Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In The News

New U.S.-Led Airstrikes Hit Syrian Territory

Five air strikes by a US-led coalition have hit Syrian territory near the Turkish border held by IS (formerly ISIS) militants, according to the organization that monitors situation in the country.
Military planes that conducted attacks came from the direction of Turkey and were not Syrian, head of UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters.
He added that the planes carried out strikes 30-35 kilometers to the west of the strategic city of Kobani.
Neither Turkish air space nor a US airbase in the southern Turkish town of Incirlik have been used in US-led air strikes against the Islamic State militants, two officials in Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto─člu's office told Reuters on Wednesday.
The report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights remains unconfirmed, though: a local official in central Kobani told Reuters that he hadn’t heard any strikes close to the town overnight.
However, he said that fighting between the Kurdish forces and the IS has been taking place.
IS fighters stayed around 15km from the town in the east and west, but had advanced in the south to within 10km after battling with Kurds, Idris Nassan, deputy minister for foreign affairs in the Kobani canton, told Reuters.
The first attacks by the US-led alliance were launched on Tuesday, with 30 militants allegedly killed in the airstrikes. The attacks also killed eight civilians, including three children.

The US and Arab strikes on militant targets in Syria overnight were "only the beginning" of a "credible and sustainable, persistent" coalition effort to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS militants and other extremist groups, the American military has said.
The airstrikes - which employed US Tomahawk missiles, B1 bombers, F16, F18 and F22 strike fighters and drones - was backed by support from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and the UAE - a coalition of nations that has agreed to assist with the destruction of ISIS.
There was also a separate US attack on a different band of Islamist militants in Syria - the mysterious Al Qaeda-affiliated Khorasan Group, who are said to have been planning an "imminent attack" on a Western target.
"I can tell you that last night's strikes were only the beginning," Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. He said the strikes had been "very successful" and would continue, without going into further detail on future operational plans
Another military spokesman, Lieutenant General William Mayville Jr, said that Arab nations - including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - took part in the second and third waves of attacks. He said the Arab countries' actions ranged from combat air patrols to strikes on targets.

Facing a world in turmoil from multiple crises ranging from wars in the Mideast and Africa to the deadly scourge of Ebola and growing Islamic radicalism, leaders from more than 140 countries open their annual meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday with few solutions.

The issue certain to top the agenda is the threat from Islamic terrorists intent on erasing borders, with the first US and Arab airstrikes in Syria delivered Monday night in response.

Many diplomats hope that crisis won’t drown out the plight of millions of civilians caught in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ukraine and Gaza; the misery of the largest number of refugees since World War II; and global support for new UN goals to fight poverty and address climate change.

Looking at the array of complex challenges, Norway’s Foreign Minister Borge Brende told The Associated Press: “It’s unprecedented in decades, that’s for sure.”

He pointed to an unprecedented situation in which the UN and international donors are confronting four top-level humanitarian crises at the same time in Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria, which is now in the fourth year of a civil war which the UN says has killed more than 190,000 people.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will deliver his state of the world report at Wednesday’s opening of the General Assembly ministerial session, gave a bleak preview to reporters last week: The world is facing “multiple crises,” with all featuring attacks on civilians and having dangerous sectarian, ethnic or tribal dimensions.
In addition to the major conflicts, Ban said the world must not forget the continuing violence in Mali, the volatile situation in and around Ukraine, the chaos in Libya, the greater polarization between Israelis and Palestinians following the recent devastating war, and the advances of Boko Haram in Nigeria which “grow more alarming every day.”

Two prominent no-shows are Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf because of the Ebola crisis that has hit her country hardest and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who gave no public reason.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa, already ghastly, could get worse by orders of magnitude, killing hundreds of thousands of people and embedding itself in the human population for years to come, according to two worst-case scenarios from scientists studying the historic outbreak.

The virus could potentially infect 1.4 million people in Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of January, according to a statistical forecast by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Tuesday. That number came just hours after a report in the New England Journal of Medicine warned that the epidemic might never be fully controlled and that the virus could become endemic, crippling civic life in the affected countries and presenting an ongoing threat of spreading elsewhere.

These dire scenarios from highly respected medical sources were framed, however, by optimism from U.S. officials that an accelerated response can and will contain the outbreak in the weeks and months ahead.
CDC Director Tom Frieden cautioned that the estimates in the new report from his agency do not take into account the actions taken, or planned, since August by the United States and the international community. Help is on the way, and it will make a difference, he said — but time is of the essence.
“A surge now can break the back of the epidemic, but delay is extremely costly,” Frieden said.
The situation in West Africa is bleak, with people dying of Ebolain the streets outside clinics that have no available beds, and other victims remaining at home where they are infecting their caregivers. No Ebola outbreak has ever approached the scale of the present epidemic. The previous worst outbreak, in Central Africa, involved only 425 infections in Uganda from October 2000 to January 2001, and was brought under control by local responders aided by international organizations, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

The World Health Organization has reported more than 5,800 cases, including more than 2,800 deaths in the current outbreak. The CDC assumes the actual number of cases is 2.5 times higher than what is officially known.

On graphs showing the rising number of infections and deaths, the lines continue to curve upward. Infections are doubling every 20 days in the coastal nations of Liberia and Sierra Leone, the CDC said. Each infected person is infecting roughly two additional people. The epidemic will begin to subside when the reinfection rate of 2.0 becomes lower than 1.0.
The CDC estimates that in Liberia and Sierra Leone, including unreported cases, there will be about 21,000 total infections by Sept. 30.
“Extrapolating trends to January 20, 2015, without additional interventions or changes in community behavior (e.g., notable reductions in unsafe burial practices), the model also estimates that Liberia and Sierra Leone will have approximately 550,000 Ebola cases (1.4 million when corrected for underreporting),” the CDC wrote.
The CDC report did not include any modeling for Guinea because the disease has struck “in three separate waves,” Frieden said, making it difficult to come up with a valid model to predict what can happen next. The biggest area of uncertainty centers on the heavily forested region where Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia intersect, which has been the center of the outbreak.

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