Cuba is sending 91 additional medical staff to West Africa to help combat a record outbreak of Ebola. The teams of doctors and nurses are departing today for Liberia and Guinea. Cuba has already dispatched 165 health workers to Sierra Leone. That brings the country’s total contribution in the three hardest-hit countries to 256 people, more than a third of all foreign medical staff there. Leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean gathered for an Ebola summit in Havana on Monday. Speaking at the summit, Cuban President Raúl Castro offered to work with the United States.
President Raúl Castro: “We believe that any the politicization of this grave problem should be avoided. It diverts us from the fundamental objective, which is the help to face this epidemic in Africa and prevention in other regions. Following from what the secretary-general of the United Nations said last September 5, we have advised our representatives who participate in events held at the World Health Organization and the United Nations, confirming that Cuba is willing to work closely with all countries, including the United States.”
Ebola has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa, including 239 health workers.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has unveiled new protocols for healthcare workers treating patients with Ebola. The guidelines include training for staff and supervision for workers as they remove their protective gear. The steps come after two nurses became infected with Ebola while treating a patient in Dallas. On Monday, 43 people who had been in contact with the initial patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, were cleared from Ebola monitoring after the 21-day incubation period. About 75 healthcare workers involved in Duncan’s care are still being monitored.
The United States has continued its bombardment of Islamic State forces near the Syrian city of Kobani along the Turkish border. According to U.S. Central Command, U.S. military forces conducted six airstrikes near Kobani on Sunday and Monday. In a bid to hold off the ISIS advance on Kobani, the United States has begun dropping air supplies of weapons and aid to the Syrian Kurds, while Turkey, under heavy U.S. pressure, is now allowing Iraqi Kurdish forces to cross over into Syria to join the fight. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized Kobani’s importance.
John Kerry: “We talked with Turkish authorities — I did, the president did — to make it very, very clear this is not a shift in policy by the United States. It is a crisis moment, an emergency, where we clearly do not want to see Kobani become a horrible example of the unwillingness of people to be able to help those who are fighting ISIL.”
The Obama administration had previously said Kobani was not a part of its “strategic objective.” We’ll have more on that story with former U.N. Special Rapporteur Richard Falk later in the broadcast.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was among several prominents officials who attended the presidential inauguration of Joko Widodo in Indonesia. Known as “Jokowi,” the former Jakarta governor defeated the U.S.-trained former army general Prabowo Subianto in this summer’s elections. The inauguration was celebrated with events including a parade, concert and the release of thousands of paper lanterns.
In news from Indonesia, Australian authorities have announced they are dropping an investigation into the deaths of five Australian journalists killed in the lead-up to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. In 2009, an Indonesian officer admitted the military had killed the journalists in an attempt to hide its actions in East Timor. This is one of the journalists, Australian TV correspondent Greg Shackleton, in a report he sent the night before he was killed.
Greg Shackleton: “'Why,' they ask, 'are the Indonesians invading us?' 'Why,' they ask, 'if Indonesians believe that Fretilin is communist, do they not send a delegation to Dili to find out?' 'Why,' they ask, 'are the Australians not helping us? When the Japanese invaded, they did help us.' 'Why,' they ask, 'are the Portuguese not helping us? We're still a Portuguese colony.’ 'Who,' they ask, 'will pay for the terrible damage to our homes?'”
In 2007, an Australian coroner found Shackleton and the four other journalists were executed by Indonesian special forces in the town of Balibo. But today, the Australian Federal Police said there was “currently insufficient evidence to prove an offense.”
South African Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius is expected to serve just 10 months before entering house arrest. Last month he was convicted of culpable homicide, a charge equivalent to manslaughter for shooting Steenkamp through a bathroom door. He claimed he mistook her for an intruder.
Two new reports accuse Ukrainian forces of using cluster munitions as part of their fight against pro-Russian rebels in the city of Donetsk. The New York Times reports the two attacks in early October wounded at least six people and killed a Red Cross employee. Cluster munitions contain dozens or even hundreds of smaller components which fan out indiscriminately over a wide area. Many do not explode right away, effectively becoming landmines. Human Rights Watch says Ukraine’s apparent use of cluster munitions in populated areas may amount to war crimes. The group said it suspects anti-government rebels have also used cluster munitions.
