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.

Investigators Finally Reach MH17 site, Israel Continues its Assault and the Ebola Virus Causes More Evacuations

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For almost two weeks now, the remains of some of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 passengers are feared rotting in the 90 degree midsummer heat causing concern for frustrated relatives who want the bodies of their loved ones, the Associate Press reported, Clashes prevent experts from reaching bodies. Fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels have prevented international police from securing the area and forensic experts from collecting any remaining bodies or collect debris for analysis. Even rebels who initially oversaw the collection of 200 bodies out of 298 have abandoned the sight saying attacks from Ukrainian military forced them to defend themselves. Prime Minster Mark Rutte said bringing back the remaining bodies is his government’s top priority, but Dutch officials on Wednesday were skeptical about the prospect of reaching the site soon. After investigators failed to reach the site Wednesday, the United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric called on both sides to cease hostilities in the area: “The families of the victims of this horrific tragedy deserve closure and the world demands answers. International teams must be allowed to conduct their work.” In a statement, the Dutch said the observers talked to rebels and turned back after being “warned of gunfire on the route and in the surrounding areas.” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev in New York said that Ukrainian forces are try to “liberate the villages and the cities around this site and to give the possibility to international experts to come in.” Fortunately, on Thursday, an international team of investigators reached the crash site of the Malaysia Arline Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine for the first time, Mstyslav Chernov reports, Investigators reach Ukraine crash site. An Associated Press journalist at the scene Thursday said the site appeared to be controlled by separatist rebel fighters. Police and forensic experts from the Netherlands and Australia will focus initially on recovering the remaining bodies still on the site and collect victims’ belongings. Sergei Izvolsky, a Russian state aviation agency spokesman, told AP that a delegation of Russian specialist from Rosaviatsiya were due in Kiev Thursday to participate in the investigation. Ukrainian parliament, meanwhile, voted not to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk who resigned last week after two parties left the coalition supporting him and rejected passing laws to fund the country’s war against pro-Russian separatists.

While the investigation begins for Flight 17, Vladimir Putin continues to receive criticism from western leaders and from the rebels he’s accused of arming. Aleksander Vasovic reports, Some Rebels In Ukraine Vent Frustration With Putin. The European Union and the United States have imposed new sanctions on Russia due to the fact Putin has not persuaded the pro-Russian separatist to stop fight and for supplying them with weapons. In addition, rebels have become increasingly frustrated with the Russian president as the Ukrainian army squeezes the rebel’s last two stronghold in Donetsk and Luhansk leaving the rebels outnumbered and outgunned. A fighter named Pavel outside the rebel headquarters in Donetsk said, “Oh, how we would like to see the Russian army here. If they were here, the Ukrainian border would be 300 km away to the west and south. But they’re not coming. But that’s only a fraction of what we need. We need people, experienced people. But Putin is afraid of spending Russian funds and his oligarchs’ funds.” Another rebel fighter, who declined to give his name, voiced his frustrations with Moscow: “Russia must enter Novorossiya [means New Russia used to describe Eastern Ukraine by Putin]. This is Russian soil, and every day they waste waiting (to send in arms and personnel) means more deaths. We feel somewhat as if we are Russia’s cannon fodder.” The leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic including some Russians dismiss the rumors of divisions in the rank and Russia’s role in the crisis. One top rebel official, Vladimir Antyufeyev, told a news conference: “We are receiving constant political and humanitarian support from Russia … Political support is the most important one. We would want to see that kind of (military) aid from Russia, but there will be none.” A senior U.S. official under conditions of anonymity said, “There are indications that some groups feel betrayed by Moscow not doing enough. I do think it’s fair to say that there are divisions in those ranks.”

