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morningfog's Journal
morningfog's Journal
July 31, 2014

As West Africa Ebola outbreak worsens, CDC issues Level 3 Travel Warning (Press Release)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issued a warning to avoid nonessential travel to the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. This Level 3 travel warning is a reflection of the worsening Ebola outbreak in this region.

CDC is rapidly increasing its ongoing efforts in the three nations. CDC disease detectives and other staff are on the ground:

Tracking the epidemic including using real-time data to improve response
Improving case finding
Improving contact tracing
Improving infection control
Improving health communication
Advising embassies
Coordinating with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners
Strengthening Ministries of Health and helping them establish emergency management systems

“This is the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history. Far too many lives have been lost already,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “It will take many months, and it won’t be easy, but Ebola can be stopped. We know what needs to be done. CDC is surging our response, sending 50 additional disease control experts to the region in the next 30 days.”

CDC expects its efforts not only to help bring the current outbreak under control, but to leave behind stronger systems to prevent, detect and stop Ebola and other outbreaks before they spread.

In addition to warning travelers to avoid going to the region, CDC is also assisting with active screening and education efforts on the ground in West Africa to prevent sick travelers from getting on planes. On the remote possibility that they do, CDC has protocols in place to protect against further spread of disease. These include notification to CDC of ill passengers on a plane before arrival, investigation of ill travelers, and, if necessary, quarantine. CDC also provides guidance to airlines for managing ill passengers and crew and for disinfecting aircraft. Earlier this week, CDC issued a Health Alert Notice reminding U.S. healthcare workers of the importance of taking steps to prevent the spread of this virus, how to test and isolate suspected patients and how they can protect themselves from infection.

At this time, CDC and its partners at points of entry are not screening passengers traveling from the affected countries. It is important to note that Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear, and that transmission is through direct contact of bodily fluids of an infected, symptomatic person or exposure to objects like needles that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

Over the next five years the United States has committed to working with at least 30 partner countries (totaling at least 4 billion people) to improve their ability to prevent, detect, and effectively respond to infectious disease threats -- whether naturally occurring or caused by accidental or intentional release of pathogens.

Improving these capabilities for each nation improves health security for all nations. Stopping outbreaks where they occur is the most effective and least expensive way to protect people’s health.

The President’s FY 2015 budget includes a request of $45 million to fund this global health security effort.


I've never heard of a disease detective, but it makes perfect sense to have them (and call them such).
July 31, 2014

For the sake of humanity, the international community must require Israel to end this disaster

To continue to witness children being killed and orphaned, entire families being obliterated and entire neighbourhoods levelled, is beginning to seem physically impossible. No one should have to bear this burden. And yet we in Gaza are being forced to do so. Even those who have sought refuge in apparently protected spaces – such as schools run by the UN – have fallen victim.

Against this backdrop, it is difficult to comprehend how the international community seems unable to halt what is no longer just a war in Gaza but an apocalypse for its citizens. The Gaza Strip is now unlivable. Hundreds of thousands of people who lived close to the perimeter of the territory have been pushed towards its centre. One of the most densely populated districts in the world has not only shrunk but become more dense. Since Gaza’s only electricity generation station was targeted, severe shortages in water and now, bread, have been exacerbated.

The government of Israel does not seem interested in a ceasefire pact. As recent history amply demonstrates, the ideal next step in Israel’s eyes would be a conclusion of this war without having to engage in any kind of binding agreements with Gaza. It has extended the conflict by making any cessation of hostilities dependent on the destruction of tunnels which lead into Israel, a condition it did not state at the outset. Putting aside the question of whether it was legitimate for Palestinians to dig those tunnels, Israel should not be allowed to cripple prospects for a ceasefire with a requirement that even it has acknowledged will be difficult to achieve.

And what is surely not acceptable any longer is Israel’s continued denial of the reasons why those tunnels were resorted to in the first place. Its refusal to address the issue of Gaza as a political question and not as a military one is part of the problem, and the reason for so many civilian deaths.

An explicit recognition by the international community that the conditions civilians are enduring in Gaza are insupportable would propel prospects for a credible ceasefire. Palestinians would take such recognition as a clear gesture of fairness and goodwill from the world. But, if some aspects of Gaza’s troubles are recognised while others are sidelined – such as the need for a longer term solution – the feeling that the world is still unwilling to appreciate our plight will only be deepened.


