Progress in Gaza and Ukraine as Russian Soldiers Return Home, Escalation Between Obama and ISIS Cast a Big Shadow Over 9/11 Rememberance and an Important Global Warming Update

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In an interview with Al Quds TV on Thursday, Hamas No. 2 Musa Abu Marzouk said “Hamas is willing to talk directly to the Israelis” regarding issues including Gaza border crossings and prisoner releases, according to Ibrahim Barzak, Hamas Says It’s Ready For Direct Talks With Israel. Obtained by the Associated Press, in the taped interview, he said: “Just as you negotiate with weapons you can also negotiate by talk. Up till now our policy was no negotiation with (Israel), but others should be aware that this issue is not taboo.” Israel has consistently said it will not talk directly with Hamas until the group recognizes its right to exist and renounces violence. Abu Marzouk insist the reason for considering take such steps reflects growing tensions with Abbas, whom Hams believes is trying to reclaim control of Gaza. He said, “Hamas finds itself compelled to make this move when the natural rights of the people in Gaza come under pressure from the Palestinian Authority and the government.” Hamza Hendawi and Josef Federman report, Evidence growing that Hamas used residential areas, that evidence is mounting against Hamas militants regarding the use of residential areas as cover for launching rockets at Israel several times which Hamas now admits mistakes were made. According to the Associated Press, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said: “Gaza, from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah in the south, is one uninterrupted urban chain that Israel has turned into a war zone. The Israelis kept saying rockets were fired from schools or hospitals when in fact they were fired 200 or 300 meters (yards) away. Still, there were some mistakes made and they were quickly dealt with.” According to Palestinian figures, 2,000 Palestinians died with three quarters of them civilians and more than 500 children included, while 11,0000 were wounded and 100,000 left homeless. On the Israeli side, seventy two people died including six civilians. Ahead of the U.N. investigation, the Israeli military released reams of evidence, including satellite photos and aerial footage, to support its claims that it acted appropriately and tried to minimize casualties, while Hamas made no effort to disguise its aim of maximizing Israeli casualties. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said, “Hamas’ excuses are outrageous, misleading and contrary to the evidence supplied by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) and the reality documented by international journalists on the ground in Gaza.” A visit to the area uncovered three separate military sites possibly training grounds larger than a football field near state schools concealed from the street with barriers made of corrugated iron. Hamas restricted access to these areas making it impossible for photographers to enter the site and Israel confirmed that the areas were targeted in airstrikes. Another site identified by Israeli military as a rocket launching site is in northern Gaza near the new Indonesian hospital in close proximity to residential homes. The two Hamas military facilities are across the road to the west of the two story hospital which stands intact. Hamad, the Hamas official, said the buildings shown in Israeli videos were either a safe distance from the rocket launchers or the building were vacant during fighting. Bill Van Esyeld, a senior researcher at the Human Rights Watch, said: “I don’t think there’s any doubt urban areas were used to launch rockets from in the Gaza Strip. What needs to be determined is how close to a populated building or a civilian area were those rocket launches.” Sami Abdel Shafi, a Palestinian American representing the Carter Center in Gaza, said: “Yes, Hamas and others may have used civilians as human shields, but was that consistent and widespread? The question is whether Israel’s response was proportionate.” The death toll and number of civilian deaths led to harsh condemnation of Israel and raised questions on the proportionality of Israeli’s response causing Israel, in order to prevent an international investigation, on Wednesday to open its own criminal investigation into two high profile cases involving Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas also has been sharply criticized for launching rockets aimed at Israeli cities and towns. Israel says its own civilian death toll would have been much higher had it not been for its rocket defenses. The U.N. Human Rights Council has appointed a commission to look into the latest fighting. Its report is expected no sooner than March.

While long standing peace could remain elusive for Gaza and progress is slow to say the least, Ukraine is taking steps forward to ensure peace in eastern Ukraine as Russia beefs up its military strategy. Laura Mills reports, Ukraine’s President Pledges To Give The Country’s East More Autonomy, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday said he will introduce a bill next week offering greater autonomy to the pro-Russian east but rejects the idea of federalization that both Russia and the rebels want. During a televised Cabinet meeting, Poroshenko explained: “[the ceasefire deal reached] envisages the restoration and preservation of Ukrainian sovereignty over the entire territory of Donbas, including the part that is temporarily under control of the rebels. Ukraine has made no concessions with regards to its territorial integrity.” Ukraine and the West both accused Russia of fueling the separatists with arms, expertise and its own troops, something Russia denies. In late August, NATO estimated more than 1,000 troops were operating on Ukrainian spoil and helping the rebels to turn the tide of the war in their favor. In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Wednesday for new sanctions against Russia that would deepen earlier penalties targeting Russia’s energy and arms sectors and tighten Russia’s access to International loans. Merkel told German parliament that the ceasefire improved the situation but there was “a lack of clarity on the fulfillment” of many other points of the peace plan. Ambassadors from EU nations were meeting Wednesday to discuss the sanction against Russia in Brussels. Poroshenko says since the agreement, 70 percent of the Russian troops in Ukraine have been withdrawn and 700 Ukrainian prisoners have been freed from rebel captivity with 500 more being freed by the end of the week. Mills reports: “Col. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security Council, told journalists that only 20 servicemen had returned home so far. In Donetsk, a rebel spokesman said a planned exchange of 36 soldiers from each side had been put off until Thursday, blaming the government for the delay. The cease-fire has been violated numerous times and Poroshenko accused the separatists of “provoking” Ukraine’s troops. Ukraine says five servicemen have been killed and 33 injured since Friday. A volley of rocket fire was heard in the rebel-held city of Donetsk late Tuesday.” In a statement carried by Russian news agencies, the leader of the rebels in Luhansk, Igor Plotnitsky, reacted to Poroshenko’s commnets: “Neither we, nor our friends in Donetsk, are going to abandon the course to build our own state. A temporary cease-fire cannot cancel the results of the people’s vote. People voted unanimously for the independence of our republics. There’s no way back to the previous status.” Other rebels have been in favor of a broad autonomy. Plotnitsky said the next round of talks between Moscow, Kiev, the insurgents and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is likely to discuss the status of the rebel-held areas. The Ukrainian public has been largely supportive of the war against the separatists. Peter Leonard reports, Ukraine, rebels exchange prisoners in peace deal, government and revel forces on Friday exchanged dozens of prisoners captured during fighting in Ukraine as part of a ceasefire agreement earlier this month outside the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk under the watch of international observers. Yurly Tandit, a negotiator for the government, said: “There is an ongoing process of talks. We are meeting each other’s demands and fulfilling our promises.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports, Russia Tests Nuclear Missile, Russia successfully tested their new Bulava intercontinental nuclear missile on Wednesday and will perform two more test launches in October and November, according to the head of its naval forces. The 12-meter long Bulava, or mace, has undergone numerous tests, some of which have failed, causing setbacks for the project that aims to be the cornerstone of Russia’s nuclear arsenal over the next decade. Thomas Grove and Maria Tsvetkova report, Moscow stifles dissent as soldiers return in coffins, that 15 Russian soldiers were killed in Ukraine and hundreds more are in the hospital, according to human rights workers and military workers. A survey by pro-Kremlin pollster Fund of Social Opinions said 57 percent of Russians support the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, but only 5 percent support an invasion of Ukrainian territory. Russian authorities have worked to systematically silence rights workers’ complaints over soldiers’ deaths, intimidating those who question the Kremlin’s denials regarding Ukraine. Vladimir Isachenkov reports, Putin: Russia to focus on new offensive weapons, on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia is developing a variety of new nuclear and conventional weapons to counter the U.S. and NATO and weighing the cost to avoid overburdening its economy. Putin said potential threats must be analyzed and an adequate response given to avoid excessive military spending. In addition, he said Russian defense industries must rid themselves of dependence on imports and become capable of producing key components at home, referring to recent Western sanctions imposed on Russian arms sales. Russian West relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War with NATO deciding last week to create a rapid reaction spearhead force to protect Eastern Europe from Russian bullying. Meanwhile, Fred Westerbeke of the Dutch National Prosecutors Office told reporters that most likely the downing of MH17 in eastern Ukraine on July 17 was shot down as a separate Dutch air crash investigation concluded this week that the plane was hit from the outside by numerous high energy objects, according to Mike Corder, Shooting down of MH17 ‘most likely’ scenario. Police chief Patricia Zorko said detectives are poring over 350 million webpages and thousands of photos and films that could contain evidence and are trying to authenticate intercepted phone conversations. Corder reports: “A highly placed rebel officer told the AP in an interview after the disaster that the plane was shot down by a mixed team of rebels and Russian military personnel who believed they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane. Intercepted phone conversations between the rebels released by the Ukrainian government support that version of events.” Detectives and forensic experts are looking at 25 metal objects recovered from bodies and wreckage to see if any clues surface. Westerbeke warns the complex investigation is complex and time consuming comparing it to the Lockerbie bombing hat took years to identify suspects.

