Breathing Easier in the Amazon
When the Brazilian government announced the creation of the 9.5 million—acre Tumucumaque Mountains National Park in August, it took a small but important step in the overall effort to protect the country's billion acres of Amazon rain forest. Larger than Massachusetts and Connecticut combined, Tumucumaque stretches along the French Guiana border in the northern Brazilian state of Amapá—and is the world's largest rain forest park. Despite the size of the new preserve, however, more than 85 percent of the Brazilian Amazon remains unprotected.
Still, José María Cardoso da Silva of Conservation International says, "this is a big piece of the jungle." Cardoso da Silva's organization is one of several that pushed for the park's establishment, in part because Tumucumaque has remained relatively free of human encroachment. "There hasn't been any deforestation or mining, and very few people live here," he says. Hence the lush, pristine state of the park, as well as its staggering biodiversity: at least eight kinds of primates, 350 species of bird, 37 types of lizard, and animals that are endangered almost everywhere else in the country, such as jaguars, giant anteaters, giant armadillos, and black spider monkeys—not to mention species that have yet to be identified.
Adjoining Tumucumaque are seven other areas under various degrees of environmental protection. Together, these parcels of land contain more than 27 million protected acres—one of the largest contiguous blocks in the world.
The Brazilian government has promised to eventually safeguard 10 times that amount. Meanwhile, the question of how it will manage Tumucumaque remains uncertain. Cardoso da Silva and his colleagues hope scientists will inventory the species there and map the area with satellite imagery. They also hope the government will encourage ecotourism in the park and enlist the help of the nearby Apalai and Wayana Indians, most of whom live at subsistence levels. "We need to be a model," says Cardoso da Silva. "If Brazil is able to prove that a national park can generate income for the locals, other countries, like Guyana and Suriname, will follow our example." —Paula Szuchman
Japan: Keeping Hot Springs Safe
To the Japanese, soaking in hot springs is what hitting the beach is traditionally to Americans: relaxing, social, and good for you. So an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at a hot springs resort here in August, which led to six deaths and hundreds of infections, caused considerable alarm. Legionnaires' is a form of pneumonia spread by waterborne bacteria; no stranger to the travel industry, it has shown up recently in Australia and Europe. The origin of the outbreak at the newly opened Sun Park resort on Kyushu island remains unclear. According to the Ministry of Health, possibilities include poor sterilization of mineral baths and improper drainage of overflow.
Fortunately, Legionnaires' occurs infrequently. While no precaution is foolproof, cleanliness is a good start, says Matt Freije of health consultants HC Information in Fallbrook, California. "You should be able to drop a quarter to the bottom of the spa and see it clearly," he says. The Ministry of Health, meanwhile, is installing inspection equipment in public health facilities throughout Japan. —Andrew Bender
Back on Track in London
As part of his plan to ease London's infamous gridlock, Mayor Ken Livingstone wants to reintroduce electric trams—displaced by cars 50 years ago—to the capital. The $760 million proposal, if approved, could cut city travel times in half, establishing two new lines: the West London (due by 2009) and the Cross River (2011). Quiet and environmentally friendly, each with more seating capacity than a London bus, the trams would traverse the city center in designated lanes and have priority over other vehicles when sharing the same road space. The 10-mile Cross River line would link major London landmarks, including Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. —Elena Bowes Marano
The Latest on Lariam
For the first time, the manufacturer of Lariam, the popular medication for preventing malaria, has acknowledged that people have committed suicide after taking the drug. Lariam is prized by travelers to such places as Africa and India—as well as by the U.S. military—for its effectiveness against malaria and its once-a-week regimen. In the past four years, however, 11 people have killed themselves after using Lariam, according to Food and Drug Administration records. Others have suffered nightmares, hallucinations, and psychotic episodes. In July, Switzerland-based Roche Holding announced that it would change Lariam's written product information to say that "rare cases of suicidal ideation and suicide have been reported" and to advise patients to stop taking the drug if they experience acute anxiety, depression, or confusion.
"Lariam remains one of the drugs of choice for the prevention and treatment of malaria by leading public health authorities," says Terence Hurley, a Roche spokesperson. Both the company and the FDA maintain that there is no evidence to connect the reported suicides to the drug. Still, some doctors prefer a newer drug, Malarone, though it must be taken daily to be effective. —Matthew Yeomans