Israeli Citizens Flee the Border, Ukraine Faces New Challenges, and New Threats to U.S. Security

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Tens of thousands of Israelis are fleeing their homes near the border of Gaza as fear and frustration grow in a war between Israel and Hamas that appears to have no end in site. The government on Monday has offered assistance in the first large scale voluntary evacuation in the eight week war with the school year fast approaching, Ian Deitch reports, Gaza attacks triggers Israeli exodus from border. Officials estimate 70 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of the farming communities along the Gaza border have left including hundreds on Monday. According to Gaza officials, the fighting has killed 2,100 Palestinians, leveled thousands of buildings and left tens of thousands displaced. The death toll on the Israeli side has remained low due to air raid sirens, bomb shelters and the Iron Dome missile defense system. In a TV interview Sunday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said, “It is their right to leave, and we will assist them with temporary solutions. The state of Israel will not run away from terror organizations. It fights terror organizations.” Israeli education officials said the children will be absorbed into areas schools, but Tamir Idan, a regional council head in southern Israel, said schools will not open next week if rocket fire persists. The fighting in Gaza has caused more disruption to students as officials have delayed the start of classes which should of started on Sunday.The Israeli military said it carried out 65 airstrikes Monday, while the Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel. Palestinian health officials said seven people were killed, while one Israeli was wounded by Palestinian fire.

On Tuesday, meanwhile in Ukraine, Ukrainian military reportedly captured a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed into Ukrainian territory on a mission, but Moscow claims they ended up there by mistake, Andrei Makhovsky and Alessandra Prentice report, Ukraine Releases Footage Of Captured Russian Soldiers. In addition, the military reports pro-Russian separatist forces were shelling the town of Novoazovsk and buildings were ablaze with 12 Ukrainian soldiers killed and 19 wounded in the past 24 hours, according to military spokesman Andriy Lysenko. Earlier, the security services released video footage claiming that it shows testimonies from Russian paratroopers detained by the Ukrainian government forces while fighting with pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine. The video provides the strongest evidence so far to back up claims by Kiev that Russia is involved in the conflict and the intensified fighting in the east overshadowed the meeting of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in the Belarussian capital Minsk. Russia denies giving military help and a Russian defense source, quoted by RIA Novosti, said the servicemen had strayed into Ukrainian territory by mistake during border patrol. Lysenko in a briefing stated, “It wasn’t a mistake, but a special mission they were carrying out.” In the footage posted to Kiev’s Anti-Terrorist Operation Facebook page, one of the soldiers who identified himself as Ivan Milchakov listed his personal details including the name of the paratroop regiment based in the Russian Town of Kostroma. In the video, he said: “I did not see where we crossed the border. They just told us we were going on a 70-kilometer march over three days. Everything is different here, not like they show it on television. We’ve come as cannon fodder.” Another man named Sergeant Aleksei Generalov said: “Stop sending in our boys. Why? This is not our war. And if we weren’t here, none of this would have happened. They would have sorted things out with the government themselves.” Social network pages appear to corroborate the men’s story that they are active in the Russian military. The Russian soldiers were detained with personal documents and weapons near Amvrosiyivka in the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian state security service reports. Lysenko said Russian Mi-24 helicopters has fired on a border post Monday killing four border guards, while rebel forces backed by an armored column allegedly moved across the border from Russia attacked Novoazovsk on Monday aiming to open up a new front. In a Facebook post, Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said: “Officially they are on military exercises in various corners of Russia. In reality they are involved in military aggression against Ukraine.” The same day, Tuesday, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine sat down for talks meeting fact to face for the first time since June to discuss the fighting that has engulfed Ukraine’s east. Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, Putin sits down with Ukrainian president for talks, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko were joined by the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan and three senior officials from the European Union in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. As talks began, Poroshenko said: “The fate of my country and Europe is being decided here in Minsk today. The interests of Donbass (eastern Ukraine) have been and will be taken into account.” Opening the meeting, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko urged both sides to “discard political ambitions and not to seek political dividend.” Ukraine wants the rebels to hand back the territory they captured in eastern Ukraine, while Putin wants to retain leverage over the mostly Russian speaking region so Ukraine does not join NATO or the European Union. THe fighting in eastern Ukraine began in April and has killed 2,000 people, 726 Ukrainian servicemen and forced 340,000 to flee, according to the U.N.