As the rebels and Ukraine government try to reach some sort of long lasting peace and stability internally and externally with Russia, the United Stated joined by other countries in their alliance try to wage war against an entity that has spread quickly throughout the Middle East and internationally through recruitment of foreigners to brutal battles. Julie Pace reports, Obama orders airstrikes in Syria for first time, President Barack Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria for the first time Wednesday night with expanded strikes in Iraq as part of a “steady, relentless effort” to root out Islamic State extremists. In a prime time address to the nation from the White House, Obama declared: “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” Obama announced he will send 500 more U.S. troops to advise and assist Iraqi security forces as well as conduction intelligence and reconnaissance flights, bringing the total number of American forces this summer to 1,500. He urged Congress to authorize a program to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting both the Islamic State militants and Syrian President Bashar Assad. He added: “But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.” Officials said Obama plans to proceed with both broader airstrikes in Iraq and Syria without seeking new authorization from Congress as he is acting under a use of force authorization Congress passed in the days following 9/11 to give President George W. Bush the ability to go after those who perpetrated the terror attacks. Obama previously called for its repeal, but used it as support for strikes against terror targets in Yemen and Somalia. Pace reports: “Obama said his approach in Syria is modeled after those long-running U.S. counterterrorism campaigns. But it is different in important ways, starting with the fact that it marks the first time since 9/11 that a U.S. president has authorized the bombing of terror targets in another nation without seeking permission or at least notifying it in advance.” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, praised Obama for acknowledging the grave and growing threat that the Islamic State poses, but said Obama was coming to that conclusion too late. Boehner said: “He has finally begun to make the case the nation has needed him to make for quite some time: that destroying this terrorist threat requires decisive action and must be the highest priority for the United States and other nations of the free world.”The White House wants Congress to include the authorization in a temporary funding measure lawmakers will vote on before they adjourn this month. Republicans have made no commitment to support the request and the House GOP has so far not included the measure in the funding legislation, while a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Nevada Democrat might opt to seek separate legislation. The White House announced Wednesday that it was also providing $25 million in immediate military assistance to the Iraqi government as part of efforts to combat the Islamic State. David Cohen, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, wrote in a blog post that the U.S. would be working with other countries, especially Gulf states, to cut off the group’s external funding networks and its access to the global financial system. The U.S. has been pressing allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere to help with efforts to degrade the terror group. Meanwhile, rebels, desperate and disenchanted, don’t believe help will come from the West, blaming the United States and its allies for past failures when support was promised and not delivered allowing the rise of ISIS, according to Sophia Jones, Cash-Strapped Moderate Syrian Rebels Blame West For Rise Of Islamic State. The Islamic State has amassed considerable wealth from foreign donations, oil smuggling, extortion and hostage ransoms. They’ve taken control of crucial weapons warehouses and supplies, such as weaponry the U.S. gave to the Iraqi Army. In addition, the new found power has allowed them to gain support by setting up needed infrastructures and imposing order as well as strictly enforced rules such as bans on smoking, and mandates that women wear full-face veils. Jones reports: “Three and a half years into a devastating civil war that has ripped apart the country, Syrian fighters say that if something doesn’t change they’ll lose more and more moderate fighters to the Islamic State. As secular, moderate rebel groups face infighting, divisions and a lack of necessary equipment and training, some may be enticed by the rich and highly organized Islamic State. The group of fighters gathered in the Turkish border town said they usually make roughly $50 a month. But they’ve heard that Islamic State fighters can make $600 or more.” As the rebels fight both the regime and Islamic State, they fear the threat of the jihadi group will cast a shadow over their efforts to curb the regime’s grip on Syria. While the Islamic State beheads U.S. journalists and persecutes and kills religious minorities, the Assad regime continues to indiscriminately bomb civilian areas and likely is using chemical weapons against its own population.

