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Sunday, 31 August 2014


Hong Kong pro-democracy activists vowed to launch a long campaign of "civil disobedience", after China decided not to allow open nominations in elections for the city's leader. A few thousand people – according to estimates – took to the streets in the former British colony to protest at China's legislature decision to have all candidates for chief executive vetted and approved by a special body before the vote. "The road of dialogue has come to the end," Benny Tai Yiu-ting, one of the leaders of the pro-democracy Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement said. "We see injustice in society… And we must voice out this unjust," he later told protesters who had gathered outside the Chief Executive's office, the South China Morning Post reported. The city, which returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, was promised that the chief executive would be chosen by "universal suffrage" at next elections in 2017. The vote to replace current leader Leung Chun-ying will eventually be the first in which voters will directly choose the winner. However, pro-democracy activists say that China hasn't kept its promises, as only candidates loyal to Beijing will be allowed to take part in the election. According to the legislature's powerful Standing Committee ruling, running candidates will have to be previously approved by more than 50% of the members of a special nominating body. The procedure is likely to disqualify any opposition hopeful. The Standing Committee motivated the decision claiming that open nominations would create a "chaotic society". "These rights come from laws, they don't come from the sky," Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress' Standing Committee said. Li stressed that the chief executive has to be loyal to the mainland government and not only to Hong Kong. "If Hong Kong's chief executive doesn't love the country and love the party, then that can't work," he said. His words are likely to further inflame Hong Kongers' spirits. In July, almost half a million people took to the streets to voice support for democratic reforms in the annual march commemorating Hong Kong return to China, which has become an occasion for residents to air complaints over a range of grievances. Turnout was boosted by a policy document released by China's cabinet, which also claimed that Beijing has ultimate power over the city and its leader must be patriotic towards China. Days earlier, an unofficial online referendum to bolster support for democracy was voted on by almost 800,000 people. Since the handover, China has ruled over its special administrative region according to the so-called "one country, two systems" policy. About 8,000 Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops are stationed in Hong Kong but, unlike their mainland counterparts, residents enjoy a series of freedoms, including free speech and the right to protest. LINK:

Saturday, 30 August 2014


Former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev has warned of the dire consequences of an escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and praised Russian restraint in not becoming further involved. "If our country intervenes, such a fire could break out that the whole world wouldn't be able to put it out. And it is right that the politicians are upholding their position," Gorbachev told Russian radio station RSN. Western governments have accused Vladimir Putin's government of exacerbating the crisis by arming pro-Russian rebels, and in recent days sending troops over the border into eastern Ukraine. Gorbachev warned of the catastrophic consequences of other countries being dragged into the conflict, which according to the UN has claimed 2,200 lives between 16 July to 17 August. "If [other] states get involved, the scope may widen and everyone would want a hand there – we may end up with a terrible slaughter in Europe," he said. "We can't afford it." He called on all the parties involved in the conflict to take steps to resolve the crisis. "They must do everything possible to stop murdering each other; it is one nation," said the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who is of mixed Russian and Ukrainian ancestry. He criticises the UN and EU for inaction, whilst praising Russia's attempts to form 'corridors' allowing Ukrainian troops to leave areas of fighting where they were trapped. "Our proposal was to open corridors, to take people away from all those mousetraps. But no, no. Some prefer staying in warm offices and commenting from there. And what is happening to the people [in Ukraine] in the meantime – to kids, women? Maternity hospitals are being shelled, and schools and hospitals are being destroyed." In March, he told the Telegraph that he supported a referendum in Crimea, in which the majority voted in favour of the region becoming part of Russia. "This time in Crimea, everything happened by the people's will and at their request. It's a good thing they chose the path of a referendum and showed that people really want to return back to Russia, showed that nobody is forcing people there," he said. President Obama claimed that the referendum was illegitimate. In the interview, Gorbachev said that Obama needed to overcome the "triumphalism" that the US succumbed to after the end of the Cold War. He also criticised Putin for beginning to "lean towards autocracy". "There are again slave drivers and herdsmen everywhere," he said of his native country. LINK:


Adolf Hitler's birthplace in the Austrian town Braunau am Inn is to be turned into a Holocaust museum. The three-storey former Gasthof Zum Pommer pub in the border town will be renamed the "House of Responsibility". The future of the house, which has been empty for two years, has been under discussion by national and local politicians for some time. It is still a shrine for Neo-Nazis and far-right extremists, who visit the site to see the small first floor room where Hitler was born on 20 April 1889. Hitler lived in the property as an infant for just a few weeks before his father Alois, a violent and ill-tempered customs official, moved his family into more spacious accommodation nearby. The property is currently owned by a retired local woman, who has leased the controversial building to the Austrian Interior Ministry since 1972, for €4,000 ($5,254, £3,165) a month, to prevent it falling into the hands of neo-Nazis. Fate of the house discussion In May, at a so-called Birthplace Summit, Austria's interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, met with local government representatives from Branau and the property's owner to discuss what ought to be done with the former home of the Nazi dictator. Initially, it was decided to turn the property into an immigrant information centre, but the plan was scrapped. Some called for it to be turned into luxury flats, or even to be demolished. Historian Andreas Maislinger's proposal to turn the building into a museum dedicated to remembering the crimes of the Nazi regime has been welcomed by Branko Lustig, who produced 1993 film Schindler's List, and has promised financial backing for the project. A stone inscribed "Fascism never again" which stands outside the property was vandalised by neo-Nazis earlier this year. Recently, the town was forced to ban weddings taking place on 20 April, the birthday of Hitler, after a leading far-right figure announced his intention to marry in the town on that date. Over the decades the old pub has been used as a library, bank, technical high school, and workshop for the mentally handicapped. Previous suggestions to turn the property into flats were rejected out of concern that they could be turned into shrines for the dictator. The final decision now lies with the minister of the interior, who is expected to approve the decision to turn it into a memorial to the Holocaust before the end of the year. LINK:

Thursday, 28 August 2014


Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has called an emergency meeting of the country's security council, as he said Russian troops have invaded Ukraine. Poroshenko called off a visit to Turkey saying that because of growing crisis in the restive east, his place was in Kiev. "I have made a decision to cancel my working visit to the Republic of Turkey due to sharp aggravation of the situation in Donetsk region, particularly in Amvrosiivka and Starobeshevo, as Russian troops were actually brought into Ukraine," he said. Poroshenko also announced Ukraine was to request an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council over the crisis. "The world must provide assessment of sharp aggravation of the situation in Ukraine," he said. Earlier, a Ukrainian military spokesman said that Russian armoured infantry carriers and a truck had crossed into Ukraine and entered the town of Amvrosiyivka. Poroshenko's announcement came as a pro-Russian rebel leader claimed that between 3,000 and 4,000 Russian citizens were fighting with separatists in eastern Ukraine. Alexander Zakharchenko revealed that the Russian citizens were former servicemen for the Russian army or military personnel on leave. Earlier this week, pro-Russian rebels opened a new front on the shore of the Sea of Azov, connecting Russia to the recently Russia-annexed Crimean peninsula. The city of Novoazovsk, near the border was shelled for three days and then entered by rebels allegedly supported by Moscow. About 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the west, Ukrainian forces were preparing to defend the port city of Mariupol. Fighting was also continuing some 100km to the north, around the separatist-held city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. The US accused the Kremlin of being behind the new rebel offensive that came after weeks of fighting that saw government troops making substantial gains. "These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. LINK:

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


Angela Merkel's government plans to crackdown on migration to Germany from elsewhere in the European Union. The proposal comes amid accusations that Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants have abused Europe's largest economy's welfare system. Thomas de Maiziere, interior minister of the grand coalition government (made up of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria), said Merkel's cabinet mooted a six-month limit on EU citizens staying in the country without a job. "Freedom of movement is an essential part of the European integration, which we fully stand behind," de Maiziere said. "However, that does not mean we should close our eyes to the problems that come with it." De Maiziere also announced that EU citizens suspected of having abused the country's welfare system could be banned from re-entering Germany. The interior minister claimed poor EU migrants had tended to go to particular regions of Germany (like Duisburg) and exacerbate problems there. De Maiziere said the German government was putting aside €25m ($32.9m, £19.8m) in 2014 for cities that are affected by the phenomenon. The announcement comes after the UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised to crackdown on 'benefit tourism' by cutting the amount of time EU migrants, without realistic job prospects, can claim benefits for in Britain. Cameron, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said that EU arrivals would now only be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance or child benefit for a maximum of three months, a reduction from the current six month period. The Conservative Party leader said the move would send the message to EU migrants that they "cannot expect to come to Britain and get something for nothing". "Our goal is clear: an immigration system that puts Britain first," Cameron said. "Achieving that means doing three things: clamping down on abuses of the system; making sure the right people are coming here for the right reasons; and ensuring the British people get a fair deal." LINK:

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


THIS BLOG IS INTERNATIONAL. GOT FOLLOWERS FROM 50 COUNTRIES. HERE THE COMPLETE LIST OF THE COUNTRIES: Canada, USA, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile; Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, UK, Ireland, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania, Spain, Greece; Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, India, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan; Angola, Nigeria; Australia, NZ.

Monday, 25 August 2014


British humour inflamed Americans for appearing to make a feeble joke about the 200th anniversary of British troops burning the White House on August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812. The tweet shows a picture of a cake featuring the White House, some sparklers and the Stars and Stripes and Union Jack. The caption reads: "Only sparklers this time!" The funny tweet didn't appeal to some Americans, who shot back with some angry responses. "Even if Talking Heads were singing it, I think this is in extremely POOR TASTE," tweeted one user. Another said: "Classy Britain. Maybe Germany should commemorate bombing London?" Others hit back: "While the @UKinUSA 1812 tweet was no big deal, I'm allowing myself another 'you'd all be speaking German' joke sometime in the near future." The UK embassy was hoping to celebrate the "special relationship and work together shoulder to shoulder across the globe". But the outcry forced a grovelling backtrack from the British. "Apologies for earlier tweet. We meant to mark an event in history and celebrate our strong friendship today," it said. However, not everyone was up in arms at the political faux pas. As one tweeter put it: no need to apologise, thanks Britain for common law, individual liberty, Wodehouse &Churchill — Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) August 25, 2014 LINK:

Sunday, 24 August 2014


Younes Abaaoud, a 13 year-old from Belgium, is believed to have joined his older brother to fight in Syria for Isis. The youngster's identity was tweeted by Shiraz Maher, an academic and senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College, London. The academic wrote: "One of the youngest foreign fighters we know of Younes Abaaoud, who was 13 when he left Belgium to join Isis." The photo of Abaaoud shows him holding an AK-47 in his left hand and pointing to the sky with his right forefinger. The boy's father, believed to be a shopkeeper called Omar, originally from Morocco, said the boy was taken to Syria after his brother Abdelhamid had been brainwashed in Belgium. 'Brainwashed' Abaaoud followed his older brother to the front line and is understood to be among dozens of child fighters in the war zone from Europe. However, Belgium media reports could not clarify whether the 13 year-old is fighting or living away from the front lines. Britain has among the highest number of extremists fighting for Isis – at least 500 – but Belgium has the highest proportion based on its population. Research by the ICSR in London said that overall Western Europeans now represent up to one-in-five of the foreign fighter population in Syria. European Isis fighters It says the most come from France. The French government says that at least seven of those are children and 50 are women. France is followed by Britain, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Adjusting for population size, the most heavily affected countries are Belgium – up to 27 foreign fighters per million, followed by Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Austria. The United Nations have voiced their condemnation of Isis for recruiting children. "Armed opposition groups have been responsible for the recruitment and use of children both in combat and support roles, as well as for conducting military operations, including using terror tactics, in civilian-populated areas, leading to civilian casualties, including children," stated a United Nations report on children in Syria. LINK:

Saturday, 23 August 2014


Home Secretary Theresa May has said that the government will ban extremist groups even though they may not be directly involved in acts of terror. "I am looking again at the case for new banning orders for extremist groups that fall short of the legal threshold for terrorist proscription, as well as for new civil powers to target extremists who seek to radicalise others," May said in an article in the Daily Telegraph. She said fresh measures will be brought in to deal with the threat posed by British jihadists in the wake of the "cowardly murder" of US journalist James Foley by Islamic State militants in Syria. May said the new steps will include stripping British nationals who are fighting overseas of their citizenship. "People who insist on travelling to fight in Syria and Iraq will be investigated by the police and security services. For those who have dual nationality, I have the power to strip them of their citizenship and exclude them from the country. "Following the recent Immigration Act, I can, in certain circumstances, remove citizenship from naturalised Britons who are fighting overseas and exclude them too." At least 500 Britons are believed to have travelled to conflict zones in Syria and Iraq in order to participate in the ongoing fighting. Some estimates put the figure at 1,500. Government-run organisations would also be asked to take steps to keep a close watch on the radicalisation of the British public, said May. "Dealing with terrorism and extremism will require continued commitment and international collaboration," May said in her article. Enraged by the beheading of Foley by a jihadist speaking in an English accent, Western nations are determined to counter the growing threat from the Islamic State militants, according to reports. LINK:

Friday, 22 August 2014


Saudi Arabia, a member of the UN Human Rights Council, has beheaded 19 people since August 4, reported the Human Rights Watch (HRW). Out of the 19 people who were beheaded, eight where convicted of non-violent offences, seven for drug smuggling, while one was charged with sorcery. Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division said: "Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious. There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia's continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes. "The current surge in executions in Saudi Arabia is yet another dark stain on the kingdom's human rights record." The family members of a Saudi man, Hajras bin Saleh Al-Qurey, told the Human Rights Watch on August 17 that they fear Al-Qurey would add to the rising count of beheadings in the country. Al-Qurey was sentenced to death by the Public Court of Najran, in the southern part of Saudi Arabia, on 16 January, 2013, for allegedly smuggling drugs, as well as attacking a police officer while being arrested. Despite a UN special rapporteur in 1996 calling for the death penalty to be removed for drug-related offences, and international standards requiring the death penalty only to be used for the most grave crimes, Saudi Arabia continues to boast the highest execution rates in the world, confirmed the Death Penalty Worldwide Database. Amidst all this, Saudi Arabia has been successful in retaining its membership in the UN Human Rights Council, with its term expiring in 2016. LINK:

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


The purpose of the horrific video of the beheading of US photojournalist James Foley seems straightforward – to terrify the US into halting its aerial bombardment of the militant group. But what appears to be a barbaric and blood-soaked ransom note to force a US withdrawal has an entirely different objective, say former national security operatives and terrorism experts. That is, to generate enough public outrage so the US and its allies expand their military campaign in Iraq and Syria to include ground forces. Released by terrorist group Islamic State on Wednesday, it begins with footage of US President Barack Obama announcing air strikes on Iraq before Foley, on his knees in the desert and reciting scripted remarks, blames the US government for his impending death. A hooded man with a British accent castigates Obama and the Muslim deaths wrought by the air strikes then murders Foley. The video ends with another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, hauled before the camera with the final words – "the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision". "What's happening is they are trying to get Western intervention in Iraq and Syria," says Clarke Jones, a former national security operative specialising in counterterrorism now with the Australian National University. "That would enable them to develop a new and powerful narrative of Western oppression of Muslims that would help them attract a new wave of recruits." Renowned Norwegian terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer agrees, questioning whether the attack on the Yazidis, raids into Kurdistan and the beheading of Foley could all be a "deliberate provocation strategy". "ISIS seems to be doing everything it can (short of attacks on the West) to draw the US into conflict," he tweeted. An angry West suits Islamic State, says Monash University terrorism expert Greg Barton. Hostility to Muslims feeds into their narrative of belittled Muslims persecuted by non-believers. It helps recruiting among their target audience and, at the same time, puts pressure on Western governments to act. "One of the calculations they have to make is whether the public in the West is ready to back [a bigger military operation in Iraq and Syria]," he said. "An angry public is more likely to call upon their governments to do something drastic." The dramatic last moments when the beheading of Sotloff is threatened are chilling considering some 20 journalists have – like Foley and Sotloff – been kidnapped in Syria, many by Islamic State. A procession of videoed executions could put immense pressure on the West to act with a larger military campaign. Islamic State are skilled propagandists and a social media powerhouse, using the medium to distribute its message widely and cheaply, while bringing a new dimension to jihad – the intimate experiences and the personalities of the fighters on the ground. The video is a multi-camera, high-definition production that employs careful editing and scripting. For more than a decade, grisly videos has been steadily released by militants. They became so ubiquitous that most media ignored them. But Islamic State and its cadres have taken the genre to a new level of horror. The images of the children of Australian Khaled Sharrouf holding decapitated heads and the video of an Iraqi police chief being beheaded – which was tweeted during the World Cup with the comment "This is our ball ... it is made of skin" – are just two macabre examples among many. Whether Islamic State's strategy is a smart is highly debatable. The brutality of its predecessor al-Qaeda in Iraq led to communities and tribal leaders that had previously supported the terrorist organisation siding with the US and Iraqi government. Given the core Islamic State fighters are foreigners, many of them behaving abominably, it is hard to see how the militants – for all their recent military successes – can sustain support among the people they have subjugated. Read more:


Britons have reacted with horror today to the news that the Isis (Islamic State) fighter who beheaded US journalist James Foley is understood to be English. In the graphic video, posted to YouTube by the militant group, the jihadist speaks with a clear southern English accent, leading some experts to believe he is from London. Though the man is yet to be identified, he is just one of around 400 British nationals believed to have travelled from the UK to Iraq and Syria to fight among the ranks of the Islamic State this summer. The James Foley video has lead Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to reassure Brits that UK intelligence agencies are "tracking and monitoring Britons who could be involved with extremist groups". “We are absolutely aware that there are significant numbers of British nationals involved in terrible crimes, probably in the commission of atrocities, making jihad with IS and other extremist organisations.” Brits are 'most brutal' fighters On Wednesday morning, Shiraz Maher, a jihadism expert from King's College London's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that British extremists are among the "most vicious and vociferous fighters" in IS ranks. Maher went on to say how the Brits are acting as suicide bombers and executioners in the conflict and that "British participation...has been one of full participation, one that has seen them at the front lines, taking part in the conflict in every way." The British media has been adept at discovering some of the identities of Britain's 'home grown' IS fighters – mostly thanks to individual members' social media accounts and the clever use of Facebook and Twitter by the group to publicise jihadist propaganda, recruit members and disseminate information about their brutal campaign. Religious devotees or bored young men? But why are so many young men (and in a couple of cases, women) so eager to sign up to fight for the 'caliphate' apparently established across swathes of Iraq and Syria? Some experts, including Maher, believe that British Sunni Muslims initially went to Syria because of an "existential threat" to their faith from Shia Muslims. The huge numbers of Sunni Muslims within the Isis ranks have helped expand Isis in size as well as territory and influence. Some British members of the jihadi group have been keen to explain their motivations in their own words. In a 13-minute video released by Isis, entitled "There is No Life Without Jihad", three Britons describe their motivation for travelling to Iraq and Syria in a bid to persuade others to swap a comfortable Western life for a religious war. In the video, Abu Bara al-Hindi tells viewers: "The cure for depression is jihad...Feel the honour we are feeling, feel the happiness we are feeling." Another Brit, still in the UK, told the BBC that he feels "obliged" to now go to Iraq or Syria because "God has commanded for the Muslims to go and fight jihad". He said to die as a martyr is "the promise of paradise". Earlier this year, Vice News spoke with Amer Deghayes, 20, who travelled from Brighton to Syria in July 2013 and saw his younger brother Abdullah die while fighting. He claimed his brother "laughed and he smiled" as he was fatally wounded, and said he "was killed for a really good cause and his death was a sign of martyrdom." Whether the cause is deeply held religious beliefs or an easy exit from a Generation Y existential crisis, the pull of Syria and Iraq for 'western' Muslims is proving to be embarrassing for the British government, and has resulted in Muslim communities in Britain publicly urging the religion's young men to stop signing up for foreign conflict. In early July, more than 100 Imams from all over the UK – mindful of the image of Islam in the minds of non-Muslims – issued a collective statement urging British Muslims "not to fall prey to any form of sectarian divisions or social discord". The open letter, signed by Imams from across major theological backgrounds and cultural groups (from various denominations of Sunni and Shia Muslims), asks British Muslim communities to "continue the generous and tireless effort to support all of those affected by the crisis in Syria and unfolding events in Iraq, but to do so from the UK in a safe and responsible way." Who are the British jihadists we know about? •Nasser Muthana, 20, from Cardiff, is believed to have joined IS in Syria. He posted pictures of home-made bombs on an unverified Twitter account with the caption: "So the UK is afraid I come back with the skills I've gained". •Aseel Muthana, 17, also from Cardiff, is Nasser's brother. Aseel is believed to be in Syria after he told BBC Wales "Jihad is obligatory". •Reyaad Khan, 20, from Cardiff, appeared with Nasser and another Jihadist from Aberdeen (see below) in a recruitment video on 20 June, apparently filmed in Syria, urging others to join the IS cause. •Abdul Raqib Amin, believed to be 26, was brought up by his parents in Aberdeen. He appeared in the terrorist recruitment video just weeks before he was reportedly killed in a gun battle with an Iraqi Army Swat team. •Abu Dujana al-Muhjahir, 19, from Portsmouth, is an IS recruit who announced the death of Amin on social media in July. •Former Primark worker Muhammad Hammidur Rahman, also from Portsmouth, died fighting in Syria in August. On Twitter he said he joined Isis after being "called by God to help Muslims being killed by President Bashar al-Assad." •Twins Salma and Zahra Halane, 16, were reported to have travelled from their home in Manchester to Syria via Turkey in June, despite pleas from their family to return home. The girls are said to be "deeply religious" and social media accounts have since shown them learning to use guns and seeing grenades and Kalashnikov rifles. •Abu Muhadjar, is among 20 young British men reported to be fighting in Syria last October. He told a foreign correspondent for the BBC: "I grew up in a fairly nice area. I come from a decent close-knit family. My family do know where I am and what I'm doing". •Jafer Deghayes, 16, Amer Deghayes, 20, and Abdullah Deghayes, 18 are brothers from Brighton who travelled to fight alongside IS in Syria. Abdullah is believed to have died in April this year. Their father Abubakr says the boys initially travelled to the region for humanitarian reasons to deliver aid but decided to fight against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. •Abu Sumayyah Al-Britani left the UK a year ago to fight what he calls a "holy war" in Iraq and Syria. Speaking from an Internet café in Idlib, northwest Syria, the British father-of-three told reporters his terror training camp is "really really fun". •Five young unnamed British Asian men are believed to have boarded a flight from Manchester to Antalya this month on the pretence of attending a holiday spa, before slipping across the Turkish border to Syria to join up with IS forces. LINK:

Monday, 18 August 2014


The rapid spread of Ebola has led to affected countries creating quarantined villages, medical roadblocks to halt the spread of the infection to cities, and military operations forcing people ill with the disease to stay in their homes, creating a modern-day version of the “Plague villages” created in medieval Europe, and demonstrating the extent of West Africa’s suffering under the outbreak. Liberia has quarantined remote villages at the epicentre of the virus in an effort control the epidemic, shutting them off from outside world and evoking the medieval methods deployed to deal with disease hundreds of years ago. With few food and medical supplies getting in, many abandoned villagers face a stark choice: stay where they are and risk death or skip quarantine, spreading the infection further in a country ill-equipped to cope. In Boya, in northern Liberia's Lofa County, Joseph Gbembo, who caught Ebola and survived, says he is struggling to raise 10 children under five years old and support five widows after nine members of his family were killed by the virus. Fearful of catching Ebola themselves, the 30-year-old's neighbours refuse to speak with him and blame him for bringing the virus to the village. "I am lonely," he said. "Nobody will talk to me and people run away from me." He says he has received no food or health care for the children and no help from government officials. Aid workers say that if support does not arrive soon, locals in villages like Boya, where the undergrowth is already spreading among the houses, will simply disappear down jungle footpaths. "If sufficient medication, food and water are not in place, the community will force their way out to fetch food and this could lead to further spread of the virus," said Tarnue Karbbar, a worker for charity Plan International based in Lofa County. Ebola has killed at least 1,145 people in four African nations, but in the week through to August 13, Lofa county recorded more new cases than anywhere else - 124 new cases of Ebola and 60 deaths. The World Health Organization and Liberian officials have warned that, with little access by healthcare workers to the remote areas hidden deep in rugged jungle zones, the actual toll may be far higher. In the ramshackle coastal capital Monrovia, which still bears the scars of the brutal 14-year civil war that ended in 2003, officials say controlling the situation in Lofa is crucial to overcoming the country's biggest crisis since the conflict. With her country under threat, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has imposed emergency measures including the community quarantine and a "cordon sanitaire" -- a system of medical roadblocks to prevent the infection reaching cities, widely used against the Black Death in Medieval times. Countries like Uganda in east Africa have tackled previous rural outbreaks through online reporting systems and rigorous surveillance, said Uganda's Director of Community and Clinical Services Dr. Anthony Mbonye. But in the West of the continent, weak healthcaresystems were unprepared. Liberia, one of the world's least developed nations, has poor Internet and telecommunications, and only around 50 doctors for a population of over 4 million. Traditional funerals, where family members bathe and dress highly contagious corpses, have expedited Ebola's spread to 9 of the country's 15 counties. In recognition of the region's inability to cope, the World Health Organization this week declared Ebola an international health emergency - only the third time in its 66-year history it has taken this step. Neighbours Guinea and Sierra Leone have placed checkpoints in Gueckedou and Kenema, creating a cross-border quarantine zone of roughly 20,000 square km, about the size of Wales, called the "unified sector". Within this massive area, Information Minister Lewis Brown described more intense quarantine measures in Lofa county, ring fencing areas where up to 70 percent of people are infected. "Access to these hot spots is now cut off except for medical workers," he said in an interview this week. Reaching the sick in isolated villages there is critical because the county's main Foya health centre is full. The site was run by U.S. charity Samaritan's Purse until it pulled out after two of its health workers contracted the virus in Monrovia. Medical charity MSF, which has now stepped in, says 137 patients are packed into the 40-bed site. Health workers hope to train locals to create isolation units in schools and churches within their own communities. "Quarantines expose healthy people to risk - which is why the effectiveness of states is so important in supporting preventive measures that will minimise this," said Robert Dingwall, specialist in health policy responses to infectious diseases at Nottingham Trent University. Such measures include prevention education, crematorium facilities and protective equipment, he said. But Liberia's response team is struggling to keep up. The main health care centre in Lofa is "overwhelmed" by new patients, a health ministry report said. A total of 13 health care workers have already died from Ebola in the county while its surveillance office lacks computers to manage cases. Liberia's Brown also acknowledged the risk: "We can establish as many checkpoints as we want but if we cannot get the food and the medical supplies in to affected communities, they will leave." Even if the resources arrive, help might be chased away. Unlike in other areas of the country, where Ebola awareness campaigns are helping to draw people out of hiding, in this isolated border region, far from the otherwise ubiquitous 'Ebola is Real' government billboards, denial is still strong. According to a local rumour, merchants dressed as health workers are taking people away in order to sell human organs, provoking violent reactions from locals, Karbarr said. In late July, an ambulance was stoned in the Kolahun district as it tried to take a body for burial. In the same area, a group of hand pump technicians were told to leave or have their vehicle torched. The police arrested a man this week for Ebola denial. Brown said that people in unaffected counties in Liberia's east have so far welcomed the quarantine, but sentiment could swing if supplies start to run short. The Italian roots of the word quarantine - meaning 40 days - refers to the isolation period for ships arriving into Venice from plague regions. But Liberia's operation could go on for three months or more, creating the need for a long-term plan. As well as increasing the feelings of isolation and criminalisation felt by those in quarantine, the duration of the quarantine risks creating national supply disruptions. Already the price of oil and rice has doubled, residents say. While those in Lofa are located within the country's sweet potatoes and palm fruit-growing food belt, the unaffected eastern counties cannot feed themselves. The World Food Programme intends to distribute food to more than 1 million people living in the cross-border quarantine zone, but there are not yet plans for the unaffected counties. "My worry is how the southeast will get food. You could have trade with Ivory coast but they might not want to for fear of the virus," said UNICEF'S Scott, referring to the landlocked River Gee and Maryland counties. The early signs suggest this is happening already. Aboubacar Barry, who sells rice and sugar in the Ivorian town of Danane, says his businessis a fifth of what it was before the de facto closure of the Liberian border. Yacouba Sylla, the driver of a motorbike taxi in the border area, also complained of a slump in his business. "Ebola hasn't arrived here, but it is going to kill us anyway before it gets here, as we will die of hunger," he said. LINK:

Sunday, 17 August 2014


Escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine are on the verge of spilling over into open conflict. Ukraine has accused Moscow of pushing more military equipment over the border, including three missile systems. Rebel separatists Russia is accused of arming yesterday shot down a Ukrainian Mig-29 fighter jet, although the pilot managed to eject safely. The rebels had earlier boasted they were receiving 150 armoured vehicles, including 30 tanks, and 1,200 soldiers who were ‘trained in Russia’. Moscow continues to deny sending military equipment or personnel into Ukrainian territory, but large convoys have been seen massing on the Russian side of the border. Meanwhile some 16 lorries from a 280-strong Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for eastern Ukraine arrived at a rebel-held border crossing yesterday. Kiev insists any aid should cross a government-controlled part of the border. Read more:


SEVENTEEN patients infected with Ebola are unaccounted for after fleeing an armed raid on a quarantine centre in Monrovia by men who claim the epidemic is a fiction. “They broke down the door and looted the place. The patients have all gone,” according to a witness at the scene of the attack on the outskirts of the Liberian capital. The report has been confirmed by residents and the head of Health Workers Association of Liberia, George Williams. Williams said on Sunday the unit housed 29 patients who “had all tested positive for Ebola” and were receiving preliminary treatment before being taken to hospital. “Of the 29 patients, 17 fled last night (after the assault). Nine died four days ago and three others were yesterday (Saturday) taken by force by their relatives” from the centre, he said. The attackers, mostly young men armed with clubs, shouted that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf “is broke” and “there’s no Ebola” in Liberia as they broke into the unit in a Monrovia suburb, Wesseh said. Residents had opposed the creation of the centre, set up by health authorities in part of the city considered an epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in the Liberian capital. “We told them not to (build) their camp here. They didn’t listen to us,” said a young resident, who declined to give his name. “We don’t believe in this Ebola outbreak.” The Ebola outbreak, the worst since the virus first appeared in 1976, has claimed 1145 lives in five months, according to the UN World Health Organisation’s latest figures as of August 13: 413 in Liberia, 380 in Guinea, 348 in Sierra Leone and four in Nigeria. Meanwhile in Spain, health authorities activated Ebola alert protocols on Saturday after a young Nigerian man was admitted to hospital in Alicante with fever, vomiting and “several other symptoms” of the disease. According to The Spain Report, Spanish news agency EFE cited health ministry sources who said the Nigerian patient did not have Ebola. LINK:

Saturday, 16 August 2014


Donetsk residents in Ukraine have reportedly sighted multiple showering of white glowing particles, suspected to be the internationally prohibited phosphorous incendiaries, falling on residential quarters. Residents suspect the particles are incendiary shells stuffed with white phosphorous, akin to the military assault in the eastern city of Slavyansk in June. The use of Incendiary bombs, designed to start fires using substances, like napalm, thermite, or white phosphorus, has been strictly prohibited by the UN. Former UK army officer, Charles Shoebridge, said on RT News that the video, "does appear to show some of the characteristics one would expect to see with the use of white phosphorus or a similar incendiary ammunition. "In particular, a large number of brightly burning particles falling rapidly to the ground, without the assistance of, for example parachutes to slow their descent, suggests this wasn't a more commonly used illumination ammunition, such as flares." No official reports from Donetsk have confirmed the result of the night shelling or whether the white rain was in fact, white phosphorous. Despite Moscow's demands for investigations into the use of incendiary bombs in Ukraine, Kiev authorities have repeatedly denied the use of such weapons against civilians. According to the statistics of the Donetsk People's Republic, at least 839 people have died in attacks from the Ukranian Army over the last three months. LINK:

Friday, 15 August 2014


(Reuters) - Ukraine said its artillery destroyed part of a Russian armoured column that entered its territory overnight and said its forces came under shellfire from Russia on Friday in what appeared to be a major military escalation between the ex-Soviet states. Russia's government denied its forces had crossed into Ukraine, calling the Ukrainian report "some kind of fantasy", and in turn raised its own serious concerns about activity by the U.S.-led NATO defence alliance near its borders. Moscow accused Kiev of trying to sabotage aid deliveries to eastern areas torn by fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Western-backed government of Moscow's former satellite. In a call to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, as reported by Russia's state news agency RIA, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow was "seriously concerned" by increased NATO activity and called for a ceasefire to get aid into Ukraine. The agency did not specify what Western military movements he meant. NATO said there had been a Russian incursion into Ukraine, which is not a member of its mutual defence pact, but it avoiding calling it an invasion. Other European capitals accused the Kremlin of escalating a conflict that has revived Cold War-era animosities and chilled the region's struggling economies. The United Nations said it could not verify the reports from the Ukrainian border but called for an immediate de-escalation. Kiev and its Western allies have repeatedly accused Russia of arming pro-Moscow separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, and of sending undercover military units onto Ukrainian soil. They have also expressed concern Russia may use an aid convoy it has assembled on the border as a pretext for stoking the conflict. It was not clear whether the armoured column was officially part of the Russian army on active service. But evidence of Russian military vehicles captured or destroyed on Ukrainian territory would give extra force to Kiev's allegations - and possibly spark a new round of sanctions against the Kremlin. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, told a news briefing that Kiev's forces had picked up a Russian military column crossing the border under cover of darkness. "Appropriate actions were undertaken and a part of it no longer exists," Lysenko said. The situation in the conflict zone was becoming increasingly tense, he said, with Ukrainian forces which are fighting pro-Russian separatists also coming under artillery attack from Russian territory. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko briefed British Prime Minister David Cameron on the incident and told him a "significant" part of the Russian column had been destroyed, according to statement from Poroshenko's office. But Russia's Defence Ministry said no such military force had crossed the border into eastern Ukraine. State news agency RIA quoted a ministry statement saying: "There was no Russian military column that crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border either at night or during the day." It called the Ukrainian report "some kind of fantasy". Britain summoned Russia's ambassador to ask him to clarify reports of a military incursion into Ukraine, and European Union foreign ministers said any unilateral military actions by Russia in Ukraine would be a blatant violation of international law. "WE HAVE TO TALK" In a sign of efforts to unwind the crisis, the Kremlin said the Ukrainian and Russian chiefs of presidential staff met in Russia on Friday and the Ukrainian foreign minister said he would meet his Russian counterpart in Berlin on Sunday. Earlier on Friday, responding to reports that a Russian column had entered Ukraine overnight, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance had seen what he called a Russian incursion into Ukraine. "It just confirms the fact that we see a continuous flow of weapons and fighters from Russia into eastern Ukraine and it is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilization of eastern Ukraine," the NATO chief said. A spokesman for Russia's border guard service was also quoted by Russian news agencies as denying that any Russian military units had entered Ukraine. In a statement issued by the Russian foreign ministry, Moscow accused Ukrainian forces of intensifying the fighting against pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to sabotage Russian efforts to get aid into rebel-held areas. A caravan of 280 trucks taking Russian aid to eastern Ukraine was parked on the Russian side of the border on Friday. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it would deliver the aid after Kiev expressed fear the convoy could be used to help the rebels and urged both sides on Friday to agree quickly on how it should be done. After Ukraine reported the clash, Russia's rouble currency weakened against both the dollar and the euro. Russian shares were also dragged lower. Global equity markets retreated and yields on benchmark German government bonds - a traditional safe haven for investors - plumbed record lows below 1 percent. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said in a Twitter post he would meet Russia's Sergei Lavrov and the German and French foreign ministers on Sunday in Berlin: "It can be at a square table or a round table," he said. "But we have to talk." LINK:

Thursday, 14 August 2014


An unruly beard, army fatigues and an automatic weapon are part of Bratislav Zivkovic's image. The 39-year-old is the leader of the Serb Chetnik militia in eastern Ukraine. He was in Crimea in March where he "defended the Russian brethren." Now Zivkovic and his comrades are again making headlines. According to the pro-Russian separatist "People's Militia" in the self-proclaimed region of "New Russia" in eastern Ukraine, Serb volunteers fended off an offensive by the Ukrainian army near Luhansk. The separatists declared that two tanks - including the crew - and other military equipment were destroyed in the fight. Participants in Crimea The media has reported that Russian, Chechen and Cossack mercenaries are supporting the pro-Russian fighters in Ukraine. Russia's RIA Novosti news agency wrote that even two "anti-fascist" Spanish and one Czech volunteer showed up. The Chetnik unit in Ukraine has 46 members, including Russians and a Bulgarian, according to Zoran Andrejic, deputy president of the Serbian Chetnik movement. Serbian guerillas fought in WWII under the name Chetniks, as did Serbian paramilitary troops in the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. Andrejic claims that his comrades flew to Moscow in mid-July, from where they supplied Luhansk with humanitarian aid. "At the Ukrainian border, our men received weapons to protect the convoy," he told DW. "At Luhansk airport, the entire convoy came under massive artillery fire and three of our comrades were injured." As a result, they decided to create the "New Russian People's Militia." The Chetniks never received money for their operation, Andrejic said, adding they also never demanded payment. The Chetniks in Luhansk are battle tested, with many having fought in the bloody Yugoslav Wars. "We didn't send inexperienced boys to Ukraine," Andrejic said. He added that many Russian and Cossack volunteers "defended Serbian lands" in the past. The former military leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Igor Girkin, is said to have fought for the Serbs in the Bosnia War, where he met his present Chetnik comrades. Better known by his nom de guerre "Strelkov," Girkin quit his post on Thursday. Mercenaries on both sides But Belgrade-based security expert Zoran Dragisic said the mercenaries are more interested in money than in ideals. "They are after all mercenaries that are recruited worldwide for wars," Dragisic told DW. "At the start of the century, they marched through war zones in Africa - today, they are headed to Syria, Iraq and Ukraine." Serbian mercenaries are often referred to as "war dogs". But the security expert argues that Serbia's difficult economic situation isn't to blame for the mercenary movement, since even prosperous nations like Germany and the Netherlands grapple with "war tourism." "It's indoctrination that draws young people – some of them almost children - to war," Dragisic said. Ninety-nine percent of the Serbian fighters in Ukraine are mercenaries, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told reporters in Belgrade. Several dozen are fighting on the side of the separatists, Vucic said, adding that several dozen are also fighting for the Ukrainian army. "They should go back home and take care of their families instead of fighting for third parties' interests – even if they make 2,100 or 6,500 US dollars, depending on what side they're on," the prime minister said, without commenting on his source for the above information. Belgrade plans to pass a law that penalizes participation in a foreign war. The draft law is aimed at Serbian fighters in Ukraine as well as Muslim Serbs fighting alongside jihadists in the Mideast. Until the law takes effect, Serbian mercenary fighters can return home without having to fear penalties. Chetnik Bratislav Zivkovic is already planning his return to Serbia – because he expects the fighting to come to an end soon. LINK:


Australian authorities have placed border protection on alert to monitor arriving international passengers for signs of the deadly Ebola virus. Aeroplane passengers who exhibit Ebola symptoms on their way to Australia will be rushed into quarantine as soon as they land, under the federal government's safeguards aimed at containing the disease if it enters the country. Head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said spread of Ebola to the US would happen due to global air travel but said any outbreak would unlikely be large. One man with dual US-Liberian citizenship has died from Ebola after becoming sick on a plane from Monrovia to Lagos. Passengers who land at Sydney Airport will be rushed to Westmead Hospital, which has been designated the viral haemorrhagic fever hospital for NSW. Paediatric patients will be sent to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. A person can only transmit the virus if they are showing symptoms, health authorities have said, and any physical contact with a person prior to that time is safe. Canberra epidemiologist Kamalini Lokuge, who recently returned from Guinea in West Africa where she was responding to the Ebola outbreak with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), said the best way to keep Australia safe was to help control the outbreak in Africa. "The response needs to be stepped up," she said. "Containing it is resource-intensive because there needs to be treatment centres, people who go into communities to reach out and educate families with sick people, people to arrange safe burials and people to monitor those who have had contact with an infected person for the 21-day incubation period." However, Dr Lokuge said alarm over Ebola-infected doctors being sent home for treatment was unwarranted. "In a place like the US there is no risk as far as unstoppable spread for a disease like this,'' she said. The strict hygiene regulations in developed nations such as Australia and the US would be able to quickly stop the spread of the Ebola virus, Dr Lokuge said. "It's not a particularly contagious disease in the way it is transmitted,'' she said. "It is transmitted when there are very sick people and someone cares for them and comes into contact with their body fluids or comes into contact with the body of someone who has died with no protection in place. "You get it when there's nursing at home and there's no protection, or when a body is not buried safely. "It is not like the flu where someone who may not look sick passes it on to someone on the bus. We see it in family members of people who have been infected or people who have gone to funerals and touched the body.'' Dr Lokuge said international aid workers were at risk when they were too tired to do their duties safely. "You have to make sure your staff have time to rest,'' she said. "Once people are overstretched and are being asked to do things when they are tired, that's when you get the risk of people not being able to keep up with what's needed.'' "Everyone knows it's killed health staff – why has that happened? It's because there's no resources and personnel to implement safety protocols, and that needs to be fixed. "The thing I find hardest is health staff who get infected, because it's preventable.'' Two Australian workers for Medecins Sans Frontieres are currently in Ebola hot spots, one in Liberia and the other in Sierra Leone. The organisation said it had extensive experience dealing with Ebola outbreaks and enforced standard protocols to protect its staff in the field. "Medecins Sans Frontieres volunteers coming back from affected countries will be closely monitored during the virus' three-week incubation period," it said. "If an Australian volunteer becomes infected in the field, Medecins Sans Frontieres will consider the options available to provide the best possible care, which does not currently include repatriation to Australia." Read more:


A global health expert says there is little risk of Ebola reaching New Zealand, but if the virus does arrive on our shores the country is prepared to deal with it. According to the World Health Organisation, almost 2000 people have contracted Ebola around the globe, with almost half of those cases resulting in death. On Sunday, the Ministry of Health introduced screening measures at New Zealand airports as a precautionary measure against the disease. John Crump, Otago University's McKinlay Professor of Global Health, says the measures "represent an abundance of caution". "New Zealand has no direct flights from west Africa and actually has a fairly low volume of people arriving from that part of the world so we do benefit to some degree from our isolation in that respect," says Dr Crump. "Every passenger arriving in New Zealand from overseas completes a passenger arrival card and on the back of that form is a section where you're asked where you've travelled in the last 30 days. People indicating that they’ve been in Ebola-affected areas in the last 30 days will then be asked additional questions about symptoms that might be suggestive of Ebola virus disease." Dr Crump says if the virus does arrive here the country is relatively prepared to handle it. "We know Ebola well, we know how to prevent transmission including in healthcare settings and many of the infection control practices routinely used in New Zealand hospitals for a range of other, much more common infectious diseases are used to protect healthcare workers and others against transmission of infection with Ebola as well." Dr Crump says unlike past Ebola outbreaks, this one is worrying due to the fact it has spread to numerous locations, particularly in "vulnerable countries" with limited healthcare services. "What's really needed here is a lot more resources and people to deal with what's become the largest Ebola outbreak in history." Read more:


The United States told the families of its diplomats in Sierra Leone to leave the country to avoid exposure to the deadly Ebola epidemic. "The embassy recommended this step out of an abundance of caution," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Thursday, citing "a lack of options for routine health care services at major medical facilities due to the Ebola outbreak." Ms Harf said the State Department was also "reconfiguring" its staff at the embassy in Freetown to "be more responsive" to the crisis ravaging the country. "We remain deeply committed to supporting Sierra Leone and regional and international efforts to strengthen the capacity of the country's health care infrastructure and system - specifically, the capacity to contain and control the transmission of the Ebola virus and deliver health care," Ms Harf said in a statement. On August 7, the United States ordered families of embassy staff out of Liberia, another country hit by the world's biggest ever outbreak of Ebola. The news came as President Barack Obama said he called the presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone Thursday to discuss the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the White House said. Mr Obama made calls to Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. "In his conversations with both leaders, the president underscored the commitment of the United States to work with Liberia, Sierra Leone, and other international partners to contain the outbreak and expressed his condolences for the lives lost," the White House said. The death toll from the epidemic reached 1,069 on Wednesday, according to the World Health Organisation. LINK:

