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 51 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 07:03 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Scientists warn of ‘time horizon’ when sea level rise overwhelms US infrastructure

By Reuters
Monday, July 28, 2014 12:38 EDT

By Ryan McNeill

(Reuters) – Flooding is increasing in frequency along much of the U.S. coast, and the rate of increase is accelerating along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts, a team of federal government scientists found in a study released Monday.

The study examined how often 45 tide gauges along the country’s shore exceeded National Weather Service flood thresholds across several decades. The researchers found that the frequency of flooding increased at 41 locations. Moreover, they found that the rate of increase was accelerating at 28 of those locations. The highest rates of increase were concentrated along the mid-Atlantic coast.

“We stress that in many areas, the frequency of nuisance flooding is already on an accelerating trajectory, and many other locations will soon follow” if trends in rising sea levels continue, the scientists wrote.

The thresholds are usually associated with minor flooding, also called nuisance flooding, which can overwhelm drainage systems, cause road closures and damage infrastructure not built to withstand frequent flooding or exposure to salt water. Such flooding is one of the more recognizable effects of rising seas, as opposed to less frequent but more damaging extreme storms, such as hurricanes, the scientists said.

In the 1950s, nuisance flooding occurred once every one to five years, the study found. By 2012, the frequency had increased to about once every three months at most NOAA gauges.

These storms “are no longer really extreme,” said William Sweet, a NOAA oceanographer and lead author of the study. “It takes a lesser storm to inundate similar (elevations).”

The study is the latest to examine whether minor flooding is increasing as seas rise. Reuters published the results of its own independent analysis earlier this month that found that the number of days a year that tidal waters reached or exceeded flood thresholds more than tripled in many places.

Another study, by Old Dominion University researchers Tal Ezer and Larry Atkinson, found that the U.S. East Coast is “a hotspot of accelerated flooding.” They also found that flooding outside of storm events has increased in frequency and duration. The results of their study are expected to be published later this year.

Among the NOAA study’s findings:

*The northeast Atlantic coast experienced a “significant increase” in nuisance flooding, largely because of the combination of rising sea levels and subsidence, whereby land sinks due to geological forces and the extraction of groundwater.

*In the southeast Atlantic, five of eight gauges “are now on an accelerating nuisance flood frequency trajectory.”

*Four of the eight gauges on the Gulf coast showed accelerating increases in minor flooding.

Such flooding events “are only going to become more noticeable and much more severe in the coming decades” as the seas continue to rise, Sweet said.

The scientists warned in their report that coastal communities may face a “time horizon” when public and private infrastructure “will become increasingly compromised by tidal flooding.” That time is dependent on how fast seas rise — something scientists can’t predict.

“When that day comes, these impacts are going to be accelerated,” Sweet said, “and that’s going to spell all sorts of issues for communities when it comes to adaptation and resilience.”

 52 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Can evolution explain why so many domesticated mammals have floppy ears?

By The Conversation
Monday, July 28, 2014 15:26 EDT

By Don Newgreen, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Jeffrey Craig, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Take a look at several domesticated mammal species and you might spot a number of similarities between them, including those cute floppy ears.

The famous naturalist and evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin even observed in the first chapter of his On the Origin of Species that: Not a single domestic animal can be named which has not in some country drooping ears.

And it’s not just the ears. Domesticated animals share a fairly consistent set of differences from their wild ancestors such as smaller brains, smaller teeth, shorter curly tails and lighter and blotchy coats: a phenomenon called the “domestication syndrome”.

A paper published this week in the journal Genetics poses a new explanation as to why so many domesticated animals have such a similar set of traits.

Adam Wilkins, from South Africa’s Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study, and colleagues propose that human selection has, in domesticated species, altered the development of the neural crest, an organ system present during embryonic development.

The silver fox experiment

The dog has been befriended by humans for at least 11,000 years, longer than any other domesticated animal. They differ from their wild ancestor wolves in all the above listed features of domestication syndrome.

Dogs aren’t the only examples, of course. Humans have also domesticated cattle, horses, sheep, goats … the list goes on.

In the late 1950s, Russian fox-fur-farmer-turned-geneticist Dmitry Belyaev set up a long-term experiment to find out whether he could selectively breed the wildness out of the silver fox, which was hard to breed because of its aggressive nature.

In each generation of foxes, he bred from animals that showed the least aggression towards their captors.

It took him and his successor Lyudmilla Trut just 20 generations – only about 25 years – to create a line of silver foxes who from birth were tame enough to be kept as pets. For those who study evolution, this is an extraordinarily short time span.

But that wasn’t the most surprising result. Although selected only for their temperament, the later generations of silver foxes also had shorter faces, smaller teeth, soft and droopy ears, curly tails and altered colour.

Humans might selectively breed for less “flighty” and less “fighty” beasts, but why should domesticated animals also show characteristic changes in other body features?

The neural crest

In 1868, the same year that Darwin published an entire monograph on domestication, Swiss anatomist Wilhelm His Sr described what became known as the embryonic neural crest.

Vertebrate embryos at an early stage of development consist of three “germ layers”. He described a strip of cells in the outer layer (ectoderm), between the part that produces skin and the part that produces the central nervous system, and named this the Zwischenstrang (“between-strand”). It’s now called the neural crest.

These cells migrate into the middle layer (mesoderm), which produces skeletal, connective, muscular, glandular and reproductive tissues.

In a developing embryo, neural crest (NC) cells migrate in the direction indicated by the red arrows, from the outer germ layer (ectoderm) to the middle germ layer (mesoderm). Once there, they form a range of body structures.

Each germ layer was thought to produce mutually-exclusive tissues, but the bombshell came 20 years later when Russian biologist Nikolai Kastschenko proposed that archetypal middle layer tissues such as the craniofacial skeleton originated in the neural crest.

It took more than 30 years before Kastschenko’s heretical observations were accepted.

Explaining domestication syndrome

Wilkins and colleagues now propose a hypothesis that links the development of the neural crest with the body changes that accompany domestication.

The neural crest produces not only facial skeletal and connective tissues, teeth and external ears but also pigment cells, nerves and adrenal glands, which mediate the “fight or flight” response.

Neural crest cells are also important for stimulating the development of parts of the forebrain and for several hormonal glands.

The researchers argue that the domestication process selects for pre-existing variants in a number of genes that affect neural crest development. This causes a modest reduction in neural crest cell number or activity. This in turn affects the broad range of structures derived from the neural crest, giving rise to domestication syndrome.

Interestingly, deleterious alterations in genes controlling neural crest development cause wide-ranging syndromes called neurocristopathies in humans and in animals.

The researchers bolster their argument using several examples including Treacher Collins, Mowat-Wilson and Waardenburg syndromes. Indeed, they suggest that the domestication syndrome resembles a mild multi-gene neurocristopathy.

Surprisingly, they fail to include Williams Syndrome, which allies a mild variation in facial development with an unusually friendly disposition, as illustrated in the last year’s French-Canadian film Gabrielle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l4cV6KjlxU

The genetic region associated with Williams syndrome has been identified as one of the many regions in the canine genome that varies genetically between dogs and their wild ancestors, wolves.

This new hypothesis proposes one intriguing answer to the domestication question originally identified by Darwin and illustrated by Belyaev and Trut: why do all the traits of domestication co-exist in multiple species?

It may be that neural crest contributions are so diverse that it’s possible to cherry-pick points of congruence to support any hypothesis. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest several lines of molecular genetic and functional experiments that can further put their ideas to the test.

The Conversation

Don Newgreen receives funding from National Health & Medical Research Council, Stem Cells Australia and Financial Markets Foundation for Children.

Jeffrey Craig receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Financial Markets Foundation For Children and the Jack Brockhoff Foundation

 53 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Parisian public gardens next to Louvre overrun by 'really big' rats

Rubbish left by tourists in the Tuileries garden is blamed for the infestation, which has become a problem even in broad daylight

Anne Penketh in Paris   
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 16.55 BST

It is one of the most famous parks in the world and attracts visitors from far and wide. But now Paris's Tuileries garden, next to the Louvre museum, is attracting another kind of visitor in possibly even greater numbers.

"It's horrible, we're scared of being bitten," said Audrey Hacherez, a gardener who was weeding a flowerbed on Monday in the formal gardens, which stretch along the Seine. "They're really big. Sometimes they fight each other."

Tourists' litter is being blamed for an influx of rats that was brought to the attention of Parisians last week after a photographer, Xavier Francolon, took pictures of the rodents scampering in the gardens. He told Le Parisien that he had seen about 30 in the space of the two days, and had been surprised to see so many among picnickers on the grass in broad daylight.

"The tourists throw their scraps of pizza and sandwiches all over the place," said Hacherez.

Standing beside a lavender bed strewn with plastic bottles and discarded food wrappings, another gardener explained that they were using an "ecological" poison against the rats but that it was proving less effective than chemical varieties. The gardeners said they had approached the Louvre's technical experts about the problem and were waiting to hear back.

The Louvre, which along with the culture ministry is responsible for maintaining the Carrousel and Tuileries garden, said on Monday that pest control is carried out twice a month, and more frequently in the summer months. The museum, which coordinates with the city of Paris sanitation services, was aware that last week "there were more rats than usual" in the gardens. It noted that "like any space or urban building near a river, particularly in the centre of Paris, the public domain of the Louvre museum can be the victim of a large and harmful presence of rodents, particularly in the summer".

The rat problem in the Louvre gardens has been acute for the past couple of years, according to local residents.

