U.S. Attempts to Fight Ebola, Ukraine Ratifies Landmark Deal Amid Russian Sanctions and U.S. Steps Up Plans to Fight ISIS as al-Qaeda Expands

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The ravages of the Ebola virus can easily be seen in West Africa six months on, but the outbreak has become more dire in recent weeks as death tolls rise and health officials warn of a potential global disaster. In an effort to contain the virus, the United States will send thousands of military personnel to aid the region’s crippled health care system which marks a major milestone in the effort to fight the disease. Nick Robins Early reports, 14 Numbers That Show The Magnitude Of The World’s Worst Ebola Outbreak, how devastating the medical crisis has become in West Africa through a collection of revealing stats on the fight against Ebola. The numbers are as follows:

2,400 – The number of estimated Ebola deaths as of Sept. 12, 2014.

4,784 – The total number of Ebola cases reported as of Sept. 12, 2014. Due to many unreported cases, this figure is thought to be less than the actual number of people infected with the virus.

2 – The age of the Guinean boy who some researchers think may have been “patient zero” in the Ebola outbreak. Scientists believe humans originally caught the virus from a sick animal.

5 – The number of West African nations that have reported cases of Ebola. A sixth nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo, has also suffered from an Ebola outbreak, although it is a different strain from the one that originated in Guinea.

12-18 – The number of months that U.S. scientists predict the outbreak will last under current conditions.

20,000 – The number of Ebola cases that the World Health Organization estimates could occur by the time the virus is contained. It should be noted, however, that these type of long-term projections are prone to uncertainties and can vary. A recent New York Times report says that researchers at various universities predict the number could be more like 20,000 in a single month.

12,750 – The total number of health workers that the World Health Organization has called for in order to stem the outbreak and treat people infected with the virus.

3,000 – The number of U.S. military personnel that the United States is expected to send to West Africa to assist in medical training, distribution of aid and the building of health care facilities.

$1,000,000,000 – The estimated global resources needed for the next six months in the fight against Ebola, according to U.N. officials. This is a 10-fold increase from just a month ago, and is what the U.N. says is needed just to keep the outbreak contained to tens of thousands of people.

400,000 – The number of home protective kits that the United States reportedly plans to distribute to the four West African nations most affected by the outbreak.

178 – The number of days since the outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization by Guinea’s health officials.

52 percent – The approximate fatality rate of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Given access to proper medical treatment, especially adequate fluid replacement, the fatality rate of the Ebola outbreak can be significantly lowered.

1,700 – The number of beds that the new U.S. aid effort will reportedly aim to set up in Liberia, one of the hardest hit nations.

0 – The number of beds currently available to treat Ebola patients in Liberia, according to World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan.

The Obama administration is preparing to send 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to aid in the Ebola crisis and supply logistical and medical support to local health care systems and boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat patients, according to Jim Kuhnhenn, US to assign 3,000 from US military to fight Ebola. President Obama announced the effort Tuesday during a visit to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as the outbreak could spread and mutate into more easily transmitted disease. The announcement comes amid regional and aid organization appeals for the U.S. to increase their role in com batting the outbreak that has claimed 2,200 people. Administration officials said Monday that the new initiatives aim to:

– Train as many as 500 health care workers a week.

– Erect 17 heath care facilities in the region of 100 beds each.

– Set up a joint command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate between U.S. and international relief efforts.

– Provide home health care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, including 50,000 that the U.S. Agency for International Development will deliver to Liberia this week.

– Carry out a home- and community-based campaign to train local populations on how to handle exposed patients.

