Mars Probes Give Scientists Box Seats For Rare Comet Flyby

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 19 2014

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An artist’s rendering of the flyby with Mars orbiters taking cover. Note that the image says “spacecraft not to scale.”

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An artist's rendering of the flyby with Mars orbiters taking cover. Note that the image says spacecraft not to scale.

An artist’s rendering of the flyby with Mars orbiters taking cover. Note that the image says “spacecraft not to scale.”

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars is about to get a visitor that comes around only once in a million years or so.

The arrival of a “mountain-sized” comet, Siding Spring (C/2013 A1), is made all the more extraordinary by the fact that humans — who were busy refining their stone-tool-making skills the last time such an event might have occurred — now have spacecraft from multiple countries at the Red Planet to see it happen.

“Think about a comet that started its travel probably at the dawn of man and it’s just coming in close now,” Carey Lisse, a senior astrophysicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said at a news briefing about Comet Siding Spring last week. “And the reason we can actually observe it is because we have built satellites and rovers. We’ve now got outposts around Mars.”

As the nucleus of the comet passes about 80,000 miles from the Martian surface The nucleus of the comet will make its closest approach to Mars at 1:32 p.m. ET on Sunday, orbiters from NASA, Europe and India are all being repurposed to quickly observe the comet flyby and then beat a retreat before the comet’s tail swings by.

As The Associated Press writes: “The orbiting craft will observe the incoming iceball, then hide behind Mars for protection from potentially dangerous debris in the comet tail. NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers will be shielded by the Martian atmosphere. They should have the best seats in the house.”

Emily Lakdawalla, a senior editor for The Planetary Society, says: “There are tons and tons of scientific observations planned by Mars orbiters, Mars rovers, and Earth-based observatories. In fact, most of the facilities that are planning to observe Siding Spring have already begun their work, and will continue observation for days after the encounter.”

Lakdawalla adds: “It’s not like a Mars landing; there won’t be a single moment when a bunch of serious-looking engineers suddenly erupt into cheers. Instead, there’ll be many smaller, non-televised moments as instrument teams receive their data from far-flung spacecraft and telescopes, spread out over the next several days. For the most part, the images of the comet won’t be instant classics; many will show only a single pixel, or a faint smudge. Some of the data won’t even arrive on Earth until the middle of next week.”

As astronomer Phil Plait, who writes the Bad Astronomy blog for Slate, notes:

The NASA comet page says the coma (the big fuzzy cloud of gas surrounding the solid nucleus of the comet) is about 20,000 km across. At closest approach, that means that if you were standing on Mars, the comet would appear to be over 8° across! That means that if you have a big hand, you could just barely block it with your upraised fist.

“That’s astonishing. What a view that would be! And while the astronomer part of my brain is envious and wishes we could see something like that from Earth, the human part of my brain is screaming obscenities at the astronomer part of my brain. In real life, it’s probably best comets keep their distance from us.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/10/18/357184354/mars-probes-give-scientists-box-seats-for-rare-comet-flyby?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Vatican Bishops Scrap Opening To Gays, Divorced Members

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 19 2014

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Pope Francis opens the morning session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, on Saturday.

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Pope Francis opens the morning session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, on Saturday.

Pope Francis opens the morning session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, on Saturday.

Andrew Medichini/AP

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

A synod of Catholic bishops gathered at the Vatican has decided to eliminate a landmark opening to gays that had appeared in an interim summary of discussions made public earlier this week that had appeared to signal a possible shift in the tone of the church.

The move to scrap the message about gays, as well as one that would have signaled more acceptance of divorced church members, is seen as a sign of deep division in the ranks of the bishops.

The Associated Press reports:

“The bishops failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to gays that stripped away the welcoming tone contained in a draft document earlier in the week.

“Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod – whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive communion – also failed to pass.”

According to the BBC: “The Pope said the full draft document, including the rejected paragraphs, should nonetheless be published.

“Correspondents say the text welcoming gay people and remarried Catholics had been watered down in the final version that was voted on – but it appears that they still met with resistance from conservatives.

“Speaking after the vote, Pope Francis told attendees he would have been ‘worried and saddened’ if there had not been ‘animated discussions’ or if ‘everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace’, AP news agency reported.”

As The National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent Joshua McElwee told NPR when Tuesday’s preliminary summary was released, the bishops had said they wanted “to reach out to modern society and walk with people as they apply church doctrine alongside mercy.”

But by the time of the their final report today, the language on gays and divorced members was gone.

Meanwhile, NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome that the mayor of the Italian capital, Ignazio Marino, has defied the a law against gay marriage in the country by registering 16 same-sex marriages celebrated abroad.

“Marino said his decision … is an important step in the fight for equal rights for all,” Sylvia reports.

“The move came after the interior minister, Angelino Alfano, sent a notice to local prefects saying registrations of gay marriages would be voided,” Sylvia says. “Registrations had already been under way in several Italian municipalities, including Milan and Bologna.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/10/18/357192760/vatican-bishops-scrap-opening-to-gays-divorced-members?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Saudi Cleric’s Death Sentence Focuses Shia Anger On Ruling Family

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 19 2014

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Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr lies wounded in the back of a police car following his arrest in July 2012. A Saudi court sentenced him to death this week for disloyalty to the ruling family and other charges.

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Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr lies wounded in the back of a police car following his arrest in July 2012. A Saudi court sentenced him to death this week for disloyalty to the ruling family and other charges.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr lies wounded in the back of a police car following his arrest in July 2012. A Saudi court sentenced him to death this week for disloyalty to the ruling family and other charges.

AFP/Getty Images

Protests broke out in Saudi Arabia this week over the death sentence of a leading Shiite cleric. Human rights activists call his sentencing political and warn that by killing him, the country may deepen sectarian discord and spur more violence.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was a leading voice during protests in 2011 and 2012 by the minority Shiite Muslim community.

The Shiites were demanding reforms to anti-Shiite practices that shut them out of top government employment and prevent them from building places of worship. Saudi Arabia’s ruling family and the majority of the country are Sunni Muslims.

Nimr was a bold voice for Saudi Shias.

“From the moment you’re born, you’re surrounded by fear,” he said in a 2011 sermon. “The people took to the streets demanding freedom, dignity and reform. We don’t mind getting arrested with those who’ve been detained and we don’t even mind shedding our blood for their sake.”

Less than a year later, Nimr was arrested, and shot and wounded in the process. Police claim he used violence against them; his supporters and family say that’s not true.

He was sentenced to death Wednesday on charges that include being disloyal to the ruling family, using violence and seeking foreign meddling.

Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle says the sentencing was political and could bring more unrest.

“This can end up festering over a long period of time and ultimately leads to instability,” Coogle says.

Coogle says the court that sentenced Nimr, a specialized criminal court, was originally formed to try terrorism cases but is now being used to silence critics. Nimr’s nephew, an activist, was also sentenced to death in the same court. Human Rights Watch is calling for the court to be abolished.

Coogle says western allies like the U.S. need to address Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

“If we’re going to support human rights in Syria, for example, it’s also important to have conversations with our own ally,” he says.

In Saudi, small protests have begun.

In the eastern province of Qatif, home to a large part of Saudi’s Shiite community, protesters called for the downfall of the ruling family. If Nimr is killed, activists warn, the unrest will grow.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/18/357108117/saudi-clerics-death-sentence-focuses-shia-anger-on-ruling-family?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Oscar Pistorius’ Sentencing And The Classic True Crime Novel

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 18 2014


Twenty years after 0.J. Simpson’s “Trial Of The Century,” another murder trial featuring a global sports star has taken its place in the spotlight.

The crime in question is that of double amputee and superstar Oscar Pistorius, who shot and killed his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. Pistorius escaped a murder charge, but he was convicted of culpable homicide. His sentencing hearing has been going on all week.

Pistorius never denied shooting Steenkamp. He even handed himself over after it happened. He says he fired that gun thinking an intruder was breaking into his house. So there’s been a killing, and we know who did it. The question is why.

Which makes it a good time to re-read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It’s a classic of the true crime genre, the one against which all others are judged, and the most disturbing, compelling, book I’ve ever read. The big reveal in In Cold Blood isn’t who killed the Clutter family — you know who murdered Herb, Bonnie and their two teenage kids. The challenge for Capote, and the reason it’s the perfect book to read now, is that he managed to make the story gripping even though you know the end.

He spent hours interviewing everyone involved. He sat down with the killers, and developed personal relationships with them. Dick Hickock and Perry Smith had heard about some money in a safe in the home of Herb Clutter. Their plan was to rob the house and kill the family, leaving no witnesses behind.

