Ebola Crisis Deepens Outside Outbreak Zone

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Health officials on Sunday reported a Texas health care workers tested positive for Ebola after caring for a hospitalized patient who died of the virus even though she wore full protective gear, making it the first known case of the disease being contracted or transmitted in the U.S. the Associated Press reported, State health officials: 2nd Ebola case in Texas. Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the diagnosis shows there was a clear breach of safety protocol and all those who treated Thomas Eric Duncan are now considered potentially exposed. The worker wore a gown, gloves, mask and shield while she cared for Duncan during his second visit to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, said Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources, which runs the hospital. Frieden said the worker has not been able to identify a specific breach of protocol that might have led to her being infected. Duncan came to the U.S. from Liberia to visit family on Sept. 20 and first sought medical care for fever and abdominal pain on Sept. 25. He told the nurse he had been to Africa, but was sent home and returned Sept.28 when he was placed in isolation due to a suspicion of Ebola. Unfortunately, he died on Wednesday. The virus that has killed more than 4,000 people with most being in West Africa has hit Liberia the hardest along with Sierra Leone and Guinea, the World Health Organization figures published Friday reports. Texas health officials have been closely monitoring nearly 50 people who had or may have had close contact with Duncan in the days after he started showing symptoms. The health care worker reported a fever Friday night as part of a self-monitoring regimen required by the CDC, Varga said. A preliminary state test showed the worker was positive late Saturday and the CDC confirmed the result Sunday. Varga said another person is in isolation, and the hospital has stopped accepting new emergency room patients. Frieden said officials are now evaluating and will monitor any workers who may have been exposed while Duncan was in the hospital. Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said: “We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility. We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread.” Dallas officials knocked on doors, made automated phone calls and passed out fliers to notify people within a four-block radius of the health care worker’s apartment complex about the situation, though they said there was no reason for neighbors to be concerned. Dallas police officers stood guard outside the complex Sunday and barred people from entering. Officials said there was information that a pet was inside the health care worker’s apartment, but they do not believe the animals has contracted the disease. Frieden on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” on CBS that the CDC will investigate how workers took off protective gear and look at dialysis and incubation where tubes are inserted into a patient’s airway so a ventilator can help them breathe as both procedures can spread infectious material. A Spanish nurse assistant, who cared for a missionary priest at a Madrid hospital, recently became the first health care worker infected outside West Africa during the ongoing outbreak. More than 370 health care workers in West Africa have fallen ill or died since the epidemic began earlier this year. Meanwhile, an American video journalist, 33 year old Ashoka Mukpo, for a second day showed modest improvement after contracting Ebola, according to Dr. Phil Smith, the director of the Nebraska Medical Center’s 10 bed isolation unit. The Associate Press reports, Ebola patient shows modest improvement for 2nd day, the patient from Providence, Rhode Island, is the second Ebola patient treated at the Omaha hospital. He’s receiving an experimental Ebola drug called brincidofovir and IV fluids similar to the treatment Ebola patient Rick Sacra received during his three weeks there. Mukpo became infected while working as a freelance cameraman for Vice News, NBC News and other media outlets. He returned to Liberia in early September to help highlight the toll of the Ebola outbreak. Ryan Gorman reported Monday, Family ID’s Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola from patient who died, the nurse who contracted Ebola was identified by here family as Nina Pham, 26, of Fort Worth, by here family members. Duncan died only days before Pham’s diagnosis on Sunday after seeing a doctor for a low grade fever. Frieden on Sunday said, “Unfortunately, it is possible in the coming days we will see additional cases of Ebola. This is because the health care workers who cared for this individual may have had a breach of the same nature.” Pham, a 2010 TCU graduate, was not one of the 48 people under observation by the CDC, a source told the Dallas Morning News. News of Pham’s identity came one day after images of cleaning crews scouring her apartment were made public. It is not known if the same company used to clean the apartment Thomas Duncan was staying at was also used for Pham’s residence. Pham is in stable condition. About 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital were involved in the care of Thomas Eric Duncan after he was hospitalized, including a nurse now being treated for the same Ebola virus that killed the Liberian man who was visiting Dallas, according to medical records his family provided to The Associated Press. Until now, the CDC has been actively monitoring 48 people who might have had contact with Duncan after he fell ill with an infection but before he was put in isolation including 10 people known oto have contact and 38 who may have has contact such as the people he was staying with and health professionals who attended to him in the ER. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC said, “If this one individual was infected – and we don’t know how – within the isolation unit, then it is possible that other individuals could have been infected as well. We do not today have a number of such exposed people or potentially exposed health care workers. It’s a relatively large number, we think in the end.” On Monday, the AP reports, Ebola survivor donates plasma to sick Dallas nurse, that Samaritan’s Purse spokesman Jeremy Blume says Dr. Kent Brantly, the Texas doctor who survived Ebola, traveled to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas Sunday to donate plasma that, according to Rev. Jim Khoi, pastor of the Fort Worth church attended by Nina Pham’s family, was given to Nina Pham on Monday afternoon that contains Ebola fighting antibodies. Brantly said in a recent speech that he also offered his blood to Thomas Eric Duncan, but that their blood types didn’t match. Duncan died of Ebola on Wednesday. As of Tuesday, the nurse who was the first to contract Ebola on American soil is doing well, according to a statement released on her behalf by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

In Europe, the fight against Ebola continues to present challenges to those coming home after volunteering in the outbreak zone and those who treat them. The Associated Press reported Tuesday, German hospital: UN worker dies of Ebola, a United Nations medical worker infected with Ebola in Liberia has died despite intensive medical intervention, according to the German hospital treating the 56 year old man. The St. Georg hospital in Leipzig said the 56-year-old man, whose name has not been released, died overnight of the infection. It released no further details and did not answer telephone calls. The man tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 6, prompting Liberia’s UN peacekeeping mission to place 41 staff members who had possibly been in contact with him under “close medical observation.” He arrived in Leipzig for treatment on Oct. 9 where he was put into a special isolation unit. The man was the third Ebola patient to be flown to Germany for treatment. The first patient, a Senegalese man infected with Ebola while working for the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone was brought to a Hamburg hospital in late August for treatment. The man was released Oct. 3 after recovering and returned to his home country, the hospital said. Another patient, a Ugandan man who worked for an Italian aid group in West Africa, is undergoing treatment in a Frankfurt hospital. Meanwhile in Spain, the Associated Press reported Saturday, Ebola: 3 more people under observation in Spain, three more people were under observation for Ebola at a Madrid hospital, boosting the number of those monitored to 16, while a nursing assistant infected with the virus remained in serious but stable condition. The latest three are a nurse who came into contact with nursing assistant Teresa Romero, a hairdresser who attended to her and a hospital cleaner, all of whom were admitted to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital late Friday. A government statement said none of the 16 in quarantine, who include Romero’s husband, five doctors and five nurses, have shown any symptoms. A later government statement said one of the five nurses has tested negative for Ebola, but will remain under “passive observation.” Romero, 44, the first person known to have contracted the disease outside West Africa in the current outbreak, had cared for two Spanish priests who died of Ebola at the hospital, one in August and the other on Sept. 25. Thousands of people gathered in more than 20 cities throughout Spain to show their solidarity with Romero and to protest against how Madrid authorities had euthanized her pet dog named Excalibur on Wednesday instead of placing it in quarantine.

Back in America, while hospitals try to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading, the government continues to delay action to help with containment and spread. On Saturday, Karen Matthews reports, Stepped-up Ebola screening starts at NYC airport, federal health officials said that entry screening from three West African countries at New York’s Kennedy International Airport is meant to prevent the spread of the disease and will expand to four additional U.S. airports in the next week. Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine for the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said at a briefing at Kennedy,”Already there are 100 percent of the travelers leaving the three infected countries are being screened on exit. Sometimes multiple times temperatures are checked along that process. No matter how many procedures are put into place, we can’t get the risk to zero.” The screening will be expanded over the next week to New Jersey’s Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. Customs officials say about 150 people travel daily from or through Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea to the United States, and nearly 95 percent of them land first at one of the five airports. The article reports: “Public health workers use no-touch thermometers to take the temperatures of the travelers from the three Ebola-ravaged countries; those who have a fever will be interviewed to determine whether they may have had contact with someone infected with Ebola. There are quarantine areas at each of the five airports that can be used if necessary. There are no direct flights to the U.S. from the three countries, but Homeland Security officials said last week they can track passengers back to where their trips began, even if they make several stops. Airlines from Morocco, France and Belgium are still flying in and out of West Africa.” The CDC cited as legal authority the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, under which the government regulates trade with foreign countries. The 1944 Public Health Service Act also allows the federal government to take action to prevent communicable diseases, which include viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola, from spreading into the country. Unfortunately, as the world struggles to combat and contain the disease, Sam Stein reports, Ebola Vaccine Would Likely Have Been Found By Now If Not For Budget Cuts: NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institute of Health, said decades of stagnant spending has slowed down research on effective vaccinations to combat disease such as the current outbreak of Ebola, resulting in the international community having to play catch up on potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe. On Friday, Collins told Huff Post, “NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here.’ Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.” Not only have vaccines been hampered by money shortfalls, Collins explains therapeutics to fight Ebola “were on a slower track than would’ve been ideal, or that would have happened if we had been on a stable research support trajectory. We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference.” Despite the growing public health threat, the NIH has not received additional money and instead Collins and others have had to “take dollars that would’ve gone to something else” — such as a universal influenza vaccine — “and redirect them to this.” Collins said he’d like Congress to pass emergency supplemental appropriations to help with the work. But, he added, “nobody seems enthusiastic about that.” Currently, NIH is working on a fifth-generation Ebola vaccine that has had positive results in monkeys, not people. To set up a clinical trial for humans takes time and resources, and doubly so in a country whose social and political fabric is as frayed as Liberia’s. Even so, limited trials have already begun. A second vaccine is being designed in Canada, just weeks behind NIH’s schedule. But recipients have exhibited fever symptoms, which could prove problematic because elevated temperature is also a symptom of Ebola. So far, much of the focus has been on an experimental cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies known as ZMapp. But the current stockpile is not nearly great enough. Collins, a touch exasperated, said it would be all but impossible to have significant doses available by the end of the calendar year — with a lack of funding once again playing a disruptive role. There are other potential therapies. Brincidofovir has been used on an Ebola patient brought to Nebraska and on the late Thomas Eric Duncan, who was diagnosed with the disease after traveling to Dallas from his native Liberia. Unlike ZMapp, there is a large stockpile of Brincidofovir available, and the doses required are small. But, again, a clinical trial is needed in Liberia. The Associated Press reported Tuesday, CDC: Rapid response team for any new Ebola cases, the government will now send a rapid response team to any hospital where an Ebola patient is diagnosed to make sure local health workers can provide care safely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has specialists implementing changes to protect health workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas as it cares for a nurse who became infected while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S. Frieden described the new response team as having some of the world’s leading experts in how to care for Ebola and protect health care workers from it. They would be charged with everything from examining how the isolation room is physically laid out, to what protective equipment health workers use, to waste management and decontamination.

Meanwhile on Thursday, due to increased concern over containment and spread pf the virus following another Ebola positive patient at the same hospital where Duncan died, Federal health officials were being called to testify before a congressional committee to explain what went wrong, according to Jim Kuhnhenn, US steps up domestic response to Ebola crisis. President Barack Obama directed his administration to respond in a “much more aggressive way” to oversee the Dallas cases and ensure the lessons learned there are transmitted to hospitals and clinics across the country. For the second day in a row he canceled out-of-town trips to stay in Washington and monitor the Ebola response. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said nurse Amber Joy Vinson never should have been allowed to fly on a commercial jetliner because she had been exposed to the virus while caring for an Ebola patient who traveled to the U.S. from Liberia. Vinson was being monitored more closely since another nurse, Nina Pham, also involved in Thomas Eric Duncan’s care was diagnosed with Ebola. Still, a CDC official cleared Vinson to board the Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland to the Dallas area. Her reported temperature – 99.5 degrees – was below the threshold set by the agency and she had no symptoms, according to agency spokesman David Daigle. Vinson was diagnosed with Ebola a day after the flight, news that sent airline stocks falling amid fears it could dissuade people from flying. Losses between 5 percent and 8 percent were recorded before shares recovered in afternoon trading. Frontier has taken the aircraft out of service. The plane was flown Wednesday without passengers from Cleveland to Denver, where the airline said it will undergo a fourth cleaning, including replacement of seat covers, carpeting and air filters. Underscoring his emphasis on international action, Obama called European leaders Wednesday to discuss better coordination in the fight against Ebola in the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and to issue a call for more money and personnel to “to bend the curve of the epidemic.” British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said he offered to consult with the Italians to add treatment beds in Sierra Leone. On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged continued support for the fight against Ebola in West Africa, but made no specific new aid offers. China last month pledged $33 million in assistance to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and dispatched doctors and medical supplies. And France said that on Saturday, it will begin screening passengers who arrive at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on the once-daily flight from Guinea’s capital. But it was Wednesday’s development in Dallas that captured political and public attention in the United States. Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, increased calls for travel bans or visa suspensions from the West African countries where the disease has spread and urged the administration to take other measures to secure the transportation system. The oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee scheduled a Thursday hearing on Ebola with Frieden and Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. In prepared testimony, Fauci said Duncan’s death and the infections of the two Dallas nurses and a nurse in Spain “intensify our concerns about this global health threat.” He said two Ebola vaccine candidates were undergoing a first phase of human clinical testing this fall. But he cautioned that scientists were still in the early stages of understanding how Ebola infection can be treated and prevented. Late Wednesday, Vinson arrived in Atlanta to be treated at Emory University Hospital, which has already treated three Americans diagnosed with the virus. From now on, Frieden said, no one else involved in Duncan’s care will be allowed to travel “other than in a controlled environment.” He cited guidelines that permit charter flights or travel by car but no public transportation. The second nurse identified as 29 year old Amber Joy Vinson like Pham cared for Duncan before he died and medical records showed she inserted catheters, drew blood and dealt with Duncan’s body fluids, according to medical records provided to the Associate Press by Thomas Eric Duncan’s family. Infected Ebola patients are not considered contagious until they have symptoms. Frieden said it was unlikely that other passengers or airline crew members were at risk because the nurse did not have any vomiting or bleeding. Even so, the CDC is alerting the 132 passengers aboard Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth on Monday “because of the proximity in time between the evening flight and first report of illness the following morning.” Officials are asking them to call the health agency so they can be monitored. The woman flew from Dallas to Cleveland on Oct. 10. Kent State said it was asking the workers related to Vinson to stay off campus for 21 days “out of an abundance of caution.” The nurse reported a fever Tuesday and was in isolation within 90 minutes, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. The CDC has acknowledged that the government was not aggressive enough in managing Ebola and containing the virus as it spread from an infected patient to a nurse at a Dallas hospital. Emergency responders in hazardous-materials suits began decontamination work before dawn Wednesday at the Dallas apartment complex where the second nurse lives. Police guarded the sidewalk and red tape was tied around a tree to keep people out. Officials said she lives alone with no pets. Dallas city spokeswoman Sana Syed said a hazardous-materials crew has finished cleaning common areas of the complex and that the state was sending a crew to clean the actual apartment. At Cleveland Hopkins Airport, cleaning crews disinfected key areas of the facility. “They’re not prepared” for what they are being asked to do, said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, a union with 185,000 members. Based on statements from nurses it did not identify, the union described how Duncan was left in an open area of the emergency room for hours. It said staff treated Duncan for days without the correct protective gear, that hazardous waste was allowed to pile up to the ceiling and safety protocols constantly changed. The first nurse stricken in the U.S., Nina Pham, who contracted Ebola after treating a Liberian man in Dallas, was being flown to the National Institutes of Health outside Washington on Thursday, while a second nurse has already been transferred to a biohazard infectious disease center at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

While the virus has spread minimally so far to other continents, back in West Africa, the number of dead and dying are increasing by the minute. Ryan Gorman reports, Up to 10,000 new Ebola cases expected per week as death rate hits 70 percent, World Health Organization officials have reported the death rate in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has increased to 70 percent and there could be as many as 10,000 new cases per week within two months. At a Tuesday press conference, WHO assistant director general Dr. Bruce Aylward classified Ebola as a “high mortality disease.” He warned that if the response is not stepped up immediately, “a lot more people will die.” The past four weeks have seen Ebola diagnoses reach about 1,000 per week, he explained. The WHO is working to contain about 70 percent of the cases within the next 60 days in an effort to reverse the epidemic. The UN-affiliated organization announced Monday that the Ebola death toll has increased to 4,447 people out of the 8,914 diagnosed. All except Thomas Duncan, who passed away in a Dallas hospital, and a patient in Germany, died in Africa. Aylward called the Ebola outbreak “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.” A number of areas have seen decline, Aylward said Monday, but “that doesn’t mean they will get to zero.” Aylward said the WHO is fighting an uphill battle against West Africa’s broken health care system and was strategically setting up clinics to treat the virus instead of quarantining people.

Ebola Continues to Spread Across the Globe as ISIS Continues its Reign of Terror Across the Middle East and Beyond

Luckovich cartoon: Ebola and cable news

As the spread of Ebola continues outside of West Africa to the United States and Europe, the death toll continues to increase and more cases arise forcing areas outside thew outbreak zone to take preventative measures and contain the virus. On Friday, the infected nursing assistant, Teresa Romero who tested positive Monday for Ebola, according to a spokeswoman for Madrid’s regional health agency said on conditions of anonymity, was scheduled to start a round of the experimental anti-Ebola drug ZMapp after Spain obtained some of the drug, the Associated Press reports, Spain: Ebola nurse “stable” after serious downturn. Spanish Prime Minister Marian Rajoy visited the Madrid hospital where the nurse is being treated on Friday despite harsh criticism from unions and oppositions politicians claiming that the nation’s health system provided substandard high risk disease training and protective gear to doctors, nurses and ambulance personnel. Rajoy did announce Spain will set up a high level special commission to prevent an outbreak of Ebola that will meet daily, additionally he praised Spanish health care workers and said the World Health Organization thinks “the risk is very low that this disease will spread in the future” in Spain and Europe. Romero, 44, is the first person known to have caught the disease outside West Africa in the current Ebola outbreak. She was helping to care for a Spanish priest infected in West Africa who died at the hospital on Sept. 25. Health authorities suspect she may have been infected after touching her gloved hand to her face while taking off protective gear. Romero’s husband is also quarantined, along with a nurse who displayed possible symptoms but tested negative for Ebola in a first test and will undergo a second one. Ten people who came into contact with Romero checked themselves into the hospital voluntarily for observation for 21 days instead of staying at home. On Wednesday, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died despite intense but delayed treatment, forcing the government to expand airport examinations to guard against the spread of Ebola, the Associated Press reports, US Ebola patient dies; airport screening expanded. The checks will include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travelers arriving from West Africa at five major American airports. The new screenings will begin Saturday at New York’s JFK International Airport and then expand to Washington Dulles and the international airports in Atlanta, Chicago and Newark. An estimated 150 people per day will be checked, using high-tech thermometers that don’t touch the skin. The White House said the fever checks would reach more than 9 of 10 travelers to the U.S. from the three heaviest-hit countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. A delay in diagnosis and treatment for Duncan and the infection of a Spanish nurse have raised worries about Western nations’ ability to stop the disease. Obama via teleconference with mayors and local officials said: “As we saw in Dallas, we don’t have a lot of margin for error. If we don’t follow protocols and procedures that are put in place, then we’re putting folks in our communities at risk.” AP reports that health authorities scrambled to respond to the disease Wednesday:

– “In Spain, doctors said they may have figured out how a nurse became the first person infected outside of West Africa in this outbreak. Teresa Romero said she remembered once touching her face with her glove after leaving the quarantine room where an Ebola victim was being treated. Romero’s condition was stable.

-A social media campaign and a protest by Spanish animal rights activists failed to save Romero’s dog, Excalibur. The pet was euthanized under court order out of fear it might harbor the Ebola virus.

– In Sierra Leone, burial teams returned to their work of picking up the bodies of Ebola victims, after a one-day strike to demand overdue hazard pay.

– Health workers in neighboring Liberia also were threatening a strike if their demands for more money and personal protective gear are not met by the end of the week. The average health worker salary is currently below $500 per month, even for the most highly trained staff.

-The World Bank estimated that the economic toll of the largest Ebola outbreak in history could reach $32.6 billion if the disease continues to spread through next year.

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry made a plea for more nations to contribute to the effort to stop the disease ravaging West Africa, saying the international effort was $300 million short of what’s needed. He said nations must step up quickly with a wide range of support, from doctors and mobile medical labs to basic humanitarian aid such as food.”

Meanwhile, the hardest hit countries have seen a dramatic increase in casualties due to the Ebola outbreak and children orphaned by the deadly virus are now struggling more than ever before to survive. Liberia, a country with large, deeply religious, families, an aunty or relative usually takes in a child who lost a parent, but Ebola has changed that bond for fear of contagion and death, Krista Larson reports, How Children Orphaned By Ebola Fight For Survival. According to the U.N. children’s agency, at least 3,700 children across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have lost one or more parents to Ebola and the figure is expected to double by mid-October with many children left to fend for themselves and continue to live in infected homes. ON Friday, the U.N. special envoy on Ebola said the number of cases is probably doubling every three to four weeks and without a mass global mobilization “the world will have to live with the Ebola virus forever,” Edith M. Lederer reports, UN envoy: Ebola cases doubling every 3-4 weeks. David Nabarro told the U.N. General Assembly the response needed to be 20 times greater. U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said in order to counteract the exponential growth of the virus, a massive scale up of financial resources, medical staff and equipment is needed. Unfortunately, only one quarter of the $1 billion the U.N. agencies have appealed for to tackle the disease has been funded. Eliasson told diplomats from most of the 193 U.N. member states, “I now appeal to all member states to act generously and swiftly. Speed is of the essence. A contribution within days is more important than a larger contribution within weeks.” Nabarro, a 35 year public heath veteran dealing with disease outbreaks and pandemics, has never encountered the challenge of such an outbreak that has moved from rural areas into towns and cities that is now “affecting a whole region and … impacting on the whole world.” Anthony Banbury, head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, warned that a failure to help Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the three worst affected countries – “while we have the chance could lead to unpredictable but very dire consequences for the people of the countries and well beyond.” He added, “As long as there is one case of Ebola in any one of these countries, no country is safe from the dangers posed by this deadly virus.” Both Nabarro and Banbury cited the importance of traditional burial practices in the West African countries, noting that this is a time when the bodies of Ebola victims are most toxic and any touching can transmit the disease. Banbury said, “To defeat the virus we will have to change behavior. We are late, but it is not too late to fight and win this battle.” According to the Geneva based U.N. agency, the World Health Organization, reports 4,033 confirmed, probable or suspected Ebola deaths have been recorded. All but nine are int he three hardest hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea with eight of those in Nigeria and one in the United States. The defeat of Sirleaf’s proposal in the House of Representatives came as U.S. military forces worked on building a hospital for stricken health workers in Liberia, the country that has been hit hardest by the epidemic. Liberian Lawmakers rejected the president’s proposal to give her further power to restrict movement and public gatherings and the authority to appropriate property “without payment of any kind or any further judicial process” to combat Ebola. Liberia has 2,316 recorded deaths due to Ebola, which is the most of any country as the WHO reports. Sirleaf’s government imposed a three-month state of emergency beginning Aug. 6, but critics have accused the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s approach to fighting Ebola since then as ineffective and heavy handed. In August, a quarantine of Monrovia’s largest shantytown sparked unrest and was derided as counterproductive before being lifted. The Committee to Protect Journalists has accused Sirleaf’s government of trying to silence media outlets criticizing its conduct. Meanwhile, the U.S. military was rushing to set up a 25-bed hospital to treat health workers who may contract Ebola. The arrival of 100 U.S. Marines on Thursday brings to just over 300 the total number of American troops in Liberia. The Marines and their aircraft will help with air transportation and ferrying of supplies, overcoming road congestion in Monrovia and bad roads outside the capital, said Capt. R. Carter Langston, spokesman for the U.S. mission. A priority will be transporting building materials to treatment unit sites. The U.S. has said it will oversee construction of 17 treatment units with 100 beds each. The 101st Airborne Division is expected to deploy 700 troops by late October and the U.S. may send up to 4,000 soldiers to help with the Ebola crisis, depending on what is needed. In Mali, a health ministry spokesman said two more people had begun participating in the first phase of a study for a possible Ebola vaccine. Mali has not had any cases of Ebola, but it borders the outbreak zone. University of Maryland researchers announced Thursday that the first study of a possible vaccine was underway, and that three health care workers in Mali had received the experimental shots developed by the U.S. government. Health ministry spokesman Markatie Daou said, “Today, we are at five people vaccinated. We envision vaccinating between 20 and 40 people for this first phase and the results are expected next month.”

While the world battles and struggles to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, ISIS also known as the Islamic State continues to besiege strategic towns on the border of Syria raising concern and criticism over Turkey’s lack of action and the effectiveness of the U.S. coalition. According to Akbar Shahid Ahmed, 3 New Findings On ISIS Weapons That You Should Know About, the Islamic State militants are wielding arms manufactured in 21 different countries including the U.S. a new report released Monday reports. Ahmed reports: “The study of ammunition captured during the Islamic State’s battles with Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and Syria in July and August highlights the diverse array of arms sources fueling the extremist group, also known as ISIS. Investigators from the arms monitoring group Conflict Armament Research cataloged more than 1,700 bullet cartridges by their country of origin and their date of manufacture. The report says most of the related arms appear to have been seized by ISIS from opposing forces — from national armies to foreign-backed rebel groups across Syria and Iraq.” James Bevan, Director of the European Union funded Conflict Armament Research, told the New York Times, “The lesson learned here is that the defense and security forces that have been supplied ammunition by external nations really don’t have the capacity to maintain custody of that ammunition.” As the article states, three key takeaways from the report are as follows:

1. Most of the Islamic State’s arms ultimately came from China, Russia and the U.S.

“Two of the biggest sources of the militants’ weaponry, the report says, are supplies wrested from the Syrian army, which possesses a significant stock of Soviet- and Russian-made arms that is still being replenished, and supplies captured in Iraq, many of which were made in America.

Between them, China, Russia, the now-defunct Soviet Union, the U.S. and Serbia provided more than 80 percent of the ammunition in the sample collected, according to a New York Times analysis of the report.”

2. Some militants in Syria are learning how to make weapons more difficult to trace.

“Numerous former U.S. officials told the Center for Public Integrity that they are already skeptical that the new supplies of U.S. weapons heading to certain Syrian rebel groups — whose arming was approved by Congress last month — will be safe from the Islamic State’s hands.

Keeping track of weaponry is unlikely to be easier this time around, one investigator indicated to the Center for Public Integrity. The investigator said that militants within Syria — he did not specify which group — are now using oxyacetylene torches to remove the serial numbers from some foreign weapons. They have even added new serial numbers. That makes it more difficult to trace the arms back to their original provider and to attempt to control their flow, the investigator said.”

3. Arms are constantly passed between various fighting groups.

“The many foreign weapons within Syria and Iraq are not only ending up with the Islamic State, the report explains. It describes how Kurdish forces have used battles against the militants to restore their own supplies of ammunition.

As if all that bad news weren’t bad enough, here’s a bonus from one of Conflict Armament Research’s earlier reports: The Islamic State appears to possess anti-tank rocket launchers, made in the former Yugoslavia, that it seized from other Syrian rebels.

The Islamic State’s weaponry — particularly heavy armaments not documented in the new report — has been a key factor in campaigns like the group’s ongoing assault on the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria.”

On Wednesday night, Islamic State fighters launched a renewed assault on the Syrian city of Kobani as at least 21 people were killed amid riots in neighboring Turkey where Kurds rose up against the government for doing nothing to protect their kin, according to Reuters, Renewed assault on Kobani; 21 dead in Turkey as Kurds rise. Heavily outgunned defenders said Islamic Sate militants pushed into two districts of the Kurdish town, despite U.S.led air strikes that the Pentagon acknowledge would not be enough. In Istanbul and Ankara, street battles erupted between Kurdish protestors and police as fallout from the Iraq and Syrian war threatened to unravel the Kurdish peace process. Washington said its war planes hit nine Syrian targets along with coalition ally the United Arab Emirates included six near Kobani and struck five ISIS positions in Iraq. Nevertheless, Kobani remained under intense bombardment from Islamic State emplacements, within sight of Turkish tanks at the nearby frontier that have so far done nothing to help. Asya Abdullah, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Reuters from inside the town, “Tonight, (Islamic State) has entered two districts with heavy weapons including tanks. Civilians may have died because there are very intense clashes.” U.S. officials were quoted voicing impatience with the Turks for refusing to join the coalition against Islamic State fighters who have seized wide areas of Syria and Iraq. Turkey says it could join only if Washington agrees to use force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Sunni Muslim jihadists fighting him in a three-year-old civil war. Turkey’s own Kurds, who make up the majority in the southeast of the country, say President Tayyip Erdogan is stalling while their brethren are killed in Kobani. Others died in clashes between protesters and police in the eastern provinces of Mus, Siirt and Batman. Thirty people were wounded in Istanbul, including eight police officers. Disturbances spread to other countries with Kurdish and Turkish populations. Police in Germany said 14 people were hurt in clashes there between Kurds and radical Islamists. In Turkey, parliament voted last week to authorize cross-border intervention, but Erdogan and his government have so far held back, saying they will join military action only as part of an alliance that also confronts Assad. Erdogan wants the alliance to enforce a “no-fly zone” to prevent Assad’s air force flying over Syrian territory near the Turkish border and create a safe area for an estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to return. While Turkey has taken in the wounded and displaced from Kobani, Turkey has deep reservations about deploying its own army in Syria and beyond being a target for ISIS, Turkey fears being sucked into Syria’s three year civil war.

On Friday, the AP reported, Islamic State group shells Syrian border crossing, that the Islamic State group shelled a Syrian border crossing with Turkey to try and capture it and cut off Kobani, a local Kurdish official and Syrian activists said. The official, Idriss Nassan, said Islamic State fighters aim to seize the crossing in order to close the noose around the town’s Kurdish defenders and prevent anyone from entering or leaving Kobani. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants shelled several areas in Kobani, including the border crossing, which is the town’s only gateway to Turkey. Nassan, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic acronym, said: “Daesh is doing all it can to take the border crossing point through the farmlands east of the city. They think there might be help (for the Kurdish militia) coming through the crossing so they want to control the border.” Meanwhile, Ryan Gorman reports, Iraqi journalist among more than a dozen people executed by ISIS terrorists, a dozens people on Friday evening were executed by ISIS terrorists including an Iraqi journalist and his brother. Raad al-Azzawi, 37, and an Iraqi citizen, was reportedly killed Friday evening near Tikrit for refusing to work for the terror group, according to AFP. His brother and two other civilians were also executed. The cameraman was among about 20 people captured last month in an ISIS raid on Samara, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The execution of an Iraqi journalist is proof ISIS is no longer waging war on just the West, but on anyone who they fear may oppose their attempt to put a stranglehold on the region, according to RSF. U.S. journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, along with a Briton and a French citizen, are among the Westerners also executed by the insurgents. In a statement, U.S. Central Command said the U.S. military conducted on Friday and Saturday six airstrikes against Islamic State militants near Kobani as well as three airstrikes with Dutch militaries against targets in Iraq near Tal Afar and Hit. In multiple airdrops near Baiji, U.S. aircraft delivered 8 tons of ammunition, more than 2,000 gallons (7,800 liters) of water and more than 7,300 halal meals, the statement said. It said Iraqi forces control Baiji, 110 miles (180 km) north of Baghdad, but Islamic State “continues to conduct operations” in the area.

New Cases of Ebola Cause for Concern, Islamic State Continues To Capture New Territory and Same Sex Marriage in the United States Gains Momentum

https://i0.wp.com/media.cagle.com/46/2014/10/02/154482_600.jpg https://i0.wp.com/thefederalistpapers.integratedmarket.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/mrz082114dAPC.jpgSack cartoon: Gay marriage

On Monday, a nurse in Spain was the first person to be diagnosed outside the outbreak zone in West Africa, raising further concerns across the globe, according to the Associate Press, New concern worldwide as nurse in Spain gets Ebola. In the U.S., President Barack Obama said the government is weighing an order for more careful screening of airline passengers arriving from he region. In dealing with potential Ebola cases, Obama said, “we don’t have a lot of margin for error.” Already hospitalized in the U.S., a critically ill Liberian man, Thomas Duncan, has received an experimental drug in Dallas as another American video journalist who returned from Liberia arrived Monday at the Nebraska Medical Center for treatment has shown signs of improvement. Ashoka Mukpo, 33, was able to walk off the plane before being loaded on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance, and his father said his symptoms of fever and nausea appeared mild. The Spanish nurse had been part of a team that treated two missionaries flown home to Span after contracting Ebola in West Africa. The nurse only showed signs of fever, but the infection was confirmed by two tests, according to Spanish health officials. She was being treated in isolation, while authorities drew up a list of people she had had contact with. Medical workers in Texas were among Americans waiting to find out whether they had been infected by Duncan, the African traveler. In Washington, the White House continued to rule out any blanket ban on travel from West Africa. People leaving the outbreak zone are checked for fevers before they’re allowed to board airplanes, but the disease’s incubation period is 21 days and symptoms could arise later. Nancy Castles, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles International Airport, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had employees on site at more than a dozen major international airports in the U.S. like LAX for many years. Screening of passengers starts with Customs and Border Protection agents, who work with CDC when they have a case they are concerned about. Obama said the U.S. will be “working on protocols to do additional passenger screening both at the source and here in the United States.” The Obama administration maintains that the best way to protect Americans is to end the outbreak in Africa. To that end, the U.S. military was working Monday on the first of 17 promised medical centers in Liberia and training up to 4,000 soldiers this week to help with the Ebola crisis. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “The tragedy of this situation is that Ebola is rapidly spreading among populations in West African who don’t have that kind of medical infrastructure.” The virus has taken a heavy toll on health care workers in a region where shortages of doctors and nurses before Ebola were rampant and so far the disease has killed or sickened more than 370 in the hardest hit countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Airlines have dealt with previous epidemics, such as the 2003 outbreak in Asia of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. The U.S. didn’t ban flights or impose extra screening on passengers during the SARS outbreak or the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Both of those were airborne diseases that spread more easily than the Ebola virus, which is spread by contact with bodily fluids. The SARS death rate was about 10 percent, higher for older patients. Its new relative MERS, now spreading in the Middle East, appears to be more deadly, about 40 percent. About half of people infected with Ebola have died in this outbreak. The Ebola outbreak this year has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, the World Health Organization estimates, and it has become an escalating concern to the rest of the world. Mukpo is the fifth American sick with Ebola brought back from West Africa for medical care. The others were aid workers – three have recovered and one remains hospitalized. On Tuesday, Reuters reports, More cases of Ebola in Europe unavoidable: WHO, the World Health Organization believes more cases Ebola will likely occur in Europe but the continent is well prepared to control the disease. Speaking to Reuters just hours after Europe’s first local case of Ebola infection was confirmed in a nurse in Spain, the WHO’s European director, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said further such events were “unavoidable”. Spanish health officials said four people had been hospitalized to try and stem any further spread of Ebola there after the nurse became the first person in the world known to have contracted the virus outside of Africa. Jakab told Reuters via phone interview for her Copenhagen office: “Such imported cases and similar events as have happened in Spain will happen also in the future, most likely. It is quite unavoidable … that such incidents will happen in the future because of the extensive travel both from Europe to the affected countries and the other way around.” Several countries in the WHO’s European region, including France, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Spain, have treated patients repatriated after contracting the disease in West Africa, where Ebola has been raging through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since March. Cases have also been imported into Nigeria, Senegal and the United States. Jakab said that within Europe, health workers caring for repatriated Ebola patients, as well as their families and close contacts, were most at risk of becoming infected. With case numbers in the West Africa rising exponentially, experts say it is only a matter of time before Ebola spreads internationally, but they stress the chances of sporadic cases leading to an outbreak in Europe, the United States or elsewhere beyond Africa are extremely low. Jakab added, “If they see any need for support or advice, we are always behind them. We are well prepared. I really don’t think that at this stage we should be worried about these particular cases. This was to be expected. We expected it in other parts of the region – and it came in Spain, but it did not come totally as surprise.”