The officials, under the condition of anonymity, said the plan would cost $500 million in overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan, that the Pentagon already has asked Congress to redirect to carry out humanitarian efforts in Iraq and in West Africa. In addition, they said it would take two weeks to get U.S. forces on the ground. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations African affairs subcommittee, said, “This humanitarian intervention should serve as a firewall against a global security crisis that has the potential to reach American soil.” The countries hardest hit include Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, while the virus has reached Nigeria and Senegal. The U.S. will provide medics and corpsmen for treatment and training, engineers to help erect the treatment facilities and specialists in logistics to assist in patient transportation. The visit to the CDC by Obama came a day after the U.S. demanded international aid response to step up. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, called Monday for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, warning that the potential risk of the virus could “set the countries of West Africa back a generation.” The meeting Thursday with the Security Council marks a rare occasion when a public health crisis is addressed rather than threats to peace and security, according to Power. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to brief the council with World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan and Dr. David Nabarro, the recently named U.N. coordinator to tackle the disease, as well as representatives from the affected countries. The Senate also weighed in Tuesday with a hearing to examine the U.S. response and an American missionary doctor who survived the disease set to testify. Four Americans have been treated for Ebola in the U.S. after evacuation. The U.S. has already spent $100 million responding to the outbreak and offered to operate treatment centers for patients. Additionally, Obama will be briefed on cases of respiratory illness being reported in the Midwest where public health officials are monitoring a high number of reported illness associated with human enterovirus 68 in Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and elsewhere. Lauran Neergaard reports, Ebola survivor: No time to waste as Obama ups aid, on Tuesday, Dr. Kent Brantly told senators: “We can’t afford to wait months, or even weeks, to take action, to put people on the ground.” Under the plan, the government could end up spending $1 billion to contain the disease. Obama after his briefing with doctors from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and from Emory University, he said: “If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people affected, with profound economic, political and security implications for all of us.” World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said, “This massive ramp-up of support from the United States is precisely the kind of transformational change we need to get a grip on the outbreak and begin to turn it around.” Brice de le Vingne, director of operations for Doctors without Borders, said, “The response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind and too many lives are being lost. We need more countries to stand up, we need greater concrete action on the ground, and we need it now.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Obama’s plan, his spokesman said in a statement, and called on the international community “to be as bold and courageous in its response as those who are on the front lines fighting this disease.” Congress still needs to vote on Obama’s request for $88 million more to help fight the disease including funding CDC work in West Africa through December and speeding development of experimental treatments and vaccines. Late Tuesday, the Obama administration submitted a request to reprogram $500 million in Pentagon money for the Ebola effort. Meanwhile in Britain, the Associated Press reports, 1st UK volunteer gets experimental Ebola vaccine, a former nurse has become the first person in the country to receive an experimental Ebola vaccine in an early trial to test its safety. Ruth Atkins, 48, received the shot Wednesday in Oxford, the first of 60 healthy volunteers in the U.K. who will receive the vaccine developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline and targets the Zaire strain of Ebola that caused the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. A trial of the same vaccine has already begun in the U.S. The vaccine is meant to spark the immune system’s production of Ebola antibodies and does not contain infectious material. In a statement, trial leader Adrian Hill of Oxford University, said, “Witnessing the events in Africa makes it clear that developing new drugs and vaccines against Ebola should now be an urgent priority.” Hill and colleagues hope the trial will finish at the end of 2014 and could be used to vaccinate health workers in West African if proven safe and effective. Faith Karimi reports, Ebola patients buying survivors’ blood from black market, WHO warns, desperate patients are buying blood from survivors of the virus on the black market, the World Health Organization warns. The WHO reports, “Studies suggest blood transfusions from survivors might prevent or treat Ebola virus infection in others, but the results of the studies are still difficult to interpret. It is not known whether antibodies in the plasma of survivors are sufficient to treat or prevent the disease. More research is needed.” Convalescent serum used to treat patients such as American aid worker Rick Sacra who received blood from Kent Brantly who survived Ebola has been effective. However, patients in affected nations are getting blood through improper channels which could lead to the spread of other infections such as HIV and other blood related ailments. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director general, said this week: “We need to work very closely with the affected countries to stem out black market trading of convalescent serum for two reasons. Because it is in the interest of individuals not to just get convalescent serum without … going through the proper standard and the proper testing because it is important that there may be other infectious vectors that we need to look at.” Meanwhile, a French volunteer with Doctors Without Borders contracted Ebola in Liberia and will be taken for treatment in France by a private American plan, according to the organization.

In Ukraine, on Tuesday, lawmakers strengthened their ties to Europe and loosened control over the country’s rebellious east region where fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels has left 3,000 people dead and returned Western and Russian relations back to the Cold War era, the Associate Press reports, Ukraine lawmakers ratify landmark deal with Europe. The deal lowers trade tariffs between Europe and Ukraine. requires Ukrainian goods to meet European regulatory standards and forces Kiev to undertake major political and economic reforms. President Petro Poroshenko called the vote a “first but very decisive step” toward bringing Ukraine fully into the European Union. In a live broadcast after the deal was made, Poroshenko said the protesters who died in clashes with riot police in Kiev and government troops who died fighting the rebels “have died not only for their motherland. They gave up their lives for us to take a dignified place among the European family.” He continued, “After World War II, not a single nation has paid such a high price for their right to be European. Can you tell me, who now after this will be brave enough to shut the doors to Europe in front of Ukraine?” Earlier Tuesday, parliament also approved laws granting temporary self rule to pro-Russian region in the east as well as amnesty for those involved in the fighting. One law calls for three years of self rule in parts of eastern Ukraine and for local elections in November. A separate bill calls for amnesty for those involved in the fighting in the east, but not those suspected or charged with crimes including murder, sabotage, rape, kidnapping and terrorism. The law could exclude those who tried to kill Ukrainian law enforcement officials and servicemen meaning many of the separatists who waged war for five months. Although Poroshenko did not mention the bills in his speech, he later said according to Interfax-Ukraine that he felt “we are obliged to take a step to ensure that the other side takes corresponding steps” toward peace. Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the rebels in the Donetsk region, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency that the separatist leadership would study the measures, an unusually conciliatory statement compared to the rebels’ previous assertions that they aim for complete independence. The U.S. state Department and Vicd President Joe Biden congratulated Ukrainian lawmakers and leaders. Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman at the State Department, said, “By forging ahead with this agreement in the face of great challenges, Ukraine’s leaders have carried out the will of the Ukrainian people, who demonstrated their overwhelming support for further integration with Europe last winter and with their votes in the May 25 presidential elections.” The passage of the measures came as Poroshenko begins his first state visit to Canada and the U.S., where he will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday and is also scheduled to speak to the U.N. General Assembly next week. Martin Schulz, the president of the EU Parliament, said, “The message this sends could not be clearer: the European Parliament supports Ukraine in its European vocation. The European Parliament will continue defending a united and sovereign Ukraine.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday said the military will increase its forces in Crimea due to the “exacerbation of situation in Ukraine and increased foreign military presence near our borders.” Also on Tuesday, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, Russian ruble drops to historic low amid sanctions, Russian currency dropped to all time low against the dollars as investors worry bout the fallout of economic sanctions. The United States and the European Union last week imposed a new round of sanctions against Russia for its action in Ukraine such as blocking off Western financial markets to key Russian companies and limiting imports of some technologies. Economist Alexei Kudrin, who served as finance minister under President Vladimir Putin for 11 years until 2011, said Tuesday that the sanctions could send Russia’s economy into recession for one or two years. Interfax quoted him as saying, “The sanctions that have been imposed are going to have an effect (on the economy) for the next one or two years because they have limited opportunities for investment in this uncertain environment.” Vasilyeva reports: “Among the most recent sanctions, the United States on Friday tightened the maximum credit duration for a number state-owned Russian companies and banks to 30 days, effectively shutting off Russia from long-term loans. The U.S. and the EU indicated, however, they may reverse some of the sanctions if they see that Moscow is supporting peace process in Ukraine, where more than 3,000 died since mid-April.” Jitters over the impact of the US. EU sanctions were fueled by reports that the Russian government is preparing more import bans that could hurt Russian consumer spending. Russian in August imposed an import ban on dairy products, meat and vegetables from the European Union and the United States, causing prices to shoot up for selected foods.

