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HeadlinesOctober 20, 2014

UNICEF: Several Thousand Children Orphaned by Ebola in West Africa

Oct 20, 2014

The United Nations Children’s Fund says the Ebola outbreak is creating vast numbers of orphans in West Africa. At least 3,700 children are said to have lost at least one or both parents. At the United Nations, Sarah Crowe of UNICEF expressed shock at the inadequate global response so far.

Sarah Crowe: “There were 45 doctors in Liberia, and that’s for a population of 4.5 million. So you can get a sense of the scale of what’s needed. Health officials are needed, medical professionals are needed, and of course finances. I’m quite stunned, honestly, to come back and see that we’re still with this, really, sense of a global concern, it’s still so poorly funded, the Ebola efforts. And the only real way to stop Ebola spreading is to support the efforts on the ground.”

U.N. Provides Food to Ebola-Stricken Town; Liberian President Warns a Generation “Risks Being Lost”

Oct 20, 2014

The United Nations has been providing emergency food aid to some 260,000 people in an Ebola-stricken community near the Liberian capital of Freetown. In an “open letter to the world,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that because of the Ebola crisis, “across West Africa, a generation of young people risks being lost to an economic catastrophe as harvests are missed, markets are shut and borders are closed.” Nigeria, meanwhile, has been declared Ebola-free, after 42 days with no new cases.

Duncan Contacts Declared Ebola-Free in Texas After 21-Day Monitoring Ends

Oct 20, 2014

In the United States, most of those who had contact with the late Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan have been cleared of the disease. The 21-day monitoring period ended Sunday for the around 50 people who had direct or indirect contact with Duncan. Duncan was diagnosed in Texas after arriving from his native Liberia. In his weekly address, President Obama said he continues to oppose a travel ban on passengers from West Africa.

President Obama: “We can’t just cut ourselves off from West Africa, where this disease is raging. Our medical experts tell us that the best way to stop this disease is to stop it at its source, before it spreads even wider and becomes even more difficult to contain. Trying to seal off an entire region of the world, if that were even possible, could actually make the situation worse. It would make it harder to move healthcare workers and supplies back and forth. Experience shows that it could also cause people in the affected region to change their travel, to evade screening, and make the disease even harder to track.”

Obama Appoints New Ebola Czar in Absence of Confirmed Surgeon General

Oct 20, 2014

The Obama administration has tapped former White House official Ron Klain as its new “Ebola czar,” coordinating the U.S. response. Klain has previously served as chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest unveiled the appointment.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “His area of expertise is in implementation. And that is exactly what is needed, is somebody who can coordinate this broad, interagency response. We want to make sure that this tenacious response is up to the standards of the American people and up to the high standards that the president has set. And we are confident that somebody with Mr. Klain’s management credentials, both inside government and outside government.”

Klain is in the position in part because the United States has no surgeon general. President Obama’s nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has been held up for months after opposition from the National Rifle Association over his support for gun control.

Kobani Faces Heavy Violence as U.S. Arms Syrian Kurds, Turkey Allows Passage

Oct 20, 2014

The Syrian town of Kobani is seeing its worst violence in days amidst the continued advance of fighters with the Islamic State. ISIS has launched fierce attacks on Kurdish fighters defending the town with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes. In two major developments, the United States has begun dropping air supplies of weapons and aid to the Syrian Kurds, while Turkey is now allowing Iraqi Kurdish forces to cross over into Syria to join the fight. Turkey’s move reportedly came under heavy U.S. pressure. The Turkish government has been opposed to aiding the Syrian Kurdish PYD, which it considers an extension of longtime foe, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK.

21 Killed in Baghdad Suicide Attack; Iraqi Forces Seek to Retake Baiji

Oct 20, 2014

At least 21 people have been killed and 35 wounded in a suicide bombing in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. It was the latest in a string of attacks blamed on Islamic State. It comes as the Iraqi government has launched an offensive to retake the city of Baiji.

Ongoing Militia Fighting Kills 75 in Benghazi

Oct 20, 2014

A new round of violence has broken out in the ongoing conflict for control of the Libyan city of Benghazi. At least 75 people have been killed in five days of clashes between pro-government militias and rival forces. Libya has been roiled by militia fighting following the U.S.-backed ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Tens of thousands have been displaced since the violence escalated in July.

Boko Haram Kills Dozens Despite Claims of Deal for Ceasefire and Schoolgirls’ Release

Oct 20, 2014

The Nigerian militant group Boko Horam has launched a series of attacks killing dozens of people, threatening a ceasefire announced Friday. Hopes were raised after a government spokesperson said the deal would include the release of the 200 schoolgirls kidnapped for over six months.

Mike Omeri: “The terrorists indicated their desire and willingness for peace and to discuss and resolve all associated issues. They also assured that the schoolgirls and all other people in their captivity are alive and well. Already, the terrorists have announced a ceasefire in furtherance of their desire for peace. In this regard, the government of Nigeria has, in a similar vein, declared a ceasefire.”

The Boko Haram never confirmed the truce, and some parents of the schoolgirls say they believe their hopes were raised in vain.

