While the U.S. Senate Clears the Way for Homeland Security Funding and as the World Continues to Struggle with ISIS, Ukraine and Russia Continue to Struggle with Another Ceasefire

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Reuters reported on Thursday that the Senate moved Wednesday to advert a shutdown of U.S. domestic security agency this weekend by voting to clear the way for funding a funding bill that does not include the immigration issue. The vote came shortly after an appeal from the current and two former Security secretaries appealed to Congress to avoid the shutdown and give full funding for the department of Homeland Security this year. The final hurdle for passage will fall to the conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives who still oppose the bill and procedural negotiations that could delay the final vote beyond Friday’s funding deadline for the department. The agency set up after 9/11 coordinates domestic efforts to combat security threats like the recent Somali based Islamic militants against U.S. shopping malls and encompasses the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration as well as border, immigration and several other federal agencies. The original bill would of funded the agency with $39.7 billion until Republicans against Democratic President Barack Obama’s executive order lifted deportation threats of undocumented immigrants got in the way causing Republicans to approve the bill adding a provision to ban spending on the order. This in turn caused a deadlock that lasted weeks between Republicans and Democrats leading up to Wednesday’s vote. The 98-2 vote cleared the way to take out the House’s immigration provisions and leave the vote on immigration orders for a later date under the plan designed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to end the deadlock. The overwhelming bipartisan support for McConnell’s approach means there is strong support for drama free funding for Homeland Security. Democrats have called for a clean Homeland bill all along without any immigration restrictions as Obama had threatened to veto the House passed measure. House Speaker John Boehner declined to tell Reuters if he would put the bill to a House vote even thought the deadline ends at midnight Friday. If no deal is reached, then Homeland Security would be forced to furlough about 30,000 employees or 15 percent of its workforce. This translate to many of the essential personnel such as airport and border security agents would have to wait to be paid until new funding is approved. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and some of his predecessors pleaded at a news conference for Congress to swiftly pass the funding bill. A cut-off in funds also would suspend grants to states to support local counter-terrorism activities.

As security issues at home become increasingly worrisome, the White House has said President Barack Obama would be open to negotiating with Congress for new authorization for military force against Islamic State militants including a three year limit on U.S. military action and use of American troops, according to the AP’s Nedra Pickler, Obama open to changes to military authority against IS. After a weeklong holiday break, lawmakers returned to Washington Monday and have started to consider the proposal with some Republicans saying it is too restrictive for the mission to succeed and some Democrats wanting more limitations on Obama’s authority so the U.S. doesn’t sign on for another open ended war. Obama is open to discussing every aspect of his proposal but firmly opposed to any geographic restriction on where the U.S. military pursues ISIS with strongholds in Iraq and Syria but have been operating across international boundaries. White House press secretary Josh Earnest stated, “I’m not at all going to be surprised if there are members of Congress who take a look at this legislation and decide, ‘Well, I think there are some things that we should tweak here, and if we do, we might be able to build some more support for. So I think it is fair for you to assume that this reflects a starting point in conversations.” Obama argues he doesn’t need new authority to legally pursue the militant group as he has been launching strikes based on authorizations given to President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, critics say Obama’s use of this authority is a stretch and the White House has taken a new position making it clear it doesn’t see reliance on this authorization as ideal. Once new authority is signed into law, the White House says Obama will mot longer rely on the 2001 approved authority to purse the group and rely solely on the new powers. The White House added that Congress could make that clear in the new authorization. The change also prevents any future president from interpreting the law the way Obama has since last year. On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced the arrest of three men accused of planning or supporting ISIS in Syria, AP’s Deepti Hajela reports, Feds: 3 accused in Islamic State plot vocal about beliefs. Two men are charged with plotting to help the Islamic State group as evident by both online and personal conversations about their commitment and desire to join the extremists, federal authorities reported. Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, with plans to head to Syria, authorities said. Another man, 24-year-old Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month and was arrested in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said. The two were held without bail after a brief court appearance. A third defendant, Abror Habibov, 30, is accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts. He was ordered held without bail in Florida. If convicted, each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said this was the first public case in New York involving possible fighters going to the Islamic State, but he hinted at other ongoing investigations. According to the federal complaint, Saidakhmetov said he intended to shoot police officers and FBI agents if his plan to join the IS group in Syria was thwarted. Loretta Lynch, who is Obama’s choice to be U.S. attorney general, said “The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies.” The Islamic State group largely consists of Sunni militants from Iraq and Syria but has also drawn fighters from across the Muslim world and Europe.