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


Orthodox East versus secular West. The conflict in Ukraine, some on both sides would have us believe, is a pitched battle between two opposing moral systems. In particular, separatists in eastern Ukraine claim they are defending the frontier of Russian Orthodox civilization. "This is a holy, Orthodox war," one of their female volunteers maintained to Newsweek. "We are all going to fight and bring icons to the battlefield." The separatist forces even include the so-called Russian Orthodox Army, headquartered in rebel-held Donetsk. In promotional videos, its soldiers rail against Kiev's "fascist junta" full of "homos" — but how the contradictory elements of fascism and homosexuality co-exist is not explained. Mostly, they say they are fighting to protect their land, families and homes. Yet nowhere do these warriors mention Orthodox Christianity as the motivation for their armed struggle. In one video, they form a Kalashnikov-tapping chorus to the Orthodox Army's own rap. But other than the refrain "Russian Orthodox!" (Russkaya Pravoslavnaya!), the rap is silent about the Orthodox faith. Even the Orthodox Army's religious symbolism is shaky. When one fighter is filmed bare-chested in a gym, his lack of a baptismal cross — usually worn around the neck by Russian Orthodox — is also laid bare. A commander goes by the name "Demon," a pseudonym unthinkable for an Orthodox Christian. The Russian Orthodox Army has failed even to choose a distinctively Orthodox cross for its banner. Still, the constitution of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic, or DPR, proclaims Orthodoxy as the territory's "primary and prevailing" faith, just as it was in the Russian Empire. In an attempt to enforce this, Igor Strelkov, the DPR's military commander, banned his troops from swearing. "We call ourselves an Orthodox army," his July decree read. "The use of swearwords by soldiers is blasphemy." As The Guardian's Shaun Walker tweeted, however, "on the basis of 99.8 percent of my interactions with them recently, this could prove problematic." But the style of Strelkov's decree banning swearing is perhaps more revealing. Much like his use of a June 1941 decree to execute a man for stealing clothes, the ban on swearing owes more to Stalinist rigidity than to the tsars. If the rebels have any higher allegiance, it is to the Soviet past, not God. "I want to go home," one Orthodox Army fighter admits in his personal YouTube video, "to the U.S.S.R." The U.S.S.R., of course, was not a state known for its encouragement of the Orthodox faith — or any other. So it should come as no surprise that the more Sovietized east of Ukraine is in fact far less religious — including less Orthodox — than the country's west. Annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939, Ukraine's westernmost regions were spared the anti-religious onslaught of the 1930s. Invading central Ukraine in 1941, the Nazis sought local support by opening thousands of churches earlier closed by the Soviets. Most of these remained open even after the Red Army reclaimed the territory: Stalin dared not risk a backlash by closing them again. In 2010, as most recently measured by the Kiev-based independent Razumkov Center, the number of religious communities per capita in easternmost Ukraine was still less than half that of central regions and only about a quarter that of western Ukraine. Most religious communities affiliated with Ukraine's three rival Orthodox factions, including the Moscow Patriarchate's own Ukrainian Orthodox Church, are also concentrated west of Kiev. Even the Donetsk and Luhansk regions — separatist strongholds — have lower-than-average allegiance to the Moscow Patriarchate. While containing about 15 percent of the population, they account for only 8.5 percent of the Moscow Patriarchate's parishes in Ukraine. Given its loyalty to the Russian Patriarch Kirill, the Church under the Moscow Patriarchate might be expected to back the Kremlin's side in the current conflict. The constitution of the Donetsk People's Republic, after all, professes the Orthodox faith of the Moscow Patriarchate specifically. Yet the Church has shunned the rebels. Far from resisting a "fascist junta," as Russian television dubs Ukraine's government, Metropolitan Onufry, the caretaker leader of the Moscow-affiliated Church, greeted Petro Poroshenko's May election to the presidency as a "sure victory" reflecting his "deep credibility and trust" among Ukrainian citizens. As conflict flared in his diocese, the same Church's Metropolitan Ilarion of Donetsk appealed not for recruits to the Russian Orthodox Army, but for a period of strict fasting and intense prayer for the fighting to stop: "God's blessing will not be upon those who violate the commandment, 'Thou shall not kill!'" Ukraine's various Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches certainly have their disputes, particularly over property. But they have adopted a common position on the current crisis as the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. A typical statement from March blamed Russian government officials for "the possibly irreversible consequences of military conflict on Ukrainian soil." The same month, flanked by Catholic and Orthodox clergy, Mikhailo Panochko, the Council's veteran Pentecostal representative, urged demonstrators amassed on Kiev's Independence Square to uphold Christian principles. Far from being an expression of the dissolute secular West, political change in Kiev is backed by local and largely conservative faith communities — including the one most closely identified with Moscow. LINK:


Following a meeting of a crisis unit working to stem the ongoing Ebola outbreak, Germany on Wednesday updated its travel warnings for the hardest-hit regions. "It was decided that all German nationals who are in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are called upon to leave due to the still-critical situation," foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer told reporters, adding that German medical personnel needed on the ground were "explicitly exempt." German embassies and consulates in the three countries would remain open, Schäfer also said. This latest outbreak of Ebola, which began in March, is the worst since the deadly and highly contagious virus was discovered in the 1970s. According to figures published Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO), 1,069 people have now died. Further deaths Authorities in Sierra Leone announced earlier on Wednesday that a second of its physicians working to stop the spread of the disease had perished. Dr. Modupeh Cole was a senior physician at Connaught Hospital in Freetown. "We are all very, very saddened," the country's chief medical officer Dr. Brima Kargbo said, adding that Cole was a "powerful presence in the country's medical team and has been [...] instrumental in the fight against the Ebola virus." Cole's death follows that of Sierra Leone's leading anti-Ebola expert, Sheik Humarr Khan, who succumbed to the virus a fortnight ago. In Nigeria on Wednesday officials reported the death of government staff member Jatto Asihu Abdulqudira, the third Nigerian to die from Ebola. The 36-year-old, who was working with ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) in Lagos, had been in contact with Nigeria's first Ebola victim, Patrick Sawyer. Nigeria currently has 10 confirmed cases, with more than 100 people under surveillance, and has requested supplies of the experimental drug ZMapp to fight the virus. ZMapp has been used to treat two Americans who are still alive and a Spanish priest who has died. Canadian authorities have also pledged to send an experimental Ebola drug to the WHO, which has approved using experimental drugs against the virus. Travel restrictions Fears over the virus' spread have also led to further travel restrictions, with the Reuters news agency reporting that Guinea-Bissau has closed its border with Guinea. LINK:


The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Kenya as a "high-risk" country for the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Kenya was vulnerable because it was a major transport hub, with many flights from West Africa, a WHO official said. This is the most serious warning to date by the WHO that Ebola could spread to East Africa. The number of people killed by Ebola in West Africa has risen to 1,069, the WHO said in its latest update. Fifty-six deaths and 128 new cases were reported in the region in the two days to 11 August, it added. Canada said it would donate up to 1,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to help fight the outbreak. Airport health checks In Sierra Leone, a doctor who treated patients infected with Ebola has died, reports the BBC's Umaru Fofana from the capital, Freetown. Dr Modupeh Cole is the second Sierra Leonean doctor to die of the disease. In Nigeria, Africa's most populous state, a third Ebola-related death was reported on Tuesday. In other developments: Germany has ordered all its citizens, except health workers, to leave Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three states where the outbreak has been the deadliest. Guinea-Bissau has decided to shut its border with Guinea, Reuters news agency reports. Ghana has delayed the opening of universities and colleges by at least two weeks to put in place measures to screen students arriving from Ebola-hit countries. The African Union has pledged $1m (£600,000) to help fight the disease. The WHO's country director for Kenya, Custodia Mandlhate, said the East African state was "classified in group two; at high risk of transmission". Health checks at the main airport in the capital, Nairobi, have been stepped up in recent weeks. 'Global resource' The Kenyan government said it would not ban flights from the four countries hit by Ebola. "We do not recommend ban of flights because of porous borders," health cabinet secretary James Macharia said. Kenya receives more than 70 flights a week from West Africa. The West African regional body, Ecowas, said one of its officials, Jatto Asihu Abdulqudir, had died of Ebola in Nigeria. The 36-year-old had been in contact with Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian government employee who was the first to be killed by the virus in Nigeria on 25 July, Ecowas said in a statement. Mr Sawyer had flown in from Liberia, when he was diagnosed with Ebola after collapsing at the airport in Lagos, the biggest city in sub-Saharan Africa. This is the first time West Africa has been affected by Ebola - previous outbreaks have affected East and Central Africa. There have been 1,975 confirmed, probable and suspected Ebola cases in West Africa since it was identified in February, according to the WHO. There is no cure for Ebola and the WHO has declared the outbreak a global health emergency. On Tuesday, it approved the use of untested drugs on Ebola patients. However, experts say supplies of both the vaccine and the experimental drug Zmapp are limited and it could take months to develop more supplies. Dr Gregory Taylor, deputy head of Canada's Public Health Agency, said he saw the vaccines as a "global resource". He said he had been advised that it would make sense for healthcare workers to be given the vaccine, given their increased risk of contracting the disease. Zmapp has been used on two US aid workers who have shown signs of improvement, although it is not certain what role the medication played in this. A Roman Catholic priest, infected with Ebola in Liberia, who died after returning home to Spain is also thought to have been given the drug. LINK:

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


Supporters of the Islamic State have been attempting to recruit Jihadists in central London by handing out leaflets to Muslims on the capital's busiest streets. The leaflets, distributed told readers that the "Khilafah [Islamic Caliphate] has been re-established" and ordered them to spread it "across the world." Readers were also told that Muslims must "obey the Khaleef according to the Shariah" - a reference to Shariah law, a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam which is propounded by the Islamic State, previously known as Isis. Ghaffar Hussain, managing director of the anti-extremism group Quilliam and contributor to IBTimes UK, told our sister site Newsweek that the group handing out the leafleters were well-known radicals, hailing from the Luton area. He also suggested they are associated with a network known as the al-Muhajiroun. According to Hussain, the group were handing out leaflets near Oxford Circus, London's key tourist hub and the heart of one of the world's busiest shopping districts. He claims they abused passers-by who confronted them. Asmaa Al-Kufaishi, a British-Iraqi university student, tweeted images of an Islamist Group canvassing around Oxford Circus, with posters showing the black flags associated with the Islamic State. "This group, promoting Islamic State on Oxford street, racially abused us. They don't know true Islam," Al-Kufaishi added. News of the leafleting campaign will concern many given that the Islamic State has garnered a reputation for extreme brutality during its campaign of conquest in Iraq and Syria, during which it has gained control of several key cities. Hussain said: "This is a very disturbing development but one that should not come as a surprise, since we are aware that around 500 British nationals have joined up with ISIS already. "We need to have a zero tolerance policy towards ISIS supporters and recruiters in the UK." Read the Newsweek article: Islamic State Supporters Hand Out Leaflets in Central London Promising 'Dawn of a New Era' LINK:


An Ukrainian artist who portrayed a caricature of feared pro-Russian separatist leader Igor Girkin "Strelkov" on the walls of rebel-held Donetsk has been kidnapped in the eastern Ukrainian city, according to local reports. Sergei Zakharov, author of the Murzilki art project, was abducted by unidentified men in uniforms carrying badges of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR). "He was taken to an unknown destination. We haven't been able to contact him. If anyone has any ideas about a possible release, please write to me in private," the spokesman of the group Sergei Mzurkiewicz said on his Facebook page. Zakharov became widely known in Donetsk for his art installation mocking pro-Russian militants. In his first action, on 11 July, the artist placed a plywood cut shape of the character of the novel Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov wearing a DNR uniform. Another installation portrayed a caricature of pro-Russian commander Arsen Pavlov, who goes by the call sign Motorola, depicted as a devil during the recent wedding with his wife. Pictures of the wedding, which included the self-proclaimed governor of Donetsk, Pavel Gubarev, went viral in July and featured Motorola dressed in battle uniform sporting a broken arm. But it is the third installation that might have caused Zakharov trouble. On the wall of the Komsomolets cinema in Donetsk, the artist attached a caricature of Igor Strelkov with a revolver to his head and the caption "Just do it!" The brother of the artist Andrei Zakharov said the kidnapping took place overnight. According to a neighbour's account: "Four armed men with the DNR identification marks were taking Sergei out of the house. They were also carrying his laptop and a box - most likely it was a box with flyers for future actions. The neighbour asked them why are taking him and to where, but the terrorists claimed they were a rapid response team, and didn't know the details. They were told to get him - and that's what they're doing. " Strelkov is a veteran of both the Soviet and Russian armies and has been described as a covert agent of Russia's GRU military intelligence. He has declared himself Minister of Defence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and was charged by Ukraine authorities with terrorism for acts during the current conflict. The commander has been called "one of the most powerful separatist figures in eastern Ukraine" and is a suspect for the downing of the Malaysian Airlines MH17. An IBTimes UK investigation showed that the charismatic Russian separatist leader was involved in the bloody Bosnian war of the early 1990s. LINK:

Monday, 11 August 2014


Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health will not issue Umrah and Haj visas to pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia due to concerns regarding the spread of the Ebola virus, a ministry spokesperson said. The Kingdom, which has been battling a MERS outbreak, also beefed up precautionary measures at airport terminals to ensure public safety, a senior official was quoted as saying in Saudi Gazette. “We have communicated the instructions to the officials at all ports of entry,” said Khalid Marghalani, MOH spokesman. “We have trained our personnel on how to identify and deal with Ebola cases and control virus infection, should it happen.” There are no direct flights from the three West African countries to the Kingdom except during the Haj season, an official added. Although the World Health Organisation has not recommended any travel restrictions or border closures due to the Ebola outbreak, many major airlines and airports have begun to rigourously screen passengers from West Africa. Dubai’s Emirates also suspended flights to Guinea, becoming the first airline to cut services over the virus fears. The Ebola outbreak, which began in Guinea in February later spread to other West African nations of Sierra Leone and Liberia, and has killed more than 700 people till date. Sierra Leone has already declared a state of emergency due to the rapid spread of the disease, which has no known cure. Ebola’s symptoms include external bleeding, massive internal bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea in its final stages. The disease kills up to 90 per cent of those infected, though the fatality rate in the current epidemic is running at around 60 per cent. LINK:


Ivory Coast has banned all passenger flights from three countries hit by Ebola in an attempt to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. It is the only country, after Saudi Arabia, to impose such a ban, amid mounting concern about the outbreak which has killed nearly 1,000 people. The ban covers Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are worst affected by Ebola, Ivorian officials said. It excludes Nigeria, where a tenth Ebola case has been confirmed. There is no cure for Ebola, which has infected at least 1,779 people since the outbreak was first reported in Guinea in February. Initial flu-like symptoms can lead to external haemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure; patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a global health emergency and is hosting a meeting of medical experts in Geneva to discuss the ethics of using experimental drugs on patients. A Roman Catholic priest, infected with Ebola in Liberia, is being treated with the experimental drug, Zmapp, in a hospital in Madrid. The drug has also been used in the US on two aid workers who are said to have shown signs of improvement. Nigeria has an example of how controversial a clinical medical trial can become. In 1996 the US-based pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, carried out a drug trial during a meningitis outbreak in which about 12,000 people died from the disease in the northern state of Kano over six months. Pfizer gave 100 children an experimental oral antibiotic called Trovan which it said had already been tested on more than 5,000 patients. Pfizer was sued by the government as well as by affected families after 11 children died and dozens were left disabled during the trial - some with brain damage. The firm argued that meningitis had harmed the children and not the drug. But after lengthy legal battles a multi-million dollar settlement was made with Kano state and in 2011 four families received the first compensation payments. One key difference between this Ebola outbreak and the 1996 case is that when Pfizer conducted the Trovan trials another meningitis drug was already widely used. A trial gone wrong can have long-term effects: It is no coincidence that northern Nigeria is one of the few areas in the world where polio remains endemic as the Trovan trial added to suspicion of Western medicine. The Ivorian government said in a statement that it had forbidden all "carriers from transporting passengers" from countries grappling with the outbreak, the AFP news agency reports. The statement did not name the countries, but a health ministry official confirmed to the BBC that it covered Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - not Nigeria. Ivory Coast borders Liberia and Guinea to the west. Preventive measures at the international airport in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, would be stepped up and "all passengers on arrival will have to have their temperatures taken with an infrared thermometer", the AFP news agency reports. Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said a nurse was the latest person to be diagnosed with Ebola in Africa's most populous state. She contracted the virus from Liberian government employee Patrick Sawyer, who died of Ebola in Nigeria last month. British Airways, Pan-African airline Asky and Nigeria's Arik Air have suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone and Emirates Airlines has suspended flights to Guinea. Saudi Arabia's travel ban is aimed at preventing Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Guineans from visiting Islam's holy sites until the virus is contained. LINK:

Sunday, 10 August 2014


BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (KMSP) - The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a crisis that can inflict pain from half a world away, and that is especially true in the Twin Cities because thousands of African immigrants who live here are losing loved ones. Brooklyn Center is home to thousands of immigrants who come from the countries most affected by the outbreak -- Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. For members of those communities, the rising death toll is more than a simple statistic. Many of the Liberian immigrants in Minnesota are losing parents, siblings and friends to the deadly virus, and their suffering is evident. Cynthia Sangbai-Kwennah told Fox 9 News she has lost 9 family members since the deadly Ebola outbreak erupted in her home country of Liberia. She explained that in June, doctors diagnosed her 61-year-old father with malaria and typhoid; however, as close family members started to spend time taking care of him, they also started to get sick. Although her loved ones were showing symptoms of fever and began vomiting, it wasn't until her father died weeks later that doctors realized he had the Ebola virus and likely infected the others. "You cannot just imagine," Sangbai-Kwennah said. "Every week, they call you and say, 'Oh, your mom died. Oh, your dad died. Oh, your niece died. Oh, your nephew died.' It's just crazy. We just cannot believe what has been happening." Nearly 1,000 people have died in the Ebola outbreak so far -- including Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian American from Coon Rapids, Minn. He was a government official with the Liberian Ministry of Finance and was the first reported case in Nigeria. He died in Lagos, Nigeria, after flying from Liberia, and the hospital where he was treated was shut down and quarantined in an attempt to isolate the spread. There is no known vaccine or cure for Ebola, and the World Health Organization is describing the outbreak as an international health emergency that will likely continue to spread for months.


THIS AKL-BLOG STARTED IN MARCH 2014. In FIVE months, I've got followers from 44 countries in every continent, but mostly from (in order): New Zealand, USA, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Australia, France, UK. This blog is really international. I would say thanks to all the followers and particularly to the NZ, USA, Russian and German Comrades. Just keep following THE FREE VOICE OF AUCKLAND. Suggestions and ideas to improve the blog are welcome. Just e-mail me at: Thanx, Kingsland Wolf HERE THE COMPLETE LIST OF THE COUNTRIES: Canada, USA, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile; Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, UK, Ireland, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Spain, Greece; Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, India, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan; Angola, Nigeria; Australia, NZ.

Saturday, 9 August 2014


New Delhi: India's airports went on alert and the government opened an emergency helpline on Saturday as part of measures to tackle any outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic in the country of 1.25 billion people. India has nearly 45,000 nationals living in the four Ebola-affected West African nations and health officials said there was a possibility of some of them returning to their home country if the outbreak worsens. The illness was declared an international health emergency by the World Health Organization on Friday and authorities voiced fears the virus could spread worldwide. India's Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a statement that the country has "put in operation the most advanced surveillance and tracking systems" for the hemorrhagic virus. "There is no need to panic," he said, calling risk of Ebola cases in India "low". But the New Indian Express newspaper voiced concern in an editorial that India's already overburdened health services could not cope with any Ebola outbreak. A country as "populous as India cannot afford to set up adequate isolation, containment facilities and equip medical personnel with protective gear", the newspaper said. There are some 4,700 Indians in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries worst hit by the disease, while another 40,000 live in Nigeria, which has also reported Ebola. "If the situation worsens, there could be a possibility of these Indians travelling back," the health minister said. "Preparedness measures are in place to deal with any case of the virus," he said. The WHO had informed India about a traveller who was possibly exposed to Ebola. He tested negative but has been told to report to authorities if he develops any symptoms, the ministry said. The ministry said an "emergency operation centre" helpline for reporting any cases started operations on Saturday and "surveillance is being strengthened at airports and ports". The government is setting up centres at airports and ports to deal with travellers showing any potential symptoms of Ebola, spread through close contact with bodily fluids of people who who are sick. All air passengers arriving in India from Ebola-affected countries must now fill in a symptom-checklist form and provide addresses as the government builds a database to track people who might develop symptoms. LINK:


Ebola Virus Lagos overwhelmed, Nigeria asks for Ebola outbreak help Nigeria has appealed for volunteers to stop Ebola’s spreading. On Friday, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a national emergency over Ebola, which has so far claimed two lives there. Authorities in Lagos, home to 20 million and the largest city in Africa's most populous country, have said they are facing a shortage of medical personnel. Lagos has nine confirmed Ebola cases, including two deaths. "I won't lie about that," Lagos health commissioner Jide Idris said about the staff shortage Saturday. Declaring Ebola a national emergency on Friday, President Goodluck Jonathan called on Nigerians to avoid gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus. In addition, he warned against moving the corpses of people who had died from Ebola. "Religious and political groups, spiritual healing centers, families, associations and other bodies should ... discourage gatherings and activities that may unwittingly promote close contact with infected persons or place others at risk," Jonathan's office said. Jonathan approved 1.9 billion naira ($11.7 million, nine million euros) in funding to isolate patients, screen the country's borders, and trace those exposed to the disease. Officials planned to meet in Abuja on Monday to discuss strategies to help curb the spread of Ebola. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have also declared states of emergency. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Ebola a global emergency. The current outbreak, which investigators believe began in February in Guinea, is the largest and longest ever recorded. The European Commission announced that it was providing eight million euros to help humanitarian groups and United Nations agencies active in West Africa. The new pledge brings the total amount of European Union aid targeting the current epidemic to 11.9 million euros. The outbreak has killed 961 people, about 50 percent of those infected. Ebola, which transmits through bodily fluids and causes hemorrhaging, has no cure and no vaccine. A trial drug being administered to two Americans infected in Liberia has shown some positive early results. The virus, first identified in 1976, has an overall a fatality rate of 90 percent. More than 20 outbreaks have occurred in central and eastern Africa; the number of cases in the West represents a first. The WHO did not call for travel restrictions, but urged airlines to take precautions. The organization asked countries to prepare to "detect, investigate and manage" Ebola cases if they should arise. India has alerted airports and opened a helpline as part of measures to tackle any potential outbreak of Ebola in the country. The country has nearly 45,000 nationals living in the four Ebola-affected West African nations, and health officials have expressed fears that some of them could return infected if the outbreak worsens. LINK:


Washington (AFP) - People with symptoms of Ebola will inevitably spread worldwide due to the nature of global airline travel, but any outbreak in the US is not likely to be large, health authorities say. Already one man with dual US-Liberian citizenship has died from Ebola, after becoming sick on a plane from Monrovia to Lagos and exposing as many as seven other people in Nigeria. More suspected cases of Ebola moving across borders via air travel are expected, as West Africa faces the largest outbreak of the hemorrhagic virus in history, said Tom Frieden, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus spreads by close contact with bodily fluids and has killed 932 people and infected more than 1,700 since March in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Liberia. "It is certainly possible that we could have ill people in the US who develop Ebola after having been exposed elsewhere," Frieden told a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. "But we are confident that there will not be a large Ebola outbreak in the US." Frieden also told lawmakers that people with symptoms of the disease would inevitably spread worldwide, and indeed numerous countries have already begun testing patients with fever and gastrointestinal distress who have recently traveled to West Africa. "We are all connected and inevitably there will be travelers, American citizens and others who go from these three countries -- or from Lagos if it doesn't get it under control -- and are here with symptoms," Frieden said. However, a CDC spokesman later clarified that Frieden was not saying the United States was bound to get Ebola cases. "It is inevitable that people are going to show up with symptoms. It is possible that some of them are going to have Ebola," said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. There is no treatment or vaccine for Ebola, but it can be contained if patients are swiftly isolated and adequate protective measures are used, Frieden said. Healthcare workers treating Ebola patients should wear goggles, face masks, gloves and protective gowns, according to CDC guidelines. - Equipment lacking - Ken Isaacs, vice president of program and government relations at the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse warned that the world is woefully ill-equipped to handle the spread of Ebola. "It is clear that the disease is uncontained and it is out of control in West Africa," he told the hearing. "The international response to the disease has been a failure." Samaritan's Purse arranged the medical evacuation of US doctor Kent Brantly and days later, missionary Nancy Writebol, from Monrovia to a sophisticated Atlanta hospital. Both fell ill with Ebola while treating patients in the Liberian capital, and their health is now improving. "One of the things that I recognized during the evacuation of our staff is that there is only one airplane in the world with one chamber to carry a level-four pathogenic disease victim," Isaacs said. He also said personal protective gear is hard to find in Liberia, and warned of the particular danger of kissing the corpse farewell during funeral rites. "In the hours after death with Ebola, that is when the body is most infectious because the body is loaded with the virus," he said. "Everybody that touches the corpse is another infection." - Traveler cases - Ebola can cause fever, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding. It has been fatal in about 55 percent of cases during this outbreak. Last month, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian finance ministry employee who was also a naturalized American citizen, brought the virus to Lagos. Sawyer had traveled to Nigeria from Liberia via Togo's capital Lome, and was visibly sick upon arrival at the international airport in Lagos on July 20. He died in quarantine on July 25. As many as seven people who had close contact with Sawyer have fallen ill with Ebola, and one has died, Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said. A Saudi Arabian man who had recently traveled to Sierra Leone and showed Ebola-like symptoms died Wednesday of a heart attack, but authorities in Riyadh did not reveal the results of Ebola tests. A suspected New York patient tested negative on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Greece and Benin were also running tests on potential Ebola cases. Ebola first emerged in 1976, and has killed more than 1,500 people since then. Within weeks, the death toll from this outbreak alone is expected to surpass that number. LINK:

Friday, 8 August 2014


A spokesman for the Islamic State (IS) group, rampaging through northern Iraq, has warned that they will "humiliate the United States" and "raise the flag of Allah in the White House". "I say to America that the Islamic Caliphate has been established," said Abu Mosa, spokesman for the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). "Don't be cowards and attack us with drones. Instead send your soldiers, the ones we humiliated in Iraq." "We will humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House," he added. The comments were made in the first installment of a new documentary, entitled 'The Spread of the Caliphate: The Islamic State', by Vice Media who obtained exclusive access to the terror group. The video follows the militants around the group's newly-created "Caliphate" in the Syrian city of Raqqa. The group have grand ambitions of extending their caliphate across the Middle East but their threat to Americans came before US President Barack Obama's authorisation of strikes against the Islamist fighters in Iraq. Obama said that he would not send troops back into Iraq but would launch aerial strikes that target the Sunni militants to prevent the slaughter of religious minorities and the threat to US interests. Nearly 100,000 Christians have been forced out of Qaraqosh - Iraq's biggest Christian town - by the group while the Yazidi Kurds face a humanitarian crisis after 200,000 fleed the town of Sinjar, 50,000 into the barren Sinjar mountains at risk of starvation and dehydration. "To stop the advance on Erbil, I've directed our military to take targeted strikes against Isis [IS] terrorist convoys should they move toward the city," he said in a speech at the White House. "The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces." In June, IS captured large swathes of northern Iraq such as the cities of Mosul and Tikrit and now have their sights set on Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region. LINK:


Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan declared a national state of emergency on Friday over the Ebola outbreak in Africa’s most populous country as the World Health Organization said West Africa's crisis is likely to get worse in the coming months. Jonathan approved 1.9 billion naira ($11.6-million U.S.) of emergency funds to contain the virus. Nigeria has confirmed seven cases of Ebola since a man fell sick on arrival from Liberia, two of whom have died. The world’s worst Ebola outbreak has already affected Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, is likely to get worse in the coming months. “The likelihood is that things will get worse before they get better,” Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s head of health security, told reporters in Geneva on Friday as the agency declared the outbreak an international emergency. “We are fully prepared for the outbreak to be at a high level for a number of months.” The WHO announced Friday that the outbreak's death toll has reach 961, with 68 new cases and 29 new deaths reported by Aug. 6 in the four affected countries: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The WHO said the possible consequences of a further international spread of the outbreak were “particularly serious” in view of the virulence of the disease. “A co-ordinated international response is deemed essential to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola,” the WHO said in a statement after a two-day meeting of its emergency committee on Ebola. The declaration of an international emergency will have the effect of raising the level of vigilance for transmission of the virus. The agency added that while all states with Ebola transmission should declare a national emergency, there should be no general ban on international travel or trade. Fukuda stressed that, with the right steps and measures to deal with infected people, Ebola’s spread could be stopped. “This is not a mysterious disease. This is an infectious disease that can be contained,” he told reporters on a telephone briefing from the WHO’s Geneva headquarters. “It is not a virus that is spread through the air.” The WHO said the current outbreak was the most severe in the almost 40 years since Ebola was first identified in humans. This was partly because of weaknesses in the countries currently affected, it said, where health systems were fragile and lacking in human, financial and material resources. It also said inexperience in dealing with Ebola outbreaks and misperceptions of the disease, including how it is transmitted, “continue to be a major challenge in some communities.” Although most cases of Ebola are in the remote area where Guinea borders Sierra Leone and Liberia, alarm over the spread of the disease increased last month when a U.S. citizen died in Nigeria after traveling there by plane from Liberia. After an experimental drug was administered to two U.S. charity workers who were infected in Liberia, Ebola specialists have urged the WHO to offer such drugs to Africans. The UN agency has asked medical ethics experts to explore this option next week. LINK: