On Wednesday, President Barack Obama called on African leaders to attack the health crisis, security challenges and government corruption that has crippled the continents economic advancement as he concluded the White House African Summit, the Associated Press reported, Obama, African Leaders Confront Continent’s Crises. Also in attendance was former President George W. Bush who launched a $15 billion HIV/AIDS initiative while in office and made public health issues in Africa a priority since leaving office. Bush’s institute partnered with first lady Michelle Obama to host a daylong event for the African leaders’ spouses. Bush, who lives in Dallas, said: “There’s not many things that convince me to come back to Washington. The first lady’s summit, of course, is one.” While Bush has his African legacy in his initiative, Obama has been trying to build his own and the U.S. African summit is seen as a symbol of that start as he brought 50 countries together for three days of talks. Moving away from humanitarian aid, Obama announced $33 billion in new U.S. commitment to bolster investments in Africa fr0m the private sector. According to the Associated Press: “African nations are still struggling with the HIV epidemic, malaria, and the current outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. Government corruption remains a persistent problem. And a surge in violent extremism, particularly in North Africa and the Sahel region, has sparked international concern.” Obama added: “Today we can focus on how we can continue to strengthen Africa’s capacity to meet transitional threats and in so doing make all of our nations more secure.” During the private security session, leaders were expected to talk about Boko Haram, the Violent Islamic group that kidnapped 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria earlier this year. Meanwhile, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush, who hosted an event last summer in Tanzania, met with the African first ladies to talk about investments in education, health and economic development.
Meanwhile, back in Western Africa, on Tuesday global health experts stated that the Ebola outbreak is “out of control” and the international community has no organized plan to address it, Kathlenn Miles reports, Health Expert: ‘No Strategic Plan’ For Controlling Ebola Outbreak. Laurie Garrett, senior global health fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, said Tuesday during a CFR conference call: “We’re now in a perfect storm. There is no strategic plan for how this epidemic will be brought under control. People believe that there’s a giant World Health Organization office in Geneva stocked full of specialized equipment and talented health care workers. Not only do we not have any such thing –- the WHO is essentially bankrupt.” Garrett added that the largest response group, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) who has 550 staff member on the ground, has issued plea after plea in recent days for assistance due to fatigue as more than 60 health workers have been infected with the virus. Garret said: “(health workers) in a state of seige — feeling that the population despises and loathes them. Rumors are rife that they are actually deliberately infecting people, cutting off people’s arms and selling them on some alleged international market, and even that there are health care workers who are cannibals.” The need now is for an agreed upon international leader to fight the epidemic and tale on the $1.2 billion deficit or face possible chaos, according to Garrett. WHO spokeswoman Christy Feig confirmed the deficit to HuffPost, while on Monday, the World Bank pledged $200 million to fight the epidemic leaving the WHO short $78 million. Garrett criticized the African Summit in Washington due to the act the 50 leaders at the summit should be discussing how to mobilize more health workers, and consider closing borders and canceling flights adding: “We should be taking advantage of this remarkable coincidental moment, but as far as I can tell, it’s not on the agenda.” The WHO will meet on Wednesday in Geneva at a special summit where experts will decide if the epidemic should be called an international public health emergency which, if designated, will force the international community to try to develop vaccines, implement border checks, give instructions to flight carriers and more. The Ebola virus, which is spread through bodily fluids, has killed 932 people since February in four West African countries and caused 1,711 cases making it the largest outbreak of the virus in history with no cure. The death rate is at 70 percent and its epicenter has shifted to Liberia and Sierra Leone from its outbreak in the forests of Guinea with two confirmed cases in Nigeria, according to Garrett. Additionally, Saudi Arabia officials said a man who tested for the Ebola virus died on Sunday after returning from Sierra Leone, where 286 people have died from Ebola, while hospitalized in Jiddah after showing signs of the viral hemorrhagic fever. While on Wednesday, Spain’s Defense Ministry said a medically equipped Airbus 310 is ready to fly to Liberia to recover a Spanish missionary priest who has the virus, but it is not known when the plane will leave, Bashir Adigun and Krista Larson report, WHO: Ebola death toll reaches 932; 1,700 cases. According to Dan Kedmey, Sierra Leone Dispatches Troops to Enforce Ebola Quarantine, Sierra Leone has dispatched 750 soldiers Wednesday to enforce new quarantine measures as the virus’ global death toll increase. Liberia’s president orders a 30 day state of emergency due to the Ebola outbreak late Wednesday, according to a radio broadcast. A Reuters reports in Monrovia reported that relatives of Ebola victims dumped infected bodies in the streets to avoid quarantines as forces are deployed to maintain order. While some of the numerous untested Ebola drugs will go into human trials to test safety and effectiveness this years, none will be available for widespread production for several years.