 54 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:44 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Libya's exodus of diplomats is a sign of how desperate things have become

Warring tribes have deadlocked parliament and closed Tripoli's international airport, raising fears it could become a failed state

Ian Black, Middle East editor
theguardian.com, Monday 28 July 2014 18.22 BST   

Evacuating diplomats is never a good sign of the health of a country; and so it is with Libya, where fierce fighting between rival miltias has closed the international airport, paralysed life in Benghazi and now triggered a foreign exodus. A massive fire raging at a fuel storage depot near Tripoli symbolises a situation that now looks dangerously out of control.

Nearly three years since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi by Nato-backed rebels, the North African country is at another low point. Shoring up the embattled central government to allow it to see off a multitude of competing independent armed groups remains a mammoth task. Parliament has been deadlocked by infighting since the elections in late June.

Thousands of former rebels who fought Gaddafi in 2011 are now employed by the state, but the national army remains weak and ineffective. "The problem is that there is no centralised security system as a consequence of the civil war," argues George Joffe, a consultant. "There seems to be no way in which the government can actually bring the various militias under its control and thereby establish effective security."

The fighting is part of a wider ideological and power struggle between Libyan Islamists and their opponents that is familiar from elsewhere in the Arab world – especially neighbouring Egypt – but it is also about local and regional interests.

In the current chaos the relative stability of the repressive Gaddafi era is certainly now missed by some Libyans, but many hold him responsible for the paralysing fragmentation of the country's political life in his 42 years in power.

Efforts to promote political dialogue by the US, UK and EU, which backed the 2011 uprising and Nato's intervention, and welcomed his demise in the name of democracy, have achieved precious little. Experts argue that there has been too much focus on counter-terrorism – the emphasis of the renegade "dignity" campaigner, General Khalifa Heftar – and not enough on political inclusivity, as the route to national reconciliation.

"Libya's political leadership have never resolved the differences that were there at the end of the revolution," said a diplomat who is still in Tripoli. "That's what has precipitated this polarisation. The people we talk to have no control over the kids on the frontline. There is a culture of impunity. There's no law and order."

It is hard to overstate the impact on foreign investors and general international confidence of the galling fact that the government does not even control the capital's airport, which has been left a partial ruin by the fighting of the last fortnight. The larger danger is that Libya will become a failed state, risking consequences - weapons proliferation, terrorism, refugee flows - that will directly affect its Arab and African neighbours as well as increasingly worried Europeans.

Foreigners care about Libya partly because of its oil, but given the competition between tribal, ethnic and militia groups, for that to flow smoothly the country's fundamental political issues have to be tackled. "It is nearly impossible to make concessions to one group without angering its competitors," the Stratfor consultancy noted recently, "and nearly all of the rival groups are able to control and take critical infrastructure – including airports, pumping stations, oil refineries and export terminals – offline."

Diplomats who are evacuated can be sent back, though the US is likely to be especially cautious about security given the location of its embassy on the dangerous Tripoli airport road and the killing of its ambassador, Chris Steven, in Benghazi in 2012. Britain's ambassador, Michael Aron, who stayed behind with a skeleton staff, sent pointed Eid greetings to all Muslims, but especially to all Libyans, "hoping that this will be a year of reconciliation".

 55 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:40 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Qatar World Cup: migrants wait a year to be paid for building offices

Workers who fitted out lavish offices used by tournament organisers say they are trapped after collapse of contractor

Robert Booth, and Pete Pattisson in Doha
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 14.22 BST      

Exclusive Migrant workers who built luxury offices used by Qatar's 2022 football World Cup organisers have told the Guardian they have not been paid for more than a year and are now working illegally from cockroach-infested lodgings.

Officials in Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy have been using offices on the 38th and 39th floors of Doha's landmark al-Bidda skyscraper – known as the Tower of Football – which were fitted out by men from Nepal, Sri Lanka and India who say they have not been paid for up to 13 months' work.

The project, a Guardian investigation shows, was directly commissioned by the Qatar government and the workers' plight is set to raise fresh doubts over the autocratic emirate's commitment to labour rights as construction starts this year on five new stadiums for the World Cup.

The offices, which cost £2.5m to fit, feature expensive etched glass, handmade Italian furniture, and even a heated executive toilet, project sources said. Yet some of the workers have not been paid, despite complaining to the Qatari authorities months ago and being owed wages as modest as £6 a day.

By the end of this year, several hundred thousand extra migrant workers from some of the world's poorest countries are scheduled to have travelled to Qatar to build World Cup facilities and infrastructure. The acceleration in the building programme comes amid international concern over a rising death toll among migrant workers and the use of forced labour.

"We don't know how much they are spending on the World Cup, but we just need our salary," said one worker who had lost a year's pay on the project. "We were working, but not getting the salary. The government, the company: just provide the money."

The migrants are squeezed seven to a room, sleeping on thin, dirty mattresses on the floor and on bunk beds, in breach of Qatar's own labour standards. They live in constant fear of imprisonment because they have been left without paperwork after the contractor on the project, Lee Trading and Contracting, collapsed. They say they are now being exploited on wages as low as 50p an hour.

Their case was raised with Qatar's prime minister by Amnesty International last November, but the workers have said 13 of them remain stranded in Qatar. Despite having done nothing wrong, five have even been arrested and imprisoned by Qatari police because they did not have ID papers. Legal claims lodged against the former employer at the labour court in November have proved fruitless. They are so poor they can no longer afford the taxi to court to pursue their cases, they say.

A 35-year-old Nepalese worker and father of three who ssaid he too had lost a year's pay: "If I had money to buy a ticket, I would go home."

Qatar's World Cup organising committee confirmed that it had been granted use of temporary offices on the floors fitted out by the unpaid workers. It said it was "heavily dismayed to learn of the behaviour of Lee Trading with regard to the timely payment of its workers". The committee stressed it did not commission the firm. "We strongly disapprove and will continue to press for a speedy and fair conclusion to all cases," it said.

Jim Murphy, the shadow international development secretary, said the revelation added to the pressure on the World Cup organising committeeafter . "They work out of this building, but so far they can't even deliver justice for the men who toiled at their own HQ," he said.

Sharan Burrow, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation, said the workers' treatment was criminal. "It is an appalling abuse of fundamental rights, yet there is no concern from the Qatar government unless they are found out," she said. "In any other country you could prosecute this behaviour."

Contracts show the project was commissioned by Katara Projects, a Qatar government organisation under the auspices of the office of the then heir apparent, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who is now the emir. He also heads the supreme committee, the World Cup organising body. The committee is spending at least £4bn building new stadiums for the tournament, which has become mired in allegations of bribery, while there is disbelief at the prospect of playing the tournament in Qatar's 50C summer heat.

Katara said it terminated its agreement with Lee Trading when it discovered the mistreatment of workers and non-payment of wages, and made efforts to repatriate those affected or find them new jobs. It said several workers had been compensated after court settlements. "If there are employees who were not repatriated, did not find employment or did not receive compensation, we would be happy to engage in any effort with the ministry of labour and ministry of interior to rectify the situation," a spokesman said.

The problems at the Tower of Football workers are not isolated, despite Qatar's pledges to monitor salary payments and abolish the kafala sponsorship system, which stops migrant workers changing job or leaving Qatar without their employer's consent. In 2012 and 2013, 70 labourers from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka died from falls or strikes by objects, 144 died in traffic accidents and 56 killed themselves, the government's own figures show. Dozens more young migrant workers die mysteriously in their sleep from suspected heart attacks every summer.

The Guardian discovered more projects where salaries had not been paid. They included a desert camp of 65 workers who had not been paid for several months, were sleeping eight to a room, and were living with dirty drinking water, filthy, unplumbed toilets and no showers.

Another group said they were being paid only sporadically, that there was sometimes no water in their housing and no electricity to power air conditioning.

This month, the Qatar Foundation, a state body, published a report examining trafficking, debt bondage and forced labour among migrant workers. It identified practices that contravene International Labour Organisation conventions on forced labour and UN anti-trafficking protocols, "widespread" non-payment of wages and bribery and extortion among recruitment agents and employers.

From January to May this year 87 Nepalese workers died in Qatar, a death rate two-and-a-half times higher than that of British ex, pats, new figures from the Nepal government reveal.

"We know there is much more to do," said Abdullah al-Khulaifi, Qatar's minister of labour and social affairs in a statement detailing progress on labour law reforms. "But we are making definite progress and are determined to build momentum."

****************

Qatar World Cup: Fifa vice-president demands payment of migrant workers

UK representative 'very concerned' despite assurances from organising committee that workers' rights would be safeguarded

Robert Booth   
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 11.31 BST   

A Fifa vice-president has demanded Qatar ensure immediate payment for a group of migrant workers who fitted out offices being used by its 2022 World Cup organising committee after the Guardian revealed some have gone unpaid for up to 13 months.

Jim Boyce, Britain's representative on Fifa's 24-person executive committee, said he was very concerned about the situation after repeated assurances from the Qatar organising committee that working conditions for World Cup workers would be safeguarded.

"If the supreme committee is now using offices built by these people they should immediately take steps with the Qatar government to make sure they are properly paid for the work they have done," said Boyce.

"If they are serious and accept there has been a problem and they are going to ensure that labour rights are maintained on any work done in conjunction with the World Cup, then the supreme committee has to ensure this is carried out."

The revelation that more than a dozen men who fitted out lavish offices in Qatar's football HQ have not been paid for up to 13 months came just days after Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, and its secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, met Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, to discuss World Cup preparations and "the ongoing reforms of labour rights to ensure the welfare of migrant workers".