While it seems the threat of Ebola can be controlled through a coordinated effort, the threat of ISIS seems far from under anyone’s control as the group captures new territory raising concerns for Turkey. On Monday Daren Butler reports, Islamic State raises flag in eastern Kobani, Kurds say town has not fallen, the Islamic State after a three week assault has raised its flag on a building on the outskirts of the Syrian frontier town of Kobani, but the town’s Kurdish defenders said its fighters had not reached the city center. A black flag was visible from across the Turkish border atop a four story building close to the scene of some of the most intense fighting in recent days. American and Gulf State warplane air strikes have failed to halt the assault on Kobani which it has surrounded on three sides and pounded with heavy artillery. Local sources inside Kobani confirmed that the group had plants its flag, but Kurdish forced had repelled further advances. Ismail Eskin, a journalist in the town, said, “ISIL have only planted a flag on one building. That is not inside the city, it’s on the eastern side. They are not inside the city. Intense clashes are continuing. The bodies of 25 (Islamic State) fighters are there.” Despite the presence of Turkish tanks along the border and within sight of the town, Kurdish please for more effective military help have gone unanswered. Islamic State also fought intense battles over the weekend for control of Mistanour, a strategic hill overlooking Kobani. Beheadings, mass killings and torture have spread fear of the group across the region, with villages emptying at their approach and an estimated 180,000 people fleeing into Turkey from the Kobani region. Turkish hospitals have been treating a steady stream of wounded Kurdish fighters being brought across the frontier. Esmat al-Sheikh, head of the Kobani Defense Authority, said via phone early Monday: “If they enter Kobani, it will be a graveyard for us and for them. We will not let them enter Kobani as long as we live. We either win or die. We will resist to the end.” Last Week, the co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) told Reuters that Islamic State had a large arsenal from its de facto capital Raqqa to assault Kobani. Asya Abdullah said, “If (Islamic State) is defeated here in Kobani, it will be defeated in Raqqa and throughout Syria. We are happy about the U.S. air strikes. But really, this is not enough. We need more air strikes to be effective against (Islamic State) weapons, to eradicate and destroy (them).” On Monday, Kurdish politicians confirmed that the PYD’s other co-chair, Saleh Muslim, had met Turkish officials to urge them to allow weapons into Kobani from Turkey, although no further details were available. Over the weekend, President Tayyip Erdogan vowed to retaliate if Islamic State attacked Turkish forces, and on Monday Turkish tanks deployed along the border for the second time in a week, some with guns pointing towards Syria, apparently in response to stray fire. Last month, the Islamic State group released 46 Turkish hostages and a parliamentary motion last week renewed a mandate to allow Turkish troops to cross into Syria and Iraq leasing many to believe Ankara may be planning a more active role. According to Butler: “For three decades, Ankara has fought an armed insurgency by its own Kurdish PKK militants demanding greater autonomy in Turkey’s southeast. Analysts say it is now wary of helping Syrian Kurdish forces near Kobani as they have strong links with the PKK and have maintained ambiguous relations with Assad, to whom Turkey is implacably opposed. Against that are warnings from the leaders of Turkey’s Kurds that allowing Syria’s Kurds to be driven from Kobani would spell the end of Erdogan’s delicately poised drive to negotiate an end to his own Kurdish insurgency and permanently disarm the PKK.” Ryan Gorman reports, ‘Boots in the air’: US combat troops engage ISIS rebels as Canada deploys soldiers to Iraq, the U.S. military has begun to fight ISIS in Iraq despite Obama’s promise to not put boots on the ground as Canada sends reinforcements to help in the fight. On Sunday, Army attack helicopters began an assault on insurgent positions outside Baghdad, according to Central Command announced. Early Monday, Canadian officials announces that an advanced team of hundreds of soldiers is also on its way to Iraq. This strike changes the U.S. strategy in Iraq from one of using drones and fighter jets for targeted air strikes to combat troops directly engaging the militants. News of the escalation by the Army came shortly before Canada announced plans to send an advance team of 600 soldiers to Iraq, according to the CBC. Previous reports suggested the Canadian military would not send ground combat troops abroad. But it was also previously reported the U.S. would not engage ISIS in ground combat. Turkey’s president on Tuesday said the Islamic State is about to capture the Syrian border town of Kobani where the Kurdish forces are outgunned and struggle to repel the extremists with limited aid from U.S. led coalition airstrikes, the Associate Press reports, Turkey: Syrian border town about to fall to IS. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the coalition air campaign launched last month would not be enough to halt the Islamic State advance and called for greater cooperation with the Syrian opposition, which is fighting both the Islamic State and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Erdogan told Syrian refugees in the Turkish town of Gaziantep, near the border: “Kobani is about to fall. We asked for three things: one, for a no-fly zone to be created; two, for a secure zone parallel to the region to be declared; and for the moderate opposition in Syria and Iraq to be trained and equipped.” Erdogan said more than 200,000 people have fled the fighting in and around Kobani in recent weeks. Their flight is among the largest single exoduses of the three-year Syrian conflict. The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists across Syria, said Tuesday that 412 people have been killed since the Kobani fighting began.

As disease, war and famine are running rampant in much of the world and little justice can be found, the Supreme Court of the United States have finally done the best thing it could of possibly done…absolutely nothing. By the Supreme Court declining to review petitions from lower courts whose jurisdiction covers nearly a dozen states, the highest court in the land has made same sex marriage legal Monday in 11 additional states. Even though the decision was announced quietly, the resulting shock waves have reverberated across the nation, according to Ryan Gorman, Supreme Court effectively legalizes same-sex marriage in 11 more states. The court validated three federal appeals covering Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to Bloomberg. By declining to hear the petitions brought forth from the jurisdictions, the Supreme Court left intact appeals courts decisions to strike down same-sex marriage bans in the locales. Couples in those states should soon be able to obtain marriage licenses and be legally wed. The announcement led a large group of same-sex marriage supporters gathered outside the court to celebrate. They cheered, waved flags, hugged each other and embraced the landmark decision. Supreme Court and #SSM (a same-sex marriage hashtag) immediately shot to the top of trending topics in the United States on Twitter. A case can only be reviewed it at least four of the nine sitting justices want to hear it. The justices also did not signal if they would be willing to hear a same-sex marriage case in the future. No reason was given for the decision. The court has previously showed support for gay marriage when it struck down a federal law last year denying benefits to same-sex married couples. Refusing to hear an appeals on lower court decisions to strike down same-sex marriage bans sets a precedent. The remaining 20 states banning gay marriage will likely also be bound to appeals courts decisions should their bans be overturned. The unions are now legal in a total of 30 states, plus the District of Columbia. Same-sex couples in multiple states across America are getting married after Monday morning’s landmark Supreme Court decision to not hear same-sex marriage cases. Wyoming’s justification for not recognizing the marriage license applications is on the grounds it’s state constitution clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The stipulation was originally made during the state’s founding in order to prevent polygamy. Legal experts believe an injunction will have to be granted by a federal court in order for same-sex marriages in the state to proceed. Monday’s non-decision came 16 years to the day that Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, was tortured in Wyoming for being gay. He died six days later. It is not clear when marriage licenses will be issued to couples in the other states, while the remaining 20 states have constitutional bans on the unions. The Associate Press reports, Status of gay marriage in all 50 states, the number of states where the practice is legal has skyrocketed from 19 to 30, in addition to Washington, D.C. Here’s the legal status of gay marriage in all 50 states:

WHERE GAY MARRIAGE IS LEGAL (And when it was legalized):

– CALIFORNIA (2013)

– COLORADO (Oct. 6, 2014) – Pueblo and Larimer counties began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Monday, although official guidance from state Attorney General John Suthers is still pending.

– CONNECTICUT (2008)

– DELAWARE (2013)

– HAWAII (2013) – The state Legislature legalized gay marriage last year. Meanwhile, an appeal is pending of a federal court ruling that upheld Hawaii’s previous ban.

– ILLINOIS (June 2014)

– INDIANA (Oct. 6, 2014) – Gov. Mike Pence reaffirmed his commitment to traditional marriage but said people are not free to disobey the Supreme Court decision to reject an appeal of a ruling striking down Indiana’s gay marriage ban. County clerks issued a few licenses to same-sex couples.

– IOWA (2009)

– KANSAS (Oct. 6, 2014) – The American Civil Liberties Union says the Supreme Court decision in the 10th Circuit cases affects Kansas because it’s in that circuit; the group plans to seek a federal court ruling to block Kansas’ constitutional ban on gay marriage. Gov. Sam Brownback was defiant, saying he swore to uphold the constitution, and some same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses were turned away.

– MAINE (2012)

– MARYLAND (2013)

– MASSACHUSETTS (2004) – The first state to legalize gay marriage.

– MINNESOTA (2013)

– NEW HAMPSHIRE (2010)

– NEW JERSEY (2013)

– NEW MEXICO (2013)

– NEW YORK (2011)

– NORTH CAROLINA (Oct. 6, 2014) – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina says it will seek an immediate ruling in federal court overturning the state’s ban. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has previously said he wouldn’t challenge such a ruling.

– OKLAHOMA (Oct. 6, 2014) – The Tulsa County Court Clerk’s Office issued a marriage license Monday to Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, the couple who successfully challenged the state’s ban on gay marriage. Several other Oklahoma counties also issued same-sex marriage licenses.

– OREGON (May 2014)

– PENNSYLVANIA (May 2014)

– RHODE ISLAND (2013)

– SOUTH CAROLINA (Oct. 6, 2014) – A lawyer for a gay couple seeking to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage said she will ask a federal judge to immediately rule in their favor. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he will continue to fight to uphold the ban.

– UTAH (Oct. 6, 2014) – Gay couples in Utah began applying for marriage licenses, and a handful of same-sex weddings occurred in Salt Lake County after Gov. Gary Herbert directed state agencies to recognize the marriages Monday.