While internationally Ukraine has faced many challenges and criticism from rivals and allies, internal conflict has forced Poroshenko to dissolve parliament and call for new elections to take place quickly. Jim Heintz reports, Ukrainian president dissolves parliament, Ukraine’s president on Monday announced in a statement via his website that he has dissolved parliament and called for early elections on October 26. He said the move was in coherence with the Ukrainian constitution commenting that the ruling coalition collapsed several weeks ago. Poroshenko stated: “Many deputies who are in the Rada (parliament) are direct sponsors or accomplices, that is to say allies of the militant separatists….I have decided to prematurely end the authority of parliament.” Under the law, the election must be held within 60 days of the decree being published.

Back in the Middle East, the Associated Press reported, The US has begun surveillance flights over Syria, the White House and U.S. officials have announce surveillance flights over Syria following President Barack Obama approval, but has yet to approve military actions inside Syria due to lack of intelligence on the militants. Pentagon officials have drafted potential options for the president that include airstrikes, while one official said the administration needs reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights important to obtain data. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday the U.S. wants more clarity on the militants in Syria. Dempsey explained: “Clearly the picture we have of ISIS on the Iraqi side is a more refined picture. The existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side, we have … some insights into that but we certainly want to have more insights into that as we craft a way forward.” The U.S. began launching strikes against the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this month with Obama citing the threat to American personnel in the country and the humanitarian crisis in the north, while top Pentagon officials said the only way the threat from militants can be eliminated is to attack the group in Syria as well. The president has tried to avoid getting involved in Syria’s long standing bloody civil war, however, due to the execution of American journalist James Foley in Syria and the group threatening to kill other U.S. citizens held in Syria, the president has changed his tune. Dempsey said the U.S. has been meeting with allies in the region to help develop a better understanding of the threat and believes those talks are setting “the conditions for some kind of coalition to form.” Dempsey believes key allies in the region will join the U.S. in quashing the Islamic State group including Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Prior to the airstrikes in Iraq, the U.S. had already stepped up air surveillance of the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this year. In addition the administration run some surveillance missions over Syria when an attempted mission to rescue Foley and other U.S. hostages failed earlier this summer. A top Syrian official said Monday any U.S. airstrikes without consent from Syria would be considered an aggression. Speaking in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters his government is ready to cooperate and coordinate with any side including the U.S. or join any regional or international alliance against the Islamic group. However, any action taken would be coordinated with the Syrian government adding: “Any strike which is not coordinated with the government will be considered as aggression.” He said Damascus has long warned of the threat of terrorism and the need to cut off resources and funding, but no one listened. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the west will “have to choose what is more important: to change the regime and satisfy personal antipathies with the risk that the situation will crumble, or find pragmatic ways to join efforts against the common threat, which is the same for all of us – terrorism.” Moscow and Damascus have been close allies for decades providing it will weapons and funding to help support Assad through the current conflict. Mustafa Alani, the director of the security and defense department at the Gulf Research Center in Geneva, said: “The Syrian government is trying to say they are on the same side as the international community. The old claim from Day 1 that the Syrians have tried to make is that they are fighting pure terrorism. There’s no revolution, no rebels, no opposition. I don’t see this sort of call being acceptable, especially on the regional level. The Americans might find themselves forced to cooperate under the table with the Syrians. But I don’t think Arab countries will accept Syria as a member of the club fighting the Islamic State.” Referring to the failed attempt at rescuing U.S. citizens held by the militant group, al-Moallem said: “Had there been prior coordination that operation would not have failed.” The minister did condemn the killing of James Foley, but asked: “Has the West ever condemned the massacres by the Islamic State … against our armed forces or citizens?”

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Pleads for Peace Amid Fighting in Ukraine and Gaza, While the Ebola Epidemic Worsens in Western Africa

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Pope Francis marked the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I by making an impassioned plea for people to welcome dialogue rather than violence to overcome conflicts and “not repeat the mistakes of the past.” According to the Associate Press, Pope: World War I should teach us: No more war, Francis cited the current war between Israelis and Palestinians as well as Iraq and Ukraine. On Sunday he told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square that he was thinking of the children who have been killed, maimed or orphaned by war and who “for toys, have the debris of war.” He added, “I beg you, stop. I ask you with all my heart” and cited World War I era Pope Benedict XV’s denunciation of the Great War as a “useless massacre.” Francis said: “Everything is lost with war, nothing is lost with peace. Never more war.”