July 31, 2014

Sierra Leone's Army Deployed to Quarantine Ebola-Stricken Neighborhoods

Sierra Leone's president called in the army on Thursday to quarantine Ebola-stricken neighborhoods and to help conduct house-to-house searches for those people displaying symptoms of the deadly virus, as West African governments began trying to tackle the epidemic more aggressively.

The president, Ernest Bai Koroma, also banned public meetings except for those dedicated to Ebola education and canceled overseas trips for top government officials, according to a speech posted on his website. Mr. Koroma was planning to attend a three-day summit of leaders of African countries to be hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington starting Monday.

Instead, the Sierra Leonean president will travel to Conakry for meetings with government officials from Guinea and Liberia. All three West African nations are reeling as some of world's most threadbare health care systems try to stop one of its most deadly viruses.


July 31, 2014

Israel Faces Latin American Backlash (Morales labels Israel terrorist state)

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Wednesday labeled Israel a "terrorist state" and announced that Israelis need visas to visit, the latest in a series of measures Latin American countries have leveled against Israel for the violence in the Gaza Strip.

Criticism of Israeli policies has come from some parts of the world. Latin American countries have stood out by coordinating a range of diplomatic measures, including recalling their ambassadors for consultations and issuing sharply worded statements, political analysts said.

"Israel doesn't guarantee the principle of respect for life, and the basic right to live in harmony and peace in the international community," Mr. Morales said Wednesday in a speech in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba. There was no immediate Israeli response to Mr. Morale's accusations or Bolivia's decision to require that Israeli visitors apply for visas.

On Tuesday, at a meeting of the Mercosur trade bloc in Caracas, Venezuela, the presidents of four of the five countries in the organization demanded an end to the military actions in Gaza and called for Israel to permit the free flow of people, food and humanitarian aid. In a statement, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela said they "energetically condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, which in the majority affects civilians, including children and women."

That same day, three other Latin American countries called home their ambassadors: El Salvador, Chile and Peru.
The region's most influential country, Brazil, had done so last week, while Ecuador made the move on July 17. Uruguay and Argentina, which has a large Jewish community, maintained their ambassadors in Israel. Leftist Venezuela, which sharply opposes U.S. policy in the Middle East and is Latin America's most vocal critic of Israel, broke relations with the Jewish state years ago.


July 30, 2014

Two more holes discovered in northern Russia

Local newspapers have claimed that Reindeer herders bumped into two more giant holes in the ground in northern Russia. This news comes in two weeks after the discovery of the giant hole in the gas-rich Yamal peninsula.

Both the two newly discovered holes are located above the Arctic Circle, one is located in the Yamal and the other in the Taymyr peninsula to the east of Yamal, in Kransoyark region. The first hole was explored and measured at 195 feet in diameter with a depth of around 300 feet. The second hole inside Yamal has a diameter of 50 feet, and its depth is currently unknown. The third hole in Kransoyark was 13 feet in diameter and is estimated to be around 200 to 325 feet deep.

Yamal area where two of these three holes have been found is inhabited by indigenous reindeer herders and is one of Russia's richest regions in natural gas. Formation of one of the newly found hole in this region was witnessed by local residents on September 23 last year. One claims that the ground began to smoke and was followed by a bright flash, while the other indicates that a celestial body fell and crashed into the permafrost.


July 30, 2014

1,200+ killed in Gaza, 40 percent declared DMZ, evacuation notices and ROUTINE bombing of shelters

This is a massacre. These are war crimes.

It is indefensible and unacceptable. This long ago ceased being about self-defense, rockets or tunnels. It is long past time for the US to give the war criminals an ultimatum: End the slaughter now, or no more US dollars. The blood of the innocent Palestinian is on our hands.

Here is picture of Israel warning of more bombings to come. Of course, there is no where safe to go. There never has been. Israel has declared 40 percent of Gaza a DMZ, Israel has routinely bombed UN shelters, Israel has even bombed the power supplies. There is no where left to go. Israel is shooting fish in a barrel and enjoying the support of US leaders while they do it. It is disgusting and shameful.

July 29, 2014

Power, TV and Radio Stations Hit in Gaza

GAZA CITY — Israeli airstrikes flattened the vacant four-story home of Hamas’s top political leader in the Gaza Strip and destroyed offices of the organization’s radio and television station early Tuesday, broadening Israel’s targets as diplomacy toward a cease-fire sputtered in confusion on the battle’s 22nd day.

Palestinians said Israeli strikes had also hit Gaza’s only power plant, where an enormous fire hurtled thick, black smoke skyward, visible for miles. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israeli military said he was still looking into the circumstances of the fire, including “whether we had anything to do with it.”