Capote uses a number of different perspectives — the killers themselves and also neighbors and investigators — to weave his story together. He wrote In Cold Blood like a novel, re-creating dialogue, which became controversial when the book was published.

“You exist in a half-world suspended between two superstructures, one self-expression and the other self-destruction,” Capote writes about one of the killers. “You are strong, but there is a flaw in your strength, and unless you learn to control it the flaw will prove stronger than your strength and defeat you.”

He could have been writing about Oscar Pistorius. Could the killing of Reeva Steenkamp have been purely an accident? Either way, like one of Capote’s anti-heroes, Pistorius has shown himself to be a flawed character, and the end result was tragic.

Mandy Wiener is the author of One Tragic Night.

Read an excerpt of In Cold Blood

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/17/356894792/oscar-pistorius-sentencing-and-the-classic-true-crime-novel?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Universities To Speakers Who’ve Visited West Africa: En Garde!

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 18 2014

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Senegalese fencer Abdoulaye Thiam (left) competed against Jason Rogers of the U.S. during the 2008 Olympics. Due to Ebola fears, a World Cup fencing event set for Senegal this month has been canceled.

Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images


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Senegalese fencer Abdoulaye Thiam (left) competed against Jason Rogers of the U.S. during the 2008 Olympics. Due to Ebola fears, a World Cup fencing event set for Senegal this month has been canceled.

Senegalese fencer Abdoulaye Thiam (left) competed against Jason Rogers of the U.S. during the 2008 Olympics. Due to Ebola fears, a World Cup fencing event set for Senegal this month has been canceled.

Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

By now, it’s well known that there are a limited number of ways you can contract Ebola: from the blood, sweat, saliva or other bodily fluids of someone who already is ill with the disease.

There are many more ways you can’t get Ebola: by meeting someone who has recently spent time in West Africa, for example, or sitting through a lecture about Ebola. You can’t even get Ebola if someone with Ebola happens to be near you. To become infected, you’d have to be exposed directly to their bodily fluids.

Yet in the past week, organizations have begun to crack down on events featuring West Africans or those who have returned from a trip to West Africa. The panic surrounding Ebola, a disease about which we actually know a fair amount, has led to some decisions that incorporate very little of that knowledge. Here are four:

Fencers Are En Garde When It Comes To Senegal Tournament

Dakar, the capital of Senegal, was scheduled to host a men’s sabre fencing World Cup event at the end of October, but the sport’s governing body canceled the event on Wednesday. Why? Senegal borders Guinea, one of three West African countries hit hard by Ebola. Senegal saw just one Ebola case in August. Health officials contained the patient and those with whom he had contact, and no further cases were identified.

According to News Agency Nigeria, the decision to cancel the event has not been met with much opposition. The German Fencing Federation’s director of sports, Sven Ressel, told reporters that the decision “absolutely makes sense. Precautionary measures are being taken.” Meanwhile, the World Health Organization today declared Senegal Ebola-free since the country has gone 42 days, or double the incubation period, without a new case.

The University of Georgia shuns a top Liberian journalist

The University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism and Department of Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases invited Wade Williams to campus for an October 23 talk titled “Eyewitness to Ebola: A Liberian Journalist’s Perspective.” Williams is the chief of the news desk at Front Page Africa and one of Liberia’s top journalists. She was also going to be honored for “her journalistic courage” by the Grady School, according to a university press release.

Students and administrators expressed concern since Williams would be coming directly from Liberia to deliver the talk without waiting for the 21-day Ebola incubation period. So her visit has been postponed until the outbreak subsides. Washington Post journalist Todd Frankel will take her place. He returned from Sierra Leone at the beginning of September. The talk has been renamed “Eyewitness to Ebola: A Journalist’s Perspective.”

Case Western Reserve knows better than former CDC Director

The chief health editor for ABC News, Dr. Richard Besser, was scheduled to speak at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University on Wednesday, addressing the need for good communication during health crises. He is particularly well-suited to deliver this talk: he served as acting director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak and visited West Africa at the end of September to report on the Ebola outbreak.

The latter qualification proved problematic for the organizers of the talk. In an op-ed that Besser wrote for the Washington Post, he quoted a letter they sent disinviting him: “Although we understand how small the risk is, we felt that we needed to err on the side of extreme caution because we don’t have the ability to ask all potential attendees if they feel comfortable with the situation.”