Meanwhile, Hamas on Sunday agreed to a 24 hour truce in Gaza after rejecting initially a similar Israeli offer as fighting resumed and the two sides fought over the terms of the lull that international diplomats hoped would turn into a more sustainable truce, according to Aron Heller and Ibrahim Barzak, Hamas agrees to 24-hour holiday truce in Gaza war. Late Saturday, after Israel announced the 24 hour truce, Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel causing Israel to resume their offensive aimed at destroying tunnels and rocket launchers. However, hours after fighting resumed, Hamas said it would be willing to abide by a new 24 hour humanitarian truce ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The three day Eid al-Fitr holiday begins on Monday or Tuesday depending on the sighting of the new moon. Shortly after the truce was to begin, warning sirens wailed in southern Israel and the military said three rickets landed in the area with no casualties or damage. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, did not say if Israel would hold its fire during the time Hamas requested, but would continue destroying tunnels as this was the primary goal of the offensive in Gaza. In the outdoor markets of the Jebaliya refugee camp, venders set up stands with clothes and shoes, but said business was slow. According to Palestinian health officials, the 20 day war killed more than 1,060 Palestinians many were civilians and Israel lost 43 soldiers, two civilians, and a Thai workers. In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said: “The military is aiming its fire at terror sites, but if citizens are accidentally harmed Hamas is responsible for this since it once again violated an offer for a humanitarian lull that Israel accepted.” Before the holiday ceasefire announcement, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said any truce must include a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and tens of thousands of displaced people be allowed to return to their homes. However, Israel’s acceptance of the ceasefire extension was based on its soldiers being able to continue to destroy the tunnels under the Gaza Israel border used by Hamas. In the West Bank, nine Palestinians have been killed due to protest and clashes in recent days between stone throwers and Israeli security forces. In Gaza, the local Red Cross office said its building in Khan Younis was attacked by people who lost family members in the fighting and the lack of support by emergency services. Each side blames the other for why the fighting resumed on Sunday with Hamas saying Israel’s “lack of commitment” is the problem and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that Hamas could not be trusted after violating ceasefire efforts.

While Israeli and Gaza brace for more causalities, Ukraine continues to try to take back Donetsk and gain control of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash site. Ukrainian officials said their forces have advanced to the outskirts of Donetsk on Saturday trying to take back the Pro-Russia rebel stronghold, according to Ayse Weiting and David McHugh, Ukraine launches offensive to retake Donetsk. The move comes as Ukrainian forces in recent weeks have been successful in retaking control of territory from the rebels. However, Russia has become more involved in the fighting it seems with the U.S. and Ukraine accusing Moscow of moving heavy artillery across the border to the rebels. Ukrainian national security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said once they take Horlivka, where Ukrainian forces are outside of now, “the direct route is open for the forces of the anti-terrorist operation to the capital of the Donbass region – the city of Donetsk. The approaches to Donetsk are being blocked so that the terrorists do not get the chance to receive ammunition, reinforcements or equipment.” About 35 miles to the east, the site where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down was eerily empty and a full investigation still hasn’t started due to security risks posed by fighting. On Saturday, another 38 coffins carrying victims left Kharkiv on two military planes bound for the Netherlands for identification and investigation with the Dutch government later identifying the first victim who was a Dutch national. Officials said the two flight took the last of the 227 coffins containing victims that had been brought to Kharkiv, a government controlled city, by refrigerated train. The intensified fighting on Sunday to gain control of the Malaysia Airlines crash site between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian armed forces caused a team of Dutch and Australian police officers to postpone their trip to start searching for evidence and the remaining bodies, according to Dmitry Lovetsky and Peter Leonard, Fighting intensifies near MH17 crash site. In Washington, the State Department released satellite images which it says show that Russia fired rockets more than seven miles into Eastern Ukraine. In a statement Sunday, the Donetsk regional government said at least 13 people including two children were killed in fighting in Horlivka and another five people were killed in clashes in a northern suburb of Donetsk. In addition evidence that rockets were fired into Ukraine from Russia, the United States said it had seen powerful rocket systems moving closer to the border.