The workers from Sri Lanka, India and Nepal worked on a £2.5m fit-out of the 38th and 39th floor of the Al Bidda tower in Doha, which houses Qatar's supreme committee for delivery and legacy for the 2022 World Cup. The contractor, Lee Trading, was commissioned directly by the Qatar government but failed to pay the workers, some of whom did not receive even modest salaries of £6 a day for more than a year. They are now working illegally from cockroach-infested lodgings while the World Cup organising committee occupies the offices.

The supreme committee confirmed it had been granted use of temporary offices on the floors fitted out by the unpaid workers, but categorically rejected any direct connection with the contracting firm Lee Trading. However, the contract documents seen by the Guardian show the Qatar state body that commissioned the works, Katara Projects, was linked to the office of al-Thani, then heir-apparent and now the emir of Qatar, who recently made himself chairman of the World Cup organising committee board.

"The supreme committee does take very seriously the matter of worker welfare in Qatar," it said in a statement. "We were heavily dismayed to learn of the behaviour of Lee Trading with regard to the timely payment of its workers. We will continue to press for a speedy and fair conclusion to all cases."

In April, Jim Murphy, the shadow secretary of state for international development, met Hassan al-Thawadi, the chief executive of Qatar's World Cup organising committee, to discuss the "kafala" labour sponsorship systems that prevent workers changing jobs or leaving the country without permission from their employer.

"When I travelled to Doha I met the Qatar 2022 organisers on the 37th floor of the Al Bidda tower," Murphy said. "They made promises about workers and the reform of the kafala system. The news that the Bidda tower workers themselves haven't been paid makes those promises sound pretty empty."

Amnesty International came across the workers last year, before the Guardian established they had worked on offices used by the World Cup organisers. Last November, the human rights campaign group raised their plight in person with Qatar's prime minister, interior minister and labour minister. It wrote to the ministry of labour asking for the men to be paid, allowed to leave the country or find new jobs.

Nicholas McGeehan, Human Rights Watch's Qatar researcher, said: "If Qatar had announced some meaningful reforms they would be able to defend themselves against these depressing revelations, because reforms need time to take effect in a sector beset by abuse and exploitation.

"Qatar's inertia on labour reform should concern Fifa and their sponsors just as much as allegations of corruption in the bidding process."

 56 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:36 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Boko Haram Targets Political Figures in String of Attacks

By ADAM NOSSITER
JULY 28, 2014
IHT

ABUJA, Nigeria — A long holiday weekend of kidnapping and suicide bombing, spilling over into Monday, highlighted an apparent shift by the violent Islamists of Boko Haram, with the group now targeting prominent political figures in two countries.

On Sunday, dozens of presumed Boko Haram members burst into the home of a key member of Cameroon’s government just across the border from Nigeria, kidnapping his wife and killing an unknown number. On the same day, and then again on Monday, female suicide bombers struck in Kano, northern Nigeria’s most important city, killing at least three and injuring others.

But it was Sunday’s kidnapping of the wife of Amadou Ali, Cameroon’s vice prime minister and one of the country’s most visible political figures, that represented an especially notable new trend in the terrorist group’s tactics.

It followed an attempt last week in Kaduna, Nigeria, on the life of the country’s most prominent opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari. The attack continued to reverberate in the Nigerian news media throughout the long weekend marking the end of Ramadan, with commentators highlighting the potential chaos that Mr. Buhari’s death would have provoked.

The same apparent motivation, destabilizing neighboring Cameroon’s political foundations, was evident in the attack on Mr. Ali’s home in the northern village of Kolofata, which he was visiting for the weekend.

Mr. Ali has for years been a pillar of the government of Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, one of Africa’s longest-serving and most autocratic leaders. He was the mastermind of Mr. Biya’s long-running prosecution campaign against members of his own government, ostensibly to root out corruption, called Opération Épervier, or Operation Sparrowhawk, which has seen many high-ranking officials sent to jail. Analysts of Cameroon’s politics have said Mr. Biya’s principal motivation has been to maintain an unchallenged grip on power.

The French magazine Jeune Afrique called Mr. Ali “the one who held the sword of Damocles above the heads of his government colleagues,” and the man who “provoked sleeplessness in the political-administrative elite.”

About 250 heavily armed men attacked Mr. Ali’s home in Kolofata on Sunday, according to authorities in Cameroon. Mr. Ali, a former defense and justice minister, was out when the attackers came, Cameroon’s communications minister, Issa Tchiroma said, so they took his wife instead.

The militants also attacked the home of the town’s mayor, kidnapping him and six members of his family. At least 15 people, including bystanders and household members, were killed at the two homes, according to the Cameroonian news media.

Boko Haram, the radical group that abducted more than 200 girls from a Nigerian village in April, has steadily increased the frequency and brutality of its attacks since its formation in 2002.

In 2009, the group attacked a mosque and a police station, killing about 55 people. The next day, Nigerian security forces retaliated with a brutal crackdown. The group went underground, re-emerging with sporadic attacks in the second half of 2010.

Boko Haram greatly expanded its operations between 2011 and 2012, but scaled back in 2013 after Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president, targeted the group in the three states where it is primarily based.

Though the government operation may have limited the group’s reach, Boko Haram has increased the frequency and intensity of its attacks in the states of Borno and Yobe, and caused large casualties in the capital, Abuja.

The bloody tactics that Nigerians have become used to were evident in the Cameroon attack, the third in that country since Friday.

“They carried out a massacre,” Mr. Tchiroma said. He added that, “They looted, they killed,” and, “You can’t imagine the spectacle.”

The attack in Kolofata followed the sentencing in a Cameroonian military court on Friday of over a dozen men accused of being Boko Haram militants. The group has in the past sought to exchange kidnap victims for militants.

Across the border in Kano, Boko Haram’s campaign of bombing continued Sunday and Monday, with at least 11 killed, including five at a Catholic church where an attacker hurled an explosive as worshipers left. Meanwhile, the group deployed a new tactic — female suicide bombers — in attacks across the sprawling city that killed at least three, besides the bombers.

In the attacks on Monday, female bombers set off explosives at a gas station and outside a trading center, according to the Nigerian police. In the first attack, the one resulting in the three deaths, women were lining up to buy kerosene for cooking when the bomber struck.

The emir of Kano, the city’s traditional ruler, canceled end-of-Ramadan celebrations in response to the attacks.

 57 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:33 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
West African countries announce new measures to stop Ebola spread

Nigeria quarantines hospital and Liberia shuts borders but lack of resources and understanding fuels deadly outbreak

Monica Mark   
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 19.41 BST   
   
Authorities across west Africa have announced a series of measures aimed at stopping the spread of the Ebola virus, which reached a fourth country last week with a death in Lagos, Africa's most populous city.

Nigeria closed and quarantined the hospital where a man died on Friday in the country's first recorded case of the deadly and highly contagious pathogen.

The closure of the clinic in one of the city's most densely populated districts came as police were called in to guard Sierra Leone's main Ebola treatment centre, while Liberia shut almost all its borders and banned public gatherings. Attempts to halt the seven month-crisis, which has spiralled into the world's biggest and most widespread outbreak of Ebola, have been hampered by a lack of resources and poor understanding in a region which has never experienced an epidemic.

Ebola has killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since it was first diagnosed in February. The pathogen is passed through contact with bodily fluids of infected patients or eating infected meat, and has no known cure, although chances of survival improve dramatically with early detection and treatment.

"We have shut the hospital to enable us to properly quarantine the environment. Some of the hospital staff who were in close contact with the victim have been isolated," Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris said during a press conference on Monday.

Authorities set up an isolation ward and began tracing those who had been in contact with Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year-old civil servant whose flight from his home in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, stopped over in Togo and Ghana. Some 60 contacts had been traced, including 44 health workers and 15 airport officials. Not all of the flight's passengers had been contacted as the airline had yet to provide a manifest, state officials said.

Derek Gatherer, a virologist at the University of Lancaster, said anyone on the plane near the infected man could be in "pretty serious danger".

"It depends on how much damage this traveller has already done," he said.

But he said Nigeria was richer than the other countries in the region, so could more easily mobilise resources to tackle an outbreak. "Nigerians have deep pockets and they can do as much as any western country could do if they have the motivation and organisation to get it done."

Liberian and Nigerian airports and seaports began screening international arrivals for Ebola symptoms, which can take up to 21 days to appear. Arik Air, a major carrier for the region, has suspended flights between Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as travel peaks this week during the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Sawyer is believed to have contacted the virus from his sister, who died of Ebola earlier this month. But his travelling despite not feeling well has angered many.

"One of our compatriots met his untimely death and put to risk others across borders because of indiscipline and disrespect for the advice which had been given by health workers," Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said during the country's independence day celebrations on Saturday.

She announced stringent new measures after two American volunteer doctors tested positive for Ebola, and the lead medical doctor at the country's largest hospital died. Samuel Brisbane had treated himself at home in an attempt not to infect other health workers, many of whom have been ostracised by their communities.

In Sierra Leone, where 454 have died, angry crowds gathered outside Kenema hospital in the country's remote east, where dozens are receiving treatment for the virus, and threatened to burn it down and remove the patients.

The 1,000-strong crowd marched to the hospital after a former nurse told traders in a nearby fish market that "Ebola was unreal and a gimmick aimed at carrying out cannibalistic rituals", assistant inspector general Alfred Karrow-Kamara told Reuters.

Residents said police fired teargas to disperse the crowds and that a nine-year-old boy was shot in the leg by a police bullet.

Many communities have been left bewildered and angered by the deaths, and a belief that health workers living among the community are spreading the disease.