Meanwhile, international, the U.S. tries to rally allegiance from neighboring countries int he Middle East and allies to fight the Islamic State casting a shadow on the 13 anniversary of 9/11. On Thursday, Key Arab allies promised to help in the fight against the Islamic State, but NATO member Turkey refused, Lara Jakes and Adam Schreck report, Arab allies pledge to fight Islamic state group. As the CIA doubled its assessment of how many fighters the extremist group can muster, the Arab states’ endorsed the broad strategy to stop the flow of fighters and funding to the insurgents and to join possible military action. On Thursday, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress joined the President in his call to combat the militants after laying out his long term campaign to include expanding airstrikes against the fighters in Iraq, launching strikes against them in Syria for the first time and bolstering the Iraqi military and moderate Syrian rebels to allow them to reclaim territory from the militants. After a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in thr Red Sea city of Jiddah, 10 Mideast allies announced their backing for a strategy to destroy the group wherever it is. Kerry’s visit, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, was aimed at pinning down regional allies and so far 40 nations have agreed to contribute to what Kerry said would be a worldwide fight to defeat the group. Kerry said of the terror attacks on the U.S. 13 years ago: “The devastating consequences of extremist hate remain fresh in the minds of all Americans, and to so many of our friends and allies around the world. Those consequences are felt every day here in the Middle East.” New intelligence assessments estimate the extremists have between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria, up from a figure of 10,000, the CIA said Thursday. CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said the new total reflects stronger recruitment by extremists since June, following battlefield successes and the group’s declaration of an Islamic State or caliphate on territory under its control. On Friday, Larak Jakes reports, US, Turkey mull strategy against Islamic militants, the United States pressed Turkey to harden its borders against fighters and funding going to the Islamic State and sought clarity on how far Ankara is willing to go to help a world coalition to destroy the group. While Turkey sits on the front line battlegrounds of Iraq and Syria as it assists refugees and cracked down on cross border traffic from both countries, Turkey resist endorsing the new strategy as 49 Turkish citizens have been kidnapped including diplomats. At the start of a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu cited “challenges and threats” in Iraq and Syria. Jakes reports: “It was the third meeting so far this month between Kerry and Cavusoglu, who also together participated in talks during the annual NATO summit in Wales and this week in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, about the Islamic State threat. Kerry said the two men also will chair a counterterrorism forum at the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September. But the U.S. is being careful to not push Turkey too hard as it grapples with trying to free its hostages. The Turks were kidnapped from their consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when it was overrun by the Islamic State in June.” In addition, American hostages are being held as payback for the 150 airstrikes that Washington has launched in Iraq since last month. Kerry said: “But I think for the moment, they have a few sensitive issues. We respect those sensitive issues, and we’re going to work with them very carefully.” Rachelle Blinder and Jonathan Lemire report, New terror fight casts shadow over 9/11 ceremonies, due to the growing threat of the Islamic State, a heavy cloud hung over the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks Thursday causing many to feel anxiety and determination in coming to ground zero to remember loved ones. The silence to mark the attack and the roll call of the nearly 3,000 lives lost came hours after President Barack Obama told the country he is authorizing expanded strikes in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State group. Vasile Poptean said as he left the ceremony, where he had gone to remember his brother, Joshua Poptean: “It’s an ongoing war against terrorists. Old ones die out and new ones pop up. If we don’t engage them now, there’s a possibility there will be another 9/11 down the road.” Victims’ relatives and dignitaries gathers in the plaza where the twin towers stood and now where the soon to open 1,776 foot One World Trade Center stands to commemorate the attacks, while in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where former House Speaker Dennis Hastert gave the flag that flew atop the U.S. Capitol on 9/11 to the Flight 93 National Memorial, did the same. At the Pentagon, Obama spoke at the wreath laying ceremony without mentioning the rise of Islamic State extremists specifically, but noted: “We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world. That was the case before 9/11 and that remains true today.”

As many try to heal old wounds and remember those they lost to what it seems is an endless war, the United Nations along with scientist this week had some good news about the health of the planet. Seth Borenstein reports, Scientists say the ozone layer is recovering, earth’s protective ozone layer has begun to heal largely due to the phase out since the 1980s of certain chemicals used in refrigerants and aerosol cans, the U.N. scientific panel reported Wednesday. Scientists said the development demonstrates that when the world works together, it can counteract a brewing ecological crisis. For the first time in 25 years, scientists confirmed a statistically significant and sustained increase in stratospheric ozone shielding the planet from solar radiation that causes skin cancer, crop damage and other problems. Paul A. Newman, a NASA scientist and co-chaired the every four years ozone assessment by 300 scientist published by the United Nations, said from 2000 to 2013 ozone levels climbed 4 percent in key mid-northern latitudes at 30 miles up. The ozone layer has been thinning since the 1970s due to man made chlorofluorocarbons called CFCs which release chlorine and bromine destroying ozone molecules high in the air. After scientists raised the alarm, countries agreed to a treaty in 1987 that phased out CFCs allowing those chemicals to decrease between 30 and 50 miles up. The United Nations calculated in earlier reports that without the pact, by 2030 there would be an extra 2 million skin cancer cases a year around the world. Newman added that heat trapping greenhouse gases are also helping to rebuild the ozone layer as the cooler air caused by carbon dioxide and other gases increase the amount of ozone. MIT atmospheric scientist Susan Solomon said the chemicals that replaced CFCs contribute to global warming and are on the rise expecting that a dramatic increase will occur by 2050 and make a big contribution to global warming. The long lasting ozone eating chemicals still linger in the atmosphere creating a yearly fall ozone hole over the extreme southern Hemisphere and the hole hasn’t closed up. By Newman’s calculations, the ozone layer is still 6 percent thinner than in 1980. Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said there are encouraging signs that the ozone layer “is on track to recovery by the middle of this century.” He added: “More than 98 percent of the ozone-depleting substances agreed over time have actually been phased out. If not for such efforts, Steiner said, “we would be seeing a very substantial global ozone depletion today.” Earlier this week, the United Nations announced that atmospheric levels of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, surged to another record high in 2013. The increase from 2012 was the biggest jump in three decades.

How to Stop Ebola, NATO and the E.U. Try to Deter Russia As Ukraine Signs Ceasefire Deal, NATO Allies Join Forces to Fight Militants as Militants Vow Revenge and the Impact of NO Net Neutrality on the World

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The United Nations on Wednesday, said $600 million in supplies were needed to fight West Africa’s Ebola outbreak that has killed 1,900 people and entered new territory within Guinea, Reuters reports, U.N. says $600 million needed to tackle Ebola as deaths top 1,900. The pace of the infection has accelerated with 400 deaths in the past week, officials reported Wednesday. The current outbreak was first identified in March in Guinea and spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, and Senegal, and has killed more people than all outbreaks since Ebola was first uncovered in 1976. Though there are no approved Ebola vaccines or treatments, Ottawa on Aug. 12 said it would donate 1,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine being held at Canada’s National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for use in Africa. In a statement, Health Canada spokesman Sean Upton said: “We are now working with the WHO to address complex regulatory, logistical and ethical issues so that the vaccine can be safely and ethically deployed as rapidly as possible. For example, the logistics surrounding the safe delivery of the vaccine are complicated.” Human safety trials will begin this week on a vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline Plc and later this year on one from NewLink Genetics Corp. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday said a federal contract worth up to $42.3 million will help accelerate testing for an experimental Ebola treatment being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. Senior U.N. Coordinator for Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, said the cost for supplies needed by West Africa to control the crisis will cost $600 million which is higher than the $490 million estimated by the WHO last week. Nabarro explained, “We are working intensively with those governments to encourage them to commit to the movement of people and planes and at the same time deal with anxieties about the possibility of infection.” Ivory Coast, which closed its borders with Liberia and Guinea last month, said on Tuesday it would open humanitarian and economic corridors to its two western neighbors. With more than 3,500 cases across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) told a press conference in Washington, “This Ebola epidemic is the longest, the most severe and the most complex we’ve ever seen.” While a shortage of equipment and trained staff plague West Africa and the virus has claimed more than 120 healthcare workers, the Liberian government now offers $1,000 bonus to any healthcare workers who will agree to work in Ebola treatment facilities. Meanwhile in Guinea, Aboubacar Sikidi Diakité, head of Guinea’s Ebola task force, said: “There has been a new outbreak in Kerouane, but we have sent in a team to contain it.” Guinea has recorded 489 deaths and 749 Ebola cases as of Sept.1, and the epicenter has shifted to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. In a television broadcast, Guinean President Alpha Conde said: “Even for a simple malaria (case), you have to protect yourselves before consulting any sick person until the end of this epidemic. We had started to succeed, but you dropped the ball and here we go again.” Nigeria, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo , though not linked to the West African cases, have all reported cases of Ebola. Since Ebola was first detected in Congo in 1976, WHO reports more than 20 outbreaks in Africa and 1,590 victims. The WHO warned last week the Ebola epidemic could spread to 10 countries and infect more than 20,0000 people. Dr. Thomas Kenyon, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Centre for Global Health, said on Wednesday: “Guinea did show that with action, they brought it partially under control. But unfortunately it is back on the increase now. It’s not under control anywhere.” He warns that the longer the disease goes uncontained, the greater the possibility it will mutate with suspected cases of airborne infection already being reported in monkeys in laboratories. In a conference call, Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy on the National Security Council, said: “I don’t think at this point deploying biological incident response teams is exactly what’s needed.” Regarding a rapid increase in Ebola treatment centers in affected countries and other required staff and equipment, Smith added: “We will see a considerable ramp-up in the coming days and weeks. If we find it is still moving out of control, we will look at other options.” Margery A. Beck reports, US doctor infected with Ebola arrives in Nebraska, the third American aid worker to become sickened with the disease, Dr. Rick Sacra, arrived Friday at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and officials said he will be treated at the hospital’s 10 bed special isolation unit on the seventh floor which is the largest of four in the U.S. Sacra delivered babies but was not involved in treating Ebola patients, so how he contracted the disease is unclear. Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the Omaha unit, said a team of 35 doctors, nurses and other medical staffers will provide Sacra with basic care, including ensuring he is hydrated and keeping his vital signs stable. He added, “We’ve been trying to collect as much information on possible treatments as we can.” Sacra was in stable condition in Liberia ans was able to board the plane to the U.S. under his own power.