Meanwhile, another kind of battle rages on in Western Africa as the Ebola epidemic worsens. On Saturday, Nigerian health authorities race to stop the spread of Ebola after a man sick with the virus brought it by plan to Lagos, Africa’s second largest city with 21 million people, Heather Murdock reports, Nigeria death shows Ebola can spread by air travel. The traveler from Liberia boarded an international flight with a stop over in the country of Tago to Lagos casing officials’ to be concerned about other passengers who could spread the disease beyond Africa because of poor inspections of passengers and Ebola is similar to other diseases. Officials in Togo wen ton high alert after learning that Ebola could spread to a fifth country. Ebola has already killed 672 people across West Africa before the Nigeria case was announced making it the deadliest outbreak on record of Ebola and now it threatens Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Dr. Unni Krishnan, Plan International’s Disaster Response and Preparedness Head, said, “Lagos is completely different from other cities because we’re talking about millions of people.” International airports in Nigeria are screening passengers arriving from foreign countries for symptoms of Ebola, according to Yakubu Dati, the spokesman for Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria. In addition., health officials are working with ports and land borders to inform people what to look for and what to do. Nigerian airports are setting up holding rooms to ready in case an Ebola victim lands in Nigeria. Health experts also say that airports in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, who all are dealing with current Ebola outbreaks, have taken preventative measure that are not completely foolproof. Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for the Liberian Ministry of Finance arrived in Nigeria Tuesday and was detained by health authorities suspecting he might have Ebola. On Friday, a blood test from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital confirmed Sawyer died of Ebola earlier that day. Nearly 50 passengers on the flight are being monitored for signs of Ebola but not isolated, according to an employee at Nigeria’s Ministry of Heath. Ebola is highly contagious and kills more than 70 percent of the people infected. Sawyer’s sister died of Ebola in Liberia, but he claimed to have no contact with her, Liberian officials report. The Associated Press reported Saturday an American doctor working with Ebola patients in Liberia tested positive. North Carolina based Samaritan’s Purse issued a news release Saturday saying Dr. Kent Brantly tested positive for the disease and was being treated in Monrovia, Liberia. Meliisa Strickland, a spokeswoman, said Brantly began serving in Africa as part of a post residency program before the Ebola outbreak began and at one point his wife and children were living with him in African until they moved back to the U.S. On Sunday, Jonathan Paye-Layleh reported, Official: Ebola kills senior doctor in Liberia, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, one of Liberia’s most high profile doctors, is the first Liberian doctor to die in the outbreak that has killed 129 people in the West African nation and a Ugandan doctor working in the country died earlier this month. The World Health Organization also confirmed that 319 people in Guinea and 224 in Sierra Leone have died. News of Brisbane’s death first began circulating on Saturday, a national holiday marking Liberia’s independence in 1847. According to Paye-Layleh: “President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf used her Independence Day address to discuss a new task force to combat Ebola. Information Minister Lewis Brown said the task force would go ‘from community to community, from village to village, from town to town’ in order to increase awareness.” Heath workers are at risk of contracting thr disease which spreads through contact with bodily fluids. Experts believe the outbreak could have started as far back as January in southeast Guinea though the first confirmed cases happened in March.

Ukrainian Ceasefire Ends Prompting Ukraine to Attack the Rebels

Ukrainian troops stand on top of vehicles as they leave a site of a battle in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, on Friday, June 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

On Tuesday, Ukrainian forces in the eastern region, with the assistance of air and artillery strikes, struck at the pro-Russian separatist bases shortly after the announcement President Petro Poroshenko made to end the ceasefire, Reuters reports (Ukraine Forces Attack Rebel Positions After Ceasefire Ends by Richard Balmforth and Natalia Zinets). The defense ministry, after confirming that Ukrainian forces had launched attacks from air and land, said, “The terrorists’ plan to significantly escalate armed confrontation has been disrupted and the threat of losses to the civilian population and service personnel has been liquidated.” The number of casualties are not immediately known. Poroshenko, who accuses Russia of aiding the rebels and prolonging the conflict, decided not to renew the 10 day unilateral ceasefire after a four way call with German and French leaders and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. In an early morning statement, Poroshenko stated that Ukraine had not seen “concrete steps for de-escalating the situation, including strengthening controls on the border.” In a statement from Moscow, the foreign ministry stated, “There is an impression that the change in Kiev’s position … could not have come about without influence from abroad, despite the position of leading EU member states.” Sergei Naryshkin, an ally of Putin and the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, commented, “We think that without a truce, without the start of dialog, it is simply impossible to restore peace, justice and law and order in Ukraine.” Poroshenko, in office only three weeks, has been dealing with increasing anger at home and from new political establishments over military losses and calling for more forceful action against the rebels. A tweet by the Ukrainian foreign ministry on Monday night confirms that, since June 20 when the ceasefire began, 27 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 69 wounded.