While Ukraine tries to rebuild a fragile and devastated government, the U.S. continues to implement its plan for ISIS. U.S. officials on Monday said the United States took its first step in its plan to expand the fight against the extremist group, going to the aid of Iraqi security forces near Baghdad who were under attack, the Associated Press reports, First U.S. airstrikes in expanded Iraq fight. The U.S. Central Command said on Sunday two airstrikes were conducted in support of Iraqi forces near Sinjar and southwest Baghdad. The strikes authorized by President Barack Obama represent a new offensive against the group to protect not only U.S. interest and personnel, but directly support Iraqi forces fighting militants. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to stop American extremist from joining terrorist groups like ISIS during a presentation Monday, but details are a little fuzzy, according to the AOL article, Holder announces plan to stop Americans from joining ISIS. HOLDER VIA U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: “Ultimately the pilot programs will enable us to develop more effective and inclusive ways to build a more just, secure and free society that all Americans deserve.” He said his plan will bring together community representatives, public safety officials, religious leaders and U.S. attorneys in hopes of building a broad network to keep the nation safe. Other nations have taken steps involving local officials such as British Prime Minister David Cameron who asked his government to pass legislation that allows law enforcement to seize the passport of anyone suspected of traveling to support ISIS, while Germany banned its citizens from any activities supporting the group. The International Centre for Radicalization estimates more than 11,000 Western Europeans have traveled to fight with Syrian rebels. Maria Golovnna reports, New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack, Al Qaeda’s South Asia wing has claimed responsibility for hijacking a Pakistani naval ship and trying to use it to fire rockets at U.S. vessels in the Arabian Sea, in the first major assault by the newly created group. The SITE monitoring service quoted its spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, said: “These mujahideen had taken control of the Pakistani ship, and they were advancing towards the American fleet when the Pakistani army stopped them. As a result, the mujahideen, the lions of Allah and benefactors of the Ummah, sacrificed their lives for Allah, and the Pakistani soldiers spoiled their hereafter by giving up their lives in defense of the enemies of the Ummah the Americans.” The naval yard on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast is a strategic facility at the cent of the U.S. Pakistani security, anti-terrorism and anti-trafficking cooperation. The Pakistani Taliban, allied with al-Qaeda, said the Sept.6 attack was carried out with the help of insiders leading to the arrest of a number of navy personnel on suspicion of collaborating with attackers. Back in the U.S., Republican controlled House voted to give U.S. military authority to train and arm Syrian rebels Wednesday, David Espo and Donna Cassata report, House grudgingly approves arms for Syrian rebels. The provision will be added to spending legislation to assure the federal government runs normally after Sept.30 end of the budget year and final approval in the Senate may come as earl as Thursday. It grants Obama authority until Dec.11 and gives Congress plenty of time to return to the issue in a post-election session set to begin mid-November. The Senate will vote only once on the legislation combining approval for arming and training rebels with the no shutdown federal spending provisions. Testifying before a Senate Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry said the forces seeking to create an Islamic state ” must be defeated. Period. End of story.” The legislation also includes $88 million to combat the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. In France, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that his country was ready to take part int he airstrikes in Iraq if needed, the Associated Press reports, France ready to participate in Iraq airstrikes. He spoke in Paris before President Barack Obama was expected to outline Washington’s plans for fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. France has said it will join a U.S. led coalition in Iraq and send arms to Kurdish authorities to fight militants. The French president and foreign minister are going to Iraq Friday and hosting an international conference Monday on how to stop the group and help Iraq. Fabius said that “we will participate, if necessary, in military air action” in Iraq, according to a text provided by the French Foreign Ministry. Earlier, Fabius said people should not refer to the group as the Islamic State since they do not represent Islam or a state and started to refer to the group Wednesday as Daesh, the acronym in Arabic for its full former name, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Speaking to lawmakers, Fabius said “the determination of the Daesh butchers is strong. Ours must be even stronger.” Egypt’s top Islamic authority also said the group should not be called the Islamic State.