Switching to the ongoing Middle East crisis, talks in Cairo for an long term truce continued between Israel and the Palestinian side (Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Liberation Organization) as many Palestinians returned to devastation in Gaza but no fighting, according to CNN, Talks to extend Gaza truce under way in Cairo. From Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his country’s troops for their performance, blamed Hamas for civilian casualties and hoped that the Cairo talks could allow for broader peace. On Wednesday, a Palestinian delegate, Qais Abdelkarim, told CNN that the delegations had yet to reach an agreement to extend the ceasefire. An Israeli government official, who asked to remain anonymous, told CNN Thursday regarding a ceasefire extension: “The current one is unconditional, and from our point of view, it can be extended unconditionally.” On Wednesday Obama weighed in on the matter: “I’m very glad that we have, at least temporarily, achieved a cease-fire. The question now is, how do we build on this temporary cessation of violence and move forward in a sustainable way? I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.” Nasser Judeh, the foreign ministers of Jordan, which borders Israel and the West Bank, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “The problem is that — regardless of the blame game that’s taking place right now and it usually does happen after every Gaza escalation — it’s the people of Gaza who are suffering from the siege, from a disastrous humanitarian situation, civilian deaths, destruction. I think we all have to collectively think about how we can rescue them from this.” The United Nations reports around 520,000 Gaza residents were displaced which is 29% of the territory’s 1.8 million inhabitants, more than 10,00 homes were destroyed or severely damaged and the Palestinian Health Ministry reports nearly 1,900 Palestinians were killed in Gaza during the conflict with the U.N. estimating that about 70% of the dead were civilians. The immediate challenge for residents is to secure water, food and shelter. The U.N. says water is scarce and there is only two to four hours of electricity a day. Pierre Krahenbuhl, UNRWA’s commissioner general, told CNN: “We will be very closely following not only the needs of people who stay at our schools (which house about 270,000), but also those who are returning to their home and may find themselves in very difficult situations in the days and weeks to come.” Nachman Shai, an opposition member of the Israeli parliament, said talking isn’t the only thing Israel needs to do referring to the idea of disarming Hamas: “I’m not sure that we accomplished the mission. I think we have to do much more. If you ask me, the next phase in this mission is to build new relations between us and the Palestinians.” Netanyahu did agree with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that realignment could present opportunities to use the Cairo talks fro broader discussions: “I think he’s right that there are opportunities now, perhaps opportunities that we’ve not seen before with the realignment of important parties in the Middle East, to be able to fashion a new reality, one more conducive to the end of violence, the establishment of calm, sustainable peace, or at least a sustainable quiet that can lead to other things.” Palestininan negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN Wednesday that the conflict cannot be resolved through violence and Mohammed Shtayyeh, a senior negotiator for the PLO, states Israeli’s call to demilitarize Gaza is balckmail. Hamas leaders want to negotiate an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza or find another body to control the borders. U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told CNN’s Tapper: “We don’t negotiate with Hamas. We don’t talk to Hamas. But we certainly want to be there to support an effort to negotiate over these key issues that have been so troubling in the region for so many years.”