While the U.S. fights to thwart and contain the Islamic State, the rest of the world has not been so lucky in keeping ISIS as bay. On Tuesday, AP’s Zeina Karam reported, Dozens of Christians abducted by Islamic militants in Syria, the Islamic State militants before dawn raided homes in a cluster of villages along the Khabur River in northeastern Syria abducting at least 70 Christians as thousands fled to safer areas. The captives’, mostly women and children, fate was unclear Tuesday as relatives said mobile phone service was cut off and land lines were not working and heavy fighting in the area was reported. The Islamic State group has a history of killing captives, including foreign journalists, Syrian soldiers and Kurdish militiamen. Most recently, militants in Libya affiliated with the extremist group released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. While the U.S. and coalition of regional partners conduct airstrikes against the group, the group has repeatedly targeted religious minorities since taking a third of both Syria and Iraq. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights working with a network of activist in Syria have reported the number of Christians held by the group at 90. The extremists could use the Assyrian captives to try to arrange a prisoner swap with the Kurdish militias it is battling in northeastern Syria. Hassakeh province, where a majority of the captives come from, is strategically important due to sharing a border with Turkey and areas controlled by IS in Iraq. Kurdish militiamen from the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, backed by the coalition airstrikes, have made advances in the province in a new offensive launched this week. Heavy fighting broke out in the province Monday as Kurdish fighters and IS militants battled for control of villages near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. The Kurds have been one of the most effective foes of IS, a reputation they burnished in recent months by repelling an assault by the extremists on the town of Kobani on the Turkish border. The coalition carried out hundreds of airstrikes that helped the Kurds break the siege in January.

As the world tries to get a grip on the seemingly phantom group called ISIS, the ongoing ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia seems once again to have fallen apart as fighting continues to rage and Russia refuses to loosen its grip on Ukraine. On Wednesday, AP reported Russian courts refused to release Ukrainian prisoners whose fate has attracted global attention as Moscow’s City Court turned down an appeal by Nadezhda Savchenko’s lawyers leaving her to remain behind bars pending an investigation, according to the article, Russian court refuses to release Ukrainian prisoner. Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer captured by Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine in June and put in custody in Russia, is awaiting trial on charges of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine. She denies the accusations. Russia claims Savchenko voluntarily crossed the border into Russia before she was detained, but she said she was dragged across the border into the Russian custody. Savchenko has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 13 demanding her release, and her lawyers on Wednesday voiced concern about her condition. More than 11,000 people including prominent cultural figures have petitioned Russian President Vladimir Putin urging Savchenko’s release. Even while in jail, Savchenko was elected to the Ukrainian parliament and named a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The European Union and the United States have urged her release. Pavel Polityuk and Anton Zverev reported, Kiev Says It Can’t Withdraw Weaponry As Attacks On Ukrainian Troops Persist, the Ukrainian military said Monday it could not leave the front line in the east as required by the ceasefire due to pro-Russian separatists who advanced last week were attacking its position making it difficult to withdraw heavy weaponry. A truce to end fighting that has killed more than 5,600 people appeared stillborn last week after rebels ignored it to capture the strategic town of Debaltseve in a punishing defeat for Kiev. Nevertheless, the peace deal’s European sponsors still hold out hope it can be salvaged, now that the Moscow-backed separatists have achieved that objective. Spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said in a televised briefing: “Given that the positions of Ukrainian servicemen continue to be shelled, there can not yet be any talk of pulling back weapons.” Anatoly Stelmakh, another military spokesman, said rebel forces had attacked the village of Shyrokyne overnight, along the coast on the road to Mariupol, a port of half a million that Kiev fears could be the next big rebel target. Rebel commander Eduard Basurin denied the fighters had launched any such attack, and said the situation was calm. Nearly a million people have been driven from their homes by the war between pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine and government forces. Last week’s ceasefire was reached after the rebels abandoned a previous truce to launch their advance, arguing that previous battle lines had left their civilians vulnerable to government shelling. Kiev says the rebels are reinforcing near Mariupol for a possible assault on the port, the biggest city in the two rebellious provinces still in government hands. Defense analyst Dmytro Tymchuk, who has close ties to the military, said rebels had brought 350 fighters and 20 armored vehicles including six tanks to the area.

