Ibero-American News Digest
Not All in South America Are Willing To Turn Out the Lights
March 19 (EIRNS)Officials from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile have reaffirmed their intention to continue their nuclear power programs, despite the tsunami of propaganda on the alleged "Japan nuclear crisis."
Argentina and Brazil are each working on building new nuclear plants, and have just formalized a program to jointly develop two research reactors in each country.
Chile does not have any nuclear power plants, but is considering moving in this direction, and this week signed a Memorandum of Understanding on nuclear cooperation with the United States, following similar nuclear training agreements with France and Argentina. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera reiterated on March 16, that "Chile needs to learn about nuclear energy," since it needs to double its energy supply over the next ten years.
Not so Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who on March 15 took a break from his new campaign against breast implants, to denounce nuclear energy as "something extremely risky and dangerous for the whole world." Chávez added that he was freezing Venezuela's plans to build its first nuclear power plant, as provided for in an agreement signed with Russia in 2010.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed Chávez's decision, and called Japan's crisis "a wake-up call for all countries using that kind of energy, which is extremely sensitive to human error or natural disasters," in his address March 16 to "Thinking Green: Economic Strategy for the 21st Century," a conference in Bogota whose (very) big speaker was Al Gore.
The next day, Santos called upon Colombians to join his government in participating in Prince Philip's World Wildlife Fund's campaign to shut down electricity use worldwide for an hour next week, the so-called "Hour of the Planet" brainwashing campaign.
Still, for too many Colombians, living without electricity is a year-round misery.
Argentina Supports Japan's Nuclear Experts
March 21 (EIRNS)Japanese nuclear officials responded with total competence and calm to the crisis caused at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. "They did just what the manual indicated they should do."
These words of sanity came from Juan José Gil Gerbino, nuclear projects director of Argentina's INVAP company, the highly regarded state sector firm that builds nuclear reactors and other advanced technology. Speaking at a Feb. 17 seminar with nuclear engineers, physicists and former government energy officials, Gerbino said that, "It's amazing that even after the earthquake, [the Japanese] continue to generate 33,000 MWe, right in the middle of this crisis." What is happening in Japan cannot be compared to Chernobyl, he said, adding that there is no threat of a radioactive cloud being formed.
At the same seminar, José Fink, nuclear relations manager at Nucleoeléctrica Argentina, the state nuclear regulatory agency, said that the Argentine government's plan for developing nuclear energy has not changed in the wake of the Japanese disaster. In June, bidding on the construction of the country's fourth reactor will begin, and between September and the end of this year, the Atucha II reactor will begin operations.
While there is plenty of hysteria being generated by Greenpeace-Argentina and other like-minded NGOs, Atomic Energy Commission director of Institutional Relations Gabriel Barcelo stated on March 19 that Argentina was unlikely to ever experience the kind of problems seen in Japan. This is because Argentina's reactors "use different technology," and because the country "isn't in an earthquake-prone region." However, he pointed out, if proper engineering methods are used, there is no reason why reactors can't be built in earthquake-prone areas. It's also important to understand, he explained, that the explosion that occurred at one of the Japanese plants was a chemical one, not a nuclear one, affecting parts of the containment structure. The key thing, he said, is that "safety systems functioned at all the plants."
Obama, the Biofuels Salesman
March 21 (EIRNS)Little of substance came out of President Obama's two-day trip to Brazil this past weekend, but expansion of the use foodstocks for fuel, driving the human race technologically backward as well as making it more hungry, was right at the top of the agreements reached. Brazil and the United States are the two largest producers of biofuels in the world.
Obama signed an expansion of the U.S.-Brazilian Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on biofuel cooperation, which President Bush had negotiated in 2007 with President Lula da Silva, to include a new partnership for the development of aviation biofuels. (Brazil's Embraer, General Electric, and California biotech company Amyris intend to stage the first-ever flight using jet fuel produced from sugarcane in 2012).
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), bragging that its top people were all over Obama's Brasilia activities, was particularly happy with the clause in the expanded agreement which calls on the two countries to work to "prevent international barriers to biofuels trade and development."
Since 2007, the foreign oil majors and food cartels have been moving to buy up Brazilian ethanol production capabilities, the latest expansion being BP's March 11 announcement that it was purchasing three more sugar mills in Brazil, more than quadrupling BP's output of biofuels. Last year, Royal Dutch Shell teamed up with Brazilian sugar giant Cosan, to make it the world's largest cane producer, and produce 5 billion liters of the biofuel within five years.
UN Vastly Underestimated Haiti's Cholera Cases, New Study Charges
March 16 (EIRNS)A new study produced by medical researchers at the University of San Francisco and Harvard Medical School, warns that the number of cholera cases in Haiti this year will be double the 400,000 figure that the United Nations originally predicted shortly after cholera erupted in October 2010.
In early November 2010, Dr. Jon Andrus of the Pan American Health Organization, a branch of the World Health Organization, predicted that there would be 200,000 cases; but, on Nov. 23, he increased that projection to 400,000 cholera cases in 2011. The official death toll now stands at 4,672.
The new study, published in the British medical journal Lancet, predicts 779,000 cases between March 1 and Nov. 30 of this year, with 11,100 deaths, adding that the decline in the prevalence of cholera seen early this year merely reflects the "natural course of the epidemic, and should not be interpreted as indicative of successful intervention." The study warns that there will be many more cases than indicated by official estimates, which are used to determine resource allocation.
Numerous NGOs which have been treating cholera in Haiti since last October, are now pulling out, because the epidemic is allegedly "tapering off." Medical experts affiliated with the Haiti Epidemic Advisory System (HEAS), who are engaged in operational biosurveillance in remote areas, argue that such reports ignore the epidemic's advance in rural areas, where infection and morbidity rates remain extraordinarily high, but not officially documented.
The new study characterizes as "crude" the UN's projection method, which assumed a 2% attack rate. It ignored the "transmission dynamics and pathogenesis of cholera, such as where the bacteria are most likely to be transmitted, and ignores that people can be asymptomatic carriers," or develop immunity after becoming ill. There is no empirical basis for the estimated 2% attack rate, the study adds, and asks why, just two weeks after the initial projection, the UN doubled the projection to 400,000 "without explanation."
The report notes that while there is controversy over the use of vaccines and antibiotics in treating cholera, there are specific conditions under which they can be effective, and that, combined with the distribution of clean water, "all three interventions were projected to avert 170,000 cases and 3,400 deaths between March and December of 2011."