"It's not just superstition, it's just a scary situation for people there. Some of the reporting around it, that there is no treatment and that people bleed to death, may also discourage people from coming to hospital," said a researcher who spent time in Sierra Leone.

Others still live in denial. "I was one person that was saying the government was just playing tricks and want more money but now the way I see this thing killing people, I believe it," said Tenneh Fahnbulleh, a resident in Monrovia. The mother of three said her husband remained unconvinced even after a woman had died on their street in the past week.

*****************

Ebola outbreak in Africa: the key questions

There is no cure and little treatment for the deadly virus, which has killed at least 660 people in several African countries

Sarah Boseley, health editor
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 15.18 BST   

What is Ebola?

Ebola virus disease, which used to be called Ebola haemorrhagic fever, was named after the river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where one of the first two villages to report cases in 1976 was located. The other was in Sudan. Ebola is a severe viral illness with a sudden onset that comes from direct contact with infected living or dead rainforest animals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, fruit bats, forest antelope and porcupines. It kills up to 90% of those who are infected.

How is it transmitted?

The virus is passed from one human to another, carried in blood and bodily fluids and secretions, but also beds, sheets, clothes or other surfaces that a sick person has touched. Burial ceremonies that involve touching the body are also a risk. The virus enters the body through broken skin or mucous membrane.

The group at highest risk are health workers, caring for those with Ebola. They have to wear full protective clothing, including facemasks and goggles, and should change their gloves between one patient and the next.

What are the symptoms?

The early signs are sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. Vomiting and diarrhoea follow, raising the chances that the sick man or woman will infect somebody else. The kidney and liver are affected and there can be both internal and external bleeding, which is why it was originally called Ebola haemorrhagic fever. Patients are infectious once the symptoms show, which is two to 21 days after they have contracted the virus.

What is the treatment?

There is very little treatment. Patients will need intensive supportive care, with intravenous fluids or oral rehydration salts. They must be kept in isolation and their nurses and visitors must wear full protective suits. If people are to be nursed at home, their carers need instructions and equipment to safeguard themselves. There are no drugs to treat the disease or vaccine to prevent it, although research on a vaccine is under way.

Why is there no cure?

It has proved very hard to find drugs to treat viral diseases from animals, from influenza to HIV. Although the death rate is high, outbreaks of ebola are infrequent and have so far been contained each time. As with many of the so-called neglected tropical diseases, there is not a potentially lucrative market for drug companies, so they will be reluctant to invest in research and development.
If outbreaks can be contained and brought to a halt with good infection control, why do they return?

They can be contained in human populations but the viral reservoir still exists in animals. There will always be a risk that hunters will kill infected animals or that people will pick up those that have died of the infection in the forest and the virus will be reintroduced to the human population.
Will closing borders help?

Containment is key to the strategy against ebola. Quarantine has been used in some outbreaks for the relatives of people who become sick. Because people are not infectious until they become obviously ill, it should in theory be possible to focus efforts on the community where the outbreak began. In the past, that has usually been villages in close proximity to rainforests.

Confirmation of a case in a city such as Lagos is a real concern, but transmission must involve direct contact with a sick individual, so is more likely in a family setting or a hospital. The biggest worry is probably that somebody showing symptoms will be taken to hospital where nursing staff are unprotected, because the disease is not recognised, sparking an outbreak that spreads to their families in turn.

Closing borders may not help keep the disease out because borders are permeable in much of Africa. The World Health Organisation says closures may hinder travel and trade without detecting cases.
Is the rest of the world threatened by ebola?

Clearly somebody infected with the virus could theoretically get on a plane and spark an outbreak – probably in a hospital – anywhere in the world. However, as with the Mers virus, which arrived in London via a patient who was taken to St Thomas' hospital, infection control measures are so stringent in more affluent countries that it is probable the virus would be very rapidly contained.

 58 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:32 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

West African countries announce new measures to stop Ebola spread

Nigeria quarantines hospital and Liberia shuts borders but lack of resources and understanding fuels deadly outbreak

Monica Mark   
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 19.41 BST   
   
Authorities across west Africa have announced a series of measures aimed at stopping the spread of the Ebola virus, which reached a fourth country last week with a death in Lagos, Africa's most populous city.

Nigeria closed and quarantined the hospital where a man died on Friday in the country's first recorded case of the deadly and highly contagious pathogen.

The closure of the clinic in one of the city's most densely populated districts came as police were called in to guard Sierra Leone's main Ebola treatment centre, while Liberia shut almost all its borders and banned public gatherings. Attempts to halt the seven month-crisis, which has spiralled into the world's biggest and most widespread outbreak of Ebola, have been hampered by a lack of resources and poor understanding in a region which has never experienced an epidemic.

Ebola has killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since it was first diagnosed in February. The pathogen is passed through contact with bodily fluids of infected patients or eating infected meat, and has no known cure, although chances of survival improve dramatically with early detection and treatment.

"We have shut the hospital to enable us to properly quarantine the environment. Some of the hospital staff who were in close contact with the victim have been isolated," Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris said during a press conference on Monday.

Authorities set up an isolation ward and began tracing those who had been in contact with Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year-old civil servant whose flight from his home in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, stopped over in Togo and Ghana. Some 60 contacts had been traced, including 44 health workers and 15 airport officials. Not all of the flight's passengers had been contacted as the airline had yet to provide a manifest, state officials said.

Derek Gatherer, a virologist at the University of Lancaster, said anyone on the plane near the infected man could be in "pretty serious danger".

"It depends on how much damage this traveller has already done," he said.

But he said Nigeria was richer than the other countries in the region, so could more easily mobilise resources to tackle an outbreak. "Nigerians have deep pockets and they can do as much as any western country could do if they have the motivation and organisation to get it done."

Liberian and Nigerian airports and seaports began screening international arrivals for Ebola symptoms, which can take up to 21 days to appear. Arik Air, a major carrier for the region, has suspended flights between Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as travel peaks this week during the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Sawyer is believed to have contacted the virus from his sister, who died of Ebola earlier this month. But his travelling despite not feeling well has angered many.

"One of our compatriots met his untimely death and put to risk others across borders because of indiscipline and disrespect for the advice which had been given by health workers," Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said during the country's independence day celebrations on Saturday.

She announced stringent new measures after two American volunteer doctors tested positive for Ebola, and the lead medical doctor at the country's largest hospital died. Samuel Brisbane had treated himself at home in an attempt not to infect other health workers, many of whom have been ostracised by their communities.

In Sierra Leone, where 454 have died, angry crowds gathered outside Kenema hospital in the country's remote east, where dozens are receiving treatment for the virus, and threatened to burn it down and remove the patients.

The 1,000-strong crowd marched to the hospital after a former nurse told traders in a nearby fish market that "Ebola was unreal and a gimmick aimed at carrying out cannibalistic rituals", assistant inspector general Alfred Karrow-Kamara told Reuters.

Residents said police fired teargas to disperse the crowds and that a nine-year-old boy was shot in the leg by a police bullet.

Many communities have been left bewildered and angered by the deaths, and a belief that health workers living among the community are spreading the disease.

"It's not just superstition, it's just a scary situation for people there. Some of the reporting around it, that there is no treatment and that people bleed to death, may also discourage people from coming to hospital," said a researcher who spent time in Sierra Leone.

Others still live in denial. "I was one person that was saying the government was just playing tricks and want more money but now the way I see this thing killing people, I believe it," said Tenneh Fahnbulleh, a resident in Monrovia. The mother of three said her husband remained unconvinced even after a woman had died on their street in the past week.

*****************

Ebola outbreak in Africa: the key questions

There is no cure and little treatment for the deadly virus, which has killed at least 660 people in several African countries

Sarah Boseley, health editor
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 15.18 BST   

What is Ebola?

Ebola virus disease, which used to be called Ebola haemorrhagic fever, was named after the river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where one of the first two villages to report cases in 1976 was located. The other was in Sudan. Ebola is a severe viral illness with a sudden onset that comes from direct contact with infected living or dead rainforest animals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, fruit bats, forest antelope and porcupines. It kills up to 90% of those who are infected.

How is it transmitted?

The virus is passed from one human to another, carried in blood and bodily fluids and secretions, but also beds, sheets, clothes or other surfaces that a sick person has touched. Burial ceremonies that involve touching the body are also a risk. The virus enters the body through broken skin or mucous membrane.

The group at highest risk are health workers, caring for those with Ebola. They have to wear full protective clothing, including facemasks and goggles, and should change their gloves between one patient and the next.

What are the symptoms?

The early signs are sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. Vomiting and diarrhoea follow, raising the chances that the sick man or woman will infect somebody else. The kidney and liver are affected and there can be both internal and external bleeding, which is why it was originally called Ebola haemorrhagic fever. Patients are infectious once the symptoms show, which is two to 21 days after they have contracted the virus.

What is the treatment?

There is very little treatment. Patients will need intensive supportive care, with intravenous fluids or oral rehydration salts. They must be kept in isolation and their nurses and visitors must wear full protective suits. If people are to be nursed at home, their carers need instructions and equipment to safeguard themselves. There are no drugs to treat the disease or vaccine to prevent it, although research on a vaccine is under way.

Why is there no cure?

It has proved very hard to find drugs to treat viral diseases from animals, from influenza to HIV. Although the death rate is high, outbreaks of ebola are infrequent and have so far been contained each time. As with many of the so-called neglected tropical diseases, there is not a potentially lucrative market for drug companies, so they will be reluctant to invest in research and development.
If outbreaks can be contained and brought to a halt with good infection control, why do they return?

They can be contained in human populations but the viral reservoir still exists in animals. There will always be a risk that hunters will kill infected animals or that people will pick up those that have died of the infection in the forest and the virus will be reintroduced to the human population.
Will closing borders help?