But the attacks on Hamas’s media operation and the home of Ismail Haniya, the deputy chief of Hamas who is second only to Khaled Meshal, the leader who lives in exile in Qatar, signified Israel’s widened roster of targets marked for destruction in the conflict, the deadliest in years.

The strikes, during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, came after the latest humanitarian halt to hostilities collapsed because of attacks on both sides, culminating in the most deadly incursion yet by Palestinian militants through a tunnel from Gaza into Israel.

* * *
The shutdown of the power plant, which Israel previously attacked in 2006 and which sat idle for weeks this past winter for lack of fuel, threatened to turn the deprivations in Gaza into a humanitarian crisis. The facility powers water and sewage systems as well as hospitals, and it had been Gaza’s main source of electricity in recent days after eight of 10 lines that run from Israel were damaged.

“Today there is no electricity in Gaza,” said Jamal Dardasawi of Gaza’s electricity distribution company, noting that the power supplied by Egypt is not even enough for the southern city of Rafah. “The shelling of the station is a violation of all red lines.”


July 29, 2014

Israel Steps Up Attacks Against Hamas in Gaza (Strikes Gaza's Only Power Plant)

Israeli forces pounded Hamas symbols of control and the Gaza Strip's only power plant Tuesday in their heaviest bombardment of a three-week offensive in Gaza, defying international demands for an immediate cease-fire after Hamas militants broke a Muslim holiday lull.

The military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, said the assault on Gaza's Hamas rulers, which has cost more than 1,100 lives, was being "intensified." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis late Monday to brace for a long fight.

In a televised address, Mr. Netanyahu had given no sign that the military would go beyond its stated goals—degrading Hamas's rocket arsenal and finding and destroying a network of cross-border tunnels that fighters use to infiltrate Israel. The military needs about another week to accomplish that, officials said.

But the overnight strikes by Israeli aircraft, tanks and navy gunboats on dozens of targets pointed to a wider campaign.

* * *

Another strike engulfed Gaza's power plant in flames, forcing it to shut down, said Fathi El Sheikh Khalil, manager of the territory's power authority.

The main source of Gaza's electricity is Israel, but many of those power lines have been destroyed by the fighting. The damage to the Gaza plant could leave much of Gaza without electricity.


"Steps up" is a too sanitized description. Israel is destroying a people. Israel is systematically and intentionally committing sustained war crimes. This is not "self-defense." This is slaughter of innocents.

July 25, 2014

Bernie Sanders did not support the Senate agreement on Israel

The resolution was passed by a unanimous consent agreement, meaning no senator opposed it. 79 senators signed on to support it. Sanders could have signed on in support, but he did not. He was one of only 21 who did not support it. He did not oppose it either.

He made this point clear on his website:

Israel-Palestine: The Senate last week passed a resolution without a formal roll call vote by unanimous consent supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas. Writing for Salon, David Palumbo-Liu noted that Sen. Sanders “voted” for the resolution which actually passed without a vote.

His website also includes this news item:

Potential War Crimes in Gaza Fight The United Nation’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said Wednesday that there was a “strong possibility” that Israel and Hamas have committed war crimes with their indiscriminate attacks on civilians, The New York Times reported.


He is reported to have written this in a letter during the Israel-Hamas conflict in 2009:

Thank you very much for contacting me about the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza that resulted in the loss of hundreds of Palestinian lives. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to you on this important issue.

As you know, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been of the world’s most difficult disputes over the last half century. The hatred, violence and loss of life that define this conflict make living an ordinary life a constant struggle for both peoples. This crisis not only endangers the Middle East but also creates enormous instability throughout the region and ultimately, the world.

Recently, this decades-old conflict spilled over once more as Israel launched a major military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in order to counter Palestinian rocket fire into its cities and, more broadly, to significantly weaken Hamas rule in Gaza. Tragically, the operation resulted in more than 1,200 Palestinian deaths, the majority of whom were civilians. Thirteen Israelis also lost their lives in the battle before both sides declared temporary cease-fires.

While I fully support Israel’s right to defend itself from the constant barrage of rockets Hamas fires into its homes and urban centers, I have strongly condemned the use of violence by either side as a means for achieving its goals. Leaders on both sides must recognize that the only solution to this conflict is thorough a political process that recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination and the right of Jews to a safe and secure homeland in Israel.