Besser was asked to deliver the talk over Skype but he declined, not wanting to “feed the idea that anyone who has been to West Africa, even if not sick, poses a risk.”

Syracuse University disinvites a post-quarantine journalist

Syracuse invited Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Michel du Cille to participate in its fall workshop for journalism students this weekend. Du Cille has a lot of real-world experience to share with these young minds: three weeks ago, he returned from a trip to Liberia, where he covered Ebola for the Washington Post. On Oct. 17, he passed the 21-day Ebola incubation period without showing any symptoms. Two days earlier, he met with Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC director, and spent a day photographing him as he testified in front of Congress.

What’s good enough for Capitol Hill isn’t quite good enough for Syracuse. Citing concerns about student health, the university disinvited du Cille and his wife, photojournalist Nikki Kahn, who had not been to Liberia. The dean of the Newhouse School of Public Communication, Lorraine Branham, expressed misgivings about du Cille being on campus on the 17th, the day his quarantine expired. In an interview with News Photographer magazine, she said, “Twenty-one days is the CDC’s standard, but there have been questions raised about whether the incubation period is longer.” In fact it’s well acknowledged that 21 days is the standard.

“If they’re not showing any symptoms and they’re out of their incubation period they are not a threat to anyone around them,” says Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, director of infection control at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory at Boston University. And what about those who seem to think a person could be contagious even beyond that time? “By taking that stance,” Bhadelia says, “you are actually leading to further public confusion and miseducation.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/10/18/356999766/universities-to-speakers-whove-visited-west-africa-en-garde?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

The Ebola Survivors Who Can’t Go Home

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 18 2014

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Jusoisatu Jusu and her son, Sam, are among the 30-some survivors living in the old Lassa Fever ward at Kenema Hospital.

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Jusoisatu Jusu and her son, Sam, are among the 30-some survivors living in the old Lassa Fever ward at Kenema Hospital.

Jusoisatu Jusu and her son, Sam, are among the 30-some survivors living in the old Lassa Fever ward at Kenema Hospital.

Anders Kelto/NPR

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Meriatu Kamara, 35, lost her husband and two children to Ebola. But she and three of her children survived: (from left) Sallaymatu, Abubakar, Aminatu. They’ve lived in the survivors’ ward for two months. They’re from Makeni, a city 130 miles away and haven’t yet been able to make their way home.

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Meriatu Kamara, 35, lost her husband and two children to Ebola. But she and three of her children survived: (from left) Sallaymatu, Abubakar, Aminatu. They've lived in the survivors' ward for two months. They're from Makeni, a city 130 miles away and haven't yet been able to make their way home.

Meriatu Kamara, 35, lost her husband and two children to Ebola. But she and three of her children survived: (from left) Sallaymatu, Abubakar, Aminatu. They’ve lived in the survivors’ ward for two months. They’re from Makeni, a city 130 miles away and haven’t yet been able to make their way home.

Anders Kelto/NPR

Jusoisatu Jusu, 24, lives in a room in an abandoned hospital ward with her six-year-old son. They’ve survived Ebola. And now they’re stuck.

“It’s terrible,” she says. “We have a lot of things to do, so we want to get back.”

But they can’t. They live in a town called Makeni, about 130 miles away. Public transportation around the country is limited or canceled because of the outbreak. And Jusu doesn’t have the money to pay for a private ride.

About 30 Ebola survivors live in this hospital ward in Kenema, a city in Sierra Leone. It was once a center for doctors who did research on Lassa fever, caused by a virus that was in Sierra Leone long before Ebola arrived. When Ebola hit, many staff members in the ward died, and the building was abandoned. Now, it’s essentially a squatter camp.

Like other survivors, Jusu had to hand over her clothes to be destroyed when she arrived. She’s been given one new outfit — a long, green skirt and pink tank top.

“I wash and I wear it the same thing, every day,” she says.

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Kitibe, 26, has recovered from Ebola and was ready to go home. Then the hospital told him he might have TB.

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Kitibe, 26, has recovered from Ebola and was ready to go home. Then the hospital told him he might have TB.

Kitibe, 26, has recovered from Ebola and was ready to go home. Then the hospital told him he might have TB.