Containment is key to the strategy against ebola. Quarantine has been used in some outbreaks for the relatives of people who become sick. Because people are not infectious until they become obviously ill, it should in theory be possible to focus efforts on the community where the outbreak began. In the past, that has usually been villages in close proximity to rainforests.

Confirmation of a case in a city such as Lagos is a real concern, but transmission must involve direct contact with a sick individual, so is more likely in a family setting or a hospital. The biggest worry is probably that somebody showing symptoms will be taken to hospital where nursing staff are unprotected, because the disease is not recognised, sparking an outbreak that spreads to their families in turn.

Closing borders may not help keep the disease out because borders are permeable in much of Africa. The World Health Organisation says closures may hinder travel and trade without detecting cases.
Is the rest of the world threatened by ebola?

Clearly somebody infected with the virus could theoretically get on a plane and spark an outbreak – probably in a hospital – anywhere in the world. However, as with the Mers virus, which arrived in London via a patient who was taken to St Thomas' hospital, infection control measures are so stringent in more affluent countries that it is probable the virus would be very rapidly contained.

 59 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:27 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces as world pleads for truce

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, July 28, 2014 14:50 EDT

Exchanges of fire killed eight Palestinian children in a Gaza refugee camp and four people in Israel on Monday, shattering hopes for an end to three weeks of devastating violence.

The missile that slammed into a public playground in the seafront Shati UN refugee camp also killed at least two other people and wounded another 46, many of them also children, the emergency services said.

Soon after, a security source said five Gaza militants were killed in a shootout with troops in southern Israel. Hamas’s armed wing claimed it killed 10 Israeli soldiers in a raid in the same area, and denied it lost any men.

The latest bloodshed pushed the Palestinian death toll from violence in and around the coastal enclave to more than 1,050.

Palestinian medical sources blamed the refugee camp killings on the Israeli military, with witnesses saying the missiles had been fired from a fighter jet.

“An F-16 fired five rockets at a street in Shati camp where children were playing, killing some of them and injuring many more,” one told AFP.

Inside Shifa hospital, an AFP correspondent saw the bodies of at least seven children from the blast at the camp, with more bodies being brought in on bloodied stretchers.

They were unloaded and taken directly to the mortuary.

The Israeli military categorically denied any attack, and said Hamas had aimed the rockets at Israel but that they misfired and hit the camp.

It also blamed an early attack inside the compound of Gaza’s biggest hospital on militant rocket fire that fell short of Israel and struck in the Palestinian territory.

In Israel, at least four people were killed when a mortar round fired from Gaza hit an administrative building in the Eshkol regional council, media reports said, in what was the biggest civilian loss of life inside the Jewish state since the start of the violence.

The latest deaths came after a brief lull in the fighting in Gaza for the beginning of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, torpedoing hopes of a ceasefire despite intense international pressure for an end to the conflict.

- Abbas mission to Cairo -

Following increasingly urgent calls by the UN and the US for an “immediate ceasefire,” a senior source in the West Bank said Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was heading to Cairo with Hamas representatives for fresh talks on ending the violence in Gaza.

“Abbas is forming a Palestinian delegation including Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives to meet Egyptian leaders and discuss a halt to Israel’s aggression against Gaza,” the source told AFP, without saying when the talks would take place.

“The aim is to examine with Egyptian leaders how to meet Palestinian demands and put an end to the aggression,” he said.

Earlier US President Barack Obama phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to demand an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire”, in a call echoed hours later by the UN Security Council.

As diplomatic efforts intensified to broker an end to the bloodletting which has claimed over a thousand lives, both sides appeared to have settled into an undeclared ceasefire arrangement with the skies over Gaza mostly quiet.

Military spokesman General Moti Almoz described the calm as “an unlimited lull” but warned that the army was ready to resume its activity at any time.

The army said two rockets had struck Israel since midnight (2100 GMT) while in Gaza, an AFP correspondent confirmed there had been no overnight air strikes, although sporadic raids resumed in the afternoon with a four-year-old boy and another person killed by tank shelling near the northern town of Jabaliya.

Another three succumbed to their wounds overnight.

- ‘Eid of martyrs’ -

There was little mood for celebration in Gaza City as the three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr that ends the holy fasting month of Ramadan got under way.

Several hundred people arrived for early-morning prayers at the Al-Omari mosque, bowing and solemnly whispering their worship. But instead of going to feast with relatives, most went straight home while others went to pay their respects to the dead.

Among them was Ahed Shamali whose 16-year-old son who was killed by a tank shell several days ago.

“He was just a kid,” he said, standing by the grave. “This is the Eid of the martyrs.”

Obama’s demand for an “immediate, unconditional” ceasefire has strained US-Israeli ties and put Netanyahu in a tight spot with hardliners in his government, commentators say.

And US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday international efforts to agree a Gaza ceasefire must lead to the disarmament of Hamas.

It came after the UN Security Council appealed for both sides to accept an “immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire” to permit the urgent delivery of aid, in a non-binding statement which elicited disappointment from the Palestinian envoy.

*************

Israel says Gaza campaign will continue 'until mission is accomplished'

House of Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, hit by missile after suggestions of a major escalation of military action in Gaza

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 19.48 BST   

Link to video: Israel vows to continue to act with force as nine children are killed in Gaza

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/jul/28/israel-vows-to-act-with-force-netanyahu-nine-children-killed-gaza-video

The war in Gaza erupted afresh on Monday as Israel warned of a protracted military campaign to destroy cross-border tunnels and disarm Hamas and other militant groups.

"We need to be prepared for a long operation until our mission is accomplished," Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a televised press conference, rejecting mounting international calls for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

Just after midnight , reports from Gaza described flares lighting up the sky amid intense shelling, with drones flying overhead. Gaza's interior ministry announced that the house of a Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was hit by a missile. No immediate casualties were reported.

Netanyahu – who described the conflict as a "just war" – spoke after a series of dramatic events following a lull in fighting on Sunday and early Monday. Eight children playing in a park in a Gaza refugee camp were killed, the main public hospital was struck, four Israeli soldiers were killed in a mortar attack and militants from Gaza infiltrated Israel through a tunnel.

Israel Defence Forces warned residents of neighbourhoods in northern Gaza – including Shujai'iya, the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the three-week war – to evacuate immediately, suggesting a major escalation of military action was imminent.

Benny Gantz, Israel's military chief of staff, and defence minister Moshe Ya'alon also said the operation would continue as long as necessary. "Gaza residents should distance themselves from areas in which Hamas is acting because we will get there and it will be painful," Gantz said.

The renewed bloodshed added urgency to international calls for a ceasefire. Earlier on Monday the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, reiterated the security council's call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, demanding that both sides end the fighting "in the name of humanity".

The statements from the three men directing the military offensive on Gaza will gratify hawkish cabinet ministers and media commentators who have been stridently urging an expansion of the operation to try to deal a decisive blow to Hamas.

But Israel's decision to press ahead with the operation risks alienating its key ally, the US, after Barack Obama told Netanyahu of his concern over civilian casualties.

Eight children and two adults were killed, and dozens more injured, at the seafront Shati refugee camp on Monday. At the same time the Shifa hospital in Gaza City was hit. The incidents followed the end of a 24-hour unilateral ceasefire declared by Hamas to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Israel categorically denied its forces were responsible for the strike on the hospital or the camp, saying rockets launched by militants had misfired. But medical staff and other witnesses insisted missiles were fired at the hospital from an F-16 jet. Israel has previously accused Hamas militants of hiding in the hospital premises."We have not fired on the hospital or on Shati refugee camp," Major Arye Shalicar told AFP. "We know that Hamas was firing from both areas and the missiles struck these places."

In southern Israel a Palestinian mortar strike from Gaza killed four soldiers, the IDF said. A fifth soldier was killed in southern Gaza, bringing total military casualties to 48. A number of others were wounded in the attack. It was not confirmed whether the victims were military personnel or civilians.

At least one militant among a group which infiltrated Israel through a tunnel was killed as the men emerged near a community close to the border. Hamas said 10 Israeli soldiers had lost their lives but there was no confirmation from Israel.Warning sirens were reported in northern Israel, including the city of Haifa, suggesting Hamas could be deploying long-range missiles in its arsenal.

Earlier, following the end of the ceasefire at 2pm, there was renewed rocket fire from Gaza. The IDF warned that it would respond to rocket fire with further air strikes. "The IDF is free to attack after any fire if there is any," Brig Gen Motti Almoz told Israel Radio.

In New York Ban accused Netanyahu and Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mishal of being morally wrong for allowing civilians to be killed.

He urged both sides to demonstrate political will and compassionate leadership to end the bloodshed.

Gaza was in a "critical condition" after three weeks of military offensive, which raised serious questions about proportionality, he told reporters.

The UN and Obama had also called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. The calls followed a series of unilateral ceasefire announcements by both sides, each of which was rejected by the other amid mutual blame and recrimination.

A presidential statement issued by the UN security council just after midnight in New York on Sunday, called on the parties to the conflict "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond" and "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected ceasefire, based on the Egyptian initiative".

It noted "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties" and called for Israel and Hamas to respect international law.

Obama told Netanyahu of his concern at the rising number of civilian deaths and urged an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. He stressed the importance of "ensuring Israel's security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza's humanitarian crisis and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza's long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority".

However, in his television address on Monday night, Netanyahu vowed: "We will not end this operation without neutralising the tunnels whose sole purpose is killing our citizens."

