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With Trump In Office, World Opinion Of U.S. Plunges

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

Seven in 10 people around the world have no confidence in Trump, and America’s global image may be suffering as a result, a new survey finds.

The 25-nation study, conducted by Pew Research Center, found that views of America are continuing to deteriorate after taking a major hit when Trump took office.

Overall, 43 percent of those surveyed said they have an unfavorable view of the U.S., while 50 percent have a favorable view.

Those ratings are far lower than at any point during President Obama’s eight years in office, according to Pew.

America’s international image is particularly low among some of our closest allies, with just 30 percent of Germans, 38 percent of French, and 39 percent of Canadians expressing a favorable view of the U.S.

In all three examples, ratings of the U.S. are worse than they were a year ago.

Views of Trump are even lower, with just 27 percent saying they have confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs. Only 10 percent of Germans, 9 percent of French, and 25 percent of Canadians said they have confidence in Trump, according to the survey.

The survey results come just a week after world leaders at the United Nations literally laughed at Trump when he tried to brag about his accomplishments as president.

Since taking office, Trump has pulled the country out of a number international agreements like the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal, started fights with our allies while cozying up to dictators like Kim Jong Un and Putin, and slammed our participation in NATO.

And as this latest survey shows, it’s not just world leaders who are laughing at Trump. The rest of the world is laughing right along with them.

Published with permission of The American Independent.


How The U.S. and U.N. Created A Major Cholera Outbreak In Haiti

Scientists say the warming of the ocean due to human-made climate change has intensified mega-storms like Hurricane Matthew, which recently tore through the Caribbean and parts of the United States, killing more than 1,000 people in Haiti alone, according to some estimates.

Now, with 1.4 million Haitians in need of emergency assistance, Haiti is bracing for another human-made disaster: a resurgence of its cholera outbreak, which dates to the aftermath of the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.

It took six years for the United Nations to publicly acknowledge what the scientific community has long known: the cholera epidemic was introduced to Haiti by U.N. peacekeepers, originating at one of the global organization’s camps in the upper Artibonite River valley, and from there, spreading through the country’s crumbling water system. The global failure to swiftly acknowledge the source of the outbreak and take aggressive action to eradicate it, has left the country vulnerable to the new uptick in infections.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said last week that it expects “an important upsurge in cholera cases in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew, given the context of flooding and the storm’s impact on water and sanitation infrastructure.”

“Water and sanitary conditions are expected to worsen due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew,” said Ciro Ugarte, the head of PAHO’s Program on Health Emergencies. “Efforts were already being directed to control the current epidemic of cholera and the high levels of vector-borne and water-borne diseases, but there is a limited capacity to respond to those challenges.”

Dominique Legros, cholera expert for the World Health Organization, told reporters Tuesday that there have been roughly 200 new cases after Hurricane Matthew. “It is more than usual. I know it is a sharp increase compared to [the] usual figures,” he said.

While cholera is preventable and easily treated under the right conditions, it has torn a devastating path through Haiti. Since October 2010, there have been more than 790,000 reported cases, and more than 9,300 people have been killed by the disease, according to PAHO. At its worst point in 2011, the epidemic was infecting 6,766 people every week. While cases continue, they have declined significantly, from 300,000 in 2011 to roughly 36,000 in 2015.

An expert panel convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon concluded in a 2011 report that cholera spread from a U.N. peacekeepers camp in the upper Artibonite River valley to the Meye Tributary system, which is used by “tens of thousands” of people for “washing, bathing, drinking and recreation.” Poor sanitation infrastructure caused human waste to contaminate the river system, leading to Haiti’s first cholera case in more than 100 years.

Numerous other scientific studies also pointed toward the role of the peacekeepers. Julianna LeMieux, senior fellow in molecular biology at the American Council on Science and Health, recently wrote, “The scientific community has known for years that the U.N. brought cholera to Haiti.”