– VERMONT (2009) – The first state to offer civil unions, in 2001.

– VIRGINIA (Oct. 6, 2014) – Gay couples started marrying in Virginia. Thirty-year-old Lindsey Oliver and 42-year-old Nicole Pries received the first same-sex marriage license issued from the Richmond Circuit Court Clerk’s office then were married by gay-rights advocate The Rev. Robin Gorsline.

– WASHINGTON, D.C. (2010)

– WASHINGTON STATE (2012)

– WEST VIRGINIA (Oct. 6, 2014) – Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was studying the implications for the state in light of the Supreme Court decision.

– WISCONSIN (Oct. 6, 2014) – County clerks began accepting applications from gay couples for marriage licenses which, by Wisconsin law, can’t be issued until after a five-day waiting period. In Milwaukee and Dane counties, where most of the roughly 500 same-sex weddings took place this summer before a federal judge’s decision was put on hold, a few couples applied for licenses.

– WYOMING (Oct. 6, 2014) – A state case, scheduled for a court hearing Dec. 15, is similar to gay marriage cases in federal court but Wyoming supporters weren’t ready Monday to declare unconditional victory. They say same-sex marriage could be legal in the state by year’s end.

_____________________________

WHERE GAY MARRIAGE IS NOT LEGAL AND CASES ARE PENDING:

– ALABAMA

– ALASKA

– ARIZONA – In a ruling that called into question Arizona’s gay marriage ban, a U.S. District Court judge handed a victory Sept. 12 to a gay man denied death benefits after losing his spouse to cancer.

– ARKANSAS – A state judge in May struck down the state’s ban. The state Supreme Court brought marriages to a halt and is weighing state officials’ appeal. Same-sex couples are also suing the state in federal court. The attorney general’s office has asked that proceedings in both cases be put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to take up a case from Utah.

– FLORIDA – A federal judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional in mid-August, joining state judges in four counties. He issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, meaning no marriage licenses would be issued immediately issued for gay couples.

– GEORGIA

– IDAHO – State officials are appealing a federal judge’s decision to overturn the state’s ban. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in San Francisco heard arguments Sept. 8 along with appeals from Hawaii and Nevada.

– KENTUCKY – Two Kentucky cases were among six from four states heard in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Aug. 6. Rulings are pending on recognition of out-of-state marriages, as well as the ban on marriages within the state.

– LOUISIANA – A parish judge ruled Sept. 22 that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional; the attorney general has appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.

– MICHIGAN – The state’s ban was overturned by a federal judge in March following a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact on children. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati heard arguments Aug. 6, and a ruling is pending.

– MISSISSIPPI

– MISSOURI – Attorney General Chris Koster announced Monday he wouldn’t appeal a state court order that Missouri recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. But two other same-sex marriage cases are pending in Missouri. One is a federal challenge in Kansas City; the other is a St. Louis case that focuses on city officials who issued marriage licenses to four same-sex couples to trigger a legal test of the ban.

– MONTANA

– NEBRASKA

– NEVADA – Eight couples are challenging Nevada’s voter-approved 2002 ban, which a federal judge upheld a decade later. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel heard arguments Sept. 8, along with appeals from Hawaii and Idaho.

– NORTH DAKOTA

– OHIO – Two Ohio cases were argued Aug. 6 in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a ruling is pending. In one, two gay men whose spouses were dying sued to have their out-of-state marriages recognized on their spouses’ death certificates. In the other, four couples sued to have both spouses listed on their children’s birth certificates.

– SOUTH DAKOTA

– TENNESSEE – The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Aug. 6 on an appeal of a federal judge’s order to recognize three same-sex couples’ marriages while their lawsuit against the state works through the courts. A ruling is pending.

– TEXAS – A federal judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional, issuing a preliminary injunction. The state is appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which is soon expected to set a date for arguments.

Ebola Fears Spread As Details of First U.S. Case Emerge, Hong Kong Leaders Refuse Demands, Islamic State Tries to Expand its Territory as Turkey Considers its Role and the Reality of Climate Change

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In Tuesday afternoon press conference, the Federal authorities and the Center for Disease Control confirmed the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States and the local station WFAA was the first to report the patent testing positive in Dallas, according to Ryan Gorman, First US case of deadly Ebola virus confirmed in Dallas. The male patient recently traveled to Liberia, leaving the country on September 19 and arriving in the U.S. the following day, according to the CDC’s Dr. Thomas Frieden. The person exhibited no symptoms until about five days later. He sought care on the 26th, was admitted to a hospital on the 28th and tested positive on the 30th, Frieden explained, adding the man is “critically ill.” The patient has been placed into isolation in Texas and will be treated in the state. A CDC team already on the ground in Texas will work to identify all individuals that have come into contact with the infected individual and monitor those people for the next 21 days, Frieden added. Frieden declined to say if the individual is an American citizen, but did disclose he is in the country to “visit family.” Dallas County Health and Human Services director Zachary Thompson told WFAA that the city is more than able to contain and treat the isolated patient. Health official have reported that more than 3,000 people have died during the recent outbreak in West Africa and three Americans were transported to Atlanta for treatment after contracting Ebola, but this is the first case outside that region. Frieden said, “Ebola is a scary disease. We’re really hoping for the recovery of this individual. We’re [also] stopping it in it’s tracks in the United States.” The Associated Press reports, Ebola case stokes concerns for Liberians in Texas, Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth, said the 10,000-strong Liberian population in North Texas is skeptical of the CDC’s assurances because Ebola has ravaged their country. Gaye said at a community meeting Tuesday evening, “We’ve been telling people to try to stay away from social gatherings. We need to know who it is so that they (family members) can all go get tested. If they are aware, they should let us know.” Vice president Roseline Sayon said, “We don’t want to get a panic going.We embrace those people who are coming forward. Don’t let the stigma keep you from getting tested.” Blood tests by Texas health officials and the CDC separately confirmed his Ebola diagnosis Tuesday. State health officials described the patient as seriously ill. Goodman said he was able to communicate and was hungry. Passengers leaving Liberia pass through rigorous screening, but those checks are no guarantee that an infected person not showing symptoms will be stopped from boarding, according to Binyah Kesselly, chairman of the Liberia Airport Authority’s board of directors. Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 6,500 people in West Africa, and more than 3,000 deaths have been linked to the disease, according to the World Health Organization. But even those tolls are probably underestimates, partially because there are not enough labs to test people for Ebola. Two mobile Ebola labs staffed by American naval researchers arrived this weekend and will be operational this week, according to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. The labs will reduce the amount of time it takes to learn if a patient has Ebola from several days to a few hours. The U.S. military also delivered equipment to build a 25-bed clinic that will be staffed by American health workers and will treat doctors and nurses who have become infected. The U.S. is planning to build 17 other clinics in Liberia and will help train more health workers to staff them.

While the man is now receiving treatment for Ebola, new details have emerged about the days before the he was admitted to the hospital. the Associated Press reports, Dallas ER sent Ebola-infected patient home, a Dallas emergency room sent home the man with Ebola last week knowing he had told a nurse he had been to West Africa specifically Liberia and officials at the hospital are considering if they would of acted differently if they entire staff knew. The decision by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to release the patient, who had recently arrived from Liberia, could have put others at risk of exposure to Ebola before the man went back to the ER a couple of days later when his condition worsened. A nine-member team of federal health officials was tracking anyone who had close contact with the man after he fell ill on Sept. 24. The group of 12 to 18 people included three members of the ambulance crew that took him to the hospital, as well as a handful of schoolchildren. They will be checked every day for 21 days, the disease’s incubation period. “That’s how we’re going to break the chain of transmission, and that’s where our focus has to be,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press Wednesday. The patient explained to a nurse last Thursday that he was visiting the U.S. from Africa, but that information was not widely shared, said Dr. Mark Lester, who works for the hospital’s parent company. “Regretfully, that information was not fully communicated” throughout the medical team, Lester said. Instead, the man was diagnosed with a low-risk infection and sent home. He was prescribed antibiotics, according to his sister, Mai Wureh, who identified her brother, Thomas Eric Duncan, as the infected man in an interview with The Associated Press. Duncan has been kept in isolation at the hospital since Sunday. He was listed in serious but stable condition. But the diagnosis, and the hospital’s slip-up, highlighted the wider threat of Ebola, even far from Africa. Since the man had no symptoms on the plane, the CDC stressed there is no risk to his fellow passengers. Reuters reports, Dallas Ebola patient vomited outside apartment on way to hospital, two days after he was sent home from the hospital, the man was seen vomiting on the ground outside his apartment complex as he was taken into an ambulance. The New York Times said that Duncan, in his mid-40s, helped transport a pregnant woman suffering from Ebola to a hospital in Liberia, where she was turned away for lack of space. Duncan helped bring the woman back to her family’s home and carried her into the house, where she later died, the newspaper reported. Four days later Duncan left for the United States, the Times said, citing the woman’s parents and neighbors. Airline and hotel company shares dropped sharply on U.S. markets on Wednesday over concerns that Ebola’s spread outside Africa might curtail travel. Drugmakers with experimental Ebola treatments in the pipeline saw their shares rise. A Liberian official said the man traveled through Brussels to the United States. United Airlines said in a statement that the man took one of its flights from Brussels to Washington Dulles Airport, where he changed planes to travel to Dallas-Fort Worth. As of Thursday morning, Ryan Gorman reports, Texas officials now looking at 100 people possibly infected with deadly Ebola virus, Texas State Health Department spokesperson Carrie Williams said in a statement: “We are working from a list of about 100 potential or possible contacts. The number will drop as we focus in on those whose contact may represent a potential risk of infection.” Officials previously said they were looking at about 80 people while Duncan was being cared for in a Dallas hospital. Authorities explained they are casting a wide net in order to make sure no one goes untreated and any potential outbreak can be immediately contained. In the article, US Ebola patient’s family under quarantine as he faces criminal charges in Liberia, Gorman reports that Duncan’s family has been placed under quarantine and Thomas Duncan will face criminal charges in Liberia. Officials hand-delivered the order to Thomas Duncan’s relatives Wednesday night after they reportedly violated an official request to not leave home, WFAA reported. The Liberian citizen reportedly lied on his health form to gain entry to the U.S. Duncan’s family is now under a strict quarantine until October 19. They are legally prohibited from leaving their Dallas home for any reason. Duncan lying on his health form has prompted Liberian officials to announce they will file criminal charges against him for carrying the deadly virus through Europe and two U.S. cities, the Associated Press reported.

While the U.S. now may be dealing with the deadly virus, the outbreak in Western African countries continues to grow at an alarming rate and the local health facilities are ill-equipped to deal. Eline Gordts reports, 5 People Are Infected With Ebola Every Hour In Sierra Leone, according to new data released Wednesday by the International Charity Save the Children, five people in Sierra Leone are infected with Ebola every hour. According to Save the Children, an estimated 765 new cases of Ebola were reported in Sierra Leone just last week, while the country currently only has 327 beds for patients available. Without drastic efforts to curtail the spread of the disease, 10 people will be infected every hour in the country before the end of October, Save the Children said. In a press release about the numbers, Rob MacGillivray, the organization’s director in Sierra Leone, said: “We are facing the frightening prospect of an epidemic which is spreading like wildfire across Sierra Leone, with the number of new cases doubling every three weeks.” The spread of Ebola remains persistent in Sierra Leone, according to the WHO, and there’s strong evidence that the disease is reaching new districts. According to estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could rise to 1.4 million by January if the disease is not effectively fought. Only 30 percent of patients survive Ebola.