On Wednesday, as fighting continues not far from the Malaysian Flight 17 crash site in Eastern Ukraine, the Dutch prime minster has halted recovery efforts to find the remaining bodies as it is too dangerous. Donetsk City Council confirmed three people were killed and five wounded on overnight shelling in eastern Ukraine as government forces tighten their hold on the pro-Russian rebel stronghold, the Associated Press reported, 3 killed, 5 wounded in east Ukraine fighting. On the council’s website Thursday, a statement detailed that several residential buildings were damage 4 miles from the city’s center due to shelling. As rebels are pushed back by Kiev forces, many fear that Russian may intervene as Western Leader accuse Russia of massing troops at the border, a claim Russia denies. Meanwhile, Toby Sterling reports, Dutch premier halts search for Ukraine victims, Wednesday Mark Rutte, at a news conference, praised the efforts of the international recovery mission and promised victims’ families the search will resume when Ukraine is more stable. Rutte added that before the international team was able to reach the site due to fighting in the area the local authorities immediately after the crash conducted a thorough search of the area with 800 volunteers and found many bodies in the first days and have been identified in the Netherlands. As for the cause of the crash, Rutte said the investigation is continuing as the Dutch Safety Board spokesman on Wednesday states the preliminary findings due Aug. 17 won’t be ready for several weeks after that date. The reason, according to Wim van der Weegen via phone interview, is due to the difficulty investigators had reaching the site.
While Ukraine continues to struggles to end the fighting and the families of Flight 17 must wait longer to find their loved ones, Russia, who has been sanctions over its alleged action in Ukraine, has banned all Western Food imports in retaliation. Jim Heintz reports, Report: Russia to block US agricultural imports, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted an official of Russia’s sanitary oversight agency as saying all imports of agricultural product from the U.S. to Russia will be banned. President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered state authorities to make a list of agricultural products from countries who imposed the sanctions on Russia with a ban or limit for up to one year. On Thursday, Russia officially banned most food imports from the West in retaliation that will cost Western farmers billions of dollars and lead to empty shelves in Russian cities, the Associate Press reports, Russia bans Western food over Ukraine sanctions. The decisions by President Vladimir Putin shows he will no bow to international pressure over Ukraine and will strike back as Russia pursues its course in Ukraine. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in a televised Cabinet meeting that the ban covers all imports of meat, fish, milk and milk products and fruit and vegetables from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway. He said: “Until the last moment, we hoped that our foreign colleagues would understand that sanctions lead to a deadlock and no one needs them. But they didn’t and the situation now requires us to take retaliatory measures.” Large cities may be hit the hardest like Moscow where imported food fills 60 to 70 percent of the market. Medvedev said Russia may carry their ban further and prevent Western carriers from flying over Russia on flights from Asia which would significantly swell the costs and increase flight times. The move is retaliation against EU sanctions levied on the low cost Russian airline Dobrolet. Medvedev hopes the ban will make the West revise their policy and stop trying to pressure Russia with sanctions. Another import from the U.S. will not be banned , according to Heintz, Edward Snowden Gets Permission To Stay In Russia For 3 More Years: Lawyer, as NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden on Thursday was granted permission to stay in Russia for three more years. Analtoly Kucherena, his lawyer, quoted by the Russian news agency as saying Snowden was not granted political asylum but residency for three more years.
Back in the Middle East, the Islamic State made another push into Northern Iraq leaving many Iraq’s the only two options, to flee their towns and villages or face Sunni militants who are notorious for beheading. According to Ahmed Rasheed and Michael Georgy, Iraq’s Yazidis Face Extremist Militants Or Perilous Mountains, the Yazidis of Sinjar are especially concerned since the Islamic state, deemed excessive by al Qaeda, see the minority ethnic group as devil worshipers making them prime targets for the sword. Witnesses and the United Nations reports that tens of thousands fled the weekend assault on Sinjar and are now surrounded after Sunni militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on Kurdish forces who held the town for three years. Residents said 50 people were killed after the Sunni militants, who declared parts of Iraq and Syria a caliphate, arrived in Sinjar late Saturday and 20 were killed trying to defend the town. Many panicked Yazidis tried to find water and food for their children before leaving in a rush to the surrounding mountains, while some did not escape. Vian Dakheel, a member of the Yazidi community parliament, said tearfully: “The innocent people of Sinjar were slaughtered. Men were killed and women have been taken as slaves by Islamic State fighters.” Dakheel said some could not