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.