The Ebola Crisis Keeps Getting Worse, Battling ISIS Around the World, The War On Drugs and America’s Wealth Gap Unsustainable

https://i0.wp.com/www.cartoonaday.com/images/cartoons/2014/08/Ebola-virus-cartoon-598x400.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/tulsaworld.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/8a/a8a87a88-0574-504a-85ba-4ab3d8439553/54068e0f8a7e4.image.jpghttp://danieljmitchell.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/drug-war-cartoon.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/m5.paperblog.com/i/61/615103/the-income-gap-is-still-growing-L-w6Xtui.jpegThe Ebola epidemic sweeping across Western Africa this summer shows no signs of slowing down as researchers say it’s about to get worse. According to AOL, Health officials say Ebola outbreak about to get worse, Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control, said: “It is the world’s first Ebola epidemic and it’s spiraling out of control. It’s bad now, it’s going to get worse in the very near future.” The World Health Organization told officials to “prepare for an ‘exponential increase’ in Ebola cases in countries currently experiencing intense virus transmission.” The Who suspects that normal containment measures aren’t working due to Ebola victims and their communities mistrust of medical experts. The New York Times: “Now, armed gangs chase health workers away from villages while the sick hide.” As of Monday, The World Health Organization reports the virus has killed 2,105 people with half from Liberia and the rest from Guinea and Sierra Leone mostly. According to WHO: “The whole world is responsible and accountable to bring the Ebola threat under control. Let’s do it. Action, action, and action.” President Obama on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” announced the U.S. military would deploy its resources and logistical expertise to help aid workers on the ground. NBC’s “Meet The Press”: “If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads … there is the prospect then that the virus mutates … and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.” Currently, 53 percent of the people diagnosed with Ebola die as there is no cure for it. On Sunday, the Guardian reported a potential breakthrough saying the human trials were underway for a vaccine that worked on monkeys. However, best case scenario if a vaccine works it will take months to deliver it to victims while victims and people try to help them are on their own. Eleanor Goldberg reports, More Women Than Men Are Dying From Ebola, the current Ebola outbreak may infect as many ads 20,000 people with a disproportionate number being women, experts say. According to UNICEF, more women than men are contracting the disease as they traditionally serve as health care workers and are the ones who take care of the sick in their families. Women account for 55 to 60 percent of the victims who die from Ebola in the current epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The Washington Post reported, health teams in Liberia recently reported that women made up 75 percent of victims infected with Ebola. Irin News reports the outbreak can be attributed to the consumption of infected bushmeat of wild animals which many rely on for their livelihood and main source of protein. Sia Nyama Koroma, first lady of Sierra Leone, told the Washington Post: “Women are the caregivers — if a kid is sick, they say, ‘Go to your mom. Most of the time when there is a death in the family, it’s the woman who prepares the funeral, usually an aunt or older female relative.” Marpue Spear, executive director of the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia, told Foreign Policy: “If a man is sick, the woman can easily bathe him but the man cannot do so. Traditionally, women will take care of the men as compared to them taking care of the women.” Because of the confrontation associated with the disease due to military surrounding homes and healthcare workers not respecting a patient’s traditions, Ebola victims do not go to treatment centers. However, if these relationships can be mended, then these epidemics could be stopped before they spread to this level. Frankfurter wrote in a blog for Wellbody Alliance: “Health workers should acknowledge, publicly, how frightening this disease will be for affected communities and how difficult it is for families to part with loved ones to likely die in isolation wards. Such sympathetic gestures would serve to align the priorities of communities and the public health response.”

While the world fights to contain and stop the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa, the U.S. and other world leaders are discussing plans to rid the world of another political and social disease, ISIS. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told members of the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance at a conference on defense innovation Wednesday that unsophisticated militaries and terrorist groups are acquiring destructive weapons and Moscow and Beijing are modernizing their armed services including electronic warfare and special operations capabilities, Lolita C. Baldor reports, Chuck Hagel: U.S. Needs To Maintain Military Superiority. Hagel said: “We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space — not to mention cyberspace — can no longer be taken for granted. And while the United States continues to maintain a decisive military and technological edge over any potential adversary, our continued superiority is not a given. We must take this challenge seriously, and do everything necessary to sustain and renew our military superiority. This will not only require active investment by both government and industry — it will require us to once again embrace a spirit of innovation” in how American buys and develops new technologies. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad Wednesday to press Iraq’s Shiite Leader to give more power to Sunnis or jeopardize any hope of defeating the Islamic State group as Iraq’s new government has finally been put in place and the threat of ISIS increases, the Associate Press reports, Kerry to meet with new Iraqi Prime Minister. Kerry’s arrival happened just two days after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was sworn in and seated his top government ministers. The trip marks the first high level U.S. meeting with the new prime minister and symbolizes the Obama administration’s support for Iraq three years after the U.S. left. However, it also signals to the Shiite Muslim leader that the U.S. is watching to make sure he gives Iraqi Sunnis more control over local power structures and security forces. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry will “meet with Iraqi government officials to welcome them on the successful formation of a new government” and “discuss how the United States can increase its support to Iraq’s new government in our common effort to defeat ISIL and the threat that it poses to Iraq, the region, and the world.” Kerry’s trip comes on the eve of a meeting win Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he and Arab leaders across the Mideast will discuss what nations can contribute to the fight against ISIS. Officials hope to have a strategic blueprint against ISIS with specific steps nations are willing to take by the opening of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York at the end of the month. White House official said Tuesday that Obama will ask Congress to authorize the arming and training of Syrian opposition forces but will press forward without formal sign off from lawmaker on a broader military and political effort to combat the Islamic State. The president’s broader strategy could include more wide ranging airstrikes against Iraq and Syria and hinges on military and political commitment from allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. A senior U.S. official said the conference participants will discuss how to dry up foreign funding for the Islamic State and counter propaganda used to recruit people into the extremist group. In addition, al-Abadi promised to create a national guard of local fighters to secure Iraq’s 18 provinces run by a governor. This would ensure the Iraqi army and its mostly Shiite forces would not be in charge of security in Sunni regions along for salaried jobs, government pensions and other benefits to areas of Iraq where al-Maliki, the former prime minister, denied for years. Zeina Karam reports, UN Aid Reaches Record Number Of Syrians, the World Food Program has assisted 4.1 million Syrians in the last month reaching more of those in need with shipments traversing borders and front lines on Tuesday. Syria’s civil war has touched off a massive humanitarian crisis, with some 10.8 million people in need of assistance, including 4.7 million in hard-to-reach areas, according to the U.N. Previously, humanitarian aid was block without Syrian government approval first ensuring the rebel held areas remained off limits, but in July, the U.N. Security Council authorized movement of humanitarian aid to Syrians in opposition areas without government approval. IN a statement Tuesday, the World Food Program said over the last six weeks it and its partners have reached more than 580,000 people with deliveries crossing battle lines. The August figures include five cross-border convoys that delivered rice, lentils, oil, pasta and other staples for 69,500 in difficult zones to reach in Aleppo, Idlib, Quneitra and Daraa provinces. Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for Syria, said: “We are reaching more people every day with urgently needed food assistance — many of them have been going hungry for months. We will build on these gains in the coming weeks and months and hope that all parties to the conflict will continue to facilitate our access to the women, children and families that remain out of our reach behind conflict lines.” The U.N. agency said fighting and security concerns continue to hamper access to many areas, particularly in Hassakeh, Deir el-Zour and Raqqa provinces.

