Thursday

World Health Organization Calls for Drastic Action to Halt West Africa’s Deadly Ebola Outbreak

Officials fear Ebola could spread to more countries. The outbreak, which began in the West African nation of Guinea in February, has turned into a cross-border crisis, the World Health Organization said. It called for drastic action to halt the epidemic. The WHO, despite efforts by national health authorities and international aid groups, has recorded 635 infections, including 399 deaths, in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The crisis is already the deadliest outbreak since Ebola emerged in central Africa in 1976. “This is no longer a country specific outbreak but a sub-regional crisis that requires firm action by governments and partners,” said Luis Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa. The WHO will meet with health ministers from 11 countries July 2-3 in Ghana to agree on a plan to fight the outbreak. An expert said it is unlikely to spread to Europe or the U.S. Reuters, Bloomberg, NPR

South Korean lawmakers demand explanation about diseases suffered by Samsung production workers. For years dozens of former Samsung employees in South Korea have said there’s a dark side to the nation’s most iconic conglomerate. They say conditions at a Samsung Electronics plant caused hundreds of rare diseases over the past two decades, some fatal, with most victims in their 20s or 30s. The plight of those ex-employees has suddenly gotten wide attention, reflecting South Korea’s growing concern about safety and corporate accountability. Some politicians and activists say the problems highlight the faults of a company that emphasized productivity over safety and prevented the formation of workers’ unions. Although there is no proof linking the diseases with factory conditions, Samsung recently apologized for its “lack of attention” to the issue. The Washington Post

EPA’s nine-year effort to document air pollution at livestock operations is likely still many years from completion. What’s more, the Environmental Protection Agency effort is unlikely to be as useful as industry and environmental groups had hoped. Still incomplete is what EPA promised to do under a 2005 deal cut with livestock producers to identify air emissions for varying types of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. The agency has said little about when the work will be done or when it will start three related regulatory tasks, according to sources outside EPA who track the issue. CAFOs’ barns, feedlots and manure storage areas foul the air with ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds. As FairWarning has reported, the EPA officials for years also have worried about water pollution from CAFOs but the agency remains largely in the dark about such basic facts as which operations are potentially the biggest polluters and where they are located. Greenwire

Bills to curb practice of physically restraining children get blocked by school lobbies and Congressional Republicans. Even as awareness has grown about the frequency with which schools use restraints — and about the injuries that can result — federal bills to curtail the practice have stalled. A recent analysis found that public schools put children in restraints or so-called seclusion, holding them in a room against their will, at least 267,000 times in a single school year. Lobbies representing school district leaders and boards have teamed with Congressional Republicans to block reform proposals. Prominent Republicans argue that the U.S. government shouldn’t be in the business of setting school policy and the matter should be left up to state and local leaders. ProPublica

Forced to allow firearms sales, Chicago City Council approves ordinance restricting where gun stores can open. City aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel made it clear that the only reason they were voting to permit gun stores after decades of a ban was because a federal judge, following a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the city’s handgun ban, ruled earlier this year that the ban on stores selling guns was unconstitutional. “This is the best we can do and I’m holding my nose and voting for it,” said Alderman Will Burns before the 48-0 vote. The provisions — which will almost certainly trigger a legal challenge — include a requirement that all gun sales be videotaped and restrictions that prohibit gun shops from 99.5 percent of the city. The Associated Press

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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