Pro-Russian separatism exploded in Ukraine’s east in April following street protests in Kiev that toppled Moscow backed president, Viktor Yanukovich, who refused to sign a free trade deal with the European Union that would of shifted Ukraine westwards. Russia then annexed Crimea and separatist rebels in Ukraine’s Russian speaking east seized buildings and strategic points declaring them a “people’s republic” and calling for union with Russia. Last Friday, Poroshenko signed the EU deal in defiance of threats by Russia to retaliate the trade action. While Moscow already faced asset freezes and visa bans from the EU, Moscow could face more penalties unless the Pro-Russian rebels do not wind down the crisis in the Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. On Friday, the EU leaders promised to meet again to discuss additional penalties this time on new people and companies with asset freezes as early as next week since they have already compiled a list of 60 names. Even with the promise of hard hitting economic sanctions, the EU is cautious over implementing them as Russia is a major energy supplier.

Putting An End to the Ukraine Conflict

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On Monday, as reported by the Associate Press, the Kremlin confirmed that President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama had talked on the phone agreeing that direct talks between warring parties in Ukraine is necessary to end the conflict. In addition, Putin emphasized the need to end the fighting and start direct talks between the parties involved in order to normalize the situation in eastern Ukraine. In an article entitled Obama and Putin Discuss Ukraine Crisis, the Associated Press explains that, “Putin has welcomed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s declaration of a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, but added it can only be viable if the Ukrainian government sits down for talks with insurgents, who have declared their border regions independent and fought government troops for two months.”

On Tuesday, the day after his talk with the POTUS, Putin cancelled his resolution to sanction the use of military force in Ukraine, according to Laura Mill’s article Putin withdraws request to use force in Ukraine. The announcement came after pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine said they would respect the cease fire declared by Ukraninan President Petro Poroshenko possibly ending the months of fighting that killed hundreds and driven thousands out of their homes. The Kremlin stated on their website that Putin asked the head of Russia’s upper house of parliament to cancel his March 1 request.  According to RIA Novosti, Russian parliament member Valery Shnyakin confirmed that the house would vote Wednesday on the issue. The news lead to a 1.6 percent gain for Russian markets on Tuesday reaching a four month high. The request was made, according to Mill, after Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was ousted in February after months of protest and Russia annexed the Black Sea region of Crimea. However, Putin’s latest move shows an effort to de-escalate the situation ahead of his visit to Vienna Tuesday to meet with Organization for Security and Co-operation officials who have helped broker peace talks between Kiev and Moscow. Both Kiev and western governments in the past have accused Russia of supporting eastern rebels and amassing troops at the border to invade Ukraine, but the announcement by Putin Tuesday has led to praised from Poroshenko. The cease fire in eastern Ukraine has largely held up with some fighting occurring around the rebel stronghold of Slovyansk.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday an already shaky cease fire in Ukraine hit a snag when pro-Moscow separatists shot down a Ukrainian helicopter killing nine service men, according to the Associated Press. Ukraninan President Petro Poroshenko warned he would end the truce early. The attack itself happened only a day after the rebels promised to honor the cease fire which began last Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukraine to extend the true and sit down for talks with rebels. However, the cease fire has been broken by sporadic attacks and violated again Tuesday when rebels fired missiles that resulted in the downing of a helicopter in Slovyansk. Poroshenko states that the insurgency had fired on Unkranina positions 35 times since the announcement of a cease fire and instructed soldiers to fire back if attacked. The Associate Press reports that Poroshenko hopes that his phone call on Wednesday with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande would lead to “practical steps by Russia to disarm and recall mercenaries from Ukraine and ensure the reliable protection of the border.” In Vienna, Putin explained that the Ukrainian demand for insurgents to lay down weapons in a week was unrealistic due to fears of government reprisal and urged Ukraine to extend the truce so that peace talks could begin. Speaking about the recent attack, Putin blamed Ukrainian forces claiming that they had launched an airborne raid in Slovyansk on Tuesday before the attack breaking the cease fire. Putin offered to facilitate peace talks with Ukraine, but added that Russia will defend and protect Russian speakers in Ukraine. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, demands Putin take actions to de-escalate the situation citing recent contradictory behavior such as the return of troops to the border, an increase flow of weapons and military equipment to separatists and Putin’s decision to put combat forces on alert, the Associate Press reports.

Meteor Streaks Across Russian Urals, Leaves Nearly 1000 Injured (VIDEO, LIVE UPDATES)

Meteor Streaks Across Russian Urals, Leaves Nearly 1000 Injured (VIDEO, LIVE UPDATES).