Meanwhile, as protest rage in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has refused to step down Thursday and offered to talk to defuse a week of massive demonstrations that are the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority since China took over from Britain in 1997, according to the Associated Press, Hong Kong leader offers talks with protesters. Student leaders of the protest did not respond to Leung’s announcement, however, Occupy Central said in a statement: “[Occupy Central] hopes the talks can provide a turning point in the current political stalemate. However, we reiterate our view that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is the one responsible for the stalemate, and that he must step down.” The protesters want Beijing to reverse its decision that all candidates in an inaugural 2017 election for chief executive must be approved by a committee of mostly pro-Beijing elites. They say China is reneging on its promise that the city’s top leader will be chosen through “universal suffrage.” Earlier in the day, police brought in supplies of tear gas and other riot gear, and the protesters prepared face masks and goggles as tensions rose in the standoff outside the imposing government compound near the waterfront. Police warned of serious consequences if the protesters tried to surround or occupy government buildings, as they had threatened to do if Leung didn’t resign by the end of Thursday. Leung said shortly before midnight that the authorities would continue to tolerate the protests as long as participants did not charge police lines, but urged them to stop their occupation of much of the downtown area. He said, “I urge students not to charge into or occupy government buildings. … It’s not about my personal inconvenience. These few days the protesters’ occupation of key areas of the city has already seriously affected Hong Kong’s economy, people’s daily lives and government functioning.” Joanna Chiu reports, Hong Kong leader rejects protestors’ demands, Hong Kong’s free press and social media has allowed protestors a voice and exposure that may prevent China from cracking down in the same way it does on restive minorities and dissidents living in the mainland, where it is harshly punished. With dozens of bus routes canceled and subway entrances closed, Hong Kong’s police and fire department renew calls for protestors to clear the streets. Many of the protesters were born after an agreement with Britain in 1984 that pledged to give China control of the city of 7 million, and have grown up in an era of affluence and stability, with no experience of past political turmoil in mainland China. Their calls for a great say in their futures have widespread support among many in Hong Kong disillusioned by a widening gap between the city’s ultra-wealthy tycoons and the rest of the population. Didi Tang reports, No images of Hong Kong protests in China’s media, China’s government has cut off news about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests to the rest of the country, a clampdown so thorough that no image of the rallies has appeared in state-controlled media, and at least one man has been detained for reposting accounts of the events. By contrast, media in semiautonomous Hong Kong have been broadcasting nonstop about the crowds, showing unarmed students fending off tear gas and pepper spray with umbrellas as they call for more representative democracy in the former British colony. Censorship of microblogs – including phrases such as “tear gas” – has kept online discussion muted. The image-sharing Instagram service was shut down in China over the weekend. Activist Wang Long in the southern city of Shenzhen, who reposted news about the protests on the instant messaging service WeChat, was detained Monday by police on suspicion of causing trouble, his lawyer friend Fan Biaowen said.

While the government of China unites against a Hong Kong democracy and face off against pro-democracy protestors, the U.S. led coalition to fight ISIS continues to struggle to gain ground against the militant group as Turkey decides whether to join the fight publicly or take a background role. CNN reports, Airstrikes pound ISIS targets; bomb blasts kill 30 schoolchildren in Syria, a day after Britain’s military launched its first campaign, Turkish soldiers and tanks along the border with Syria on Tuesday gear up for a possible fight. Meanwhile, Turkey’s government put a motion before parliament asking for the authorization to take military action against ISIS. Lawmakers are expected to debate the measure in a special session Thursday before voting, Anadolu, Turkey’s semiofficial new agency, reports. Tony Abbot told Parliament in Canberra that Australian aircraft started flying over Iraq in support of allied operations Wednesday. However, the government is awaiting an invitation from Iraq before a final decision to commit Australian forces to airstrikes. Retired U.S. Marine general coordinating the U.S. led coalition against ISIS, John R. Allen told CNN, “It’s actually an important moment where so many countries from so many different backgrounds share that view (that ISIS poses a threat to the region), that this is an opportunity to create partnership across those lines of effort that would achieve real effect.” According to a military think tank, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the airstrikes have cost $1 billion. The U.S. military said Tuesday that it was the busiest day for airstrikes against ISIS since the military campaign began, with 28 total, including the two UK strikes. More strikes were carried out Wednesday by the United States and a partner nation, the U.S. military said, including around the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria, known in Arabic as Ayn al Arab. Other strikes hit ISIS targets in Iraq northwest of Mosul, near the Haditha Dam and northwest of Baghdad. Tuesday, British planes helped Kurdish troops who were fighting ISIS in northwestern Iraq, dropping a bomb on an ISIS heavy weapon position and shooting a missile at an armed pickup truck, the UK’s Defense Ministry said. Britain joins the United States and France as countries that have hit ISIS in Iraq with airstrikes, while Belgium and Denmark have also said they also will provide planes. Of those nations, only the United States along with some Arab countries have struck ISIS positions in neighboring Syria. In Syria, where a 3½ year old civil war rages on between government forces and rebel groups including ISIS, twin blasts struck Wednesday near a school in the nation’s third-largest city, Homs. The death toll has climbed to 39, with at least 30 children between the ages of 6 and 9 killed, according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The toll was confirmed by the London-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information about civilian casualties in the country. Turkey’s debate over whether to step into the fray comes as the flood of refugees from Syria has escalated, with 150,000 people fleeing to Turkey in recent days. Meanwhile, ISIS fighters armed with tanks and heavy weapons advance on Kobani in northern Syria, destroying villages in their path. If ISIS takes Kobani, it will control a complete swath of land from its self-declared capital of Raqqa to the Turkish border, more than 60 miles away. On Wednesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to the Associate Press report, Turkey considers Iraq, Syria incursions: “In the struggle against terrorism, we are open and ready for every kind of cooperation. However, Turkey is not a country that will allow itself to be used for temporary solutions. An effective struggle against ISIL or other terror organizations will be our priority. The immediate removal of the administration in Damascus, Syria’s territorial unity and the installation of an administration which embraces all will continue to be our priority.” The motion cites the continued threat to Turkey from Kurdish rebels who are fighting for autonomy from bases in northern Iraq; the threat from the Syrian regime; as well as the newly emerged threat from the Islamic State militants and other groups in Syria and Iraq. It also cites a potential threat to a mausoleum in Syria that is considered Turkish territory. The tiny plot of land that is a memorial to Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, is guarded by Turkish troops. The government enjoys a majority in parliament and the motion was expected to pass despite opposition from two parties.

As the human tragedy of war unfolds in the Middle East, several credible and widely known organizations this week have released reports on the human impact on climate change that has caused wildlife populations to plummet and bodies of water to recede or disappear and the record increase of Antarctic sea ice. John Heilprin reports, Humans To Blame For Major Decline In Wildlife Populations, WWF Report Finds, that a study Tuesday from the Swiss based WWF reports that 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have see their numbers plummet due to human threats to nature with a 52 percent decline in wildlife populations between 1970 and 2010. It says improved methods of measuring populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles explain the huge difference from the 28-percent decline between 1970 and 2008 that the group reported in 2012. Most of the new losses were found in tropical regions, particularly Latin America. WWF describes the study it has carried out every two years since 1998 as a barometer of the state of the planet. The latest “Living Planet” study analyzed data from about 10,000 populations of 3,038 vertebrate species from a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. It is meant to provide a representative sampling of the overall wildlife population in the world, said WWF’s Richard McLellan, editor-in-chief of the study. It reflects populations since 1970, the first year the London-based society had comprehensive data. Each study is based on data from at least four years earlier. In the new WWF study, hunting and fishing along with continued losses and deterioration of natural habitats are identified as the chief threats to wildlife populations around the world. Other primary factors are global warming, invasive species, pollution and disease. Ken Norris, science director at the London society, said, “This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live. There is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from industry.” Ryan Gorman reports, The world’s fourth-largest lake is almost completely dry, the vast Aral Sea has all but disappeared as seen in new satellite photos released by NASA. Officials in the Soviet Union began diverting water from the Aral Sea in the 1960s to irrigate desert land in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, according to the space agency. This effort has virtually drained it dry. The port cities Aralsk, Kazakhstan, and Moynaq, Uzbekistan, dependent on the lake’s 22 varieties of fish, began to crumble, officials claim. Less water led to higher concentrations of salt and other pollutants, it eventually became a public health hazard. Contaminated soil then blew off the dry lake bed onto neighboring farms and contaminated them, officials said. Less water also led to colder winters since the water’s moderating effect on the local climate was all but diminished. Kate Sheppard reports, Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions Could Save 3,500 Lives Per Year: Report, a study released Tuesday says that reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in order to curb global warming will save up to 3,500 American lives or nine lives per day and prevent 1,000 hospitalizations. The study, by researchers at Harvard, Syracuse and Boston universities, finds that the “co-benefits” of cutting carbon include reductions in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, and mercury, which have been linked to respiratory illness, heart attacks and early deaths. The study looked at three scenarios for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One would only require changes at power plants. The second would set a state-based standard and allow reductions to come from throughout the electricity sector. The third would require power plants to make changes up to a certain cost. The researchers said the second scenario yielded the most co-benefits, reducing greenhouse gas emissions 35 percent from 2005 levels, while cutting sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions 27 percent, and nitrogen oxide emissions 22 percent. That scenario also was the most similar to the draft standard for reducing power plant emission that the Environmental Protection Agency released in June, which calls for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The EPA’s own estimates of the benefits of its draft rules projected that they would prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths. The study found health benefits across the lower 48 states. Benefits were highest in places where more people are currently exposed to pollutants, and in the places with the worst air quality. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana would see the most avoided deaths, the researchers concluded. Climate Central reports, Antarctic Sea Ice Just Hit A New Maximum, But That Doesn’t Mean The Continent’s Not Warming, a boom in Antarctic sea ice will surpassed 7.7 million square miles for the first time ever and will set a new record and nearly every day has set a record for the day in the satellite record for 2014, according to Ted Scambos, a senior scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. The boom in ice around the southernmost continent in the past few years is in contract to the decades long decline of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean where the Arctic sea ice hit its sixth lowest extent at the end of this summer with the ice’s edge coming within 5 degrees latitude of the North Pole. That Arctic ice melt is robustly connected to the overall warming of the planet. The loss of reflective, white ice also amplifies the warming around the North Pole; as more dark, open ocean is exposed to incoming sunlight, the water absorbs those rays, heats even more and melts more ice. The growth of Antarctic sea ice may also, paradoxically, be connected to global warming, though the exact combination of causes is still a major area of study. And just what the causes turn out to be will affect how long the Antarctic growth will go on for. The Associated Press reports, 35,000 Walrus Come Ashore In Northwest Alaska, an estimated 35,000 walrus were photographed Saturday about 5 miles north of Point Lay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Due to the fact these Pacific walrus cannot find sea ice to rest on in the Arctic waters, many have come ashore in record numbers to the beaches of northwest Alaska. The enormous gathering was spotted during NOAA’s annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey, spokeswoman Julie Speegle said by email. The survey is conducted with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that oversees offshore lease sales. Andrea Medeiros, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said walrus were first spotted Sept. 13 and have been moving on and off shore. Observers last week saw about 50 carcasses on the beach from animals that may have been killed in a stampede, and the agency was assembly a necropsy team to determine their cause of death. Pacific walrus spend their winters in the Bering Sea as females give birth on sea ice and use the ice to dive for food on the shallow shelf. When the temperatures warm in summer and the edge of the sea ice receded north, females and their young ride the edge of the ice into the Chukchi Sea, north of the Bering Sea. Unfortunately, in recent years, sea ice has receded beyond the shallow continental shelf and into the Arctic Ocean water with depths that exceed 2 miles preventing walrus from diving to the bottom. The World Wildlife Fund said walrus have also been gathering in large groups on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea. Margaret Williams, managing director of the group’s Arctic program, said via phone from Washington, D.C.. “It’s another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss. The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change.”

