The Obama administration is slapping stronger sanctions on Russia. The sanctions — which target key sectors of the Russian economy, including finance and defense — come as a response to Moscow’s alleged involvement in Ukraine. The move comes on the same day that the European Union announced sanctions of its own.
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hide captionMedical workers treat Ebola patients at the Eternal Love Winning Africa hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Three workers at the hospital, including Dr. Kent Brantly (left), have tested positive for Ebola.
Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse
A doctor trained in Fort Worth, Texas, is now a victim of the Ebola outbreak he was battling.
Kent Brantly, 33, had been caring for Ebola patients in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, for several months when he noticed he had symptoms of the deadly virus last Wednesday.
hide captionWhen Dr. Kent Brantly finished his residency in Texas two years ago, he and his family immediately moved to West Africa to help people there.
JPS Health Network/AP
JPS Health Network/AP
He immediately put himself into an isolation ward.
“He is still conversing and is in isolation. But he is seriously ill with a very grave prognosis,” says Dr. David McRay, of John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, who spoke to Brantly by phone on Monday.
“Kent is a calm, confident, focused individual, with a deep calling for the work that he’s doing,” McRay says.
After Brantly completed his residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in 2013, he traveled to West Africa with his wife and two children to work with the Christian aid group Samaritan’s Purse.
Then the Ebola outbreak started in March. Samaritan’s Purse asked Brantly to direct the group’s Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Monrovia.
Since then, about 1,200 people have fallen ill with Ebola, and more than 670 have died across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There’s no treatment for the disease, which spreads when people come into direct contact with bodily fluids, such as saliva, blood, diarrhea and vomit.
Brantly knew providing health care in Liberia would be challenging — and that was even before the Ebola epidemic. But caring for people in need, his friends say, was always what he wanted to do.
Even now, Brantly wants people to focus on the larger epidemic, not just his illness, McRay says. “Many people are infected with Ebola in Africa, and many people are not surviving,” he says. “And Kent does not see his situation as unique in any way.”
Two other members of Brantly’s medical team in Liberia also contracted Ebola. One died. The other, American Nancy Writebol, is still sick.
Brantly says he isn’t sure how he got infected. He’s certain he didn’t violate any safety guidelines.
Samaritan’s Purse is working with the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the source of contamination at the ward, says the group’s spokesperson, Melissa Strickland.
Brantly was working with nearly two dozen Ebola patients, but Strickland says he followed strict protocols. He covered every inch of his body before entering the Ebola ward in a protective suit. “It would take at least 30 minutes to get that suit on properly,” she says.
Although the mortality rate has been about 60 percent in this Ebola outbreak, doctors on the ground say good supportive care early does help. And ideally, Brantly would be evacuated to a hospital in Europe or the U.S., Strickland says. So far that hasn’t been possible.
“There are organizations that will not transport Ebola patients,” Strickland says, “either because they don’t have the isolation protocols in place that would be necessary, or because of the fear of transporting an Ebola patient.”
Brantly’s family returned to the U.S. last week for a visit, before Brantly began showing symptoms. It’s highly unlikely that his family caught the virus from him, the CDC says.
hide captionA fisherman pulls a basket filled with anchovies aboard a fishing boat off of Peru’s northern port of Chimbote, in 2012. Peru is the world’s top fishmeal exporter, producing about a third of worldwide supply.
Those shining attributes have earned them plenty of nods from doctors and environmentalists alike, as we’ve reported. They’re not among the most popular seafoods in the U.S., though, partly because of their fishy taste.
But if you knew that eating these fish would mean shrinking your carbon footprint a wee bit, would that convince you to buy them over say, that bag of frozen shrimp you just mindlessly threw into your grocery cart?
Robert Parker is betting that if you care about eating greener, you’ll want to know about how much fuel it takes to catch your favorite fish. He’s a Ph.D. candidate from Nova Scotia, studying the fishing industry at the University of Tasmania in Australia.
Parker and Peter Tyedmers, who directs the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, recently published an analysis of a fishing industry fuel use database Tyedmers developed. Their analysis finds that fisheries producing the small fish – sardines, mackerel, and anchovies — are “among the most energy and carbon-efficient forms of protein production.” The paper appeared in the journal Fish and Fisheries on July 4.
They also found that fishing for shrimp and lobster are almost as fuel-intensive as raising livestock. As we’ve reported, raising livestock has more of an impact on the environment than any other food we eat.
For example, Parker says, to catch a metric ton (about 2,200 pounds) of sardines or anchovies, it takes about 5 gallons of fuel.
In contrast, to get the same amount of lobster or shrimp, you’d burn an average of 2,100 to 2,600 gallons of fuel.
Now, U.S. and Canadian lobster outfits “are a bit more efficient because of the higher lobster biomass in the ocean,” he says. But they are still burning close to 264 gallons of fuel to catch those 2,200 pounds of crustacean.
So why is all this fuel getting burned? As the fishing industry has evolved in the last century from throwing out a few lines over the local dock to industrialized operations, we’ve been able to fish in more parts of the ocean and freeze our catch right on the boats.
But “a consequence of many of these advancements has been the increased reliance of fisheries on larger vessels, the motorization of fishing fleets with more powerful engines and the increased demand by fisheries for fossil fuels to power everything from propulsion and gear operation to on-board processing, refrigeration and ancillary services such as navigational aids,” the paper says.
And the boats – not the packing plants or trucks transporting fish to the store — are where the bulk of the burn comes from, Parker says. The energy needed to get fish to the dock accounts for 60 to 90 percent of the fishing industry’s total energy use and emissions.
“Fuel is the second biggest cost” in fish production, says Parker, and labor is first, so to encourage more efficient fisheries – and fewer greenhouse gas emissions — we should be “implementing measures shown to decrease fuel consumption.”
And what people do with the fish is inefficient, too. Much of the mackerel, sardines and anchovies get turned to livestock and aquaculture feed, rather than going right to hungry humans. So we’re “taking an efficient system and making it part of an average or inefficient system,” he says.
But getting more people to eat these fish is a tough sell, at least on this side of the Atlantic. Parker himself admits that he wasn’t always a herring fan, but on a trip to Denmark, that’s what was served at the hotel breakfast, so he gave it a try.
Now, he’s a believer. “If you have pickled herring, it’s one of the most delicious things,” he says.
Parker acknowledges that his fuel and fishing study has some limitations. For starters, its largely built from fisheries data from Europe and Australia, where the best records are kept, as well as some from North America. The database does not have much data on fuel use and fishing in the developing world — yet.
Also, he notes, fisheries are not generally giant offenders when it comes to the food system’s carbon emissions. “Fisheries in general have a relatively low carbon footprint when it comes to food … they don’t have [the] methane associated with cows, and feed costs,” he says.
But they hope their work goes beyond emissions. “We’re looking at all the different factors now – we need to feed people, we need to support rural communities, we need to provide healthy and high quality food to people – one niche issue is the role of fisheries in fuel consumption.”
hide captionA health worker gives a child the polio vaccine in Bannu, Pakistan, June 25. More than a quarter-million children in Taliban-controlled areas are likely to miss their immunizations.
A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
Last January Salma Jaffar was shot while she was going door to door in Karachi, giving children drops of the polio vaccine.
“Even when they took out the pistol, I couldn’t understand why he was taking out the gun,” Jaffar says of the two men who pulled up on a motorcycle and started shooting at the vaccination team.
“But when he opened fire, that is when I thought it was the end of the life,” she says. “My first thought was that I won’t be able to see my children again.”
hide captionSalma Jaffar was shot four times while vaccinating children in Karachi last January. She survived. But more than 60 polio workers have been killed in Pakistan over the past two years.
Jaffar was shot four times: twice in her arm and twice in her chest. She spent the next three weeks in an intensive care unit.
Three of her colleagues weren’t as fortunate and died in the attack. They are among the more than 60 polio workers who have been killed since the Pakistani Taliban banned polio immunization in 2012.
Today the militant group continues to threaten to kill not only vaccinators but also parents who get their children immunized. That threat has had a chilling effect on anti-polio efforts nationwide. And it completely halted vaccination drives in some Taliban-controlled areas. It’s in these places that the crippling virus has come roaring back — and threatened to stymie global efforts to wipe out polio.
The worldwide campaign to eradicate polio has been going on for more than two decades. It has cost more than $10 billion. Now the success of the campaign hinges on whether Pakistan can control the virus.
At its peak in the 1950s, polio paralyzed about 350,000 people a year around the world. This year, so far, there have been only 128 cases recorded. Ninety-nine of them have been in Pakistan. And the South Asian nation is the only country in the world where the number of polio cases is rising significantly.
The edict by the Islamic militants to ban immunization was in response to the CIA’s setting up a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign in Pakistan. The covert operation was part of an attempt by the U.S. spy agency to verify whether Osama bin Laden was holed up in the city of Abbottabad.
hide captionA polio vaccination booth in Rawalpindi.
The polio problem in Pakistan right now is a result of the CIA’s actions in the country, says Mufti Muneeb Ur Rehman, a prominent and moderate cleric in Pakistan. He personally accepts the polio vaccine. He encourages people at his mosque to get their kids vaccinated.
“But there are certain areas in Pakistan where the people resist [the polio vaccine] because the CIA used the polio campaign for intelligence purposes,” he says.
Like many Pakistanis, Ur Rehman erroneously says the CIA operation against bin Laden used a polio campaign for cover, even though it actually used a fake hepatitis B campaign. “The one who can use hepatitis for intelligence,” he says, “they can use polio for intelligence.”
And the CIA’s actions were an insult to Pakistan, he says. As a result, more children are now being paralyzed by polio in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world.
Before the Taliban prohibited polio vaccinations, the country was on the verge of eliminating the disease. In 2012 it notched only 58 cases. “The whole thing just then got reversed when vaccinators started to be targeted and killed,” says Elias Durry, who leads the World Health Organization’s polio operations in Pakistan.
The Pakistani government is doing what it can to keep the outbreak from spilling out of the Taliban-controlled area and into the rest of the country, Durry says.
The Health Ministry runs mass immunization campaigns that involve about 200,000 vaccinators, trying to reach millions of kids. There are polio roadblocks on major highways, where vaccinators immunize kids passing through in cars and trucks. Vaccinators also ply bus stations, railway stops and even airports immunizing any child that appears to be under age 5.
But all this hasn’t been enough to wipe out the disease. As long as the Taliban blocks vaccinations in the territory it controls, Durry says, the virus can’t be defeated either in Pakistan or the world.
The immunization ban is in the North and South Waziristan districts, along the Afghanistan border. Officials think about 250,000 kids there are missing their vaccinations.
In the regions under government control, the country is doing all the right things to curb the polio outbreak, Durry says. “But to win the war,” he warns, “we have to be able to access children who are currently not available for vaccination.”
And there’s no indication when the armed conflict between the Taliban and the government will subside — or when the Taliban will allow vaccinators to reach all the children of Pakistan.
NPR’s Emily Harris reports on the Muslim holiday of Eid in Gaza, where one where one family traces the course of three weeks of war in broken bread, temporary shelters and mourning for their dead.
Russia says it will appeal an unfavorable decision by a court in The Hague. The Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded $50 billion to shareholders of the defunct Yukos oil company. Russia seized the company in 2003 and put owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky in jail on tax and fraud charges.
Israel and Hamas carried out a rhetorical battle Sunday over the fate of dueling offers to extend a ceasefire. In the end, the fighting resumed after Saturday’s 12-hour truce. Israel vowed to continue its military campaign, targeting tunnels along the border. Wary Gazans prepared as best they could for the feast that marks the end of Ramadan.
Anne Barnard from The New York Times talks with NPR’s Eric Westervelt about the differences between the current explosion of violence in Gaza and previous ones.
Bloodshed is escalating in Baghdad as the militant group known as the Islamic State seeks to expand its territory in Iraq. NPR’s Eric Westervelt talks to reporter Alice Fordham in Erbil about life under the rule of the radical Islamic group.
hide captionSmoke rises from buildings in May after shelling on the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which is currently held by anti-government fighters. Rights workers say civilians are being killed by government attacks with so-called barrel bombs.
Sadam el-Mehmedy/AFP/Getty Images
Sadam el-Mehmedy/AFP/Getty Images
Human rights groups are accusing the Iraqi government of indiscriminate bombing. Baghdad officials deny that and note they’re fighting a Sunni insurgency that commits mass executions and suicide bombings.
Yet rights workers say civilians are being killed by government attacks with so-called barrel bombs — the crude weapons made famous in Syria’s current conflict. Barrel bombs are illegal and indiscriminate explosives, packed in things like oil drums or gas cylinders.
Hospitals haven’t been spared. A doctor reached in the town of Garma in Anbar province says his hospital was destroyed by a barrel bomb and now he works in a school nearby. Many of the victims, he says, were women and children.
Other doctors contacted by NPR say they’re counting hundreds of civilians killed in several places, including Mosul, Fallujah and Baiji — casualties of barrel bombs from Iraq’s Shiite-led military.
A Terrifying Blast
Distraught and in tears, Ali Hamad can barely describe the destruction that fell from the sky last Wednesday.
The family had broken their day-long fast in the city of Fallujah in the restive Anbar province. Hamad walked out of the house and heard the hum of a helicopter, saw a barrel bomb drop, then a terrifying blast.
“I got up and screamed for my sisters and my mother,” he says. Hamad’s house was wiped out, his whole family dead — two teenage sisters, a 10-year-old brother, his mother and his uncle. He found pieces of them in the rubble. His mother’s arm was still holding her prayer beads. Hamad already lost his father during the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Next door, a family of six was gone. A grieving man cries and says he wishes he had died with them.
“I want someone to hear me, to tell the United Nations what Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki is doing to us. Why? Because we’re Sunni?” he asks.
Insurgents And Indiscriminate Bombings
Tirana Hassan, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, investigated 17 separate airstrikes, including six barrel bombs since June 6 that killed at least 75 civilians.
“The Iraqi government needs to cease all indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and foreign governments who are providing military support and assistance should only continue to support the Government of Iraq on the condition that the armed forces are compliant with international humanitarian law,” Hassan says.
Baghdad is locked in a battle with the extremists calling themselves the Islamic State who have taken over vast parts of the north and west. They’re known for extreme violence and killing innocents.
The government denies the use of barrel bombs, but they’ve been documented in Fallujah since January and are being used in other towns. Doctors in Fallujah estimate the town gets hit by barrel bombs three times a week and more than 600 civilians have been killed in strikes since January.
“A number of these barrel bombs have dropped in these civilian areas and not actually exploded,” Hassan says. “So here you have a civilian population who is trapped between insurgents on the one hand and indiscriminate bombings on the other also living with unexploded ordinances.”
And so people are fleeing in huge numbers to safer areas like Shaqlawa, northeast of Erbil. It’s a resort town where many families from Anbar fled to escape the airstrikes.
Escaping To Safety
The Nouri family fled Fallujah. Ahmed Nouri lays in a bed recovering from a strike that wounded him. He says it was a barrel bomb a month ago. It overturned his car. A scar runs down the length of his arm, another across his stomach.
“This is genocide by Maliki against the Sunni people of Fallujah,” he says.
His sister, Suad, and brother, Mohamed, sit nearby. They survived a rocket and then a barrel bombing last week and fled.
Mohamed Nouri pulls out a small pink piece of paper where he lists every strike he witnessed — July 11, July 12, the list goes on. First, the Americans came and killed us, he says, and now the leader of our own country is doing it.