Yet it was not until six years after the U.N. report came out—in August 2016—that the global institution made a nod to responsibility for its role in spreading the outbreak in Haiti, with spokesperson Farhan Haq proclaiming that “the U.N. has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera.”

This statement fell short of a full apology for the years that the U.N. spent denying its role in introducing the outbreak. Meanwhile, the U.N. continues to fight legal efforts by Haitian victims to win restitution, claiming immunity from a complaint filed on behalf of 5,000 victims of cholera. According to the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the victims are demanding that the United Nations, “Install a national water and sanitation system that will control the epidemic; compensate individual victims of cholera for their losses; and issue a public apology from the United Nations for its wrongful acts.”

Dan Beeton, international communications director for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told AlterNet that the new wave of cholera infections could have been avoided “had there been a serious effort to eradicate cholera. What we’ve seen since the epidemic started six years ago is a focus on treatment during the rainy season when infections go up, but during the dry season people back off, so the epidemic remains.”

In a prescient warning, CEPR researchers Jake Johnston and Keane Bhatt wrote in 2011 that “health interventions launched to fight cholera have been hobbled by the initial missteps made in the wake of the epidemic. The international community underestimated the virulence of the outbreak; the U.N. initially denied responsibility for its introduction; and there was hesitation in investigating the circumstances surrounding its appearance.”  At the same time, the U.N.-backed National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti, 2013-2022, remains woefully under-funded, with the medium-term plan only 22 percent pledged and under 11 percent disbursed.

Some U.S. lawmakers are directing criticism toward the U.N., with 158 members of Congress who wrote a letter to John Kerry in June calling on the State Department to “immediately and unreservedly exercise its leadership to ensure that the United Nations take concrete steps to eliminate the cholera epidemic introduced to Haiti in 2010 by waste from a U.N. peacekeeper camp, and to comply with its legal and moral obligations to provide cholera victims with access to an effective remedy.”

However, this finger-pointing deflects from the central role that the U.S. played in setting the stage for the post-earthquake crisis, by undermining efforts to improve the country’s public water infrastructure. A paper published 2013 by the journal of the National Institutes of Health found that “Haiti has the lowest rates of access to improved water and sanitation infrastructure in the western hemisphere. This situation was likely exacerbated by the earthquake in 2010 and also contributed to the rapid spread of the cholera epidemic that started later that same year.”

The U.S. government bears responsibility for keeping Haiti’s water system in a state of disrepair. According to a report released in 2008 by Partners In Health, Zanmi Lasante, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center, the U.S. government clandestinely undermined a $54 million loan granted in 1998 by the Inter-American Development Bank to the Haitian government to improve its outdated water system. According to the report, the U.S. was motivated by the desire to destabilize Haiti’s elected government under then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

However, the report notes that the root causes date back further. “Continual requirements to pay its debilitating debts—which date back to its early days of independence, when Haiti was essentially forced to purchase its freedom from the French for an exorbitant sum, and which has further amassed during two centuries of political turmoil, foreign occupation, and corruption—have left the Haitian government unable to funnel its limited resources into social infrastructure programs like water and sanitation systems, with catastrophic effects on the health and well-being of the Haitian people,” the report states.

Reprinted by permission from Alternet. Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

IMAGE: People are treated at a cholera treatment center at a hospital after Hurricane Matthew passed through Jeremie, Haiti, October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia 

U.S. Struggles To Turn The Tide In War Against IS

Washington (AFP) — After more than two months of air strikes, a U.S.-led coalition has prevented the fall of a northern Syrian town to Islamic State jihadists but is still struggling to halt the group’s advances on other fronts, experts say.

Since the air war on the IS militants began on August 8, the United States and its allies have few concrete successes to point to as the IS group has continued to roll ahead in western Iraq and tighten its grip elsewhere.

But U.S. officials insist it is too early to draw conclusions, and that a methodical effort will eventually bear fruit, as Iraqi and Kurdish forces build in strength.