withstand the weekend offensive and 70 children between one month and four died of thirst and hunger. The U.N. children’s agency said families fleeing the area needed assistance including the 25,000 children stranded in the mountains. While the Islamist State sets its sights on new territory, no sign Iraq’s bickering politicians will be able to share power anytime soon leaving the government powerless in countering the insurgency. Fortunately, as Reuters reported, UN Rescues Some Refugees From Sinjar Mountain, some of the thousands trapped by Islamic State militants on Sinjar mountain in northern Iraq have been rescued in the last 24 hours leading up to Thursday announcement by a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. David Swanson via phone from Iraq said: “We’re just receiving the information right now. We’ve just heard that people over the last 24 hours have been extracted and the U.N. is mobilizing resources to ensure that these people are assisted on arrival. This is a tragedy of immense proportions, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Over the past couple of days, almost 200,000 people have made their way northwards to Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Dohuk governorate, or to disputed border areas inside Ninewah. We have also received reports that thousands more may have fled across the border into Syria, and are waiting to cross back into Iraq, but I have no concrete confirmation of that. Many of the displaced are in immediate need of essential life-saving humanitarian items, including water, food, shelter and medicine.” A spokesman for the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF in Geneva, Christopher Tidey, said: “We have received reports of dehydrated children and we know that at least 40 children have died.” Another group, Iraqi Christians, have long suffered more than any other group since the Islamic State took power as the region’s Christian population is around 5% and dropping, according to Yasmin Hafiz, ‘Vicar Of Baghdad’ Canon Andrew White Refuses To Leave Iraq, Despite Christian Persecution By ISIS. In Mosul, Iraq, Islamic State distributed flyers in July giving them three options: convert to Islam, pay a fine, or be killed. Many of their abandoned homes now say in black lettering, “Property of the Islamic State.” Canon Andrew White refuses to leave Baghdad, despite the danger, as St. George’s is Iraq’s last Anglican church. He estimates his numbers at 6,000 people, but in the last decade over 1,200 have been killed, CNN’s Arwa Damon reports.
On Thursday, a long over due ruling three and a half decades after the genocidal rule of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge ended has finally been handed down Thursday by a U.N. backed tribunal. Todd Pitman and Sopheng Cheang report, Cambodia tribunal convicts Khmer Rouge leaders, two top leaders of the former regime received life sentences for crimes against humanity during the country’s 1970s terror period that left 2 million people dead. The histroic verdicts were announced against Khieu Samphan, the regime’s 83-year-old former head of state, and Nuon Chea, its 88-year-old chief ideologue – the only two surviving leaders of the regime left to stand trial, Pitman and Cheang. The tribunal’s chief judge said both men were guilty of “extermination encompassing murder, political persecution, and other inhumane acts comprising forced transfer, enforced disappearances and attacks against human dignity.” The rulings can be appeals, however, Nil Nonn told the court that “given the gravity of the crimes” both would remain in detention. Nearly a quarter of the population died under the Khmer Rouge about 1.7 million people through a combination starvation, medical neglect, overwork and execution when the group held power in 1975-79. Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen called it “a historic day for both the Cambodian people and the court. The victims have waited 35 years for legal accountability, and now that the tribunal has rendered a judgment, it is a clear milestone.” According to the article: “The current trial began in 2011 with four senior Khmer Rouge leaders; only two remain. Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary died in 2013, while his wife, Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, was deemed unfit to stand trial due to dementia in 2012. The group’s top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.” khieu Samphan acknowledged the mass killings, but testified in 2011 he was a figure head with no authority. Nuon Chea, bother no.2 for Pol Pot’s trusted deputy, denied responsibility claiming Vietnamese soldiers killed Cambodians en masse. Due to poor health and advanced age, the case was divided into two trials in an effort to render justice before they die. Both men will be tried in September or October for charges of genocide, according to Olsen, and could take a year to complete. Survivors of the regime had mixed reactions to the verdicts. 54 year old Chea Sophon, whose brother was killed during the Khmer Rouge era and spend years in a hard labor camp building dams and working in rice fields, said: “The crimes are huge, and just sentencing them to life in jail is not fair. But what can I do? I just accept the verdict. Even if they die many times over, it would not be enough.” While a 58 year old female survivor, Khuth Vouern, said she felt a sense of relief that justice was served: “I have been waiting for this day for many years. Now, for the first time, my mind feels at least some degree of peace.”