While West Africa fights a microscopic enemy, the U.S., E.U. and other NATO allies try to ensure Ukraine’s ceasefire between pro-Russian rebels and the Kiev government remains in place with no inference from Russia. Nataliya Vasilyeva and Peter Leonard report, Ukraine signs cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels, the Ukrainian president declared the ceasefire Friday to end the five month long war in the eastern Ukraine after representatives reached a deal with the Russian backed rebels at peace talks in Minsk. President Petro Proshenko said he ordered government forced to stop fighting at 11 am EDT following a protocol signed by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In a statement, Poroshenko said: “Human life is of the highest value. And we need to do everything that is possible and impossible to stop bloodshed and end people’s suffering.” Heidi Tagliavini of the OSCE told reporters the deal focused on 12 separate points, while Poroshenko said a prisoner exchange would begin Saturday and international monitors would keep watch over the ceasefire. Since April, Moscow backed separatists and government forces have been fighting in eastern Ukraine that has killed nearly 2,600 people, according to U.N> estimates. The rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, said from Donetsk: “The cease-fire will allow us to save not only civilians lives, but also the lives of the people who took up arms in order to defend their land and ideals.” However, Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the separatist Luhansk region, told reporters “this doesn’t mean that our course for secession is over.” A plan approved Friday in Wales by NATO leaders will create a rapid response force with a headquarters in Eastern Europe that could quickly mobilize if an alliance country is attacked. Even though Ukraine is not a member, the entire alliance has been alarmed by Russia’s actions in Ukraine causing U.S. and E.U. sanctions to go into effect due to Russia’s backing of the rebels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday from Wales at the NATO summit: “We have to see whether this cease-fire is being applied. Do Russian troops withdraw, so far as they’re there? Are there buffer zones and things like that – a lot of things will have to be sorted out. These sanctions certainly could be put into force – this is all in flux – but with the proviso that they can be suspended again if we see that this process really yields results.” As of late Friday, Associate Press reporters heard heavy shelling north and east of the key southeastern port of Mariupol suggesting the rebels had partially surrounded the area. Tatyana Chronovil, a Ukrainian activist at a mustering point for the volunteer Azov Battalion on the eastern edge of the city, said, “Mariupol is a strategic point. If we lose it then we could lose the entire coastline, the whole south of Ukraine.” Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council in Kiev, said seven servicemen had been killed over the past day, bringing the Ukrainian forces’ death toll to 846. As of Saturday, the Associate Press reports Cease-fire in Ukraine appears to hold, National Guard Commander Stepan Poltorak was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying that some shooting took place 45 miniutes after the cease-fire, “as of this morning there haven’t been any violations, either from our side, of course, or from the terrorists.” Alexander Zakharchenko, top separatist leader from Donetsk, told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the ceasefire had been violated by two rounds of shelling in Amvrosiivka, 50 miles southeast of Donetsk. Earlier Saturday, the mayor’s office in Donetsk said there were no reports of shooting or shelling with some shelling late Friday afternoon.

While battle may be over, the United States and other world leaders are taking on the Islamic State. Reuters reports, Obama To Meet Congressional Leaders On ISIS: Source, U.S. president Barack Obama will meet with four leaders of U.S. Congress Tuesday to discuss rising concerns over the advancement of the Islamic State, a senior congressional source said Friday. Lawmakers return Monday after their five week August recess. The meeting will include Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate, and Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s top Republican, as well as John Boehner, the speaker of the House of Representatives and Nancy Pelosi, the House’s top Democrat. Julie Pace reports, US and UK seeks partners to go after Islamic State, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday asked NATO leaders to confront the Islamic State militants who have taken large parts of Syria and Iraq, urging regional partners like Jordan and Turkey to join the effort. IN a joint editorial published as the meeting began, they wrote: “Those who want to adopt an isolationist approach misunderstand the nature of security in the 21st century. Developments in other parts of the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria, threaten our security at home.” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he believed the broader international community “has an obligation to stop the Islamic State from advancing further” and would seriously consider requests for assistance, particularly from the Iraqi government. The Islamic State became an international priority after taking large parts of Syria and Iraq to create a caliphate and is considered more merciless than al-Qaida with intelligence officials warning that the violence could spread beyond its declared borders as hundreds of Westerners join. The U.S. launched airstrikes against militant targets in Iraq last month with Britain joining American forces in humanitarian airdrops to minority populations. The militants’ killing of two American journalists inside Syria has raised questions about targeting the group there as well. Beyond direct military action, the White House said it was also seeking commitments from allies to send weapons, ammunition and other assistance to Western-backed Syrian rebels and to Iraqi forces. Pace reports: “Germany moved in that direction Thursday, with the government announcing that it had sent a first planeload of military equipment to the Kurds in Iraq’s north, including helmets, protective vests, field glasses and mine-searching devices. The German government also said it had decided to send assault rifles, ammunition, anti-tank weapons and armored vehicles to the Kurdish forces, but it hadn’t yet set a date for the arms deliveries.” In between sessions on Afghanistan and Ukraine, Obama and Cameron met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II Thursday, and both plan to meet Friday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who are both with Obama in Wales, plan to travel to the Middle East next week to rally more support from regional partners. Cameron told the British network ITV: “We need to show real resolve and determination; we need to use every power and everything in our armory with our allies – with those on the ground – to make sure we do everything we can to squeeze this dreadful organization out of existence.” Lolita C. Baldor reports, NATO allies agree to take on Islamic State threat, on Friday the U.S. and 10 of its allies agreed that the Islamic State group posed a significant threat to NATO countries and they will take them on by squeezing their financial resources and going after them with military might. Obama said the new NATO coalition will mount a sustained effort to push back the militants.At the summit conclusion, Obama said: “I did not get any resistance or push back to the basic notion that we have a critical role to play in rolling back this savage organization that is causing so much chaos in the region and is harming so many people and poses a long-term threat to the safety and security of NATO members. So there’s great conviction that we have to act, as part of the international community, to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, and that was extremely encouraging. I think it is absolutely critical that we have Arab states and specifically Sunni-majority states that are rejecting the kind of extremist nihilism that we’re seeing out of ISIL, that say that is not what Islam is about and are prepared to join us actively in the fight. What we can accomplish is to dismantle this network, this force that has claimed to control this much territory, so that they can’t do us harm. They have been, to some degree, outgunned and outmanned. And that’s why it’s important for us to work with our friends and allies to support them more effectively.” In a meeting with the foreign and defense ministers from the coalition countries, Secretary of State John Kerry said: “We very much hope that people will be as declarative as some of our friends around the table have been in order to be clear about what they’re willing to commit, because we must be able to have a plan together by the time we come to (the United Nations General Assembly). We need to have this coalesce.” Along with the United States, the coalition comprises the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark. One prong of a Western coalition approach would be for nations’ law enforcement and intelligence agencies to work together to go after the group’s financing in banks and more informal funding networks; however, U.S. intelligence officials say oil revenue will keep them well funded. NATO agreed to increase cooperation among nations on sharing information about foreign fighters. Denmark’s Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said the effort against the militants “is not only about a military effort, it is also about stopping the financial contributions to ISIS, to coordinate intelligence, it is about stopping foreign fighters, young people from our own societies. It is decisive that we get more countries along.”

