Tuesday

Experts Raise the Alarm Over the Spread of Drug-Resistant Malaria in Southeast Asia

Report by U.S. think tank warns of renewed threat from mosquito-borne disease. While malaria — which kills more than 600,000 people annually — wreaks its heaviest toll in Africa, it’s in several Southeast Asian nations along the Mekong River where the most serious threat to treating it has emerged. Therapies using the drug artemisinin have helped cut malaria deaths by a quarter in the past decade. But resistance to the drug emerged on the Thai-Cambodia border in 2003, and has since been confirmed in Vietnam and Myanmar. It has also been detected in southwest China and suspected as far away as Guyana and Suriname, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The report warns that a health catastrophe could be in the making, as no alternative drug is on the horizon. The Associated Press

Ethanol industry launches an unusual campaign to challenge a critical investigative story. The campaign by ethanol producers, corn growers and their lobbying and public relations firms has criticized and sought to alter the story by The Associated Press. The story, which found that ethanol hasn’t lived up to some of the government’s clean-energy promises, first appeared last week but was still being published by other news organizations today. Industry officials emailed newspapers and other news media, referring to the AP’s report as a “smear” and a ”hatchet job.” In a call with reporters, an official with the Renewable Fuels Association said, “There is probably more truth in this week’s National Enquirer than AP’s story.” The controversy comes as Congress considers modifying the mandate requiring oil companies to blend billions of gallons of ethanol into their gasoline. The Associated Press

Critics charge that a Richmond, Calif., nonprofit is a Chevron front group. The group, 4Richmond, calls itself a coalition of labor unions, nonprofits and corporations dedicated to creating a “more prosperous Richmond.” But it is raising skepticism in a poverty-ridden city that has a fractious history with its local Chevron refinery. Critics worry that because 4Richmond doesn’t have to reveal its donors, it could have an outsize impact on city politics. The group was formed shortly before the August 2012 fire at the refinery that prompted 15,000 people in and around the city to seek hospital treatment. Chevron has paid $3 million in criminal and civil fines in connection with the fire, and still faces at least three civil suits, including one by Richmond. Chevron acknowledges it is the group’s only donor so far, but says it “is not about politics.” San Francisco Chronicle

U.S. Corn Belt debacle last year could foreshadow the impact of further climate change. In early 2012, U.S. officials projected the largest corn crop in history. But then a savage summer heat wave and drought struck. Plants withered, prices spiked, and the final harvest came in 27 percent below the forecast. The situation bore a striking resemblance to what happened in Europe in 2003, after a heat wave cut production for some crops as much as 30 percent. Several researchers concluded that the European heat wave was made more likely by human-caused climate change; scientists are still arguing over the 2012 heat blast in the U.S. Whatever the origin, the episodes provide a taste of what could be in store with global warming. The New York Times

Minnesota city takes a groundbreaking step to regulate the “frac sand” industry. Winona, Minn. will become the first local government in the U.S. to monitor air pollution that may be escaping from mounds of sand being trucked through town for delivery to fracking fields in North Dakota and elsewhere. The move puts the city of 28,000 at the forefront of initial efforts to address the health effects of silica sand, an ingredient used in fracking that is linked to lung disease. It is part of a larger trend to understand the impacts of gas and oil development on communities. The data Winona collects will be used to determine if the city is within U.S. and state pollution standards, and it could help other towns build a case for monitoring frac sand pollution. InsideClimate News

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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