“We’re in the first couple of minutes of the ball game,” said one senior officer at U.S. Central Command, which oversees the air campaign.

Senior U.S. administration officials and military commanders acknowledged in recent days the Iraqi army is months away from any sustained counter-offensive that could roll back the IS from its strongholds in Iraq’s western and northern provinces.

And despite ambitious plans for Iraq’s Sunni tribes to join the fight, most of the tribal leaders are sitting on the fence, waiting to see if the new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi will break with the sectarian politics of his predecessor, officials said.

In the Syrian border town of Kobane, U.S. officials are cautiously optimistic that Kurdish fighters — backed by U.S. air raids — have fended off a relentless push by the IS militants to seize control of the area.

By keeping the town from falling — at least for the moment — the Americans avoided handing the IS a potential propaganda coup in a battle that has drawn intense media attention.

But the fight remains a stalemate and the Kurds’ desperate appeals for help — and Turkey’s cool response — have highlighted the deep divisions that plague the anti-IS coalition, experts said.

— Tenuous Coalition —

The U.S. strategy’s goals “cannot be realized because the interests of the different partners are diametrically opposed,” said French General Vincent Desportes, professor of strategy at Sciences-PO in Paris.

The fragile coalition offers a contrast to the 1991 Gulf War, when the United States was able to forge common ground with Arab and European allies, he said.

“In 1991 something was achieved because the Americans succeeded in aligning with the Gulf States,” he told AFP.

Turkey’s role has been a constant source of tension. And the United States has underestimated Ankara’s determination to avoid any action that would empower the Kurds, analysts say.

At the same time, Turkey and Arab governments are frustrated with Washington’s reluctance to directly confront the Syrian regime.

European allies have treaded cautiously as well, signing up for air strikes in Iraq while abstaining from bombing the IS in Syria.

The goals of the war are still only vaguely defined and coalition members cannot agree on them, said a French official.

“There are a series of political problems that have repercussions for the military plan,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

The initial objective of the war effort was to use air strikes to build a “firewall” that would stop the IS militants’ progress, buying the coalition time to rebuild the Iraqi army and eventually launch counter-attacks.

– Ground gained, after strikes –

But after more than 630 air raids in Syria and Iraq, the IS has continued to gain ground — particularly in western Anbar province — and threaten other key fronts in the north.

The United States “has found that the Iraqi military forces are even weaker than it is original assessments indicated …,” according to Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

The scale of the air war has paled compared to the NATO intervention in Libya and some other campaigns, sparking accusations of a half-hearted effort.

Retired U.S. Air Force commander David Deptula complained the air campaign is nothing more than a “drizzle” and that only a “thunderstorm” will suffice.

To strike a genuine blow at the IS group, analysts say President Barack Obama will have to ramp up the air raids and send U.S. military advisers with local forces into combat, to ensure bombs hit their mark and that operations succeed.

U.S. officers say the pace of the strikes has been limited in partly because commanders want to avoid civilian casualties and because Iraqi forces are not yet able to stage large-scale assaults.

They cite a successful operation in August when a mostly Kurdish force took back control of Mosul dam as an encouraging sign, proving local troops were capable of complicated missions.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby insisted there will be more successes like the one at Mosul dam: “What I can tell you is we believe the strategy is working; that the policy is sound, the coalition continues to gain both momentum and strength.”

AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic

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Another Ebola Challenge: Disposing Of Medical Waste

By Monte Morin, Los Angeles Times

A single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day.
Protective gloves, gowns, masks and booties are donned and doffed by all who approach the patient’s bedside and then discarded. Disposable medical instruments, packaging, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, pillowcases, and anything that is used to clean up after the patient must be thrown away.
Even curtains, privacy screens, and mattresses eventually must be treated as contaminated medical waste and disposed of.
Dealing with this collection of pathogen-filled debris without triggering new infections is a legal and logistical challenge for every U.S. hospital now preparing for a potential visit by the virus.
In California and other states, it is an even worse waste-management nightmare.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend autoclaving (a form of sterilizing) or incinerating the waste as a surefire means of destroying the microbes, burning infected waste is effectively prohibited in California, and banned in several other states.
“Storage, transportation, and disposal of this waste will be a major problem,” California Hospital Association President C. Duane Dauner warned U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., in a letter last week.
Even some states that normally permit incineration are throwing up barriers to Ebola waste.
In Missouri, the state attorney general has sought to bar Ebola-contaminated debris from a St. Louis incinerator operated by Stericycle Inc., the nation’s largest medical waste disposal company.
Due to restrictions on burning, California hospital representatives say their only option appears to be trucking the waste over public highways and incinerating it in another state — a prospect that makes some environmental advocates uneasy.
Under federal transportation guidelines, the material would be designated a Class A infectious substance, or one that is capable of causing death or permanent disability, and would require special approval from the Department of Transportation, hospital representatives say.
“These are some pretty big issues and they need some quick attention,” said Jennifer Bayer, spokeswoman for the Hospital Association of Southern California.
“We fully expect that it’s coming our way,” Bayer said of the virus. “Not to create any sort of scare, but just given the makeup of our population and the hub that we are. It’s very likely.”
The Ebola virus is essentially a string of genetic material wrapped in a protein jacket. It cannot survive a 1,500-degree scorching within an incinerator, or the prolonged, pressurized steam of an autoclave.
“The Ebola virus itself is not particularly hardy,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said under questioning on Capitol Hill recently. “It’s killed by bleach, by autoclaving, by a variety of chemicals.”
However, CDC guidelines note that “chemical inactivation” has yet to be standardized and could trigger worker safety regulations.
California health officials recently tried to reassure residents that the state’s private and public hospitals were up to the task and were actively training for the possible arrival of Ebola.
“Ebola does not pose a significant public health risk to California communities at the present time,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, an epidemiologist and deputy director at the California Department of Public Health. “Let me tell you why: Current scientific evidence specifies that people cannot get Ebola through the air, foo,d or water. … The Ebola virus does not survive more than a few hours on impervious surfaces.”
It was unclear whether California officials viewed the waste issue as a potential problem.
Although a third of the state’s private hospitals and “a few” of its public hospitals reported to Boxer’s office that there would be problems complying with the CDC’s incineration recommendation, and others, a state public health official told reporters he was not aware of any conflicts.
Dr. David Perrott, chief medical officer for the California Hospital Association, said there was also confusion about whether infected human waste could be flushed down the toilet.
“Here’s what we’ve heard from the CDC: It’s OK,” Perrott said. “But then we’ve heard from some sources, that maybe we need to sterilize it somehow and then flush it down the toilet or you have to check with local authorities. It sounds maybe a little gross, but there is a real question about what to do with that waste.”
Dr. Thomas Ksiazek, a professor of microbiology and immunology of the University of Texas Medical Branch, has said he believes there’s been a lot of overreaction on the topic of Ebola medical waste.
“There are other ways to deal with the waste; autoclaving would be chief among them,” Ksiazek said. “The problem is, most hospitals don’t use it for most disposable items. They’re quite happy to bag them up and send them to a regular medical disposal company.”
But Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said incineration is simple and effective, and should be available to hospitals to help dispose of the mountain of waste.
Hershkowitz said states began to crack down on medical waste incineration years ago because many materials that did not need to be burned were being sent to combustors and were emitting dangerous pollutants.
In this case of Ebola medical waste, he said California should reconsider its restrictions.
“There’s no pollutant that’s going to come out of a waste incinerator that’s more dangerous than the Ebola virus,” Hershkowitz said. “When you’re dealing with pathogenic and biological hazards, sometimes the safest thing to do is combustion.”

AFP Photo/Seyllou

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