Arab Eyes”

Steve Smith says:
[I recommend] “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes” by Amin Maalouf. This is religious, political, and strategic history as it should be written. It’s a pithy and honest history of a subject that continues to highly relevant. And it can be read in its original French or the very good English translation. It also quotes this gem from 10th c. “Muslim” poet al-Ma’arri:

The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts: Those with brains, but no religion, And those with religion but no brains.

Little has changed over a thousand years.

Japanese radioactivity–what to eat

Greg Laden reviews the radioactivity in Japanese seafood. He includes this nice diagram showing the radioactive fallout from the nuclear plants’ meltdowns.

Radioactive seawater near Japan

New species of manta ray

Larger, shyer manta ray

The manta ray is the largest species of ray in the world. Off the coast of Mozambique, Andrea Marshall found a previously unknown, related species, she announced in 2008. The new species has not yet been named. It seems to prefer deeper waters and may migrate long distances.

Manta circles researcher

Dr. Marshall made the discovery when she was a PhD candidate. Not too surprisingly, she got her doctorate!

Marine dynasty

The grandson of Jacques Cousteau, Philippe Cousteau, is on Discovery World HD looking for manta rays in the Indian Ocean. That ocean covers 13% of the world’s surface and has 5,000 species, many of them unique to it.

The marine biologists locate manta rays by finding a cleaning station, where cleaner wrasse and butterfly fish hang about waiting for fish to come to them to have parasites and food particles cleaned away.

About 22% of the coral reefs in the Indian Ocean are under threat. Crown of thorns starfish, which eat coral animals, have multiplied a hundredfold as their predators are fished out.

There is one population of wild dugong left in the Indian Ocean. They are shy herbivorous mammals that have been both hunted and accidentally tangled in nets.

India experiences ‘gendercide’

Social conditions in India mean that, for many people, male infants are valued more than female. Boys stay at home, bring in dowries, work for the family, and take care of parents in their old age. Girls leave home, cost dowries, work for the husband’s family, and take care of the husband’s parents. And families always try to have the children that benefit them.

Working within those rules, families reduce the number of female children by selective abortion, covert infanticide, and starvation or other deadly neglect.

The proportion of females in among children is at an all-time low.

Of course, this leads to problems at marriageable age. Instead of scrapping the dowry and reworking social expectations, parents of boys will be buying kidnapped girls.

%d bloggers like this: