From Volume 38, Issue 23 of EIR Online, Published June 10, 2011
Asia News Digest

Is Massive Fishkill in Philippines Precursor to Volcanic Eruptions?

June 4 (EIRNS)—Over 700 metric tons of primarily tilapia and whitefish have died mysteriously in Lake Taal, the huge lake surrounding the Taal Volcano in southern Luzon, the main northern island of the Philippines. Other fish have died in smaller numbers in Lake Taal, while fish kills in other parts of Luzon have also been reported.

There has been a dramatic increase in small to medium size earthquakes in the area of three different volcanos in the Philippines over the past months, which has drawn serious attention from seismologists in a country which has experienced severe volcanic eruptions in recent times—notably the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 which killed 800 and destroyed numerous towns, as well as the U.S. Clark Airbase. The Pinatubo eruption was preceded by a 7.8 earthquake the previous year about 100 km away.

While the cause of the fishkills has not been determined, one possibility is an increase in the sulfur or other gases in the water coming from the seismic activity from the volcanos.

Myanmar President Seals Strategic Partnership with China

May 29 (EIRNS)—Myanmar's new President, Thein Sein, completed a three-day trip to Beijing, China, sealing a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries after meetings with top officials, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

A supplemental agreement to an MOU between the Myanmar Union Ministry of Rail Transportation and the China Railways Engineering Corporation completes the deal for China's assistance in developing a railroad from the Yunnan, China, border to a western Myanmar port city.

Myanmar and China also signed nine accords, including one for a $765 million loan and a hydroelectric project. China accounts for almost half of all investment funds that have gone into Myanmar since 1988.

China Tracks Down Europe's Killer E. coli Bacteria

June 4 (EIRNS)—Various reports over the recent period have stressed how China is seriously entering the commercial biological world market. The success of Beijing Genomics Institute (whose main lab is actually in Shenzhen City near Hong Kong) in sequencing the DNA sequence of the E. coli bacteria that is responsible for the outbreak of enterohemorraghic E. coli. (ENEC), which has caused serious disease and deaths in Europe, confirm this.

On June 2, the BGI announced that the E. coli spreading through Europe was "a new strain of bacteria that is highly infectious and toxic." The researchers managed to fully sequence its genome in three days—becoming the first in the world to do so, and post its full sequence on the Internet.

They also identified genes in the bacteria that gave it resistance to at least three major classes of antibiotics, which helped explain why doctors in Europe have had such a hard time fighting the bug. "We have done further analysis and see even more antibiotic-resistant and toxic genes. Our work is still ongoing," said team member Qin Junjie.

The institute later found genes in the bacteria that gave it resistance to eight classes of antibiotics. The newly identified 0104 strain of E. coli bacteria is resistant to major classes of antibiotics including sulfonamide, cephalothin, penicillin, and streptomycin. The researchers are developing a diagnostic kit to detect the bacteria and prevent the epidemic from spreading further.

BGI has more than 180 sequencing machines, giving it the biggest DNA sequencing capacity in the world, and a total workforce of over 4,000.

China To Train 2,000 Fusion Experts

May 26 (EIRNS)—The Chinese government is planning to train 2,000 skilled experts to carry out research and development in magnetic confinement fusion (MCF), according to China Daily. While China has its own fusion experiment based at Hefei University in Anhui province, it is also a participant in the international ITER program based in France. The Chinese government feels that it is not getting enough out of its participation in ITER, however, and is intent on increasing its role there.

The ITER is related to 34 core scientific engineering technologies and management subjects. Wan Yuanxi, dean of the school of nuclear science and technology at the University of Science and Technology of China, tells China Daily, "Chinese researchers only work on 11 of them, which means we have no involvement in more than 60% of its core scientific engineering technologies and management subjects."

"We urgently need to build a system for training researchers in both universities and institutes nationwide," said Cao Jianlin, Vice Minister of Science and Technology. "China is trying to dispatch more qualified scientists to work on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France." A total of 1,254 researchers have been involved with magnetic confinement fusion projects in China," he said.

Pro-Nuclear Japanese Governor Wins Big in Quake Zone

June 6 (EIRNS)—Pro-nuclear incumbent governor of Aomori prefecture in Japan, Shingo Mimura, easily won reelection yesterday with 75% of the vote against two opportunist nobodies who ran on anti-nuclear platforms.

Mimura, an independent backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, pledged to set up a committee to review the safety of nuclear plants in Aomori Prefecture in the wake of the nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, but remained completely committed to nuclear power.

Aomori is an excellent test case for the actual status of nuclear power with the population. While not among the worst damaged, it is in the March 11 quake zone. It currently has one nuclear reactor in Higashidori and also has the nation's only nuclear-reprocessing plant at Rokkasho. It was set to be the site of four of 14 new reactors Japan planned to build by 2030, before cowardly Prime Minister Naoto Kan put a kibosh on further nuclear plans, at least temporarily.

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