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.”

Islamic State Hits Syria Hard As U.S. and Allies Ramp up Offensive, Ukraine and Russia Make Progress and Catalonia Looks For Independence Following Scotland’s Vote

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On Thursday, Islamic State fighters besieged a Kurdish city in northern Syria after seizing 21 villages forcing neighboring Kurds in Turkey to call to arms followers to resist the group’s advance, Tom Perry and Laila Bassam report, Islamic State Seizes Syrian And Kurdish Villages In Major Assault. The attack on Ayn al-Arab, Kobani in Kurdish, came two days after U.S. military officials said the Syrian opposition would be needed in order for the Syrian Kurds to defeat the Islamic State. U.S. President Barack Obama last week said he would strike the radical Islamist group that used Syria as a base to advance its pan to reshape the Middle East according to the radical views of Sunni Islam. The United States is conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and now Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria. Ocalan Iso, deputy head of the Kurdish forces in Kobani, told Reuters via Skype, “We’ve lost touch with many of the residents living in the villages that ISIS (Islamic State) seized.” The Kurds appealed for military aid from other Kurdish group including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party who issued a call for young men in Turkey’s southeast to join the fight in norther Syria. On their website, in a statement, PKK said, “The youth of northern Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) should go to Kobani and take part in the historic, honorable resistance.” As night fell, a Reuters witness said 3,000 men, women and children waited at the Turkish border 6 miles from Kobani as Turkish forces stopped the crowd from crossing. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara: “We’re ready to help our brothers who are building up at the borders regardless of their ethnicity, religion and sect. But our priority is to deliver aid within Syria’s borders.” Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG, said Islamic State had encircled Kobani, telling Reuters via Skype.: “We call on world powers to move to halt this barbaric assault by ISIS.” Obama’s plan to expand support for groups fighting Islamic State in Syria focus on Sunni Muslim insurgents deemed moderate by Washington. On Friday, several thousand Syrians mostly Kurds crossed into Turkey finding refuge from the Islamic State militants who took over villages in northern Syria in the past 28 hours, the Associated Press reported, Syrian Kurds fleeing IS group cross into Turkey. In a statement on his website, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s largely autonomous Kurdish region, said the Islamic State’s “barbaric and terrorist acts” on the Kobani area in northern Syria “threaten the whole entirety of the Kurdish nation and it has targeted the honor, dignity and existence of our people.” He also said, “The ISIS terrorists perpetrate crimes and tragedies wherever they are, therefore they have to be hit and defeated wherever they are.” The main Kurdish forces in Syria called the People’s Protection Unit or YPK have been battling the Islamic State for more than a year, but is viewed with suspicion by mainstream Syrian rebels and there Western supporters due to their supposed link to President Bashar Assad’s government. Meanwhile, France on Friday conducted its first airstrikes against the Islamic State group destroying a logistics depot that it controlled, Iraqi and French officials said, according to Jamey Keaten, France strikes Islamic State group’s depot in Iraq. President Francois Hollande confirmed the hit in northern Iraq, saying, “Other operations will follow in the coming days with the same goal – to weaken this terrorist organization and come to the aid of the Iraqi authorities. There are always risks in taking up a responsibility. I reduced the risks to a minimum.” Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi military, said four French airstrikes hit the town of Zumar, killing dozens of extremist fighters. France has become the first foreign country to publicly add military aid to the United Stated airstrikes against the group. In Washington, Congress approved with a vote of 78-22 in the Senate, a bill already approved by the House 273-156 Wednesday, to allow funding for the government after the end of the budget year on Sept. 30 and allow the U.S. military to train and equip Syrian rebels for a war against ISIS on Thursday night, the Associated Press reported, Strong Senate vote for Obama on Syria rebel aid. In the Senate, 44 Democrats, 33 Republicans and one independent voted for the bill, while 9 Democrats, 12 Republicans and one independent opposed it. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told one House committee that Obama “is not going to order American combat ground forces into that area.” Obama’s general plan is to have U.S. troops train Syrian rebels at camps in Saudi Arabia, a process that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said could take a year. Kathleen Miles reports, Iranian Foreign Minister: America Helped Create ISIS And Is Taking The Wrong Approach … Again, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday that the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S created ISIS and foreign military presence will only create new terrorists. During a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations, Zarif said: “If you look at the essence of ISIS, it’s the product of foreign invasion. Foreign presence in any territory creates a dynamic for demagogues like ISIS to use the resentment in the population of being occupied.” He noted that the Islamic State began with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an Islamist leader of the anti-American insurgency in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion. He continued on to say: “As a principle, we do not believe that injection of foreign forces, either air or ground, solves our problem. We continue to have serious doubts about the willingness and ability of the U.S. to seriously engage this menace across the board –- and not just pick and choose where to engage. People need to be realistic. The so-called Syrians moderates — look at what’s happening on the ground — they control no territory. They can have no influence in fighting against either ISIS or the Syrian government. Syria is either controlled by the government or by ISIS. The U.S. cannot effectively fight against both at the same time.” Referring to the meeting in Paris and the U.S. led coalistion to fight ISIS, Zarif said: “Most participants in that meeting in one form or another provided support to ISIS … at the end of the day, creating a Frankenstein that came to haunt its creators. [Extremists] do not fly into Iraq. They come on foot from somewhere, and they don’t come from Iran. You can look at the addresses, and I believe every location was [represented] around the table in Paris.”

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Poroshenko renewed his call for American weaponry during his address to a joint meeting of Congress, expressing his appreciation for non lethal assistance from the U.S. but saying it was not enough to quell the violence in eastern Ukraine. the Associated Press reports, Ukraine’s pleas for lethal aid from US go unmet. Poroshenko, before heading to the White House to meet with Obama, said, “Blankets and night vision goggles are important, but one cannot win a war with a blanket.” The White House announced a new $46 million security package for Ukraine’s military that included counter mortar radar to detect incoming artillery fire, vehicles and patrol boats, body armor and heavy engineering equipment. In addition, $7 million will go to humanitarian organizations to assist people affected by the violence. Regarding his discussion with Obama and the desire for lethal American military assistance, Poroshenko told reporters: “I am satisfied with the level of our cooperation with the United States of America in the defense and security sector. I cannot say more, but I am satisfied.” In the Oval Office, Obama sat side by side with Poroshenko declaring, “The people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.” Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists agreed to a cease-fire on Sept. 5, but the deal has been violated repeatedly. Both sides have promised to regroup and continue fighting, if required. Poroshenko came to Washington seeking lethal military assistance to help push back the Russian forces. His request has support from some members of the Obama administration, as well as lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously Thursday to advance legislation that would authorize $350 million for military assistance including anti-tank weapons. Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who chairs the committee, said, “President Putin has upended the international order, and a slap on the wrist will not deter future Russian provocations. In the face of Russian aggression, Ukraine needs our steadfast and determined support, not an ambiguous response. ” Obama has argued more weapons into the conflict will not de-escalate the situation. However, Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said, “The more costly the Ukrainians can make any fighting for the Russians, the less Moscow’s interest in resuming the conflict.” While sanction from both the European Union and the United States have had a negative impact on Russia’s economy, they have done little to detour PUtin’s tactics. Meanwhile, back in Ukraine, Yuras Karmanau and Mstyslav Chernov report, Ukraine, Russia, Rebels Agree To Buffer Zone In Peace Talks, Saturday that sporadic artillery fire hit part of eastern Ukraine hours after negotiators agreed to create a buffer zone between government troops and pro-Russian militants by halting their advances, pulling back heavy weapons and withdrawing foreign fighters. Despite a ceasefire agreement that has been in place since Sept. 5, the fighting between the two sides has been deadly. Shelling could be heard in Donetsk and rebels opened fire on the village of Stakhanovets in the Luhansk region, according to the Interior Ministry. Ukrainian national security council spokesman Volodymyr Polyoviy said Saturday that about 20 rebels and one soldier had been killed in clashes but did not specify if those took place after the negotiators agreed on the buffer zone around 4 a.m. The deal reached by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the Moscow-backed rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says the two sides should stay where they were Friday and make no attempt to advance. According to the report: “Under the deal, each party must pull back artillery of 