Two U.S. F-22 Raptors intercepted and fired warning flares at two Russian Su-25s over the tightly congested air space in Syria along the Euphrates River on Wednesday.
The Russian fighters had crossed an agreed upon deconfliction line that runs parallel with the Euphrates River. The U.S. and its Syrian partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, operate on the eastern side of the Euphrates, and it’s a region Russia and its Syrian regime allies are supposed to steer clear from.
“On December 13, two Russian Su-25s flew into coordinated Coalition airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River near Abu Kamal, Syria, and were promptly intercepted by two F-22A Raptors providing air cover for partner ground forces conducting operations to defeat ISIS,” said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
The F-22s conducted maneuvers and fired warning flares and chaff to convince the pair of Russian fighters to leave the deconflicted airspace, he said.
“At one point, one Su-25 flew close enough to an F-22A that it had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision,” Pickart said. “During the incident, a Russian Su-35 also flew across the river and was shadowed closely by one of the F-22As.”
The incident lasted nearly 40 minutes and the Russian aircraft eventually flew back to the west side of the river.
The battle for control of southern Syria and the Middle Euphrates Valley has been contentious this year, and today’s provocations by Russian fighters and their allies are not the first such incident.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians including hundreds of gunmen rallied in Gaza on Thursday to mark the 30th anniversary of Hamas's founding and its chief vowed to reverse U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Earlier in the day, Israel shut its border crossings with Gaza in response to daily rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled enclave since Trump's announcement on Dec. 6, which stirred anger across the Arab and Muslim world and concern among Washington's European allies as well as Russia.
"We will knock down Trump's decision. No superpower is capable of offering Jerusalem to Israel, there is no Israel that it should have a capital named Jerusalem. Our souls, our blood, our sons and our homes are a sacrifice for Jerusalem," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told the rally in Gaza City.
With gunmen from other Palestinian militant groups showing support for Hamas, Haniyeh added, "We are marching towards Jerusalem, sacrificing millions of martyrs along the way," and the crowd repeated his chants.
Israeli aircraft struck three Hamas facilities before dawn after the latest rocket salvo, Israel's military said. It said it targeted training camps and weapons storage compounds. Hamas usually evacuates such facilities when border tensions rise.
Two of the rockets fired by militants were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system and a third exploded in an open area of southern Israel. There were no reports of casualties on either side of the frontier.
The military said in a statement that "due to the security events and in accordance with security assessments", Kerem Shalom crossing - the main passage point for goods entering Gaza - and the Erez pedestrian crossing would be shut as of Thursday. It did not say how long the closure would last.
Around 15 rockets have been fired into southern Israel since Trump's announcement. None of the projectiles has caused serious injury or damage.
The attacks have drawn Israeli air strikes that have killed two Hamas gunmen. Two other Palestinians have been killed in confrontations with Israeli troops during stone-throwing protests along the border.s
In Istanbul on Wednesday, a summit of more than 50 Muslim countries condemned Trump's move and urged the world to respond by recognizing East Jerusalem, captured by Israel along with the West Bank in a 1967 war, as the capital of Palestine. Palestinians want East Jerusalem for the capital of a future state they seek in Israeli-occupied territory.
Trump's declaration has been applauded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a recognition of political reality and Jews' biblical links to Jerusalem, a city that is also holy to Muslims and Christians.
Just in time for Christmas, the Deep State wants to give America the gift that keeps on giving: never-ending mass surveillance.
If this power-hungry cabal gets its way, the government’s power to spy on its citizens will soon be all-encompassing and permanent.
As it now stands, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—the legal basis for two of the National Security Agency’s largest mass surveillance programs, “PRISM” and “Upstream”—is set to expire at the end of 2017.
“PRISM” lets the NSA access emails, video chats, instant messages, and other content sent via Facebook, Google, Apple and others. “Upstream” lets the NSA worm its way into the internet backbone—the cables and switches owned by private corporations like AT&T that make the internet into a global network—and scan traffic for the communications of tens of thousands of individuals labeled “targets.”
Just as the USA Patriot Act was perverted from its original intent to fight terrorism abroad and was used instead to covertly crackdown on the American people (allowing government agencies to secretly track Americans’ financial activities, monitor their communications, and carry out wide-ranging surveillance on them), Section 702 has been used as an end-run around the Constitution to allow the government to collect the actual content of Americans’ emails, phone calls, text messages and other electronic communication without a warrant.
Under Section 702, the government collects and analyzes over 250 million internet communications every year. There are estimates that at least half of these contain information about U.S. residents, many of whom have done nothing wrong. This information is then shared with law enforcement and “routinely used for purposes unrelated to national security.”
Mind you, this is about far more than the metadata collection that Edward Snowden warned us about, which was bad enough. Section 702 gives the government access to the very content of your conversations (phone calls, text messages, video chats), your photographs, your emails. As Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., warned, “This is not just who you send it to, but what’s in it.”
Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency is listening in and tracking you. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. These corporate trackers monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cybersphere and share the data with the government.
Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to collect data and spy on the American people. Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies—the police, public health officials, transportation, etc.—and make it accessible for all those in power.
These government snoops are constantly combing through and harvesting vast quantities of our communications, then storing it in massive databases for years. Once this information—collected illegally and without any probable cause—is ingested into NSA servers, other government agencies can often search through the databases to make criminal cases against Americans that have nothing to do with terrorism or anything national security-related. One Justice Department lawyer called the database the “FBI’s ‘Google.’”
Madagascar isn’t getting this epidemic of the pneumonic plague under control as everyone had hoped. In fact, the opposite seems to be true.
When I wrote about the plague less than two weeks ago, I cited a source that said there were 200 infections and 33 deaths. As of today, those numbers have increased dramatically to more than 1300 infections and 124 deaths. And according to many infectious disease experts, the outbreak has not yet reached its peak. It’s urgent that we stay up-to-date on this epidemic so that we can be prepared if it goes worldwide.
Normally, Madagascar has about 400 cases of plague per year. But this year, it’s worse because it is the pneumonic plague. It gets into the victim’s lungs and is passed through the air from coughing. It’s the most deadly form of a horrific disease, often killing the victim within 24 hours.
Madagascar is a highly populated island with more than 25 million people, and this outbreak has hit the capital city, with more than a million people crammed into an urban environment. There are no real travel restrictions, so flights are going in and out of the international airport, and cargo is still being shipped. Even worse, the funeral customs in Madagascar have people parading corpses down the street and literally dancing around them.
Nine countries and overseas territories have been identified as priority countries in the African region for plague preparedness and readiness by virtue of having trade and travel links to Madagascar.
WHO is prepositioning equipment and supplies, including personal protective equipment, antibiotics and other equipment required to safely identify plague cases, in Comoros, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, and Tanzania.
Due to the increased risk of further spread and the severe nature of the disease, the overall risk at the national level is considered very high. The risk of regional spread is moderate due to the occurrence of frequent travel by air and sea to neighbouring Indian Ocean islands and other southern and east African countries, and the observation of a limited number of cases in travellers. (source)
Health officials are increasingly concerned about the continuous uptick of Legionnaires’ disease cases, which have risen steadily since 2000.
While the waterborne bacterial disease is relatively rare ― with 6,238 cases nationwide so far this year ― there has been a 13.6 percent increase in cases since this time last year. That’s nearly double the increase of 7.8 percent from 2015 to 2016 in the same time period.
The disease is not contagious. It’s contracted when people breathe in water droplets contaminated with Legionella pneumophilia bacteria.
“A person acquires Legionnaires’ disease from mist,”Julien Martinez, assistant press secretary at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told HuffPost in October. “Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.”
For most people, Legionnaires’ disease is treatable with antibiotics, but it can cause severe respiratory illnesses or pneumonia and is fatal for about 1 out of every 10 people who contract it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts point to a handful of factors when looking at the upward trend. The nation’s aging population, which is more susceptible to the disease, and deteriorating infrastructure are top of the list. And the increased awareness of the disease and improved detection are contributing to the rise in identified cases, Dr. Chris Edens, an epidemiologist on CDC’s Legionella team, told HuffPost.
Edens also pointed to the rise in temperatures nationwide ― with longer summers meaning more usage of cooling towers ― as another potential factor in the increase.
While cases are up nationally, New York City and state are seeing a particularly steep jump ― with a 78 percent increase and 34 percent rise, respectively, according to the CDC. The city had seen more cases this year that it did in 2015, when it faced the “worst outbreak in its history,” Tonya Winders, CEO and president of Allergy & Asthma Network, part of the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease, told HuffPost in a statement.
New York is not alone: A high-profile outbreak at Disneyland in Californiacaptured major media attention last month. The rise of cases in Connecticut ― which has seen cases nearly double ― and Ohio and Florida ― which have seen an increase of over 100 cases each ― is also cause for concern.
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