The Ever Growing Threat of Ebola, U.S. and Allies Bombard Syria and Iraq As ISIS Steps Up Attacks and Climate Change Takes Center Stage

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A report issued on Tuesday by the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 550,000 and 1.4 million people in West Africa could be infected with the Ebola virus by January 20, 2015 if nothing changes, Reuters reports, Ebola cases could rise to 1.4 million by January, CDC says. According to the report: “The top range of the estimate, 1.4 million, assumes that the number of cases officially cited so far, 5,864 according to the count kept by the World Health Organization, is significantly underreported, and that it is likely that 2.5 times as many cases, or nearly 20,000, have in fact occurred.” CDC says the projection is based on data available in August and an epidemiological model taking into account how many people each Ebola patient could infect and does not factor in the recent U.S. government Ebola relief effort that included 3,000 members of the armed forces to Ebola stricken areas. In a statement, the CDC said: “Extensive, immediate actions – such as those already started – can bring the epidemic to a tipping point to start a rapid decline in cases.”

While the world fights to contain the Ebola virus and eliminate the spread by containment, the U.S. and several of its allies try to fight a social disease that has spread throughout the world…extremism specifically the Islamic State also know as ISIS. Llazar Semini and Nicole Winfield reports, Pope denounces perversion of religion for violence, Pope France, on Sunday in Albania, denounced that extremist around the world are using religion to justify violence. The Vatican insisted no special security measures were taken even with the threat of ISIS , but Francis’ interaction with the crowd were reduced compared to his previous foreign trips. Albania’s Interior Ministry promised “maximum” protection from 2,500 police forces and beefed-up patrols at border crossings. In his opening speech, Francis told President Bujar Nishani, Albanian officials and the diplomatic corps that Albania’s inter-religious harmony was inspiring: “This is especially the case in these times in which authentic religious spirit is being perverted by extremist groups, and where religious differences are being distorted and instrumentalized. Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armor’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!” It was Francis’ first visit to a majority Muslim nation since the Islamic State crackdown on Christians in Iraq, with members of religious minorities being killed, persecuted or forced to flee their homes by militants. The Vatican has voiced mounting concern about the exodus of faithful from lands where Christian communities have existed for 2,000 years. Albania’s president, Nishani, thanked Francis: “There is no intolerance, extremism among us but reciprocal respect inherited from generation to generation,” he said. “From an atheist country, we have turned into a country of religious freedom.” In his homily, Francis paid his respect to those who sacrificed their lives for religious freedom: “Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs. Do not forget your wounds, but don’t avenge them. Go forward, flying on the hopes of a great future.”

While the optimism for a religiously free world spreads , the Islamic State continues to advocate violence in the name of religion. The Associated Press reports, Islamic State group calls for attacking civilians, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani’s 42 minute audio statement sounds like a call to arms in response to Barack Obama’s coalition formation. A spokesman for the group, al-Adnani, said their fighters are ready for battle and encourage Muslims to attack at home and abroad. In addition, he said the group welcomes the possibility of a ground war with the U.S. and called on Muslims to kill civilians of nations that joined the coalition. In a statement released Sunday, al-Adnani said: “Oh, believer, do not let this battle pass you by wherever you may be. You must strike the soldiers, patrons and troops of the tyrants. Strike their police, security and intelligence members. If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.” Militants in Algeria seized a French citizen on Sunday and later issued a statement saying it was in response to al-Adnani’s appeal. In a video that appeared on social media, a masked member of an al-Qaida splinter organization calling itself Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate, said he would kill his captive within 24 hours if France did not withdraw from the coalition seeking to destroy the Islamic State group. Perhaps tapping into fears among Americans of the mission broadening, al-Adnani vowed the U.S. would be “drawn and dragged” into a ground war. “It will come down to the ground and it will be led to its death, grave, and destruction. … Know that our knife is sharp and hard. It cuts off the hands and strikes the necks.” Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Bram Janssen report, Clashes Between Iraqi Soldiers And Islamic State Leave Dozens Dead And Missing, Sunday that Islamic State militants in Iraqi army uniforms and driving stolen Humvees killed 40 Iraqi soldiers at Camp Saqlawiyah near the town of Sijir and captured another 68 in western Anbar province where the United States recently broadened their airstrikes, according to Gen. Rasheed Fleih. After the attacks, the Iraqi military withdrew 700 more troops stationed in the area, he said. Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement Monday that his government is committed to reinforcing military and police forces in Anbar and will increase airstrikes to target the pockets of militant fighters across the province. On Monday, the U.S. military said the airstrikes on Islamic State targets southwest of oil rich Kirkuk destroyed two military vehicles and a tank and damaged a Humvee. With the U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have retaken several small towns and strategic Mosul Dam, but the Islamic State fighters operate from cities with large civilian populations such as Fallujah and Mosul. In northern Iraq, Helgurd Hikmet, general director of the ministry overseeing the Kurdish forces, said that France, Italy and Germany were among countries providing training in the use of the new machine guns, mortars, rockets and demining robots the Kurdish fighters have received. Last week, the French joined in the aerial campaign, and a number of European countries have committed to arming the Kurds and providing humanitarian support for more than a million people displaced by the onslaught of the Islamic State group. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Prime deputy Prime Minster Numan Kurtulmus said Turkey is ready for the worst case scenario should more refugees steam in as the number of fleeing Syrians from the Islamic state group to turkey grew in the last four days since Thursday to 130,000, according to Desmond Butler and Suzan Fraser, Syria refugee flood to Turkey hits 100,000. The Islamic State in recent days has advanced into the Kurdish regions of Syria that border Turkey, where fleeing refugees on Sunday reported atrocities that included stonings, beheadings and the torching of homes. UNHCR spokeswoman Selin Unal said most of those coming across the border are Kurdish women, children and the elderly. She urged the international community to step up its aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Meanwhile in Monday night raids, the U.S. and five Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group headquarters in eastern Syria by land and sea based U.S. aircraft and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two navy ships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, according to Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns, Joint chiefs chair: ‘No safe haven’ for militants. U.S. officials said five Arab nations either participated in the airstrikes or provided unspecified support. They were Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Several hours after the Pentagon announced the airstrikes against Islamic State targets, U.S. Central Command said American warplanes also launched eight airstrikes “to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests” by a network of “seasoned al-Qaida veterans” – sometimes known as the Khorasan Group – who have established a haven in Syria. Central Command said that separate bombing mission was undertaken solely by U.S. aircraft and took place west of the Syrian city of Aleppo. It said targets included training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities. Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told The Associated Press, “There is confirmed information that there are casualties among Islamic State group members.” He added that missiles also targeted the towns of Tabqa, Ein Issa and Tel Abyad, as well as the village of Kfar Derian, which is a base for the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, a rival of the Islamic State group. Another activist, Mohammed al-Dughaim, based in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, confirmed that several airstrikes hit Kfar Derian in the early hours of Tuesday. He said there were civilians among the casualties.

While much of the world seems focused on the growing threat of pandemic Ebola and of equal threat ISIS, world leaders and activists took their concern over climate change to the street pushing for change now before its too late. Verena Dobnik and Michael Sisak report, Thousands march in NYC, around globe over climate, tens of thousands of activists walked through Manhattan Sunday to bring attention to and warn that climate change is destroying the earth with demonstrators around the world urging policy makers to take quick action. According to the report: “Organizers said more than 100,000 marched in New York, including actors Mark Ruffalo and Evangeline Lilly. They were joined in midtown Manhattan by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. On Tuesday, more than 120 world leaders will convene for the United Nations Climate Summit aimed at galvanizing political will for a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015. De blasio said, “My sense is the energy you see on the streets, the numbers that have amassed here and in other cities around the world, show that something bigger is going on, and this U.N. summit will be one of the ones where we look back and say it was a difference maker.” Ban agreed saying, “Climate change is a defining issue of our time and there is no time to lose. There is no Plan B because we do not have planet B. We have to work and galvanize our action.” The New York march was not the only one as similar event tool place around the world to raise awareness on climate change. In London, organizers said 40,000 marchers participated, while a small gathering in Cairo featured a huge art piece representing wind and solar energy. In Rio de Janeiro, marchers at Ipanema Beach had green hearts painted on their faces. Celebrities in London including actress Emma Thompson and musician Peter Gabriel joined thousands of people crossing the capital’s center, chanting: “What do we want? Clean energy. When do we want it? Now.” In New York, people from tornado ravaged Moore, Oklahoma where 24 people were killed last year and hundreds of people affected by Superstorm Sandy participated in the march. In Australia, the largest rally was in Melbourne, where an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets with banners and placards calling on their government to do more to combat global warming. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was a particular target of the protesters. Abbott’s center-right coalition has removed a carbon tax and has restricted funding for climate change bodies since coming to power last year. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary John Kerry on Monday opened a week of climate change talks in New York hopeful that the discussions will set the tone for upcoming negotiations on an international agreement, Michael Pearson reports, Kerry: New York climate summit to set agenda. Addressing business and government leaders attending Climate Week NYC that coincides with the U.N. summit Tuesday, Kerry said: “It’s about time that world leaders come to the United Nations to recognize this threat in the way that it requires and demands. And it gives me hope that this global summit may actually produce the leadership that is necessary to try to come together and move the needle, to take advantage of the small window of time — and I mean that — the small window of time that we have left in order to be able to prevent the worst impacts of climate change from already happening.” He urged participants to use their influence to steer world leaders toward committing to greater action on climate change in time for discussions on an international climate change agreement to be held in Lima, Peru, in December and in Paris in 2015. Some 125 countries will attend the session, according to the Climate Group, which is organizing Climate Week NYC. Ryan Gorman reports, Global warming likely to cause colder and snowier winters, scientists say, scientists now believe global warming is to blame for extreme cold snaps in North America during the winter months and will keep happening. The “polar vortex” that plunged Canada and the U.S. into historical cold last winter is said by researchers to have occurred because melting polar ice changes weather patterns, according to a study published earlier this month. A team of Korean and American scientist assert in a new study that the melting ices has caused the northern jet stream or upper level air flow to shift south and bring polar air with it. The article explains: “The polar ice is melting because warmer water is riding the Gulf Stream (ocean currents) from tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean to an area north of Scandinavia. This causes masses of warm air to destabilize the normally strong polar air mass and send brutally cold air right at Canada and the U.S., according to Slate. As the atmosphere continues to warm, and ocean water temperatures rise, this effect will only become more pronounced, researchers argue. The surprising result of global warming, or climate change, will be colder, snowier winters across both countries. The Eurasian supercontinent also experiences this cooling effect, according to study co-author Seong-Joon Kim.”

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.