100 millimeters (about 4 inches) or larger at least 15 kilometers (9 miles), setting up a buffer zone that would be 30 kilometers (19 miles) wide. The longer-range artillery systems are to be pulled even farther back to make sure the parties can’t reach one another. The deal also specifically bans flights by combat aircraft over the area of conflict and setting up new minefields.” NATO’s top general, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, hopes the agreement announced Saturday to create a buffer zone between Ukrainian government troops and the pro-Russian militants will succeed in stabilizing the situation. On Friday, Reuters reports, US, Canada send jets to intercept Russian aircraft, that U.S. and Canadian fighter jets intercepted Russian aircraft flying near U.S. and Canadian air space this week, a military spokesman confirmed. On Wednesday, six Russian aircraft entered the United States’ air defense identification zone (ADIZ), an area beyond sovereign U.S. airspace, according to a statement from NORAD, a U.S. and Canadian aerospace command, and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). In response, “two Alaskan-based F-22 fighter jets acting under the authority of NORAD identified and intercepted two Russian IL-78 refueling tankers, two Russian Mig-31 fighter jets and two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the ADIZ, west of Alaska,” the statement said. On Thursday, Canadian fighter jets intercepted two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the Canadian ADIZ. John Cornelio, a spokesman for NORAD and NORTHCOM, said that such intercepts had happened over 50 times in the last five years as Russian aircraft conducted exercises.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s vote for independence from Britain ended with voters resoundingly rejecting independence, but helped pave the way for a possible vote for Catalonia who wants independence from Spain, Jil Lawless and Danica Kirka report, Scots reject independence in historic vote. The historic vote and referendum ultimately prevented the rupture of a 307 year old union with England and brought a sigh of relief to Britain’s political establishment including Prime Minister David Cameron, who faced demands for his resignation if Scotland broke away. The vote on Thursday saw an unprecedented turn out of 85 percent with 55 percent against independence and 45 percent in favor. Alistair Darling, head of the no campaign, said Friday from Glasgow: “We have chosen unity over division. Today is a momentous day for Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole.” Cameron from his Downing Street office lived up to his promise to Scotland to give new powers on taxes, spending and welfare and the new plans will be agreed upon by November with draft legislation by January. He added, “We will ensure that those commitments are honored in full. We have heard the voice of Scotland, now the voices of millions in England must be heard.” Cameron also said people in other parts of the U.K. should also have more rights to govern their own affairs, particularly in England. The No campaign won the capital city, Edinburgh, by a margin of 61 percent to 38 percent and triumphed by 59 percent to 41 percent in Aberdeen, the country’s oil center. The Yes campaign won Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, but it was not enough. The vote to keep the U.K. together helps it avoid substantial loses to its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find an new base for its nuclear arsenal housed in Scotland. The no vote also allowed the United Kingdom to keep its influence within international institutions including 28 nation European Union, NATO and the United Nations. Additionally, Britain avoids a prolonged period of financial insecurity that were predicted by Scotland’s independence. AOL reports, Catalonia pushes for independence following Scottish vote, hours after the vote on Friday, Spain’s Catalonia region took steps toward holding their own independence referendum. Catalonia’s regional parliament authorized a consultation vote on independence for the region with a presumptive November 9 date. However, the Spanish government condemned the possible vote as illegal. Due to Spain’s painful financial crisis, nearly two million people lined the streets of Barcelona a week earlier in support of independence. The decades-old independence movement has also been bolstered by Scotland’s referendum. Catalonia’s President Artur Mas told reporters he admired the U.K.’s commitment to a democratic referendum and expected the same process from Madrid. “It is more important to hold the referendum than the independence. … This represents high-quality democracy.” But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who opposes Catalan independence, has been quick to congratulate Scotland for choosing not to break with the U.K. Catalan independence faces a battle due to the Spanish constitution that requires the authorization by Spanish parliament for any referendum. Spain will most likely take the Catalan parliament’s new law to the country’s constitutional court that favors Madrid over Barcelona. If held, Catalonia’s planned referendum would not result in legal separation from Spain, but provide President Mas with a political mandate to pressure Madrid for independence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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