While a solid plan seems to be forming for dealing with ISIS, Somalian government is warning terrorists could strike back after the death of an Islamic Insurgent group who was killed in a U.S. air strike Monday in southern Somalia, the Associated Press reports, Somalia warns of attacks to revenge Godane death. In televised speech Friday night, Gen. Khalif Ahmed Ereg, Somalia’s national security minister, said based on credible intelligence that militants plan to attack key targets including medical and educational institutions following the death of Ahmed Abdi Godane. Godane had publicly claimed al-Shabab was responsible for the deadly Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya almost a year ago that left 67 people dead. President Barrack Obama confirmed Friday that Godane was killed by the U.S. airstrike. Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldar report, Al Shabab Leader Ahmed Godane Killed In U.S. Strike: Pentagon, it took the Pentagon four days to conclusively determine that Godane had not survived Monday’s strike, according to Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, via written statement. Al-Shabab has not publicly confirmed Godane’s death. In a statement Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said, “While an extreme hardcore may fight over the leadership of al-Shabab, this is a chance for the majority of members of al-Shabab to change course and reject Godane’s decision to make them the pawns of an international terror campaign.” The Somali president said the U.S. operation was carried out “with the full knowledge and agreement of” his government and that Somalis “greatly value the support of our international allies” in the fight against al-Shabab. The Associated Press reports: “Obama, speaking at the conclusion of a NATO summit in Newport, Wales, told reporters the success against al-Shabab should leave no doubt about his determination to degrade and eventually destroy the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. military announced later Friday that a mix of fighter jets, drones, attack planes and bombers launched four airstrikes Thursday and Friday in northern Iraq, destroying a host of Islamic State targets including an observation post, an armed vehicle and three mortar positions.” Army Col, Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said, “The individual who takes his place will live in fear.” Matt Bryden, the head of Sahan Research in Nairobi, Kenya, said due to Godane weakening and effectively dismantling the al-Shabab council of leaders known as shura, a meeting of regional commanders will have to take place to pick his successor which will be difficult and dangerous to organize. Terrorism analyst J.M. Berger predicted a significant splintering between al-Shabab’s domestically focused insurgents and internationally aspiring terrorists. Abdi Aynte, a Somali analyst who runs a Mogadishu-based think tank called the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, predicted that Godane’s death “will almost certainly be the beginning of the end of the organization.”

While biological and man made wars are continually fought through out the world, the war over who owns the internet has just begun and may lead to catastrophic consequences for internet users. Ryan Gorman reports, The ‘Battle for the Net’: Companies fighting to save free and open Internet access, several brand name websites are banding together to protest the end of net neutrality which allows equal access to the net. Net neutrality is what keeps the internet free and open from corporate interest, however recent deals by Netflix to secure bandwidth from cable companies are bringing that to an end. Activist group Battle for the Net is organizing a September 10 Internet protest and has been joined by the likes of Etsy, Foursquare, General Assembly Imgur, Kickstarter, Namecheap, Reddit, Vimeo, WordPress and others. The sites are will use animations to simulate the slower loads times on their websites and sevices in a way similar to how activists and experts believe cable companies will if net neutrality ends. “Cable companies want to slow down (and break!) your favorite sites, for profit,” Battle for the Net claims on its website. The group is urging people to put these GIFs on websites as well as email regulators and politicians protesting what it says is the end of open and free Internet. The Federal Communications Commission first introduced net neutrality rules in 2010. They require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide fair and equal “lanes” for all web traffic regardless of content. Earlier this year, a U.S. appeals court tossed out this rule that could change the world forever as the court ruled that ISPs are not utilities like phone and electric companies and are free to charge for their services how they see fit. This brought a wave of deals between bandwidth-hungry Netflix and Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and others. Experts claimed immediately after the ruling in a Wall Street Journal report that tiered web access, in which sites who pony up the most money are afforded the fastest loading times, would soon become the norm. The fear is the cost will be passed to the web surfers leading to a barrier to entry for less prosperous people. In a Wired op-ed announcing Etsy’s participation in the September 10 protest, site founder and CEO Chad Dickerson wrote that “the FCC has proposed an end to the open Internet… If internet users find it too difficult to load our websites and see our products, it will be impossible for us to grow or succeed. Companies would succeed because of deals struck with cable companies, not because of superior products.” That sentiment is being echoed not only in forums and article comments, but also in the more than one million comments sent to the FCC in response to a recent proposal basically bringing an end to net neutrality. The Washington Post reports less than one percent of the comments received support the end of net neutrality with 500,000 coming from individuals concerned about internet access and the rest from foundations, law firms, companies and other organizations.

