Daily Archives: October 16, 2014

The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition: Alfred W. Crosby Jr.

Thirty years ago, Alfred Crosby published a small work that illuminated a simple point, that the most important changes brought on by the voyages of Columbus were not social or political, but biological in nature. The book told the story of how 1492 sparked the movement of organisms, both large and small, in both directions across the Atlantic. This Columbian exchange, between the Old World and the New, changed the history of our planet drastically and forever.

The book The Columbian Exchange changed the field of history drastically and forever as well. It has become one of the foundational works in the burgeoning field of environmental history, and it remains one of the canonical texts for the study of world history. This 30th anniversary edition of The Columbian Exchange includes a new preface from the author, reflecting on the book and its creation, and a new foreword by J. R. McNeill that demonstrates how Crosby established a brand new perspective for understanding ecological and social events. As the foreword indicates, The Columbian Exchange remains a vital book, a small work that contains within the inspiration for future examinations into what happens when two peoples, separated by time and space, finally meet.

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Ebola Response Agency Has Budget Cut $600 Million … Thanks GOP

The Richard Fowler Show

Published on Oct 5, 2014

The lead agency tasked with responding to the threat of Ebola both within the United States and abroad has seen its budget drop dramatically in the past four years.

In breaking the news on Tuesday that the first Ebola patient had been diagnosed in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured Americans that it had adequate resources to combat the virus. The public health care system in America is dramatically more advanced than those in West Africa, currently the site of the largest Ebola outbreak in history. And as far as pathogens go, Ebola’s ability to spread is limited. It can only be transferred through the exchange of bodily fluids.

But CDC officials and lawmakers who support the agency warn that years of austerity has hobbled both the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, both in terms of their ability to combat future outbreaks and their ability to prevent them from happening in the first place.

According to numbers provided by a Senate Budget Committee staffer, the CDC has actually recovered nicely from the sequestration cuts that went into effect a year ago. The agency has been allocated $5.882 billion in fiscal year 2014, compared to the $5.432 billion it received after the cuts took place.

But if you move back the timeline a bit, you see that investment in the CDC has still fallen dramatically. The agency’s current budget, in fact, is nearly $600 million lower than it was in 2010.

2010: $6.467 billion
2011: $5.737 billion
2012: $5.732 billion
2013: $5.721 billion
2013 (after sequestration took effect): $5.432 billion
2014: $5.882 billion

While some of the funding was restored after the budget agreement between the House and Senate in early 2014, “there is still a gap between FY14 and FY10,” the Senate aide noted.

Biomedical research advocates are hoping that news of a patient in Dallas being diagnosed with the Ebola virus will draw more attention to that budget shortfall. Within hours of the CDC making the announcement on Tuesday, lawmakers were issuing clarion call warnings.

“A strong response to the Ebola outbreak starts with a strong investment in the CDC and other public health agencies working on the frontlines of this epidemic,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chair of both the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education — which funds the CDC.

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Pipeline of Billions for Developing Infrastructure

World Bank

Published on Oct 16, 2014

It’s called the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) and it’s as ambitious as it is innovative. The World Bank Group wants to unlock billions of dollars in private-public investments to help developing economies build roads, energy grids and other infrastructure. Watch World Bank Group President Jim Yong and leaders explain how it works.

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Coastal Cities Are Drowning, Thanks To New Reality Of Sea Level Rise

Climate Central | By John Upton,   Posted: 10/08/2014 9:08 am EDT Updated: 10/08/2014 2:59 pm EDT

This story originally appeared on Climate Central.

Coastal American cities are sinking into saturated new realities, new analysis has confirmed. Sea level rise has given a boost to high tides, which are regularly overtopping streets, floorboards and other low-lying areas that had long existed in relatively dehydrated harmony with nearby waterfronts. The trend is projected to worsen sharply in the coming years.

A new report, released by the Union of Concerned Scientists late on Tuesday, forecasts that by 2030, at least 180 floods will strike during high tides every year in Annapolis, Md. In some cases, such flooding will occur twice in a single day, since tides come in and out about two times daily. By 2045, that’s also expected be the case in Washington, D.C., Atlantic City, N.J. and 14 other East Coast and Gulf Coast locations out of 52 analyzed by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The shock for us was that tidal flooding could become the new normal in the next 15 years; we didn’t think it would be so soon,” said Melanie Fitzpatrick, one of three researchers at the nonprofit who analyzed tide gauge data and sea level projections, producing soused prognoses for scores of coastal Americans. “If you live on a coast and haven’t seen coastal flooding yet, just give it a few years. You will.”