Anders Kelto/NPR

Some survivors are able to go home, but they’re not always welcome. Many are told they can’t get water from a shared tap or sell food at community markets, says Elizabeth Boakarie, a counselor at the hospital. Every night, she and her colleague, social worker Gladys Gassama, speak on radio shows, telling listeners to stop shunning survivors.

Another survivor at the hospital is a 26-year-old man named Kitibe. “I was tormented when I was in the Ebola ward,” he says. “There was [so much] pain within my body.”

Kitibe has recovered and is ready to be discharged. Social worker Gladys Gassama takes a seat next to him for a counseling session about life after Ebola. She tells him that people in his community probably know that he had Ebola. She says when he goes home, he should try to educate people about the disease and should not act as if he’s contagious because people might think he is.

Then Kitibe gets some bad news. A nurse named Donnell Tholley tells him he will not be able to leave the hospital today because he is suspected to have tuberculosis. If his test comes back positive, he’ll have to spend a few weeks, possibly up to six months, in a tuberculosis unit at the hospital.

Only the TB ward is not able to accept him at the moment. So he wanders into the building where other Ebola survivors are hanging out. The room feels like a jail cell — brick walls, metal bars over the windows, a filthy bathroom off to one side. He sits on a wooden bench, next to a teenage boy, and watches the children play with a toy car.

And no one in the crowded room seems to know he likely has a contagious lung disease.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/10/18/357008487/the-ebola-survivors-who-cant-go-home?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Blizzard, Avalanches Kill More Than 27 Trekkers In Nepal

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 17 2014

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In Nepal, a fierce early winter blizzard has claimed the lives of at least 27 trekkers. They were killed on the popular Annapurna circuit in the Himalayas. Others are still missing. The dead included Nepali herders and guides, as well as hikers from Vietnam and Israel to Canada and Poland. The BBC’s Andrew North is in Kathmandu and he’s been talking with survivors about the fast-moving conditions that trapped hundreds near the top of a high mountain pass.

ANDREW NORTH, BYLINE: There’s actually a small shelter or actually a tee shop that is run just during the trekking season at the top of the pass. And people crowded inside there as the weather kind of got worse and worse around them – huge dumps of snow coming down. And they were then trying to decide well, was it best to stay put or whether to try make a break for it? Because many were already starting to suffer from hypothermia – and from what we understand, it was actually a group that decided to make a break for it who came off worse. And they started to descend and they quickly got lost in the white-out conditions. And then many succumbed to exposure.

BLOCK: And along with the blizzard and the deaths from exposure that you’re describing, there were also avalanches, right?

NORTH: That’s right because the amount of snow that’s come down – we’re talking about six feet or more of fresh snow. And of course when you’ve got so much fresh snow, the wind blowing around, it’s highly unstable. And one man I was talking to today who was an Australian, he was saying there were just avalanches – were shooting down everywhere. And he was actually very grateful to his guides because they’d been staying in a hut slightly further down the mountain not actually on the pass itself. But because the guides realized just how much snow was coming down, they told him and his climbing buddy to move to another hut. And the next morning they found that that hut where they had been was completely buried in snow.

BLOCK: Along with the efforts to recover the bodies of those who died on the circuit, there’re also rescue efforts underway. How are those going? And are they finding survivors?

NORTH: Dozens of people have now been rescued. The latest we’ve heard from the authorities is that over 200 people have actually been rescued. But of course also, this gives you an idea of the scale of just how many people were caught up in this. Because, you know, this is the peak of the trekking season. This is one of the most popular trails. And it gives you an idea of just how many people now try to do routes like this.

BLOCK: Andrew, this is being described as a freakish blizzard – the effects of a cyclone that hit India. Were there any weather warnings at all?

NORTH: There’s already some dispute about this. Some say there were some warnings. Others are saying well, there weren’t enough. But I think also this is a bit of a reminder to a lot of people that even though trekking and hiking is a much safer thing to do than trying to climb the mountains, it’s still dangerous. And, I mean, I think also talking to some of the survivors today, it was striking how some of them perhaps, you know, they hadn’t fully taken on board the potential risks that they could run in going on a trek like this.

BLOCK: This disaster along the trekking route in Nepal is on the heels of another disaster in April on Mount Everest – 16 Nepalese guides were killed in that. What are the effects of this on Nepal – on the country itself – and the industry?

NORTH: It’s a very complicated picture because the thousands of climbers and trekkers that come here every year are a critical source of revenue for Nepal, which is still one of the poorest countries in Asia. Disasters like this most recent one involving the trekkers is definitely raising concerns here that this whole business model could be affected. It could be lost if more of these incidents keep happening.

BLOCK: I’ve been talking with Andrew North of the BBC. He’s in Kathmandu, Nepal. Andrew, thanks so much.

NORTH: Thank you.

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Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/16/356728042/blizzard-avalanches-kill-more-than-27-trekkers-in-nepal?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Free Speech In Hong Kong, Then And Now

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 17 2014

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Pro-democracy protesters shout slogans during a standoff with police outside the central government offices in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on Wednesday.

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Pro-democracy protesters shout slogans during a standoff with police outside the central government offices in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Pro-democracy protesters shout slogans during a standoff with police outside the central government offices in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

I’ve been traveling to Hong Kong since 1997, when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule. Reporting on the pro-democracy protests in recent weeks, I’ve been struck by a change in the people here. Many are no longer willing to give their full names when talking about politics and the current protests.

A couple of nights ago I was interviewing a real estate agent in a pinstripe suit on an elevated walkway as police battled and pepper-sprayed demonstrators in the distance.

The man, 27, wasn’t a protester, but supported the pro-democracy movement and explained why. When I asked him for his name, he only offered his surname, Wu. I asked him why he didn’t want to be identified.

“The speech freedom is just fading out,” he said. “I was very confident in Hong Kong 10 years ago, but things change very quick. Everything is getting worse. I have to protect myself at this moment.”

Then I asked if I had interviewed him 10 years ago about politics, would he have given me his full name then?

“Maybe,” he said. “Maybe, yes.”

In the protest tent camp below, I ran across a man named Abe, who was helping to build desks from scrap wood. The main camp stretches across Harcourt Road amid the glass-and-steel towers of Hong Kong’s Admiralty district. Using the highway’s concrete divider, protesters have built an open-air study hall so students can keep up with their homework.

“I have no experience in carpentry,” said Abe, who is Hong Kong-Canadian. “A lot of this is just volunteerism. I see people picking up garbage and I just volunteer.”

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When I asked Abe for his full name, he also declined. He is in marketing and travels to China, where he works with manufacturers.

“I like to go to China and they will put me on a watch list,” he said. “A few of the outspoken and more famous leaders in the Democrat party or other parties aren’t allowed to go back to China.”

Abe may be overly cautious, but he said many people feel the same way.

“I think as Hong Kong is having more economic ties with China, a lot of people are employing self-censorship,” Abe said. “That’s the bottom line. A lot of people are self-censoring.”

Maya Wang, a researcher for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, says under British colonial rule, Hong Kongers tended to speak their minds.

“I think freedom of expression and freedom of the press were freedoms that were taken for granted in Hong Kong,” says Wang, who lives here. “It was just part of daily life.”

When Hong Kong returned to China, Beijing promised the territory could keep its way of life for 50 years, but Wang says free speech and a free press are under threat. She cites the case of billionaire Jimmy Lai, the owner of Apple Daily newspaper and a huge, pro-democracy supporter.

A car rammed into Lai’s home last year and someone left a meat cleaver and an axe outside his front gate. This week, crowds surrounded Apple Daily offices at times and tried to block the newspaper’s delivery. The Wall Street Journal noted that the demonstrators came on charter buses, pitched identical new tents at the scene and appeared to be a rent-a-mob.

The case of journalist Kevin Lau is more frightening. A hired assailant nearly hacked him to death this year with a meat cleaver.

Lau is a Beijing critic and the highly respected former editor of Ming Pao, a daily newspaper that has heavily covered the pro-democracy movement. Lau insists he was attacked for his journalism.

“These two incidents against Jimmy Lai and Kevin Lau are very chilling … to the Hong Kong people,” says Wang, the human rights researcher. “If you have lots of money and you speak on democracy, you could be subjected to these kinds of attacks. What happens to the small, ordinary people who have neither the money nor the fame to protect them?”

The answer: They’re more careful about what they say and more reluctant to give their full names – just like people across the border in mainland China.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/10/17/356716672/free-speech-in-hong-kong-then-and-now?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

World Bank Head On Ebola: Put The Fire Out Where It’s Raging

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 17 2014

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World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wants the international community to step up its response to Ebola.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP


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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wants the international community to step up its response to Ebola.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wants the international community to step up its response to Ebola.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

To stop the raging Ebola epidemic in West Africa, “we need to pay attention to where the fire is burning.”