Above is a picture of the impact site in Russia where today a large meteor hit leaving many injured and several questions unanswered. We were just lucky this time that the meteor was one of the smaller ones that travel by earth. With a flash and a  booming shock wave, a meteor over Russia’s Ural Mountains Friday exploded with the force of an atomic bomb injuring 1,000 people as it blasted windows and caused panic in Chelyabinsk, a city of 1 million. NASA estimates the size to be that of a bus and weighing 7,000 tons. Videos of the dramatic fireball over the city show streaming contrails arcing toward the horizon just after sunrise. The meteor came just after a 150 foot asteroid passed within 17,000 miles of Earth. The European Space Agency do not believe the two are connected just coincidence.

The meteor enter the atmosphere at 9:20 am local time at 33,000 mph and broke into pieces about 18-32 in the sky according to The Russian Academy of Science. NASA said that the energy released was in hundreds of kilotons. The shock wave from the blast blew in 1 million square feet of glass according to city officials and 3,000 buildings in Chelyabinsk were damaged. Most of the injuries were from flying glass as an estimated 1,100 people sought medical attentions and 48 were hospitalized. There no immediate words on deaths or anyone struck by fragments of the meteor.

President Vladimir Putin summoned the nation’s emergency minister and ordered repairs. Some fragments fell into a reservoir outside the town of Chebarkul according to the Interior Ministry leaving a 26 foot hole in the ice. Injury from the sonic booms when meteors enter the atmosphere are extraordinarily rare. The many broken windows leave residents exposed to the cold as temperatures are expected to drop to minus 20 degrees Celsius or minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. The regional governor has asked anyone who can repair windows please help. Social media including Twitter was flooded with videos from dashboard cameras that Russians mount on their cars in case of corrupt traffic police or accident disputes. Strong reactions from many prominent Russian leaders also surfaced calling for more research and funding from World Powers to come up with a way to prevent falling space objects from causing devastation. NASA said the fireball was the largest since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia about 3,000 miles away from Chelyabinsk and destroyed 80 million trees.

The 150 foot space rock that passed Earth on Friday was dubbed Asteroid 2012 DA14. The asteroid was invisible to U.S. astronomers, but Australian astronomers used binoculars and telescopes to watch it across the night sky. According to Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science, called the event rare and historic since usually the fireballs are not seen because they fall over oceans  or remote areas.

 

The Russian meteor could of led to a serious problem in the area hosting nuclear and chemical weapons disposal facilities. The meteor struck only 60 miles from the Mayak nuclear storage and disposal facility where dozens of tons of weapons grade plutonium is held noted Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia. A chemical weapons disposal facility at Shchuchye also has 6,000 tons of nerve agents including sarin and VX about 14 percent of the chemical weapons Russia has committed to destroy.

 

 

 

 

According to the Huffington Post article, one of the most popular jokes was that the meteorite was supposed to fall on Dec. 21, 2012 – when many believed the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world – but was delivered late by Russia’s notoriously inefficient postal service.

Russia Adoption Ban: Thousands March To Protest Law Banning Americans From Adopting Russian Children

Adoption ban protest

Russia Adoption Ban: Thousands March To Protest Law Banning Americans From Adopting Russian Children.

Up to 20,000 protested in Moscow on Sunday due to a new Russian law banning Americans from adopting Russian children. Shouting shame on the scum, protestors carried signs with President Vladimir Putin’s face as well as members of parliament who voted for the law last month. Opponents of the law says that it victimizes children to make a political statement and to make matter worse the anti-Kremlin opposition has exploited the ban as further evidence Putin and the parliament has lost the moral right to rule Russia. However, the Kremlin has used the adoption law to further discredit the opposition as unpatriotic and on the American payroll. The adoption ban was in retaliation of the US targeting Russians in human rights abuse and addresses the some 19 children out of 60,000 children killed while in the care of American adoptive parents over the past two decades. The bill was named after Dima Yakovlev who was a toddler who died in 2008 when left in a car for hours in the boiling heat.
What do you think? I am not in favor of either group because both groups are wrong in the way this is handled and are both exploiting children to make their point. I can understand the concerns of the Kremlin if Russian children have died while in the care of American parents no matter what the number is. What people are overlooking is the fact the US namely Obama took it upon himself to accuse Russian of human rights abuse when that happens everyday in America and the fact that Russian children adopted have suffered human rights abuse while under the care of Americans. It is the pot calling the kettle black so to speak. I do think that the opportunity to adopt from Russia for Americans should not have been banned but what both parties are saying is ridiculous. Why not try and change the system here in American so many deserving American children can find great homes?