Report: Not Enough Evidence to Indict Officer in Federal Civil Rights Probe of Michael Brown Killing

Oct 20, 2014

Details have emerged of testimony given by Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot the unarmed teenager Michael Brown. According to The New York Times, Wilson has told authorities he feared for his life in the confrontation that followed him stopping Brown and a friend for jaywalking. Wilson claims Brown reached for his gun during a physical altercation as Wilson was still inside his vehicle. Ballistic tests confirm two shots were fired inside the car, one of them hitting Brown’s arm. It’s unclear why Wilson then fired the fatal shots at Brown after he emerged from his vehicle. Witness accounts say Brown had his hands up and was trying to surrender when he was shot dead. According to federal officials, there is not enough evidence to indict Wilson on civil rights charges in the Justice Department’s probe of the shooting.

Florida Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Killing of Black Teen Jordan Davis over Loud Music

Oct 20, 2014

The Florida man convicted of killing 17-year-old African American Jordan Davis in an argument over loud music has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Michael Dunn, who is white, shot at a vehicle carrying Davis and his friends 10 times after confronting them about the volume of their stereo. He then fled the scene, went to a hotel with his fiancée and ordered pizza. He never called the police. Dunn has said he saw a weapon, but none was ever found. At the sentencing hearing on Friday, Judge Russell Healey said Dunn had “senselessly and deliberately” taken a life.

Supreme Court Allows Texas to Enforce Voter ID Law That Could Disenfranchise “Hundreds of Thousands”

Oct 20, 2014

The Supreme Court is allowing Texas to enforce a controversial voter ID law that was briefly struck down earlier this month. A federal judge initially overturned the law, calling it an “unconstitutional poll tax” that discriminates against voters of color. But a three-judge panel said Texas can enforce the ID law in the November election, because dropping it would cause confusion. On Saturday, the Supreme Court agreed, but did not rule on whether the law should permanently stand. In a dissent joined by two others, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the decision “risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

Report: Obama Administration Considers Sidestepping U.N. Torture Ban Overseas

Oct 20, 2014

The Obama administration is reportedly considering a move that would continue the Bush-era policy of ignoring the United Nations torture treaty overseas. In 2005, the Bush administration disclosed it had secretly interpreted a U.N. ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” as not applying to any CIA or military prison outside of the United States. President Obama, then a senator, opposed Bush’s policy and proposed legislation to undermine it. The United States now faces a hearing before the Committee Against Torture at the United Nations next month. And according to The New York Times, “President Obama’s legal team is debating whether to back away from his earlier view” and “[reaffirm] the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation to bar cruelty outside U.S. borders.”

U.N. Rapporteurs Visit Detroit to Probe Water Shutoffs

Oct 20, 2014

Two United Nations officials are in Detroit for a fact-finding mission over the city’s shutting off of water to thousands of residents. The city began cutting off water taps to thousands of households earlier this year, prompting protests and an appeal to the United Nations for help. Detroit activist Maureen Taylor said the visit by U.N. special rapporteurs could help bring the issue before an international court.

Maureen Taylor: “The fact that they were able to come here is not only a miraculous thing but something that we’re quite surprised at. The goal is to have them to look further at the practice of shutting water off to help us determine whether or not these are in fact violations of international law and then to move this fight forward into perhaps an international court.”

The two U.N. rapporteurs are expected to meet with city officials today. Detroit’s poverty rate is 40 percent, with a population that is 80 percent African-American. Two-thirds of those impacted by the water shutoffs involve families with children.

Colombian Farmers Sue BP for Environmental Damage

Oct 20, 2014

A group of Colombian farmers are suing the oil giant BP over environmental damage from their country’s largest pipeline. The farmers are seeking $29 million in compensation for what they say is BP’s negligent handling of the project, which brings around 600,000 barrels of oil per day to the Caribbean coast. The British High Court is hearing the case. It is said to be one of the largest lawsuit over environmental damages in recent years.

Influential Kenyan Scholar Ali Mazrui Dead at 81

Oct 20, 2014

The renowned Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui has died at the age of 81. For nearly half a century, he was considered an intellectual giant in African studies. In 2005, Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines named him among the top 100 public intellectuals in the world. He was the author or co-author of more than 20 books on African politics, international political culture and political Islam, including “Islam Between Globalization and Counterterrorism.” In 2009, Ali Mazrui spoke to Democracy Now! about the election of President Barack Obama, the first black president in the Western world. He talked about his hopes for the nascent Obama presidency.

Ali Mazrui: “At the moment, I’m not optimistic that he’ll necessarily be just a peacemaking president with the conflicts that are on. So my dream was he will be the first president not to start a conflict, not that he would be the first president not to preside over a war, because he’s inheriting two wars, anyhow. And then, with one of them, the Afghanistan, he’s not planning to end it, really. He’s planning to escalate it for a while, so that is disappointing. So my prayer was slightly different, that I don’t want him to start a war with Iran. I hope he wouldn’t start a war with Syria. He would be mad if he started a war with North Korea, you see? So, in general, I hope he won’t start any war and break this idea that a commander-in-chief has to be engaged in an actual war to be a credible president of the United States.”

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