Eboal Crisis Deepens Further, Immigration Problem Worsens, Environmental Disasters in Ohio, California and the Gulf of Mexico

On Tuesday, two American aid workers infected with Ebola are receiving an experimental drug that has never been tested for safety in humans and was only identified earlier this year as a potential treatment due to research programs by the U.S. government and military, Marilynn Marchione reports, U.S. gov’t had role in Ebola drug given to aid workers. Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly are improving even though ti is not know if the treatment is the reason for the recovery or they are recovering on their own as other victims have done. Both are being treated at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital in a special isolation unit. They were both infected in Liberia, one of four West African countries crippled by the disease outbreak which is the largest on record. On Monday, the World Health Organization estimated the death toll at 887 from 729 in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria with more than 1,600 people infected. The Nigerian Health Minister said a doctor who helped treat Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian American who died July 25 after reaching Nigeria, has contracted the disease. Tests are pending for three other people who treated Sawyer and are showing symptoms. There is no cure or current treatment for Ebola, while several are under development including the treatment the U.S. aid workers are getting called ZMapp made by Mapp Biopharmaceuticals Inc. of San Diego. The drug aims at boosting the immune response to fight off Ebola and is made from antibodies produced in lab animals exposed to parts of the virus. Kentucky BioProcessing complied with a request from Emory and the international relief group Samaritan’s Purse to provide a limited amount of ZMapp to Emory, even though it will take several months. The United States Food and Drug Administration granted permission to use the drug in the U.S., but the FDA does not have the authority over its use in other countries where the aid workers were first treated in Liberia. In the meantime, dozens of African heads of state met in Washington for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit for a three day gathering hosted by President Barack Obama. On Monday, U.S. health officials spoke with Guinean President Alpha Conde and senior officials form Liberia and Sierra Leone about the outbreak. Ann Flaherty reports, Feds watch airplane passengers for ebola symptoms, as the delegations from 50 countries arrive in the nation’s capital for the leadership summit this week, officials said Monday that federal agents at U.S. airports especially Washington’s Dulles International and New York’s JFK airport are watching travelers from Africa for flu-like symptoms tied to the Ebola outbreak. If passengers are suspected of carry the virus then they must be quarantined immediately and evacuated by medical personnel, according to the CDC which provided the training to local airports. A person exposed to the virus can take up to 21days to exhibit symptoms making it possible for infected travelers to enter the U.S. without knowing it.

Meanwhile the U.S. on Monday closed three emergency shelters established on military bases to temporarily house children crossing the Mexican border alone explaining that fewer children are being caught and other shelters area adequate, Alicia Caldwell reports, Gov’t closing emergency child immigrant shelters. According to Kenneth Wolfe, a Health and Human Services Department spokesman, a shelter in Oklahoma at Fort Sill is expected to close as early as Friday, Shelters in Texas at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and in California at Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme will wrap up operations in the next two to eight weeks. About 7,700 children have been housed at these three bases since the shelters opened in May and early June with stays averaging 35 days. Since Oct. 1 more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have been caught crossing the Mexican border illegally. Just before leaving for summer recess, the House approved a pair of bills to provide the administration with $694 million and end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation up to two years. The Senate blocked its version of the border bill and left the problem unresolved before leaving Washington for its five week recess. Last month, Homeland Security Department said the number of child immigrants crossing the border alone declined from 2,000 per week in June to 500 per week in mid-July. Administration officials said as many as 90,000 child immigrants could cross the border by the end of the budget year in September. Wolf said the military may reopen the shelters if the numbers spike again.

While the U.S. deals with some pressing international crisis, California, Ohio and the area around the Gulf of Mexico suffered ecological disasters affecting thousands of peoples. On Tuesday, firefighters fought two wildfires near each other in Northern California that has consumed more than a 100 square miles of terrain threatening a small town and prompting the evacuation of a long term care hospital, according to the Associate Press, State Of Emergency Declared Over California Wildfires. On Saturday, Shasta County sheriff had Burney on evacuation watch after ordering residents of three small neighboring communities to leave. The state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said more than 700 residences were threatened. The two out of 14 currently burning in the state started within a day of each other in Lassen National Forest expanding into private property. In all, 102 square miles have been burned as of late Sunday. In Burney, officials at Mayer Memorial Hospital were forced to evacuate their 49 bed annex for patients with dementia and other conditions that need nursing care. the patients were taken to Redding about 55 miles away. Officials said evacuations also remain in effect for a community on the edge of the second fire which was sparked by lightning. State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Dennis Mathisen said Sunday: “Today we are looking at slightly cooler temperatures, but Northern California continues to be hot and dry and breezy in some areas, and in fact we are looking at a fire weather watch going into effect Monday morning for a large portion of Northern and northeast California and possible thunderstorms, which could mean more lightning.” On Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the circumstances and magnitude of the wildfires beyond the control of any single local government. Siskiyou County, across the border in Oregon, was contending with two fires started by lightning last week threatening 58 square miles in both states late Sunday. A fire in Ellensburg, Washington, started during a lightning storm Saturday night burned 3 square miles and evacuation notices were going out to the residents of the 180 homes in the area. In Ohio’s fourth largest city, two days after warning 400,000 people in Ohio and Michigan not to drink their tap water, the mayor declared Monday that the water was safe and took a sip, John Seewer reports, Ohio Water Ban Lifted; Toledo Mayor Says City’s Water Is Safe. The city lifted the advisory after dozens of tests over the weekend showed an algae induced toxin contaminating Lake Erie dropped to safe levels following chemical treatment. Ohio Gov. John Kasich said the state will conduct a full review of what happened and look at Toledo’s aging water system to figure out how to reduce pollution feeding algae in the western end of the lake. The weekend warning led Kasich to declare a state of emergency in three counties forcing the Ohio National Guard to deliver bottled water and operate purification systems to produce drinkable water. After the ban was lifted, city officials told the residents to flush their systems if they had not used their water since Saturday. The Gulf of Mexico, as Melodi Smith reports, Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ is the size of Connecticut, has a dead zone the size of Connecticut. Environmental Protection Agency scientists and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that 5,052 square miles of low oxygen water or hypoxia in their annual survey caused by nutrients washing into the Gulf’s waters allowing algae blooms to suck up all the oxygen. According to both agencies, these nutrients are from “human activities, such as agriculture and wastewater.” The survey taken from July 27 to August 2 found this year’s dead zone is right in line with predictions and is smaller than the five year average at 5,500 square miles. Nancy Rabalais with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium said, “The number of Dead Zones throughout the world has been increasing in the last several decades and currently totals over 550.” With the dead zone marine life struggling to find enough oxygen to grow e.g. crabs, mussels and other crustaceans on the ocean floor who cannot leave, the lack of oxygen causes them to die. NOAA estimates the annual cost of algae blooms to U.S. seafood and tourism industries at $82 million or more.

More Fracking Earthquakes

States where hydraulic fracturing is taking place has seen a surge in earthquake activity leading many to believe that the method could be to blame in particular the wells where wastewater is disposed of. According to Emily Schmall and Justin Juozapavicius, States With Fracking See Surge In Earthquake Activity, fracking creates far more wastewater than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped thousands of feet underground into injections wells and no one knows what happens to the liquid after that. Scientists wonder whether this action triggers quakes by increasing underground pressure and lubricating faults. Since January, Oklahoma has recorded nearly 250 small to medium earthquakes according to stats kept by  the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s almost half of the magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes recorded this year in the continental U.S. A study published in the journal of Science earlier this month suggest that four wells injecting massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the ground are shaking up the state accounting for one out of five quakes from the eastern border of Colorado to the Atlantic coast. Another concern expressed was whether injection well operators could be pumping too much water into the ground or pumping it at high pressures. Most of the quakes where injection wells are clustered are too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives, however, some states including Ohio, Oklahoma, and California have introduced new rules compelling drillers to measure the volumes and pressures of their injections wells and monitor seismic activity during fracking operations. No injuries or deaths have been reports, but varying degrees of property damage have been reported e.g Azle, Texas had hundreds of small quakes since activity began and residents reported sinkholes and cracks in the walls of homes and air and water quality concerns. In addition, two structures collapsed during Oklahoma’s 5.7 magnitude quake in 2011. Studies more than 50 years old have linked injection wells to tremors in Colorado, while similar studies in central Oklahoma, Ohio and North Texas have found probable links between injection wells and quakes. According to Dana Bohan with Energy In Depth, a research and education arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of American, a Washington based group representing thousands of oil and gas producers, said wastewater injection disposal does risk inducing quakes.

Sacrificing the Future to Subsidize Fossil Fuels

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2013 map courtesy of the Ocean Conservancy website

According to lead researcher Steven Murawski, a professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science in Tampa, the oil found in the bodies of sickened fish from the Gulf Coast region match the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. Murawski and his team of Florida scientist studied the oil’s chemical composition in order to debunk the argument that fish abnormalities were to blame and not oil in coastal runoff and oil from naturally occurring seeps in the Gulf could be to blame,  reports Rueters’ Barbara Liston. In her article, BP Oil Spill Caused Sickness In Fish, Researchers Find, she reports that the findings by the researchers argues that the fish in the study had to have been exposed recently enough in order to identify the chemical signature of the oil in their bodies. However, BP, whose rig caused the spill rejects the findings stating in a email response that it is “not possible to accurately identify the source of oil based on chemical traces found in fish livers or tissue.” In addition, Liston reports that in a statement from BP: “vertebrates such as fish very quickly metabolize and eliminate oil compounds. Once metabolized, the sources of those compounds are no longer discernible after a period of a few days.” The research team included scientists from USF, the Florida Institute of Oceanography and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The work was published in the current edition of the online journal of Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.

Thousands of claims for damages against BP continue to be process since the April 2010 explosion of the oil and gas producer’s Gulf rig which killed 11 oil workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. In the winter of 2010-2011, fisherman in the area where the blow out well was located have noticed a spike in abnormal looking fish, many with unusual skin lesions. Murawski said his team compared the chemical signatures of oil found in fish livers and flesh to the signatures of the Deepwater well and other oil sources. As Liston reports, Murawski explained, “The closest match was directly to Deepwater Horizon and had a very poor match to these other sources. So what we’ve done is eliminated some of these other potential sources.” In addition, his team also ruled out pathogens and other oceanographic conditions. By 2012, the frequency of fish lesions declined 53 percent.

Even with BP’s blatant disregard for the environment and the years of fall out to come from such an egregious crime, the federal government still spends billions of dollars to subsidize the fossil fuel industry. U.S. today reported back in 2010 after the BP spill that the number of spills from offshore oil rigs and pipelines in the U.S. had quadrupled in the last 10 years and could of served as a warning for the massive leak that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, according to government data and safety experts. The spills and amount of oil leaked grew worse when production increased, reports USA Today, even after oil companies claimed it was never safer to drill. In Alan Levin’s USA Today article, Oil spills escalated in this decade, the average annual spill increased by more than 17 from 2000 to 2009 and from 2005 to 2009 spilled averaged 22 a year. The company with the most spills from 2000 to 2009 was BP who leased the well that blew out in April 2010, according to data. In addition, the oil giant and its affiliated companies reported 23 spills of 50 barrels or more not including the April 2010 event. Oil firm Shell was next with 21, according to MMS spill reports. Over the past five years, the Obama administration has called for cutting fossil fuels subsidies in the form of tax breaks and other incentives, however, the federal governments has increased the amount of money forfeited through subsidies over that period of time with $18.5 billion last year, according to the environmental group Oil Change International. According to Kate Sheppard, Federal Government Still Spending Billions To Subsidize Fossil Fuels, the total is up from $12.7 billion in 2009 as oil and gas production has increased in the United States. Next year, domestic production will reach the highest since 1972 partly due to the Obama administration’s “all of the above” energy strategy which includes increasing oil and gas production. The Oil Change report includes a variety of subsidies in its accounting i.e. tax breaks, incentives for production on federal lands like royalty fees and tax deductions for clean up costs like the BP Deepwater oil spill. In addition, when states subsidies for oil, gas and coal production are included, the total climbs to $21.6 billion for 2013. In September 2009, Obama and other G20 leaders pledged to phase out fossil fuel subsidies to curb global warming with Obama calling for elimination of subsidies in 2012 and 2013 with the administration’s 2015 budget proposal again calling for major cuts to fossil fuel subsidies. However, Congress has yet to cut these subsidies. The report argues that as long as these incentives stay in place, the federal government is “essentially rewarding companies for accelerating climate change.” Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, explains: “We’re spending more taxpayer dollars every year to fund fossil fuels that we can’t afford to burn, according to climate science. Subsidizing fossil fuels at this point is climate denial.”

While science on a global scale has examined the environmental cost of the global fossil fuel habit, the economic costs have yet to be fully realized. According to the article, Fossil Fuel Subsidies Cost ~$2 Trillion Annually, According To IMF on CleanTechnica’s website published May 1,2014, the IPCC recently reported that CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributes around 78 percent of the total increase in greenhouse gas emissions between 1970 and 2010. The combined value of global fossil fuel subsidies are difficult to calculate with recent estimates ranging from $500 billion to $1.9 trillion a year. However, according to the International Monetary Fund, factoring in implicit subsidies from the failure to charge for pollution, climate change and other externalities, the post tax cost is closer to $2 trillion equivalent to 2.9 percent of the global GDP or 8.5 percent of government revenues. In addition, the IMF believes simply removing fossil fuel subsidies could decrease fossil fuel emissions by 13 percent. Experts say by reducing or eliminating subsidies to fossil fuel and properly pricing energy to account for environmental impacts, governments can effectively foster a low carbon transition as global subsidies to renewable energy were $88 billion in 2011. According to the article: “UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) argues that subsidies to fossil fuel producers often support inefficient state-owned energy companies and stifle incentives for greater efficiencies and innovation, while subsidies to consumers often encourage excessive consumption, which has knock-on effects for pollution, human health and greenhouse gas emissions.” UN Under Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, had this to add: “Fiscal policies are of particular importance in a green economy transition. Confronted by a fiscally constrained world, government reforms might appear to be a daunting challenge. However, it is important to note that fossil fuel subsidies cost countries precious funds. For example, they divert government resources from pro-poor spending in Africa, where governments spend an estimated 3 per cent of GDP – equivalent to their total health care allocation – on fossil fuel subsidies.” UNEP has undertaken green economy fiscal policies studies in various developing countries including Ghana, Namibia, the Philippines and Turkey and have shown that reforming energy subsidies and prices is possible. In addition, the UNEP believes,”Tax incentives could make investments in clean technologies more attractive, while government funds could reduce the risk profile of capital intensive new technologies.” In Australia, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has financed $2.5 billion in renewable projects since starting in July 2013, but has not dissuaded the current Abbott government from trying to dismantle it.