Ebola Vaccine Testing Promising, Post-War Gaza Update, and Islamic Militants Increase Activity As U.S. Puts Together Game Plan

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Sierra Leone has decided for three days to lockdown the country in order to curb the Ebola epidemic sweeping across West Africa as the WHO announced that over 2,000 people have died from the outbreak across the three hardest hit countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. AOL reports, Sierra Leone Plans lockdown to fight Ebola, Sierra Leone hopes it will stop the spread of the virus that killed 491 people in the country, according to WHO estimates. Sierra Leone’s information minister told CNN,” “Locking down the country is like turning the whole country into an open laboratory. … When they develop symptoms within three days, they will be identified and taken to treatment centers.” However, a Doctors Without Borders spokesperson told reporters, lockdowns and quarantines “end up driving people underground and jeopardizing the trust between people and health providers. This leads to the concealment of potential cases and ends up spreading the disease further.” One medical official told the New York Times educating communities about the risk of harboring Ebola patients is much more effective than lockdowns. Liberia responded with lockdowns as well in August when the Liberian government shit down a neighborhood in the capital of Monrovia that led to protests and clashes between residents and security forces. The Ebola epidemic shows no signs of slowing down, and agencies around the world are racing to develop a treatment. Yesterday, the WHO greenlit the use of blood transfusions from Ebola survivors to combat the virus. Josh Funk reports, Nebraska doctors say Ebola patient making progress, the Nebraska doctors treating Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, who arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center on Friday for treatment in the specialized isolation unit after contracting the disease in Liberia, said he remains stable and was more alert Sunday. Dr. Phil Smith, one of the doctors, said on Sunday: “We are encouraged by what we see, but it’s too early to say he has turned a corner.” In the race to treat the disease, Lauran Neergaard reports, Researchers rolling up their sleeves for first human safety study of Ebola vaccine, that new monkey studies show one shot of an experimental Ebola vaccine triggers fast protection and waned if the animal did not get a booster shot in a different way. Some healthy people are rolling up their sleeves at the National Institutes of Health for the first human safety study of this vaccine in hopes it eventually might be used in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The NIH on Sunday published some of their findings in the Nature Medicine journal that showed a single dose of vaccine protected all four vaccinated monkeys when exposed to high levels of Ebola just five weeks later. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it didn’t take multiple doses to trigger protection which is in line with other vaccines today. The problem is the vaccine wanes over time as researchers exposed monkeys to Ebola 10 months later to find that only half were protected. The vaccine is made with a chimpanzee cold virus, used as a delivery system for pieces of an Ebola gene. Since giving another dose two months later was not enough, researchers used a different approach called “prime boost” where the fist does primes the immune system which was the original virus based Ebola vaccine then for the booster two months later encased the Ebola gene inside a poxvirus used to make a vaccine against smallpox. This time, all four monkeys were still protected 10 months later. Neergaard explains: “The booster-shot findings illustrate an added complexity to speeding an experimental vaccine into the field. The initial first phase study results would shed light only on that “priming” vaccine made from the chimp cold virus, Fauci said. The poxvirus booster step would be tested later only if scientists decided the initial vaccine was promising enough.” Still, manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has said it plans to begin manufacturing up to 10,000 doses of the initial NIH-developed vaccine. Canadian researchers created a similar Ebola vaccine that works in monkeys. Manufacturer NewLink Genetics of Ames, Iowa, said first-stage safety testing in healthy volunteers is set to begin in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, back in Gaza, President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday threatened to dissolve his alliance with Hamas if the Islamic militant group does not hand over power in Gaza Strip, Mohammed Daraghmeh and Sarah El Deeb reports, Palestinian President Urges Hamas To Give Up Power In Gaza. Hamas has controlled Gaza since overrunning Abbas’ forces in 2007, however due to international isolation and deep financial crisis, the Islamic militant group agreed to form a new unity government with Abbas’ Fatah movement in June which would restore power to Abbas in the territory. Unfortunately, it has yet to yield any power. Late Saturday in Cairo in comments carried by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, Abbas said: “We will not accept having a partnership if their status in Gaza remains this way. Unity has terms. This situation does not represent any kind of unity. If Hamas does not want one authority, one law, one weapon, we will not accept a partnership with it.” Abbas said that as long as Hamas remains in control of Gaza, he added, “the government of national unity can do nothing on the ground.” Ismail Radwan, a Hamas leader, denounced Abbas’ comments, saying they “contradict the spirit of the new partnership and play down the victory of the resistance.” Abbas under the new deal will form a Cabinet of apolitical technocrats as Hamas offers its backing from the outside. Israel has boycotted the government saying Hamas’ involvement is clear, while Western countries want to give the government an opportunity to prove itself. Abbas criticized the heavy death toll and damage saying, “With every passing day, more blood was shed. Is this the victory they talk about? Regrettably, I can only say the results are tragic.” Daraghmeh and El Deeb sum up what each side in the negotiation are asking for: “In the coming weeks, Israel and Hamas are expected to start a new round of indirect, Egyptian-mediated talks for an extended cease-fire. Hamas is demanding a full lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, including the reopening of a sea and airport. Israel has said the blockade will remain in effect as long as Hamas controls Gaza. The international community has made clear that all funding and reconstruction efforts be handled through Abbas’ government. Israel, and the West, want guarantees that none of the aid will be diverted for military use by Hamas. A conference of donor nations is expected to take place in October. Hamas has expressed willingness to turn over control of border crossings with Israel and Egypt to Abbas’ forces. But over the weekend, Ismail Haniyeh, a top Hamas leader in Gaza, rejected Israel’s demand that the group be disarmed as a condition for ending the blockade.” In internal Palestinian negotiations, Abbas’ aides said he president will seek full control of Gaza.

While the fighting has temporarily stop in Gaza with one branch of al-Qaida, other branches, possibly more extreme, continue to ravage the Middle East and Nigeria. Lolita C. Baldor reports, U.S. Launches Airstrikes Around Iraq’s Haditha Dam, the U.S. military on Sunday launched airstrikes around Haditha Dam in western Iraq targeting Islamic State insurgents in order to prevent the group from capturing the vital dam. The strikes are part of a broader U.S. campaign against the group moving the military operation closer to Syria where the group also operates. Speaking in Georgia at his meeting with government and defense officials, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said if the dam falls into militant hands “or if that dam would be destroyed, the damage that that would cause would be very significant and it would put a significant additional and big risk into the mix in Iraq” including U.S. interests there. Georgian Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania said Georgia will provide some assistance in the campaign against the Islamic State such as training and carrying out military exercises with the Iraqi forces with plans to discuss it further. U.S. officials said while the Anbar Province dam remains in control of the Iraqis, the U.S. offensive was an effort to beat back the militants who are try to take over key dams across the country. Hagel said the Iraqi government asked the U.S. to launch airstrikes and the Iraqi forces on the ground conceived the operation. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby, in a statement said: “We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam, which remains under control of Iraqi Security Forces, with support from Sunni tribes. We will continue to conduct operations as needed in support of the Iraqi Security Forces and the Sunni tribes, working with those forces securing Haditha Dam.” U.S. officials are concerned that militants could flood Baghdad and other large swaths of the country if they control the dams and could gain control over the residents if they control the electricity. Water is a precious commodity in Iraq, a largely desert country of 32.5 million people. The decline of water levels in the Euphrates over recent years has led to electricity shortages in towns south of Baghdad, where steam-powered generators depend entirely on water levels. Ibrahim Abulaziz and Michelle Faul report, Islamic extremists grab towns in northeast Nigeria, the Nigerian Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, has seized more towns in northeastern Nigeria along the Cameroon border and is adopting a strategy of encouraging civilians to stay as militants carve out an Islamic caliphate, witness said Sunday. Nigerian army soldiers fled when hundreds of insurgents in stolen military armored personnel carriers, trucks and motorcycles attacked Gulak, an administrative headquarters of Adamawa state, said resident Michael Kirshinga. The nearby towns of Duhu, Shuwa, Kirshinga and others also fell in assaults over Friday night and Saturday, witnesses said. Further north, soldiers fought off rebels advancing Saturday on Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, headquarters of the military campaign against the insurgency and the birthplace of Boko Haram. The military attacked the rebels’ camp at a village outside Kondudga, just 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Maiduguri. In Gulak, Kirshinga said, “They assured us that they will not attack us, but people begun to run for their lives, some of us have fled for fear that, after subduing the soldiers, the insurgents will turn their (gun) barrels on us.” The Nigerian Emergency Management Agency reported 26,000 people fled Bama adding to the 1.5 million people forced to flee their homes since Nigeria declared a state of emergency in May 2013, according to U.N. figures. They need shelter and food which officials war of a looming food crisis since most refugees are farmers. Boko Haram’s April kidnapping of more than 300 schoolgirls, of whom more than 200 remain captive, attracted international attention and promises of help from several countries including the United States, China and former colonizer Britain. Nigeria has a large army of 80,000 troops and a $2.3 billion budget but soldiers say they are outgunned with some of their colleagues colluding with and fighting for the insurgents. Boko Haram now holds a string of towns in all three of the northeastern states that have been under a military emergency since May 2014 – Adamawa, Yobe and hardest-hit Borno. The seizures come as the United States announced it would launch a major border security program for Nigeria and its neighbors to fight Boko Haram. Meanwhile three German men suspected of being members of Somalian terrorist organization al-Shabab were arrested at Frankfurt airport attempting to re-enter the country, according to prosecutors Monday, AOL reports, 3 al-Shabab suspects arrested in Frankfurt. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office said they were arrested Saturday after landing in Frankfurt from Kenya on charges of membership in a foreign terrorist organization and preparing acts of violence in connection with their time in Somalia. At the moment, however, “there is no evidence the suspects had made any concrete preparations or plans for attacks” in Europe, the office said. The three – identified only as Steven N., 26; Abdullah W., 28; and Abdulsalam W., 23, in line with German privacy laws – are alleged to have gone to Somalia in 2012 and 2013 to join al-Shabab, and received weapons and combat training.

While Islamic extremist groups seems to be spreading like a cancer throughout the world, President Barack Obama said this week his plan to start his offensive against the Islamic State militants, who he said could pose a threat to the U.S., will be explained to Americans and congressional leaders, according to Roberta Rampton, Obama To Announce Game Plan Against ISIS. Obama will make a speech Wednesday to “describe what our game plan’s going to be,” and meet congressional leaders on Tuesday for support for his strategy to halt the group controlling parts of Syria and Iraq. Aired on Sunday, Obama in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” said: “I just want the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we’re going to deal with it and to have confidence that we’ll be able to deal with it. The next phase is now to start going on some offense. I want everybody to understand that we have not seen any immediate intelligence about threats to the homeland.” However, the group has attracted foreign fighters from Western Nations who could travel to the United States, which over time could be a serious threat to the homeland, according to Obama. He ruled out sending in ground troops into Iraq and Syria as this is not the same as the Iraq war. He did say that this is going to be “similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we’ve been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years.” He added: “We are going to be a part of an international coalition, carrying out air strikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops. We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we’re going to defeat ’em. The strategy both for Iraq and for Syria is that we will hunt down ISIL members and assets wherever they are. I think, for … perhaps the first time, you have absolute clarity that the problem for Sunni states in the region, many of whom are our allies, is not simply Iran. It’s not simply a Sunni-Shia issue.” Obama wants regional allies to help win over and work with disaffected Sunni tribes in Iraq which could include an “economic element.” Meanwhile, Lawmakers returned to Capital Hill after a summer vacation for a September session where feuding Republicans and Democrats promise action to prevent government shutdown while holding votes aimed at defining the parties for the fall campaign, Andrew Taylor reports, Congress Returns To Work With Government Shutdown Threat Looming. Republicans control the House and intend on a drama free passage of temporary spending bill to prevent a shutdown at the end of the month and fund government agencies into mid-December. The Senate is hopeful it will pass as long as it is free of objectionable add ons. House Republicans plan to votes aimed at drawing attention to legislation they say would boost jobs and energy production. Republicans and Democrats are clamoring for legislation authorizing Obama to use military forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but the short session and lack of consensus raises doubts about whether congressional action is possible. Some lawmakers say the president under the 1973 War Powers Resolution has the power to act without permission and several Republicans are willing to give Obama blanket authority without a detailed strategy from the administration. Several lawmakers want new economic penalties against Russia in response to its aggressions toward Ukraine, but it’s doubtful Congress will move quickly on a measure.