The group originally set out to study increased risks of storm surges and hurricanes as seas rose, but quickly changed tack.


…(read more).

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Sen. James Inhofe Gives Final OK To Shift $700 Million To Fight Ebola


Posted: 10/10/2014 12:03 pm EDT Updated: 10/10/2014 1:59 pm EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — A powerful GOP senator lifted his objections Friday to a $750 million Pentagon request to fight Ebola in Africa, freeing up the money immediately.

Oklahoma GOP Sen. James Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave his OK to shift leftover Afghanistan war money to the Ebola effort, which involves sending almost 4,000 troops to Africa to offer logistical support to health care workers fighting the epidemic.

Inhofe said he still has big reservations about the mission and questions whether the Pentagon has a coherent strategy to fight the disease.

“After careful consideration, I believe that the outbreak has reached a point that the only organization in the world able to provide the capabilities and speed necessary to respond to this crisis is the U.S. military,” Inhofe said.

Inhofe’s approval came a day after other senior Republicans backed the effort to “reprogram” the war money to fight Ebola. It frees $700 million on top of the $50 million already approved as a first installment.

The administration originally requested $1 billion to send up to 4,000 troops to Africa. In briefings this week, lawmakers said, Pentagon officials estimated $750 million would cover a six-month mission that would include airlifting personnel, medical supplies, protective suits and equipment such as tents to house Ebola victims and isolate people exposed to the virus.

It takes the OK of the top Republican and Democrat on the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations panels to “reprogram” Pentagon funds. It’s a common practice within the huge $500 billion-plus Pentagon budget. Such transfers are rarely publicized, but the Ebola transfer is an unusually high-profile example.

The Ebola mission comes as the military is already stretched thin.

…(read more).

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Obama Also Pushed For CDC Cuts In Years Before Ebola Outbreak

Posted: 10/15/2014 12:50 pm EDT Updated: 10/15/2014 12:59 pm EDT

WASHINGTON — Recent attacks by a Democratic outside group blame congressional Republicans for exacerbating the Ebola epidemic by continuously seeking to cut funds for government health agencies.

But the charge leaves out a critical point. President Barack Obama hasn’t been consistent on funding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the dominant U.S. public health agency combating the outbreak. In some years, he’s been a budgetary champion for the CDC. In other years, he’s bowed to austerity.

During Obama’s first three years in the White House, the CDC’s total funding increased from $6.64 billion to $7.16 billion, according to figures provided by the administration. Those funding levels were all higher than what was in place at the end of the Bush years.

After the GOP took control of the House in 2011, the administration protected CDC funding by relying on new funding streams from the Affordable Care Act. But the CDC’s total budget fell by $430 million in fiscal year 2013, and the president can’t blame Republicans for the drop. The president’s funding requests for the CDC dropped too.

In FY 2010, the budget authority requested by the president for the CDC was $6.38 billion, according to administration figures. That number went up to $6.68 billion in FY 2011. It then decreased sharply to $5.89 billion in FY 2012 (Page 85). The cuts were softened by the fact that the CDC received money from additional funding streams. In that fiscal year, additional funding streams actually resulted in a higher overall account for the CDC than the prior year. (Hence, how it ended up with $7.16 billion.)

(read more).

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Ebola Vaccine Would Likely Have Been Found By Now If Not For Budget Cuts: NIH Director

Posted: 10/12/2014 9:30 pm EDT Updated: 1 hour ago

BETHESDA, Md. — As the federal government frantically works to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and as it responds to a second diagnosis of the disease at home, one of the country’s top health officials says a vaccine likely would have already been discovered were it not for budget cuts.

Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has “slowed down” research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.

“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'” Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

It’s not just the production of a vaccine that has been hampered by money shortfalls. Collins also said that some therapeutics to fight Ebola “were on a slower track than would’ve been ideal, or that would have happened if we had been on a stable research support trajectory.”

“We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference,” he said.

Speaking from NIH’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, the typically upbeat Collins was somber when discussing efforts to control the Ebola epidemic. His days are now spent almost exclusively on the disease. But even after months of painstaking work, a breakthrough doesn’t seem on the immediate horizon.

…(read more).

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