According to Tom Revell’s article, a new study published in the journal Climate Change Economics, researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis tried to put a price tag on efforts to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. David McCollum, the study’s lead author, states, “Many countries say that they’re on board with the a target of 2C global mean temperature stabilization by 2100; some have even made commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But until now, it hasn’t been very clear how to get to that point, at least from an investment point of view. It’s high time we think about how much capital is needed for new power plants, biofuel refineries, efficient vehicles, and other technologies – and where those dollars need to flow – so that we get the emissions reductions we want. Revell’s article, Much-needed $800bn renewable energy investment can come from fossil fuel subsidies, sums up the study by saying that the hundred of billions of dollars needs to invest in renewable energy and prevent the worst effects of climate change could come from the enormous amount of subsidies given to fossil fuels, approximately $800 billion annually between now and 2050 on top of the $400 billion raised by existing policies increasing existing investments from $200-300 billion annually. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2012 direct fossil fuels subsidies totaled $544 billion which researchers point out could be shifted into supporting renewables and meet the investment gap. The study does not account for potential saving gained by switching from fossil fuels to cleaner energy. The study does warn that the transition needs to happen soon as energy infrastructures have  a lifespan of 30 to 60 years. In April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that investments in fossil fuels like oil and coal need to drop by $30 billion a year and renewable energy’s share of global production must increase from 17% in 2010 to 50% in 2050. Without aggressive action, scientist estimate global temperatures will rise by 3.7 to 4.8 degree Celsius by 2100 with devastating consequences around the world, Revell reports.

The Catastrophic Effects of Man-made Pollution

beaches

According to the 24th annual report released by Natural Resources Defense Council, one in 10 U.S. beaches are dangerously polluted making them unsafe for swimmers. The environmental advocacy nonprofit collected 3,500 water samples from American beaches and evaluated the specimens using the Environmental Protection Agency’s new water safety standard known as Beach Action Value. The BAV sets the threshold for water quality at American beaches to protect swimmers from pollution mostly from sewage overflow and contaminated storm water runoff, the HuffPost’s Sara Gates reports in her article 1  In 10 U.S. Beaches Are So Polluted They’re Not Safe For Swimming. NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine explained to USA Today that: “Results in this year show uptick in failure rate at 10 percent nationwide, but this reflects a newer, more health-protected (standard of safety test). If we were to compare to the old defunct standard, it would have been about 7 percent of samples; which tells us we’re stagnating in terms of progress of water protection.” Gates reports, according to the finding, the NRDC found 17 repeat offenders or beaches that failed the public heath standard in more than 25 percent of its water quality samples in the past 5 years e.g. several polluted beaches in Indiana, New York and Ohio. Ranking the highest in polluted beaches was the Great Lakes followed by the Gulf Coast and New England. As for the least polluted, the NRDC labeled 35 U.S. beaches as all stars as they all met the national benchmark for water quality 98 percent of the time over the last five years including waterfronts in 14 states such as California and Virginia.

While water pollution is a major concern all over the world especially the United States, fracking has become increasingly worrisome as the frequency of earthquake increases in areas where earthquakes rarely happened, if at all, e.g vast stretches of prairie across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. In recent years, Oklahoma has recorded nearly 150 earthquakes between January and the start of May with most being too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives. However, these temblors have rattled nerves and raised suspicions enough to start to question their connection with the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater, according to Emily Schmalland Kristi Eaton’s article States Confront Worries About Fracking And Earthquakes. Due to the increasing complaints from residents over the years, governments in three states are confronting the issue by reviewing scientific data, holding public discussion and possibly implementing new regulations. The states with few earthquakes historically are trying to reconcile scientific data with the interests of their citizens and the oil and gas companies. Regulators from each state met in March in Oklahoma City to exchange earthquake information and discuss toughening standards for the lightly regulated business of fracking water disposal. In Azle, Texas where hundreds of small quakes have happened, the residents went to the state Capitol earlier in the year to demand action by the Railroad Commission who are the chief oil and gas regulators. In response, the commission hired the first ever state seismologist and lawmakers formed the House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity, reports Schmalland and Eaton. After Kansas had 56 earthquakes between last October and April, the governor appointed a three member task force to address the issue.

While the frequency of earthquakes is troubling, fracking also generates large quantities of wastewater even more than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped into injection wells sending it thousands of feet underground. Scientists wonder whether this process could trigger quakes due to increasing underground pressure or act as lubricant for faults. In addition, injection well operators could be pumping either too much water into the ground or pumping it at exceedingly high pressures e.g data published by the Railroad Commission earlier this month found ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy has pumped 281,000 gallons or 94 tanker truckloads of wastwater into Azle wells every day for two years. In recent weeks, Oklahoma has experienced 145 quakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater from January to May 2,2014, the Oklahoma Geological Survey reports. Fortunately, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has approved new testing and monitoring regulation for injections wells that take effect in September requiring well operators to collect daily information on well volume and pressure. Nationwide, the United States has more than 150,000 injections wells and only a handful have been proven to induce quakes according to the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Moving from active drilling and pumping to derelict oil wells and gas wells, a study of the latter in Pennsylvania found that hundreds of thousands in the states may leak methane suggesting that wells across the country may be a bigger source of climate changing greenhouse gases than previously thought. According to Mary Kang’s study, a Princeton University scientist, 19 abandoned wells were found leaking various amounts of methane with hundreds of thousands of such oil and gas wells, abandoned and plugged, in Pennsylvania and many more across the country. The problem Bobby Magill reports, Derelict Oil Wells May Be Major Methane Emitters, is that these wells go unmonitored and are rarely checked for leaks. Over the past three years, numerous studies suggest that crude oil and natural gas development especially in shale formations are significant sources of methane leaks. Scientists believe that there is inadequate data available for them to know where all the leaks are and how much methane is leaking due to the fact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas inventory does not fully include these derelict sites as they are not monitored. Over a 100 year span, methane is 34 times more potent as a climate change greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Even more troublesome is its potency over 20 years which is 86 times. Of all the greenhouse gases emitted by humans worldwide, methane is more than 40 percent of all radiative forcing, a measure of trapped heat in the atmosphere and a measuring stick of changing climate. Kang found that the wells leak so much methane that if the leaks from all the abandoned wells in Pennsylvania are added up that the percentage would be between 4 and 13 percent of human caused methane emissions in the state, according to Magill. However, more studies need to be done to fully understand how common the leaking wells are in the state and how much methane they emit. According to the historical record and the study conducted, there are between 280,000 and 970,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. Kang found that state regulations are inadequate at controlling methane emissions from abandoned wells due to the rules focusing on containing fluids, not gases and the plugged wells are not required to be monitored closely over time.

Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth (INFOGRAPHIC)

For you pocket protecting, tapped glasses and bow tie wearing fun loving video game nerds out there here is some advice on how to propose to your lady and for those who do not care for the nerdy variety here are some things to consider. For that matter, all men out there here is a guide to the proposal from Neomam Infographic Studios breaking down the essentials of your big day before you reach the big day. Even if you are married or not quite there, this infographic will make your day.
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