Meanwhile, the war on drugs, which has had little if any success, has left hundreds of thousands dead and fleeing, leading to demands to completely overhaul the drug policies around the world including legalization of psychoactive substances like marijuana. Matt Ferner reports, World Leaders Condemn Failed Drug War, Call For Global Reform, on Tuesday in New York City, 10 members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy urged all governments to embrace models that include decriminalization of consumption, legal regulation of drug markets and strategic refocusing of criminal enforcement. Sound policy, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said, “does not allow human rights to be put aside in order to extend the repression of drugs.” The commission consists of 21 former presidents and other prominent individuals who are trying to advance “humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies.” Its members include Cardoso; former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss; former Colombian President César Gaviria; former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo; Louise Arbour, former United Nations high commissioner for human rights; and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Cardoso believes the new approach should stress public health and ensure drug users have access to health care. Gaviria argues the legalization of marijuana and other illicit substances “strengthens the fight against cartels.” Cardoso said the world’s governments must put pressure on the Untied Nations before the United Nations before the 2016 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) to begin incremental change in the “inadequate” strategies of the “war on drugs” found in current international conventions. Zedillo points out the current U.N. system of prohibition has led to increase in consumption and “created a disaster, not a world free of drugs.” Cardoso said: “We cannot abolish the use of drugs. So we need cultural modification.” Zedillo accuses the U.N. of straitjacketing the effort to adopt new policies, adding: “2016 is an opportunity to start a new international regime where governments can really control this drug problem. Our objective is to have a framework that empowers governments to pursue more rational policies. The specifics of those policies are to be defined by those governments and their civil societies.” The report comes as punished for drug oriented crimes around the world are already being reconsidered and in some countries reshaped. Cardoso said there were experiments going on all around the world with great reform success in the United States, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and Uruguay. he said: “We have experiences in Portugal since 1991, where they have decriminalized the use of drugs. Users get treatment assistance but are not put in jail. It has been very effective in Portugal; the results are quite clear.” In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to approve legal regulation of the production, distribution and sale of marijuana. While the U.S. government bans the use, some states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the recreational use of the drug and 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical use. Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, in an interview with The Huffington Post, said: “These world leaders have seen, from their own experience, how the failed war on drugs harms countries and populations. I have no doubt that President Obama will evolve and join this group and the majority of Americans in at least endorsing the legalization of marijuana, just as he did with marriage equality. The only question is if this evolution will occur before or after his term as president ends. I’m sure the global commission’s members would welcome him to their ranks as one more former head of state on the record for legalization, but it’ll be a lot more impactful if he undergoes this transformation while he still has the power to change failed policies that harm people every day.”

While the war on drugs seems to be making some headway in the world, the socioeconomic war being fought between classes, namely the wealthy and poor, has grown. Reuters reports, America’s Wealth Gap ‘Unsustainable’ According To Harvard Study, Harvard Business School released a study Monday titled “An Economy Doing Half its Job” said American companies were showing signs of recovering their competitive edge in the world market since the financial crisis, but workers keep struggling to demand better pay and benefits. The report says “such a divergence is unsustainable” based on a survey of 1,947 Harvard Business School alumni around the world highlighting the problem with the U.S. education system, transport infrastructure, and the effectiveness of the political system. Some 47 percent said the next three years they expect U.S. companies to be both less competitive internationally and less able to pay higher wages and benefits versus 33 percent who though the opposite. According to the survey, the results are an improvement from a 2012 Harvard Business School survey of its alumni showing 58 percent expected a decline in U.S. competitiveness. However, Harvard wrote the respondents of the 2014 survey “were much more hopeful about the future competitive success of America’s firms than they were about the future pay of America’s workers.” Harvard called on corporate leaders to help solve America’s wealth gap by working to buttress the kindergarten-to-12th-grade education system, skills-training programs, and transportation infrastructure, among other things. The report said: “Shortsighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy whose firms win in global markets without lifting U.S. living standards. But any leader with a long view understands that business has a profound stake in the prosperity of the average American. Thriving citizens become more productive employees, more willing consumers, and stronger supporters of pro-business policies. Struggling citizens are disgruntled at work, frugal at the cash register, and anti-business at the ballot box.” Meanwhile, in a speech given at the Urban Institute Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put U.S. companies using tax inversion on notice, according to CNBC: “This practice allows the corporation to avoid their civic responsibilities, while continuing to benefit from everything that makes America the best place in the world to do business. … This may be legal, but it’s wrong. And our laws should change.” Lew urged Congress to address the problem through comprehensive tax reform, but also warned the Treasury would act independently to crack down on inversions in the very near future. Tax inversion, which involves a company relocating its headquarters to a low tax nation while still maintaining their U.S. operations, has become common practice over the last year with Burger King being the latest corporation accused of inversion after merging with Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons. Bloomberg’s Peter Cook says the Treasury’s options are limited: “They have several ideas on the table, I’m told, at the Treasury Department. They haven’t decided on one single fix. But Lew’s message this morning was: we can only do this at the margins. Only Congress can have a real, long-term fix here.” The Obama adminsitration estimates there are dozens of inversion in the works which have not been announced, but Lew urges Congress to make any legislative fix for inversion retroactive to all deals since May including the Burger King-Tim Hortons merger. According to Ryan Gorman, Amid tax backlash, Burger King acquires Tim Horton’s but keeps US HQ, Berger King announced Tuesday it purchased Tim Hortons but will keep its headquarters in the U.S. after speculation that the it would move north to avoid taxes. In a Facebook post, Burger King said: “We hear you. We’re not moving, we’re just growing and finding ways to serve you better. Our headquarters will remain in Miami where we were founded more than 60 years ago and… BKC will continue to pay all of our federal, state and local U.S. taxes.” According to Congressional Research Service data complied by the Post earlier this year, Burger King would have been the 48th company to immigrate abroad with more than 70 making the move since 1983.

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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Women as the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Church

 

Check out the Pope’s full address here.

As the pope blazes a new trail for the modern Roman Catholic Church, Francis continues to emphasize the importance of women and their role in the church despite taking the office only weeks ago as the Bishop of Rome becoming the first Latin American pope and the first non-European pope in 1300 years after Benedict XVI resign the first in 600 years. On Wednesday, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of women in the church as they were the first witnesses of Christ and play a special role in the spreading of faith. As many witnessed on Holy Thursday last week, the pontiff included women in the traditional foot washing ritual drawing criticism from traditionalist who believe the right has always been reserved for men. Many see the custom as a re-enactment of Jesus washing the fee of his apostles who are all men. Women as Francis explains have always played a special role as the “first witnesses” of Christ’s resurrection passing the belief onto their children and grandchildren. Francis told the thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square, “In the Church, and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord.” He even went further to explain that in the bible women were not recorded witnesses as Jewish law prohibited it at the time as they are not reliable witnesses. However, Francis did comments that, “In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role … The evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria.” This is the second time the pontiff has talked about the role of women as witnesses to the resurrection of Christ which is the cornerstone of the Catholic faith.

As for the role of women, Pope Francis addressed women in his Easter Vigil on Saturday and urge the faithful to  not fear change. Marinella Perroni, a theologian and leading member of the Association of Italian Women Theologians, according to Reuters had this to say:

“This is very encouraging. Pope Francis is taking up, with a stronger emphasis, the teaching of previous popes about the role of women in the foundation of faith and the resurrection of Jesus. The fact that the Pope acknowledges that the progressive removal of female figures from the tradition of the resurrection…is due to human judgments, distant from those of God…introduces a decidedly new element compared to the previous papacy.”

Several liberal reform supporters of the church call for the institution to ordain women as priests giving them a greater voice and more recognition within the church which the Vatican has said publicly that Jesus Christ chose only men for his apostles even though many female priesthood supports have said Jesus was conforming to the customs at the time. The 76 year old pontiff has set a new standard for the papacy as he continues to live as his name sake did St. Francis with humility and simplicity by shunning the ornate items of traditional dress, using informal language in his addresses, and choosing not to live in the regal papal apartments choosing instead to live in a simple residence. Many are hopeful that this new age of the Catholic Church can reform the Curia and many believe Pope Francis may even close the Vatican bank following the scandals at the heart of the Holy See which has damaged the church’s reputation.

Remembering the Past to Preserve the Future

Rivaled only by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Center and the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum in historical value, Bad Arolsen contains 30 million documents on survivors of Nazi camps, Gestapo prisons, forced laborers and displace persons. One example of the power of preserving the past is George Jaunzemis who received a letter in 2010 from the International Tracing Service in Bad Arsolen which changed his life finding out his real name was Peter Thomas and had a nephew as well as a cousin in Germany. He never knew that the Latvian women he emigrated with to New Zealand was not his mother and had no memory of his early years as he was only three and half at the end of WWII when he separated from his mother as she fled with him from Germany to Belgium. Jaunzemis, 71, told Reuters, “I was astonished, thrilled. After all this time, I was an uncle. You don’t know what it’s like to have no family or childhood knowledge. Suddenly all the pieces fitted, now I can find my peace as a person.” Even though the story has a seemingly happy ending, it took Jaunzemis three decades of searching to find the vast archive in a remote corner of Germany.

Many people don’t even know the archive exists as it was only opened to researchers in 2007 after being widely criticized for overprotecting the original material locked in its facility, but Bad Arolsen still struggles to receive the recognition it deserves says many academics. Only 2,097 people visited Bad Arolsen compared to 900,000 who visited Yad Vashem reports Reuters. Rebecca Boehling, a historian from the Dresher Center for Humanities at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, wants to change this, “We have a new agenda. We’re sitting on a treasure trove of documents. We want people to know what we have. Our material can change our perspective on big topics related to the war and the Holocaust.” Boehling is the first archive director not affiliated with the International Committee of the Red Cross who managed Bad Arolsen since 1955 who handed the reins over to an international commission of 11 countries in January hoping to open the archives for academic study.  Boehling hopes to open the archive for international conferences, get foreign students to use the ITS, publish research and host teachers’ workshops even though the budget of 14 million euros from the German government may not cover it all. The archive, as Boehling believes should be used as an educational tool for the younger generations as the ITS can provide an abundance of personal stories from victims and hope the events they host will draw more than just the townspeople and groups of pupils from nearby.

The location of the archive site in Bad Arolsen was chosen because of its central location between Germany’s four occupation zones and located next to a site where Hitler’s SS officers once had barracks according to Reuters. The problem now is there are no big cities nearby and connections to Berlin and Frankfurt are slow as the town itself is location on the norther edge of the state of Hesse population of just 16,000. The archive itself hold clues to the fate of 17.5 million people housed in a white building that included 25 kilometers of yellowing paper showing typed lists of Jews, homosexuals and other persecuted groups, files on children born to the Nazi Lebensborn program to breed the master race and registers of arrivals as well departures from concentration camps. A carbon copy of Schindler’s List is even housed here with the 1,000 Jewish workers saved by German industrialist Oskar Schindler. As spokeswoman, Kathrin Flor explains, “At death camps like Sobibor or Auschwitz, only natural causes of death are recorded – heart failure or pneumonia. There’s no mention of gassing. The last evidence of many lives is the transport to the camp.”

The ITS receives 12,000 inquiries a month to and reunites 50 families  a year as the number of Holocaust survivors decrease the work continues as the new phenomenon of grandchildren and great grandchildren want to find out about the fate of their loved ones during the war. The task of digitalizing the records is an ongoing project in order to make the archive user friendly and easier to search the large database. Even though the location is remote, Boehling says the archive will not be moved as it has become a memorial to the Holocaust survivors like Auschwitz inmate Thomas Buergenthal who came in 2012 after getting new information on where his father perished Reuters reports. He himself escaped Nazi shooting squads, Auschwitz gas chambers and a death march before the age of 12 later he was found by his mother found him in a Polish orphanage in 1947 through the Red Cross. As he explains from his home in the U.S. at 78, “This is my hallowed ground. These documents are more important for the future than for the past. They will be the common heritage of mankind of what really happened during that period. (They are) what we need to prevent it happening elsewhere in the world.”

Pope Greets the Faithful As Holy Week Begin with Palm Sunday Mass

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 250,000 of the faithful gathered waving olive branches and braided palm fronds in St. Peter’s Square to hear and get a glimpse of Pope Francis celebrating his First Palm Sunday Mass addressing the crowd reminding them to be humble and young at heart promising to attend the youth jamboree in Brazil in July. The crowd included a variety of people from tourists to Romans to pilgrims who celebrated the beginning of the Holy Week leading to Easter, Christianity’s most important day. The pope keeping with his unique style broke away from the homily text prepared for him to encourage the faithful to lead simple lives, resist temptation and overall remain optimistic in the face of adversity according to the Associate Press. Francis told the crowd that “Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope! Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope!” as the world deals with a crushing economic difficulties and employment crisis. At the end of the two hour Mass, Francis removed his red vestments and wore only his white cassock with skull cap when he climbed into the open top popemobile to meet the crowd. His security team has to work harder than ever as Francis leaned out to shake hands, kiss and pat the heads of infants his body guards passed to him. The Chief bodyguard, Domenico Giani, at one point was sent to give a message to the mother of a child the pontiff passed as the he appeared very tense then broke into a smile one he completed his task the Associated Press reported. The pope also climbed down from his vehicle to kiss a woman in the crowd and chat with her, while another man in the crowd leaned over the barricade to squeeze the pontiff on the shoulder which was unheard of with the reserved Benedict XVI. As an Argentine nun, Sister Emma, commented, “There is no doubt that there will be a new spring for the church, a renewal.”

Palm Sunday marks the day Jesus’ entered Jerusalem then later was betrayed by one of his apostles and sentenced to die on the cross. Francis presided over the Mass that took place on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica under a white canopy saying Jesus “awakened so many hopes in the heart, above all among humble, simple, poor, forgotten people, those who don’t matter in the eyes of the world.” As many of the cardinals sat on chairs during the ceremony, the pope talked about many of the evils afflicting the world including wars, `’economic conflicts that hit the weakest” as well as corruption. Since his election, Pope Francis has made it his mission to help the downtrodden and poor which keeps with the Jesuit tradition as the pope said in his homily that Christian joy `’isn’t born from possessing a lot of things but from having met” Jesus as that same joy should keep people young and “Even at 70, 80, the heart doesn’t age” if one is inspired by Christian joy the Associate Press reports. During the Mass, many of the faithful knelt on the hard cobblestones of the square when the Gospel recounts the moment of Jesus’ death so did Francis kneel on a wooden kneeler. A few olive trees were inserted in the dirt placed around the central obelisk in the square. Holy Week has just begun but there is already a planned change to the tradition with the new papacy. On Holy Thursday, the pope will wash the feet of young inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome instead of the feet of priests in the basilica as a humble gesture of humility. Other appointments in public will include the Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum on Good Friday night and next Sunday Francis will celebrate Easter Mass in the square.

As the Death Toll Rises, The Great Gun Debate Rages On

From the Debates at home to the debate abroad, the U.S. needs to address and take a firm stance on gun control as the death toll rises. Everyday more people are dying from gun related deaths and nobody has address the real issue which is not the second amendment but finding better ways to regulate the gun trade in America. Here is a compilation of events that will make any American whether for or against gun control to think twice about what is really important.

Hitler Gun Control

When Ohio’s school board president posted her opposition to gun control she used Adolf Hitler’s image to get her point across, while a well known conservative commentator argued about the efforts to restrict guns he commented that if the Jews in Poland had more arms there would of been more survivors of the Holocaust. In the months since the Newtown shooting in Connecticut, some gun rights supports have compared the U.S. gun control efforts to Nazi restrictions on firearms arguing the government is leaving the people defenseless against tyrants reports the Associated Press. Isn’t that what the military is for? However some experts argue that the argument distorts history since Hitler loosened tight gun laws governing World War I Germany evening barring Jews from owning weapons and moved to take them away. Oh those fact checkers strike again. Gun advocates who cite Hitler in the U.S. gun debate fail to realize that Jews in the 1930s Germany were a small population with few guns before Nazis take over, even though it fits the current debate the truth is that Hitler’s firearms laws made no difference in the Jews’ survival. As historian Steve Paulsson, an expert whose family survived the city’s destruction, said, “Objectively, it might have made things worse” if the Jews who fought the Nazis in the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising in Poland had more and better guns. Nonetheless the comparison remains strong online as former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker wrote in January, “Absolute certainties are a rare thing in this life, but one I think can be collectively agreed upon is the undeniable fact that the Holocaust would have never taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler’s Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms.” National Rifle Association President David Keene thinks the analogy is appropriate – Gov Andrew Cuomo depicted as Hitler at a New York rally in February- during an radio interview on March 1 saying, “Folks that are cognizant of the history, not just in Germany but elsewhere, look back to that history and say we can’t let that sort of thing happen here.”

However according to the Associated Press, the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, has asked that Hitler and the Nazis be kept out of the debate saying the rhetoric “is such an absurdity and so offensive and just undermines any real understanding of what the Holocaust was about. If they do believe it, they’re making no serious examination of what the Nazi regime was about.” As Harcourt explains, “To suggest that the targeting of Jews in any of the gun regulations or any of the other regulations is somehow tied to Nazis’ view of guns is entirely misleading because the Nazis believed in a greater deregulation of firearms. Firearms were viewed, for the good German, were something to which they had rights.” U.S. gun rights advocates disagree pointing to the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising where 700 armed Jews fought off  a large German force for days until they fled to tunnels and the ghetto was burn to the ground house by house. The problem with this argument as Paulsson points o9ui is that if the Polish Jews would of limited their resistance the Nazi troops might not have destroyed the ghettos allowing more to survive and escape, but when they chose to fight other times in 1930s and 1940s Poland it incited vicious counter attacks. However, Heller a gun activist said the uprising and ore guns might not have stopped the Holocaust but gave the Jews a fighting chance and saved many from the concentration camp according to the Associated Press. But Paulsson, whose mother was freed from Auschwitz at the end of the war, dismisses this twisting of facts: “Ideologues always try to shoehorn history into their own categories and read into the past things that serve their own particular purposes.”

Thousands of gun deaths since Newtown

The Huffington Post has tracked gun-related deaths in the United States since Newtown. Click here for an interactive map of those who have died. In the 98 days since the Sandy Hook Massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, guns have killed at least 2,243 more people. Click here to read about the thousands of gun deaths since by Huff Post “One Nation Under Guns.”

Arms Trade Treaty Nra

The United Nation’s Arms Trade Treaty, an international convention on small arms sales now being negotiated at the United Nations this week and next in New York, has drawn more than a 100 demonstrators at Lafayette Square on Friday urging the U.S. to back the treaty according to Huff Post. The supporters are optimistic even though the treaty would face political and policy hurdles. Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty Internation, told the Huff Post before addressing the protestors across from the White House that, “We are still very hopeful that we’ll end up with a treaty. The important thing is [that the Arms Trade Treaty must] protect human lives and protect human rights. We will get a treaty, the question is ‘how good is it, how strong is it?’ That’s a bit up in the air right now.” The intended purpose for the treaty would be to prevent the transfer of arms across boarders to governments using  them in war crimes, genocide and other human rights violations. There are a few sticking points though. Among the most contentious was ammunition sales as opposed to weapons sales would be covered in the treaty as the United States delegation opposes including ammunition in the ATT which has angered a number of protestors. As Shetty explains to the Huff Post: “The argument the U.S. is making is a very practical one, saying that it’s very difficult to track [things like ammunition]. But there are many governments that produce ammunition, and they’re not blocking [it from being included in the treaty].” As Paul O’Brien, the vice president of policy and campaigns for the human rights group Oxfam explains, “We’re confident we’re going to get something. But something isn’t good enough. If we don’t get a strong treaty, it’s not going to mean anything for the people on the wrong end of violence.”

What would it be without the National Rifle Association voicing its concern? Well of course the NRA chimed in along with strong resistance stateside from gun rights advocates portraying the treaty as in international poly to deprive Americans of their Second Amendment rights states the Huff Post as NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre demanded last summer during a U.N. speech: “We have watched [the treaty] with increasing concern and, one year ago, I delivered … our objections to including civilian arms in the ATT. I said then, and I will repeat now, that the only way to address NRA’s objections is to simply and completely remove civilian firearms from the scope of the treaty.” During the predawn hours of Saturday, two amendments were put forth in the Senate: one to prohibit the U.S. from signing the ATT which was approved in the Senate 53-46 and the other to affirm that the international treaty would not trump the U.S. Constitution which passed by a voice vote. According to Huff Post, both amendments will be worked on in committee then proceed to the House as the Senate departed for Easter recess after passing the budget bill.