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Meanwhile, on Wednesday, according to Gaza health officials, an Israeli airstrike hit a crowed Gaza shopping area killing 16 and wounding 150 hours after Israeli tank shells slammed into a U.N. school for displaced Palestinian that killed 15 people, Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, Strike on crowded Gaza area kills 16, wounds 150. The attacks comes after both Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers vowed to step up attacks after three weeks of fighting killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and more than 50 Israelis. The Israeli military had no comment on the shopping area attack and said it was investigating reports. Salim Qadoum who witness the strike in the shopping area said, “People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed in the area, the market, in the Turkman area, and next to the gas station. The area now is like a blood bath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It’s a massacre. I vomited when I saw what happened.” Total killed was more than 108 Palestinians on Wednesday due to Israeli airstrikes and shelling. The military declared a four hour humanitarian ceasefire in parts of Gaza at 3pm, however Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it lacked value due to the fact it excluded border areas from where Hamas needed to evacuate the wounded. The military said Gaza militants fired 84 rockets at Israel include 26 during the ceasefire, while Gaza health official, Al-Kidra, said seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes in that same period. As Peter Enav and Ibrahim Barzak report, Israel vows to destroy Hamas tunnels, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military will dismantle the Hamas tunnel network in Gaza “with or without a ceasefire.” On Thursday, Netanyahu said he will not accept a truce if Israel cannot complete its mission to destroy the tunnel network allowing militants to carryout deadly attacks inside Israel. In addition, Israel has called up 16,000 reservists allowing it to expand its Gaza offensive against Hamas rule. An Israeli defense official, under conditions of anonymity, said the purpose of the call up was to provide relief for troops on the Gaza firing line adding to the already 86,000 reserves called up during the Gaza conflict. Secretary General Ban KI-Moon called the deadly school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable” demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire. Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council, said, “We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in U.N. designated shelters in Gaza.”

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As both the war in Ukraine and Gaza continue to worsen, a viral war rages in Western Africa that has many concerned about the potential pandemic spread of one of the world’s deadliest viruses, Ebola. Liberia announced it will close schools and quarantine communities in order to halt the worst Ebola outbreak on record. According to David Lewis and Emma Farge, Liberia shuts schools, considers quarantine to curb Ebola, security forces in Liberia were orders to enforce the steps as part of an action plan to place all non-essential government workers on 30 day compulsory leave. The World Health Organization figures reports that Ebola has killed 672 in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone as underfunded systems struggle to deal with the epidemic with one fifth of those deaths occurring in Liberia. Lewis Brown, Liberia’s information minister, told Reuters: “This is a major public health emergency. It’s fierce, deadly and many of our countrymen are dying and we need to act to stop the spread. We need the support of the international community now more than ever. We desperately need all the help we can get.” Due to international concerns, the U.S. Peace Corps said it was withdrawing 340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. According to the presidency’s website, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the government was considering quarantining several communities on the recommendation of the health ministry. An earlier draft, Reuters reports, specified communities to be quarantined with Sirleaf outlining protocol: “When these measures are instituted, only health care workers will be permitted to move in and out of those areas. Food and other medical support will be provided to those communities and affected individuals.” Mike Noyes, head of humanitarian response at Action Aid UK, said people need to be treated with compassion rather than criminalized adding: “Enforced isolation of a whole community is a medieval approach to controlling the spread of disease.” Britain as well as the United States are monitoring the situation. An assistant minister of health, Tolbert Nyenswah, told Reuters via phone: “The staff here are overwhelmed. This is a humanitarian crisis in Liberia. On Wednesday, Samaritan’s Purse, a U.S. charity operating in Liberia, said that Kent Brantly, a doctor working for the charity, and Nancy Writebol, a colleague who volunteers in Liberia, had shown some improvement in their condition but was still serious after being infected this past week. In addition, dozens of local health workers and two top Ebola doctors from Sierra Leone and Liberia have died while treating patients. However, the organization will stop running case management centers in Liberia, as Lewis and Farge report, after an attack on employees over the weekend and local resistance to expansion of their unit in Monrovia. Additionally, they are withdrawing non-essential staff from the country.