Unfortunately, the approach of the Bush administration over the last eight years has been one of disengagement from the conflict and complacency with the status quo. This approach has been shown to be not just ineffective, but detrimental to achieving the long-term goals each side seeks. Worse yet, the United States’ inaction on this issue has consistently been out of sync with our allies and has weakened the international coalition’s efforts to resolve this conflict.

That is why I wholeheartedly support the new Obama administration is its commitment to expand our diplomatic presence in the region and to take a more active role in facilitating negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. To that end, President Obama recently appointed Senator George Mitchell as a Special Envoy to the Middle East. I believe Senator Mitchell is uniquely qualified for this role due to his ability to listen to both sides in conflicts, his non-confrontational manner and his years of experience in negotiating peace agreements.

Moving forward, the United States must again be a leader in helping bring both sides together to negotiate a final status agreement. We must work with those Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are truly committed to peace, security and statehood rather than empty rhetoric and violence. We must also enlist the help of the United Nations and the international community to lend support for a two-track process that provides the Palestinians with a state of their own while ensuring the security of the Israeli people.

A two-state solution must include compromises from both sides to achieve a fair and lasting peace in the region. The Palestinians must fulfill their responsibilities to arrest terrorists, confiscate terrorists’ weapons, dismantle terrorist organizations, halt all anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement, and recognize Israel’s right to exist. In return, the Israelis must end their policy of targeted killings, prevent further Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes, businesses and infrastructure.

Further, instead of being used as a political football, the Palestinians should be given the financial support of wealthy Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as the rest of the international community. Frankly, I have little respect for the leaders of wealthy Arab countries who express great concern about the plight of the Palestinians, while they put billions in Swiss bank accounts. Economic assistance is desperately needed to help create jobs and improve the desperately low standard of living that afflicts so many Palestinians.

I have long believed that one of the best antidotes to war and international tension are citizen exchange programs. In many instances, when people of different backgrounds get to know each other on a personal and human level, differences of opinion can be worked out or, at least, a mutual understanding can be established.

To that end, I was proud to sign a letter last year calling for $20 million in funding for the Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Reconciliation and Democracy Fund, which helps support “through Palestinian and Israeli organizations, the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedom of the press, and non-violence among Palestinians, and peaceful coexistence and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.” Included is $10 million for the People-to-People Exchange Program, which among other things, trains hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian teachers in peace education.

While I was in the U.S. House of Representatives, I was also very pleased to introduce and pass legislation that established the Arab-Israeli Peace Partners Program in Vermont. This program allocated $1.5 million over a two-year period to enable Arabs and Israelis to come to the United States to work together in our local communities, and develop ways to expand democracy and the peace process.

With the help of the United Nations and the international community, we must intensify our diplomatic efforts to bring peace to this embattled region. Rest assured, I will continue to support the Palestinian right to national sovereignty while at the same time ensuring the security of Israel. In addition, it is essential that we work toward improving human rights in the region and provide economic support if we are to achieve our political goals.


July 25, 2014

Israel loses control in Gaza

Israel set itself clear goals when it launched its assault on Gaza. Stop the rocket fire into Israel and close the tunnels that might allow Hamas to infiltrate fighters into Israel. Some 18 days into the offensive, and these goals have not yet been achieved. But that is not the only sign that Israel’s Gaza offensive is going wrong. On the contrary, there are multiple signs that Israel is losing control of the situation:

1. After a slow start, international outrage about the Gaza offensive is building. The international reaction had been relatively muted – perhaps because there are so many other competing horrors in the Middle East. (Some 700 people were killed in just two days fighting in Syria, last week.) As my colleague Roula Khalaf points out, Hamas has also lost crucial political support across the Arab world. The coincidence of the Gaza and Ukraine crises also probably took the pressure off Israel, briefly. But the shelling of the UN school in Gaza yesterday may mark some form of tipping point – with much stronger statements coming from the UN Secretary-General and Gaza dominating the headlines in Europe.

2. Unrest has spread to the West Bank. If the riots last night are repeated, then Israel risks facing a third intifada. The Gazan offensive will then have comprehensively back-fired, by ending a prolonged period of relative calm enjoyed by Israel.

3. The revival of Hamas: At the start of the Gaza offensive, Hamas was in an extremely weak position. It had lost vital support from Egypt and Iran, and enjoyed little sympathy in the west. But by successfully prolonging the fight with Israel – and even briefly all-but closing Ben Gurion airport – Hamas has chalked up some important propaganda victories. If it can get some sort of lifting of the Gaza blockade agreed – as part of the cease-fire negotiations – it will certainly be able to claim some sort of victory.


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