That means there is no “magic solution,” Jim Yong Kim, the head of the World Bank, told NPR’s Steve Inskeep during an interview on Morning Edition. So appointing an Ebola czar to monitor the international response isn’t going to suddenly stop the outbreak.

Neither will closing the borders between U.S. and the three hardest-hit countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

To Kim, that’s not a long-term solution: “It’s like you’re in your room and the house is on fire, and your approach is to put wet towels under the door. That might work for a while, but unless you put the fire out, you’re still in trouble.”

“The way to stop this epidemic from coming at an even higher level in the United States is actually try to stop it in its tracks,” he says of the many U.S. health workers who have volunteered to go overseas.

He says what’s most important is not only getting protocols in place in the United States but in the three hardest hit countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. That means quickly identifying cases and instituting a high level of infection control — not just standard precautions.

“We’ve got to have very high-quality protective equipment,” he says. “When patients get sick we need to provide intensive care.”

The good news, he says, is that leaders like President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron has stepped up in their aid. But the response has just been inadequate for an outbreak that dates back to December of last year. “We are only now getting comprehensive plans for how we are going to attack this epidemic,” he says.

What’s really missing are health workers, he says. “While we can move thing and build structures what we need are skilled health workers who can do all the complicated things you need to stop the epidemic.”

Kim pointed to Nigeria to illustrate the level of intervention needed to stop the current outbreak. With the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, Nigeria was able to contain the outbreak, with 19 confirmed cases and only seven related deaths.

Still, “it cost them $13 million and more than 200 physicians [and] 600 other health workers,” he says. “They had to do 19,000 home visits taking temperatures in order to get it control.”

He acknowledges that with nearly 9,000 cases so far, there’s a lot of work to be done. Yet he’s confident that the international community will be able to stop Ebola — although he stresses that “we’ve got to move much more quickly.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/10/17/356724987/world-bank-head-on-ebola-put-the-fire-out-where-its-raging?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

‘Times’ Report Details Pentagon’s Mishandling Of Iraq Chemical Weapons

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 16 2014

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We were absolutely told not to talk about it. That’s what a former U.S. Army Sergeant told New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers. Chivers was investigating cases of American soldiers who were exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq – cases that he says were covered up by the military. These were not Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction that President George W. Bush cited as a pretext for the invasion. Instead, they were the remnants of long-abandoned Iraqi weapons programs still toxic enough to burn and blister the U.S. soldiers who handled them.

According to Chivers’ lengthy front page investigation, 17 American service members were exposed to nerve or mustard agents. And he claims the Pentagon kept information about these chemical munitions secret, even from its own troops. C.J. Chivers joins us to talk about his story. Welcome to the program.

C.J. CHIVERS: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: And you got access to heavily redacted intelligence documents. You interviewed dozens of American and Iraqi officials. And in the end, you conclude that U.S. troops found 5,000 chemical warheads or bombs in Iraq. Tell us specifically what they found.

CHIVERS: Most of what they found were old 122 millimeter nerve agent warheads, and most of the balance was a 155 millimeter shell. These were designed to be fired back in the Iran-Iraq war to be used principally against Iranian troops. And they contained, in many cases, old residual sarin or, in some cases, were full still with mustard.

BLOCK: You open your story with a case from 2008, and it involves a specialist named Andrew Goldman, a staff Sergeant named Eric Duling, and they were on a mission to destroy old munitions that could be used in roadside bombs. They were near Taji in Iraq. Tell us their story of what they found and what happened after.

CHIVERS: Well, they were in some ways a typical case. And you nailed it. These weapons were being used for roadside bombs, or were at risk of being used for roadside bombs. And in this case, they had found an old stockpile of these beside a lake. And the typical way that an American ordinance disposal team would handle that situation would be that they would destroy them.

So they would stack them and place other explosives on them and make them disappear. So working on the assumption that they had conventional shells, they detonated them, and in the process of that, cracked open some mustard shells that were buried underneath.

BLOCK: And one of the service members says that there was something leaking – an oily paste that was oozing out, and he goes, that doesn’t look like pond water. He knows that something is wrong.

CHIVERS: So they went out to the crater to examine the site after they had destroyed the stack of shells. And what they found was they had unearthed even more, and some of those shells were cracked and were oozing. And Specialist Goldman – Andrew Goldman was lifting one of the shells to move it out for it to be destroyed, and he saw this at the same time his teammate saw another one on the ground at his feet.

And they both were very suspicious and ended up swabbing with a chemical detection paper the sides of the shells and saw that it was sulfur mustard. By that time it was too late. They had already inhaled some of the sulfur mustard, and in handling the shells, Specialist Goldman had gotten some onto his legs.

BLOCK: And what were the health effects that they endured after this exposure?

CHIVERS: Well, a number of things happened. Their exposure, because it was both inhalation and some skin contact, they developed shortness of breath and headaches. Blisters erupted on Specialist Goldman’s thigh and on his shin and on his buttock. And they, with time, had sort of sustained difficulty breathing.

BLOCK: Some of the troops that you talked to for your story said that the exposure wasn’t taken seriously by medical staff – that they were suspected as being malingerers or trying to get out of duty. Why would that be the case? Why wouldn’t this be taken seriously?

CHIVERS: Well, you’ve probably gone to the heart of what we would think our story is here, which is that almost every case in which the soldiers were denied care or treatment was delayed, it seemed that the medical system was not prepared for them. And this seems rooted in secrecy because these cases were not shared – because the cases were not distributed or transparently discussed among the troops or with the public. Many of the medical facilities were operating under the assumption that a lot of other people were, which was that there weren’t really any chemical weapons in Iraq. And so when the soldiers would report at the tents with chemical symptoms, the doctors seemed to have an inclination to look for something else – dehydration, sunburn. You know, you have a headache. You’ve got a rash. Those are types of complaints that can have many fathers. And so in some cases, treatment was delayed up to two weeks.

BLOCK: When you say that this was kept secret or this information wasn’t shared, there has been a response from the Pentagon – a statement from Secretary Hagel who says the Defense Department made public its discovery of these munitions as far back as 2006 and acknowledged the likelihood that more could be found. This wasn’t entirely secret, right? There was reporting at the time of these munitions being exposed.

CHIVERS: That’s right. Through 2006, the Pentagon released information that said they had found up to 500 chemical shells, or roughly 500 chemical shells – remnant shells left over from pre-1991 era. Ultimately, there was no further release until this story came out. And we had fought a long public records battle with them as recently as a few days ago to try to get them to release the more significant, larger numbers and to give case-by-case examples of the incidents.

And they haven’t released those documents, and they’ve denied our forays in the main. We get very few pages redacted – pages released to us. There’s many other pages that they have not released. And they have not, as of yet, shared the information as to the full extent of the injuries.

So if you put the released as through 2006 number against the actual official tally that we know, they’ve released about 10 percent. And they did not release any of the information about any of the mustard exposure victims who are by our count 15, but we are told that there are more.

BLOCK: But why would that be? What would the interest of the Pentagon be in keeping that secret if they did?

CHIVERS: Well, we wish we knew but – we will say – and I was in the military years ago, and a lot of your listeners were in the military. There is a habitual – there’s a mix of habitual and reflexive secrecy in the military to the point of where they will classify the weather report on the day of an operation. And it is the habit to stovepipe information and to limit its distribution.

And these cases didn’t circulate to the point where I would go meet with generals as I was reporting this and they purported not even to know about it. And so the cases exist sort of at the unit level, and individuals knew, and we found out about them basically through word-of-mouth – through talking to the veterans who knew of other veterans and were passed from person to person over a long period of time.

BLOCK: Chris, you end your article with a sobering thought, and that’s that some of the old chemical munitions in Iraq may now be in the hands of ISIS – the Islamic State.

CHIVERS: The Islamic State has access to the areas where the rounds were found, and so they may have some of the rounds themselves. But we should put that in perspective. The Islamic State is doing a job already on Iraq’s people and on the territory with conventional weapons. They’re killing all sorts of people and controlling all sorts of people using conventional weapons, racking up an awful cost every day. These weapons, if they have a few, would add sort of to their political residence and might make them seem more menacing. This is not necessarily a game changer, though there may be people in the political spectrum who would want to make it so.

BLOCK: C.J. Chivers of The New York Times. He covers conflict, the arms trade and human rights. Thanks very much.

CHIVERS: Thank you.

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Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/15/356451124/times-report-details-pentagons-mishandling-of-iraq-chemical-weapons?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world