According to the UN, more than 20 hospitals and medical centres have been hit by Israeli shelling and about 1,060 people – mostly civilians – killed, with 6,000 injured. The Israeli death toll exceeded 50.

In Egypt, former president Mohamed Morsi who was overthrown in a military coup a year ago praised the "resistance" in Gaza.

"Our compass is set on supporting Palestine against the usurping occupier and we are with any resistance against any occupier," Morsi said in a message posted on his official Facebook page. "A full salute to those who resist and to the revolutionaries."

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed under the regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

**************

Gaza pounded by Israel after Netanyahu promises prolonged battle

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem and agencies
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 10.35 BST   

Israel increased its attacks on Gaza on Monday night

Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive.

Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours.

Israeli forces targeted key strategic targets, including the home of the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and a building housing Hamas-controlled broadcast outlets.

Haniyeh's home was hit by a missile shortly before dawn, causing damage but no injuries. Eleven people were killed in a strike on a house in Bureij refugee camp in Gaza City.

Shells hit fuel tanks at Gaza's only power plant, causing a massive explosion and black smoke to billow into the air. The plant's capacity - already down to about three hours' electricity supply a day - is likely to be further reduced.

Hamas said al-Aqsa TV and al-Aqsa Radio were also targeted. The television station continued to broadcast but the radio station went silent.

The Israel Defence Forces struck 150 targets in total during the course of the night. Sirens warning of rocket fire sounded across southern Israel.

The IDF said overnight that five soldiers had died in a gun battle on Monday with militants who crossed into Israel via a tunnel near the community of Nahal Oz, close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

The incident raised to 10 the number of military fatalities for the day, bringing the total to 53. Four others were killed in a mortar attack and another died in clashes in the south of Gaza.
A building within the Gaza port on fire after Israeli bombardment. A building within the Gaza port on fire after Israeli bombardment. Photograph: Loulou D'aki/AFP/Getty Images

Hamas's armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, claimed it had killed 19 Israeli soldiers on Monday and a total of 110 during the military campaign.

Speaking at a televised press conference on Monday evening, the Israeli prime minister warned that the operation would step up, in remarks that flouted international pressure for a ceasefire. "We need to be prepared for a protracted campaign. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished," said Binyamin Netanyahu.

The IDF continued to categorically deny that its forces were responsible for hits on Shati refugee camp and the Shifa hospital on Monday. At least eight children were killed at Shati while playing in a park.
Gaza conflict timeline

The military released an aerial photograph that it said showed rockets fired by militants had fallen short. In a statement it said red lines drawn over the photograph indicated “the paths of the four terrorist rockets, as detected by IDF radars and sensors, that were launched in the attacks that resulted in one hitting the Al-Shifa hospital and one hitting the Shati refugee camp. Of the other two rockets, one landed at sea and the other was intercepted on its way to the city of Ashkelon.”

Witnesses in Gaza said missiles had been fired from Israeli F-16 jets. A spokesman for the interior ministry in Gaza, Iyad al-Buzm, said explosives experts from the Gaza police had examined "the targeted places and the remnants of shells there" as well as the wounds on the bodies, determining them to be from an Israeli strike.

The Palestinian death toll stood at around 1,100, mostly civilians. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai agricultural worker have been killed in rocket fire in the past three weeks.

The renewed bloodshed followed growing international calls for a ceasefire. On Monday the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, reiterated the security council’s earlier call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, demanding that both Israel and Hamas end the fighting “in the name of humanity”.
Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky of Gaza City early Tuesday Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky of Gaza City early Tuesday. Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP

The US president, Barack Obama, told Netanyahu by phone on Sunday of his concern at civilian casualties. He also pressed for an immediate ceasefire.

Meanwhile there were fresh clashes in East Jerusalem between Palestinian protesters against the war in Gaza and Israeli security forces.

Monday evening's statements from the three men directing the Israeli military offensive on Gaza – Netanyahu, defence minister Moshe Ya'alon and military chief of staff Benny Gantz – will gratify hawkish cabinet ministers and media commentators who have been stridently urging an expansion of the operation in order to deal a decisive blow to Hamas.

**************

Deadly blasts in Israel and Gaza threaten fragile truce

Missiles strike refugee camp and hospital compound, as four Israelis die in mortar attack near Gaza border

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
theguardian.com, Monday 28 July 2014 17.47 BST   

The war in Gaza threatened to erupt again on Monday following a lull in fighting after several children and adults were killed when missiles struck a refugee camp and the compound of Gaza's biggest public hospital, and four Israelis died in a mortar attack near the Gaza border.

The renewed bloodshed added urgency to international calls for a ceasefire. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, reiterated the security council's call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, demanding that both Israel and Hamas end the fighting "in the name of humanity".

The Israel Defence Forces later warned residents of neighbourhoods in northern Gaza – including Sujiai'iya, the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the three-week war – to evacuate immediately, suggesting an escalation of military action was imminent.

Ten people were reportedly killed at the beachfront Shati refugee camp shortly after the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the scene of countless horrors in the past three weeks, was struck on Monday afternoon.

The incidents followed the end of a 24-hour unilateral ceasefire declared by Hamas to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Israel swiftly denied that its forces were responsible for the strike on the hospital, saying rockets launched by militants had misfired, contradicting reports from medical staff and other witnesses. Israel has previously accused Hamas militants of hiding in the hospital premises.

In southern Israel, a Palestinian mortar strike from Gaza killed four people, Israeli medical officials said. A number of others had been wounded in the attack, they said. It was not confirmed whether the victims were military or civilian.

Following the end of the Hamas-declared 24-hour ceasefire at 2pm, there was renewed rocket fire from Gaza. Warning sirens sounded across southern Israel, and the Israeli authorities reported several rockets landing on open ground.

The Israel Defence Forces warned that it would respond to rocket fire with further air strikes. "The IDF is free to attack after any fire," Israel's chief military spokesman, Brigadier General Motti Almoz, told Israel Radio.

In New York, Ban accused the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mishal of being "morally wrong" for allowing civilians to be killed in the conflict. He urged both sides to demonstrate "political will" and "compassionate leadership" to end the bloodshed.

Gaza was in a "critical condition" following three weeks of military offensive which raised "serious questions about proportionality", he told reporters.

According to the United Nations, more than 20 hospitals and medical centres have been hit by Israeli shelling since the start of the conflict, three weeks ago on Tuesday. The World Health Organisation said it was "appalled by the continuing trend for healthcare facilities, staff and vehicles to come under direct fire in Gaza since the escalation of violence".

The UN and US president Barack Obama called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. The calls followed a series of unilateral ceasefire announcements by both sides, each of which was rejected by the other amid mutual blame and recrimination.

A statement issued by the UN security council just after midnight in New York, called on the parties to the conflict "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond" and "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected ceasefire, based on the Egyptian initiative".

It noted "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties" and called for Israel and Hamas to respect international law.

Obama told Netanyahu of his concern at the rising number of civilian deaths and urged an immediate, unconditional ceasefire.

Saying the US backed a ceasefire plan tabled two weeks ago by Egypt, Obama stressed the importance of "ensuring Israel's security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza's humanitarian crisis and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza's long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority".

But amid a confusing sequence of temporary ceasefires, there was little sign of a longer-term deal to end the military confrontation. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, returned to Washington at the weekend after his efforts to forge a ceasefire agreement between the two sides failed.

Kerry said the work to continue an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire would continue.

"Our discussions over there succeeded in putting a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire in place," he said, adding that there were "regrettably" misunderstandings, between both sides, about the terms of the short pause in fighting.

Kerry said the immediate humanitarian break in conflict was an essential precursor to a more permanent cessation in hostilities.

"We believe that the momentum generated by a humanitarian ceasefire is the best way to be able to begin to negotiate and find out if you can put in place a sustainable ceasefire – one that addresses all of the concerns."

He said that while the underlying causes of the conflict "obviously [would] not all be resolved" in the context of a sustainable ceasefire, it was essential to begin the process.

Kerry said any process to resolve the crisis in a lasting way "must lead to the disarmament of Hamas".

Mishal told PBS that Israel must end its occupation. "We are not fanatics. We are not fundamentalists. We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers," he said.

In Egypt, former president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown in a military coup a year ago, praised the "resistance" in Gaza.

"Our compass is set on supporting Palestine against the usurping occupier and we are with any resistance against any occupier," he said in a message posted on his official Facebook page. "A full salute to those who resist and to the revolutionaries."

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed under the regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

*************

Baby born by emergency caesarean after mother dies in Gaza shelling

Doctors save newborn after woman who was eight months pregnant was buried by rubble at her home in Deir al-Balah

Agence France-Presse in Gaza   
theguardian.com, Monday 28 July 2014 19.33 BST   

When the doctors gently pulled the tiny newborn from the womb in an emergency caesarean, her mother had already been dead for an hour.

Shayma al-Sheikh Qanan, 23, was eight months pregnant when an Israeli tank shell hit her home in the central Gaza strip town of Deir al-Balah, reducing it to rubble. She was left in a critical condition. Her husband, a local radio journalist, was also badly wounded.

"Her body was brought in after an Israeli shelling at 3am on Friday," said Fadi al-Kharti, a doctor at Deir al-Balah hospital. "We tried to revive her but she had died on the way."

Before paramedics managed to dig her out, she had been stuck under the rubble of her home for an hour. "Then we noticed movement in her stomach, and estimated she was about 36 weeks pregnant," he says. Doctors performed an immediate caesarean and saved the baby, who was named after her late mother.

For 43-year-old Mirfat Qanan, it was a tragedy to lose her daughter, but there was joy at becoming a grandmother.