Protests are continuing in the Philippines where a U.S. marine is suspected of murdering a transgender woman. Outrage has focused on the Visiting Forces Agreement, a decades-old deal between the United States and the Philippines, which critics say has been used to shield U.S. soldiers from punishment. Under the deal, U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton remains on board a U.S. Navy vessel while local authorities investigate the murder of Jennifer Laude. She was found in a motel bathroom where she was apparently drowned in the toilet. On Monday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino rejected calls to abandon the Visiting Forces Agreement. The murder came less than six months after the United States signed a 10-year agreement to revive its military presence in the Philippines, which is a former U.S. colony.
The United Nations warns sexual violence has become “rampant” in the civil war in South Sudan. Fighting erupted in December between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and supporters of his former deputy Riek Machar. More than 10,000 people have been killed, and more than 1.5 million have fled their homes. The U.N. special representative on sexual violence, Zainab Hawa Bangura, said sexual violence is taking place on both sides.
Zainab Hawa Bangura: “Survivors and healthcare workers told me heartbreaking stories of rape, gun rape, abduction, sexual slavery and forced marriage. Those who try to fight back against their attackers are often raped with objects instead. Some victims have even been raped to death. Victims include women, men, girls and boys. According to the statistics given to me by the Juba Hospital, 74 percent of victims are below the age of 18. The youngest victim they had treated is two years old.”
In Indiana, police have arrested an alleged serial killer accused of killing seven women. Police say Darren Vann confessed to killing a 19-year-old in a motel room and provided information that led to the discovery of six more bodies. At least two victims appear to have been prostitutes. Police suggested Vann may have murdered other women in crimes dating back 20 years.
The World Trade Organization has ruled against the United States in a multinational dispute over the labeling of meat. The United States requires the disclosure of a meat product’s country of origin. But Mexico and Canada have argued the rules harm their livestock exports. On Monday, the WTO found the latest U.S. requirements violate trade rules. U.S. consumer groups, including Food and Water Watch, have urged the Obama administration to appeal the WTO’s ruling, saying: “The WTO’s continued assault against commonsense food labels is just another example of how corporate-controlled trade policy undermines the basic protections that U.S. consumers deserve.”
Two U.N. officials have called for the city of Detroit to restore water to residents who cannot afford to pay their bills, saying the city’s mass shutoffs go against human rights standards and hurt its poorest residents. Detroit has shut off water to at least 27,000 households this year as part of a consolidation plan, which residents see as a step toward privatization. Water bills in Detroit cost nearly twice the national average, while the poverty rate is 40 percent. During a visit to Detroit, Catarina de Albuquerque, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and Leilani Farha, U.N. special rapporteur on adequate housing, met with residents and city officials.
Catarina de Albuquerque: “We met today with the mayor and city officials, and we are aware of measures that have been taken by the city in order to address the affordability, the water affordability issue. We are of the view that such initiatives are insufficient to ensure affordability of water and sanitation and adequate housing.”
Leilani Farha: “We are concerned because African Americans who are living in Detroit and facing water shutoffs are being asked to make impossible choices. Imagine you’re choosing at times to either pay your rent or pay your water bill.”
Two-thirds of households impacted by the water shutoffs are families with children; the children can be taken away by protective services if the house does not have water.
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has been arrested and indicted on 23 charges of corruption. Hubbard led a Republican takeover of the Alabama House in 2010. He is accused of using his position as speaker and his previous post as head of Alabama’s Republican Party to funnel business contracts and investments to his own companies.
This year is poised to become the hottest year ever recorded. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014 is on pace to either tie or surpass the current global record. Last month was the hottest September on record worldwide. Before that, both August and the entire summer of 2014 were also the hottest ever recorded.
The climate change whistleblower Rick Piltz has died. Piltz resigned from the U.S. Global Change Research Program in 2005 and provided documents which revealed how the George W. Bush administration was editing government climate reports to downplay the threat of climate change. Just days after the story broke in The New York Times, Philip Cooney, the White House official who made the edits, resigned to return to his former job as an oil industry lobbyist. Piltz later started the Climate Science Watch blog at the Government Accountability Project. This is Piltz speaking in a video made by GAP.
Rick Piltz: “Working with GAP in late 2005, I started the Climate Science Watch project watchdogging the federal government on how it’s dealing with the climate change problem. You need people on the inside who will say, 'Yes, this is what we were told.' They all need a watchdog.”