"God has protected this child for me. My daughter Shayma is dead, but I now have a new daughter," she said. "She'll call me 'mummy' just like her mother did."

The newborn was being looked after in the intensive care unit in another hospital in Khan Yunis to ensure her survival. Now four days old, she was breathing through an oxygen mask in the hospital's maternity ward.

Abdel Karim al-Bawab, head doctor at the ward, said staff were keeping a close eye on the baby to monitor her condition. "Her vital signs are stable, but she must stay here in this state for at least three more weeks," he said.

****************

Life under fire in Gaza: the diary of a Palestinian

What's it like for families struggling to survive in Gaza? A Palestinian author describes the overcrowding and shortages, the horror of seeing familiar places reduced to rubble – and the constant fear of death

Atef Abu Saif
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 19.15 BST   

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Yesterday evening, my sister-in-law, Huda, her son and three daughters had to move to the place where we are staying, in Jabalia Camp. They usually live to the south of Gaza City, in an area called Tal al Hawa, its southernmost tip. For the past five days, tanks have bombarded the area. In one of these attacks, large chunks of debris from a house nearby flew in through the windows; half of another house inside Huda’s house.

My sister-in-law says they are used to this kind of thing. In the 2008-9 war, half the house collapsed when a rocket made a direct hit, entering horizontally through the lounge window. Her husband, Hatim, has refused to come with her to Jabalia this time, however. Nobody remains on their street but him. Over the past couple of years, he has developed a passion for keeping birds. He has converted one room in his house into an aviary, in which he raises around 50 different kinds of birds, including hummingbirds, pigeons and sparrows. He prefers to stay and take care of his birds – who else will look after them?

Now there are 14 of us living in my father-in-law’s house. The house consists of just two rooms. This morning, there is a long queue for the bathroom. Once inside, you hear nothing but the calls of those queuing, encouraging you to finish as fast as you can.

Over the past week, most houses have started to face water shortages. My father spends most of his day watching the level in his water tank, obsessively. The other day he had to carry water in bottles from the neighbours’ tank. He himself is hosting two extra families inside his little house – that of my sister with her 12 family members, and that of his uncle with his five family members – as well as the family of my brother, Ibrahim.

Queues are everywhere now. A few days ago, we were living a normal life – waking at 8am, washing our faces, brushing our teeth, having breakfast, starting our days and whatever our daily routines entailed. Now we have to abandon those routines and live according to each and every moment.

Life is getting complicated. You wish that you were simpler and could accept things more easily. My little girl, Jaffa, who is 19 months old, was utterly terrified in the first week of the war. We couldn’t bring ourselves to explain what the sounds of the explosions were, but she could easily understand the fear written on our faces when we heard each one. After a week, we started to tell her that these were the sounds of a door being closed quickly by Naem, her older brother. Jaffa accepted this and started to adapt to the situation. She even played with the idea. When hearing each explosion, she now shouts, “The dooooooor!”, and then calls out to Naem to stop slamming it. In Jaffa’s logic, someone is slamming a door to keep us all imprisoned in this situation. Each door slam is a door slammed shut on the opportunity for peace. Each cry from Jaffa to her brother Naem to stop shutting the door is fruitless.

Thursday 24 July

The worst thing is when you realise that you no longer understand what is going on. Throughout the night, the tanks, drones, F16 fighter jets and warships haven’t let up for a minute. The explosions are constant, always sounding as if they’re just next door. Sometimes you’re convinced that they’re in your very room, that you’ve finally been hit. Then you realise, it’s another miss. My mobile has a flat battery, so I’m unable to listen to the news. Instead, I lie in the dark and guess what’s going on, make up my own analysis.

In time, you start to distinguish between the different types of attack. By far the easiest distinction you learn to make is between an air attack, a tank attack, and an attack from the sea. The shells coming in from the sea are the largest in size, and the boom they make much deeper than anything else you hear. It’s an all-engulfing, all-encompassing sound: you feel as if the ground itself is being swallowed up. Tank rockets, by comparison, give off a much hollower sound. Their explosions leave more of an echo in the air, but you don’t feel it so much from beneath. A rocket dropped from an F16 produces an unmistakable, brilliant white light, as well as a long reverberation. A bomb from an F16 makes the whole street dance a little, sway for a good 30 seconds or so. You feel you might have to jump out of the window any minute, to escape the collapse. Different from all these, though, is the rocket you get from a drone. This rocket seems to have more personality – it projects a sharp yellow light up in to the sky. A few seconds before a drone strike, this bright light spreads over the sky, as if the rocket is telling us: it’s dinner time, time to feast.

These are just impressions, of course. But when you sit each night in your living room waiting for death to not knock at your door, or send you a text message, telling you, “Death’s coming in one minute’s time,” when you are unable to answer the one question your kids need an answer to (“When is it going to end, Dad?”), when you struggle to summon the strength you need each day, just to get through that day … in these situations, which are, of course, all the same situation, what else can you do, but form “impressions”.

War teaches you how to adapt to its logic, but it doesn’t share its biggest secret, of course: how to survive it. For instance, whenever there’s a war on, you have to leave your windows half-open, so the pressure from the blasts doesn’t blow them out. To be even safer, you should cover every pane with adhesive tape, so that when it does break, the shards don’t fly indoors, or fall on people in the street below. It goes without saying you should never sleep anywhere near a window. The best place to sleep, people say, is near the stairs, preferably under them. The shell that fell two nights ago landed 150 metres away, smack in the middle of the Jabalia cemetery. The dead do not fight wars, but on this occasion they were forced to participate in the suffering of the living. The next morning dirty, grey bones lay scattered about the broken gravestones.

Friday 25 July

I only realise it’s a Friday when the prayers from the mosque start up. In a war, days no longer matter. Everything is tied to its rhythm, its discourse, its sounds and silences.

This morning I decide to go into Gaza City to see the centre. A young man is driving a horse and cart carrying mattresses and pillows, which presumably he plucked from the ruins of his house, in the direction of some shelter, in one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, I imagine. The man calls out to another on the street: “What day of Ramadan is it?” “The 27th,” comes his reply. This means that Eid is just three or four days from today. Normally, by this point, we would already be preparing for the celebrations. Every corner of the city would be strung with lights; shops would be open day and night, heaving with all the latest must-haves – mostly beautiful clothes that we ought to be wearing for Eid. Eid has its own smell and taste, you can’t mistake it.

But not this year. Now, everything is closed. All I can see is debris, collapsed buildings, huge ugly gaps where buildings used to be, ruins. Rubble is the only permanent image I have when I close my eyes.

Women, babies, old men, young boys and girls – all start to move slowly down in Unknown Soldier’s Square. They’re beginning to wake up; a few are still stretched out, asleep on the pieces of cardboard or material they’ve brought with them – few are lucky enough to have mattresses – and which they’ve spread out over the square’s gardens to spend the night on. This was the safest they could do in terms of refuge: the open air. The UNRWA schools, acting as refugee camps across Gaza, have been full for more than a week. The horrors these people have seen, the death they’ve been forced to taste back home, has been enough to make them drop everything and spend the night exposed like this: either in the Unknown Soldier’s gardens, or on the triangular-shaped patch of grass in the middle of Omar al Mokhtar Street, opposite the Palestinian Legislative Council. These gardens normally represent glamorous parts of the city; they are surrounded by expensive shops, the best restaurants. Now the gardens have become just another refugee camp. As I walk through them, I see that the fountains, at least, are providing a distraction for some of the boys now camped among them – they’re making the most of the cold water, stripping off and reclaiming the fountains as swimming pools, determined to make a little paradise of their own in this hell.

Suddenly an F16 breaks the sound barrier above us, rattling the square with its sonic boom. All necks crane as we scan the sky for a glimpse of where the rocket might land. A few seconds later we hear it: the F16 has taken its meal somewhere in Al Rimal neighbourhood. Like everyone else in the street, I run to the safest possible place: the centre of the street. On such occasions, you learn to keep away from any buildings still intact. I run along the centre of the street, along with everyone else, towards the ruins of the Al Isra Tower, which was hit a week ago and in which many families died. This was one of first tall buildings to be built in Gaza after the peace accords of 1994. Architecturally, it was quite impressive. Now it’s just a hill of rubble; no reason for a rocket to strike here. Back in Jabalia, my wife Hanna is fighting with the children over whether they should be allowed to go outside. They want to see the street and breathe the outside air. Even when they try to stand at the window, to look out over at the refugee-filled school across the street, Hanna snatches them back. My boy, Mostafa, wants to go my father’s house, to play with his cousins there. “No is no,” Hanna insists. They look at me pleadingly. I suggest that I take them with me this evening. What Hanna does not know, and I keep a secret from her, is that when I take the kids to my father’s place, which is just four minutes’ walk, the kids spend most of their time in the internet cafes next door, playing computer games.

Every day I quarrel with Hanna about this. In the end, I take the kids for a few hours before bringing them back. Every minute of our walk there we are at risk. Every step we take is another risk. As I hurry towards my father’s place, holding their hands, I pray the unthinkable doesn’t happen.

Saturday 26 July

It has now been 40 hours with no electricity. The water was also cut off yesterday. Electricity is a constant issue in Gaza. Since the Strip’s only power station was bombed in 2008, Gazans have had at best 12 hours of electricity a day. These 12 hours could be during the day, or while you are fast asleep; it’s impossible to predict. Complaining about it gets you nowhere. For three weeks we’ve barely had two or three hours a day. And right now, we would be happy with just one.

These blackouts affect every part of your life. Your day revolves around that precious moment the power comes back on. You have to make the most of every last second of it. First, you charge every piece of equipment that has a battery: your mobile, laptop, torches, radio, etc. Second, you try not to use any equipment while it’s being charged – to make the most of that charge. Next you have to make some hard decisions about which phone calls to take, which emails or messages to reply to. Even when you make a call, you have to stop yourself from straying into any “normal” areas of conversation – they’re a waste of power.

On Friday night, my friend Hisham, who works at Beit Hanoun Hospital, phoned to say that they had been bombed. Shells struck the x-ray room and the operating theatre. People, patients, doctors, and nurses were all terrified. Hisham’s three-minute description of the chaos was concluded with the insistence that some kind of intervention from the Red Cross or the UN must come. Hundreds of families were camping out in the gardens of the hospital, having nowhere else to go. I phoned Palestine TV and told them that people were trapped in Beit Hanoun Hospital and that they should make a plea to the Red Cross and UN. I was at my friend Husain’s place at the time with another friend, Abu Aseel, smoking nargila in the darkness. It was nearly midnight on the Friday, so I headed off towards my place.

There were several UNRWA schools-turned-refugee camps on my way home. I visited the second of them, where my friend Ali Kamal, who works as a teacher there, is part of the team taking care of the displaced people. In the administration room, Kamal was wearing a UN bulletproof vest. We sat outside, in front of the school, and he told me that the school is hosting some 2,450 persons, equating to 430 families. They serve each family one proper meal a day, plus a few biscuits. As we talked, I stared at the queue of people on one side, waiting to receive blankets from a window, and at another queue on the other, waiting to receive food. Kamal works a 24-hour shift, then goes home for 24 hours, before returning.

One of the school’s refugees, from the Ghabin family, went out yesterday afternoon to see his house and check on his animals in the field behind it. He was shot by a tank. His family and relatives organised a funeral for him inside the school. Sad faces, bitter eyes, terrible silences all under this metal ceiling – one that used to hang over a sports room where boys played, now a place for tributes and condolences.

Before I left, at around 2am on Saturday morning, news spread through the school that there would be a 12-hour humanitarian truce starting at 8am. You always greet talk of truces and ceasefires with a degree of scepticism. But in the school, everyone responded to it optimistically, planning their return to their homes and farms.

In the morning, the first question I ask when I open my eyes is: is there a truce? Hanna nods. This time she doesn’t mind if the children go to my father’s place, to play in the internet cafe. She is happy that finally, for 12 hours at least, they can move about. She is happy for herself, too. For the past hour she has been trying to decide where to go. I decide to go and see the damage in Shujaia, with my friends Aed and Salem.

Looking at the rubble where his house once stood, a man says: “This is not a war. This is the beginning of doomsday.” So much of this neighbourhood has been destroyed that, further down the street, another man cannot actually work out which bit of it had been his. The whole street is just rubble: stone, metal, bricks, piles of sand. Large strips of tarmac twist out of the sand suggesting where the street might have been. But there is no real definition to the street, no limits or boundaries between any of the houses either.

People’s homes now merge and weave together all over Gaza, like threads in a woollen scarf, knitted together by an old woman. Different colours, different materials, different styles. One of the men picking through the chaos, starts to scream: “This is 60 years of my family’s savings!” This is what I see as I drive with Aed and Saleem towards Shujai’iya. Baghdad Street – one of Shujai’iya’s main streets, running from the entrance to the quarter through towards the start of Gaza City to the east – is the main site of destruction. Baghdad Street, ironically enough, looks not unlike the scenes left behind by the American and British armies after the 2003 war.

A dozen or so cows have been killed near a farm on the edge of the neighbourhood. Even cows have failed to escape this war. Each one lies on its side; its tongue lolling out of its mouth, its belly starting to inflate with decay. One cow seems to be be split cleanly in half. We’re delighted, eventually, to see that one cow is still alive. It’s standing in a small square of rubble – presumably the remains of what was its barn – and we approach it carefully. It keeps its face close to the one remaining part of a wall; it looks pale and appears to have a leg wound. As we get near it limps away, clearly in pain, but too scared to let us help it.

Old women sit helplessly in the debris of their homes. A few kids can be seen searching for toys. Ambulances and medical teams work through the day to find people still alive under these ruins. Today, some 151 corpses have been found in this rubble. Some of them have started to decay already. You can smell the dead bodies on every corner of Shujai’iya. One of the corpses found was of a women: she had been carrying both her children, one in each arm, when the tank shell hit her home. It seems she was simply trying to protect them. She held them tight to her chest, and despite the weight of the masonry she never let go. What they found under all that concrete was like a still life, apparently, a photograph, a perfect composition. Abu Noor, my neighbour, was busy with his family helping to look through the rubble of a building in which six members of a family were killed. A child’s corpse was still missing. Everyone was desperate to find trace of the body. Abu Noor finally touched flesh. Something that to him felt like the body of the child. He screamed out, calling everyone around him to help him lift the stones. He managed to get a firm hold on a limb and dragged it slowly to the surface. It was a leg of a man. Whose leg? Nobody knows.

The truce is meant to be for 12 hours, running 8am until 8pm. We remain in Shujai’iya until 4pm, moving from one street to the next, trying to process the damage, and help as much as we can in the removal of debris. A man calls us over to the side of the street, as we start to drive east, warning that there are tanks just a few hundred yards away. He says if they see the car we’ll be a target. We have to turn back.

In Beit Hanoun and Khoza’a the scenes are no better. The tanks start shooting at people again at 5pm, three hours before the truce in Beit Hanoun was supposed to end. In Khoza’a, people are not allowed to visit the debris of their homes. Everyone looks at his watch to see how much time there is left.

Despite everything – the killing, the destruction, the missing people, the displaced people, the tears, the wounds, the suffering – for these 12 hours of truce, I see Gaza as it used to be. People in their thousands on the street, buying food, moving from one place to another; the shops open, kids playing in the streets. It is a city that has poured itself out into a few moments of peace. Now the truce is coming to an end. The tank mortars have started to roar again, filling the air with their terror.

Atef Abu Saif is a Palestinian author who lives in Gaza.

 60 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:15 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
China Says Zhou Yongkang, Former Security Chief, Is Under Investigation

By CHRIS BUCKLEY
JULY 29, 2014
IHT

HONG KONG — In President Xi Jinping’s most audacious move yet to impose his authority by targeting elite corruption, the Communist Party on Tuesday announced an investigation of Zhou Yongkang, the retired former head of domestic security who accumulated vast power while his family accumulated vast wealth.

Mr. Zhou, who retired from the Politburo Standing Committee in late 2012, is the most senior party figure ever to face a formal graft inquiry. Until now, no standing or retired member of the Standing Committee has faced a formal investigation by the party’s anticorruption agency.

The party leadership has “decided to establish an investigation of Zhou Yongkang for grave violations of discipline,” Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported Tuesday, citing a decision by the party’s anticorruption agency. The terse announcement gave no details of the charges against Mr. Zhou.

Until now, the detention and investigation of Mr. Zhou has been secretive and unconfirmed by the government, although known among party insiders and reported abroad.

Charges against Mr. Zhou could well center on the fortunes made by members of his family, often in sectors once under his sway. An investigation by The New York Times showed that Mr. Zhou’s son, a sister-in-law and his son’s mother-in-law held assets worth some $1 billion, much of it in the oil and gas sector that was Mr. Zhou’s political fiefdom, where he could shape decisions and promotions. That estimate was based on publicly available records and a limited assessment of their companies’ value and did not include real estate or overseas assets, which are more difficult to identify and assess.

Mr. Zhou, 71, retired from the party leadership in November 2012, at the same congress that appointed Mr. Xi the top leader, but he remained a potentially dangerous adversary, with ties to more senior retired figures.

Graft investigations have already shaken his bases of influence in Sichuan Province in the southwest; in the nation’s biggest oil and gas conglomerate, the China National Petroleum Corporation; and in the country’s police and civilian intelligence services. Mr. Zhou passed through all these areas during his career, and used his influence to install protégés.

***************

Microsoft faces monopoly investigation in China

US software company becomes latest foreign firm to go under Beijing's scrutiny following government ban on Windows 8

Agence France-Presse in Shanghai
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 09.00 BST   

A Chinese investigation into Microsoft is probably targeting its "monopoly" of the country's operating systems market, state media have said, after the US software company became the latest foreign firm to go under Beijing's scrutiny.

Microsoft confirmed in a statement late on Monday that it was under investigation in China, without disclosing details.

"We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the government may have," it said.

The inquiry comes after China in May banned the use of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system on all new government computers, amid reports alleging security concerns.

The same month, the US indicted five members of a Chinese military unit for allegedly hacking American companies for trade secrets.

Officials of China's state administration for industry and commerce (Saic) have visited Microsoft offices in Beijing, commercial hub Shanghai, southern metropolis Guangzhou and south-west Chengdu city, state media said.

"Microsoft's operating system software occupies a 95% share of the market in China, forming a de facto monopoly," the National Business Daily said on Tuesday.

An employee of Microsoft China linked the visits to the company's monopoly in China's operating system market, the China Business News said, without naming the individual. It quoted another industry source tying the case to Microsoft's practice of bundling its products together for sale.

Saic officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment by AFP.

Microsoft has previously faced anti-trust investigations in other markets for tying its Windows system to other products.

The US company was fined $731m (£430m) by the European commission in March last year for failing to offer users' browser choices beyond its own Internet Explorer.

Since last year, China has launched a sweeping investigation into alleged wrongdoings by foreign companies in several sectors, including the pharmaceutical and milk powder industries.

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